I found myself in a cave, under a parking lot, tucked away in downtown Merida.
I'm not quite sure if they were natural formations, aqueducts, pirate hiding places or all 3.
As I had the misfortune to discover two decades ago, the Mexican sweet tooth extends far beyond dessert. The breads here are much sweeter than what you'll find north of both borders. Plain yogurt isn't quite plain. It's sweetened (as I found out the hard way, trying to make my own tzatziki).
And if you ever find yourself in a bakery, you'll likely notice that everything (and I mean everything) comes with a fine dusting of sugar.
Case in point: Ham, cheese and chili stuffed pastry. Topped with sugar.
El Chombo (I think this means the grackle, but I have also found that it refers to various groups of African descent in Latin America as well as either a type of habanero or a type of habanero salsa. I'm going with the grackle.) 63/52
El Arco del Puente (the bridge arch - there are three arches left in Merida, I'll show you later) 63/50
El Arco de Dragones (the dragon arch) 61/50
El Curartel (the barracks) 59/50
Los Federales (the feds) 59/40
La Gaviota (the seagull) 57/44
La Libertad (freedom) 57/48
La vuelta del negro (not sure how comfortable I am posting this one, but as this is a record of what the corners actually display, this one displays the gyrations of the black man) 55/48*
*Race in Mexico is strange and different and not something I will wade into in any depth, except to mention that the bar near my house that I am not enamoured of is called La Negrita. This also came up in class (before I dropped it), with my teacher explaining that because she is dark skinned, she is called negrita as a term of affection, and that any noun you add a diminutive to is automatically ok (see: gordita). Not sure I buy it, but that's the story as it's been given to me.
Mango with chili and lime (you can also get it with chamoy, but that's sweet - I recommend the chili)
Some wonderful roasted coconut thing
Tamarind paste with chili (the long strip) or without chili (the ball)
For some reason, both locally and abroad, my local market, the Santa Ana, has a pretty lousy reputation.
I have been eating my way all over Merida for a week now, and just between you and me, whoever's been saying that is nuts. It's solid.
But let's just keep that between us.
Progreso is awesome. A proper little town with a sweet market, a lovely beach, a walkable malecon, and the longest damned pier you ever did see. (World's longest, actually, coming in at 4 miles long.)
To be fair, I planned my visit around cruise ship docking days, and was not here for the Mexican high season, but I think it would be hard to muffle the town's charm.
Clockwise from top right, as a regular taco, as a panucho (a deep-fried tortilla stuffed with black beans) and as a salbut (a thick deep-fried tortilla).
Hard to choose a favourite. (These are from the cocina y loncheria Mary at the Santa Ana market.)
Prior to this morning (yes, this was breakfast) I had been mildly afraid that I wouldn't care for cochinita pibil.
El Teatro (the theatre) 57/60
El Colegio (the college) 63/58
El Pavo* (the turkey) 67/54
El Imposible y Cebencio (street of the impossible and it was overcome - the locals used to be annoyed having to deal with a hill that used to be on this spot, until it was demolished) 67/50
El Colon (Christopher Columbus, I think) 69/44
El Crucero del Chimay (the Chimay crossing, maybe) [Edit: It has just occurred to me that this might be a joke. A "crucero" is a cruise and Chimay is inland Yucatan. Jokers.] 69/46
El Iguano (the iguana) 69/50
La Berenjena (the eggplant) 69/56
La Perdiz (the partridge, no pear trees anywhere to be seen) 59/56
La Sirena (the siren) 57/56
El Huech (the armadillo) 55/56
La Palma (the full-sized palm tree, not to be confused with the little palm tree)55/58
Sta Lucia (Santa Lucia) 55/60
La Teja (the shingle - named after the building on one of the corners, which was the first house in Merida to have a clay shingle roof) 49/60
El Choch (Chocolate, maybe) 49/58
La Gran Lucha (the big fight) 49/52
El Chevere (the impressive guy, maybe) 49/54
El Chivito (the baby goat) 49/56
* If you learned to speak Spanish in Mexico, or in DF anyway, you might know another word for turkey. Don't use it. It has a very different, very vulgar meaning in Latin America generally.
I may have mentioned that I was unsure that I had made the right choice regarding my hotel, at least insofar as location goes. I had suspected, from afar, that I belonged in Santiago, but couldn't find the kind of hotel I wanted in that neighbourhood.
Writing this from El Cardenal (yes, it is located exactly where you think it is, if you read my previous blog post), I can confirm that yes, I belong in Santiago.
That said, my hotel is much closer to my school (good for mornings), near the Paseo Montejo (good for jogging), and Merida is small enough that this is still only a 20 or so minute walk away.
I am glad to have discovered it, because it turns out I no time for the hipster bar near my house (and have not exactly been welcomed in to the cantinas I have poked my head into).
I'm still without a reliable local cafe, though, so wish me luck.
(That's my first Michelada. I thought it had clamato juice in it, but it was still delicious. Those are my botanas. Think tapas. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.)