The offer from Interjet airlines was too good to pass up--1200 pesos round trip to Merida.
(Sign up on their website www.interjet.com.mx to receive notifications of sales.)
I had visited once before, about 15 years ago, and had a so-so time--Nick was down with a
miserable cold, the weather was stifling, and the main square was full of bulldozers ripping the
place apart. This time was better.
Friends had offered us the use of their house, just three blocks from the main plaza. Over the past 10 years (mostly) foreigners have been buying up old, often abandoned, houses and fixing them up (see NYTimes article). Staying at their lovely home, with its 18-foot ceilings, tiled floors, beautiful old woodwork, and small pool was the highlight of the trip. You can find rentals on www.airbnb.com and www.VRBO.com. Get one with a pool--we jumped in every time we got home.
Walking around looking at old architecture is my favorite thing, and Merida has several lovely plazas to explore--don't miss Calle 64 between La Ermita and the St. Juan churches. There is a weekly house tour (it started the week after our trip!)--see link: http://www.meridaenglishlibrary.com/tours.htm.
Watch out for the traffic here--it felt more oppressive than Mexico City, as cars and buses speed through the narrow streets.
We went to the new Gran Museo del Mundo Maya--big disappointment. The building, inconveniently located in the far north of the city (cabs are expensive here) is impressive, but the collection is second-rate, at best, and the museum design is overbearing--lots of computer screens to touch and recorded voices in every room babbling on. I hated it. The Anthropology Museum (Paseo de Montejo and Calle 43) has a better (although small) collection of Mayan artifacts and the setting, in a old mansion, is impressive. See: http://www.yucatantoday.com/en/topics/museums-merida
Of course we went to the market, as we always do, on the first day. It's not far from the main square
(corner of calles 56A & 67). You'll find some intriguing Yucatecan antojitos here like colados (a creamy tamale), paunchos, and salutes. People are friendly.
Day trips: We rented a car (there are lots of agencies in the centro--500 pesos a day) and drove to Valladolid where we spent the night at the comfy old El Meson de Marques, right on the main plaza. It's pueblo magico, lovely if a bit dull. It's near Chichen Itzá, another disappointment, due to the presence of trinket sellers everywhere--right up to the ruins themselves. We had a much better Mayan ruin experience at Ek Balam, about 30 minutes north of Valladolid. On our previous trip we had been to Uxmal, which I would recommend (unless they've trashed that one, too).
The other highlight was taking a refreshing dip in a cenote--there are many all over the Yucatan, just keep an eye out for signs.
Closer to Merida--less than one hour--is Izamal, a beautiful colonial town where every building is painted a rich yellow ochre.
Nick was working on this trip. His food tips will be on www.chowzter.com soon.
I enjoyed the food at Chaya Maya (two branches--the one near Plaza Santa Lucia is in a pretty old house). By far the best meal I had was at Los Dos cooking school. We had a special invitation to lunch after class--not something the general public can do. But judging by what I had, and the happy reaction of the students I met, I would recommend taking a class here.
The high end restaurant Kuuk, was recommended but we ran out of time. Likewise Rosas y Xocholate.