Yucatan road trip to Merida: Sunday festivities, Apoala, Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan
Road trip report to Merida continued from here.
Breakfast at Mansion Merida
Breakfast the next morning at the Mansion Merida was a luxurious event included with the cost of the stay. You can choose where and when you wish to have it served, including your room, the restaurant, in the courtyard or anywhere else that’s reasonable inside the hotel. There was no question for me where I was going to have breakfast: right outside my room on the second floor porch at the table overlooking the inner courtyard. We called for breakfast mid morning and a server came immediately to set the table. The nice touch was that he brought a thermos with hot coffee and two cups for us enjoy while we were waiting for breakfast to be sent upstairs. Breakfast offering was fresh fruits, freshly squeezed juice, toasts, pastries and eggs any way you’d like them. It was a treat to sit in these grand, elegant surroundings enjoying good service and lovely food and not a person in sight other than the server offering more of this or that. The only thing I missed was crisp white linen table cloth. Eventually we had to get up but did not move very far, settling with a fresh pot of coffee on the comfortable sofa nearby on the porch.
La Bici Ruta (the bicycle route)
That Sunday morning Merida’s city center was closed to traffic for all intents and purposes and the streets from Paseo Motejo to Plaza Grande were given to locals to ride their bikes with their families for a few hours of traffic free fun. I loved this idea as the streets are busy every day with vehicle traffic and it’s fun to know that for at least a few hours every week kids can ride bikes in safety and families can enjoy their city uninterrupted. We walked around, up Calle 60 to Paseo Montejo enjoying the local scene and the ingenious ways in which they constructed their bikes to accommodate entire families. You may want to keep this weekly event in mind as you will not be able to drive in or out of the center very easily. The bike route is closed for traffic from 8:30 until 1:00 pm.
Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan
That afternoon we had tickets for a concert of the Orchesta Sinfonica de Yucatan at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras. This theatre, dated from 1878, is the official home of the orchestra and accommodates an audience of 700 people on orchestra level and several balconies. It is located right in the center of town between Parque Santa Lucia and Parque Hidalgo on calle 60. The artistic director Juan Carlos Lomónaco leads the orchestra through an extensive repertoire of classical to opera to contemporary music.
We tried to buy tickets in advance online to no avail. Even a call to the theatre did not yield any results and I was told to come when I get to Merida and buy the tickets in person. This never sounds good and as I was afraid of, the only tickets left when we got there were top balcony where you have to lean over to see the stage. The theatre was indeed packed but from my perch up close to the painted ceiling I could see that there were several empty seats in orchestra level.
This was the season’s opening concert featuring a program of Russian music: The Great Russian Easter , overture created in memory of Mussorgsky and Borodin, who with the composer Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov were part of the Group of 5 nationalist authors. There were a number of solos of violin, flute, clarinet, cello and harp, showing the high calibre of musicians in the orchestra. The music was not familiar but beautiful nevertheless.
I knew that if I stay up on the balcony for the entire concert I would be pretty annoyed and hardly enjoy the experience so at intermission I went downstairs and settled in a seat that I knew was unoccupied. My husband stayed upstairs and watched my maneuvers from the top tier balcony. The theatre staff chose to leave me alone and I sat there for the second half of the concert with the orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 , known as winter daydream and evokes winter landscapes and sounds when you hear it. I enjoyed the the rest of the experience much more. Don’t tell anyone, just in case.
Merida en Domingo (Merida on Sunday)
After the theatre we went outside and walked around enjoying the Sunday festivities around Plaza Grande, Parque de Santa Lucia and other areas around the center of town. Plaza Grande is the scene for a major food and craft market and happened to be just a block up from our hotel. From morning till night (9 to 9) the Plaza Grande is home to Mérida en Domingo (Mérida on Sunday). Families eat at the numerous food stalls in the plaza and join in free activities for the children, from painting to playing games to singing and more. Music bands perform in front of Palacio del Gobierno, Parque Hidalgo, and Parque Santa Lucia. Later groups of folk dancers in traditional dress perform folk dances to audiences who gather on all sides of the street at the edge of the park. If you visit Merida, make sure you have a Sunday during your visit and don’t miss these festivities, even if just as an observer.
There are many good restaurants in Merida and we decided to have dinner that night nearby on Santa Lucia park at Apoala, a restaurant specializing in Yucatan cuisine that I often go to when in Merida. Santa Lucia is a central park and on Thursday night musical bands perform for the park and restaurant audience. This was Sunday so the park was pretty quiet by now which was fine with me after a long day of exploring.
I ordered the Ensalada Verde, and it was special. There were sauteed green beans, grilled zucchini, sauteed peas, grilled corn, pumpkin seeds, candied nuts, leafy greens, feta cheese and a very light apple dressing with just enough acidity to pull it all together. It was just right for my palate and I enjoyed it to the last bite. For main course we had the grilled shrimps with Mexican pesto, yuca puree and habanero hollandaise, and the stuffed poblano. It was fun to sit outdoors at the park and enjoy a good dinner with great service.
On to Hacienda Petac
The next day we were leaving for our hacienda stay, located about half an hour south of Merida. We piled into the SUV with our luggage, set the GPS and headed south. Not long into the trip under an overpass on the highway the GPS instructed us to turn left onto calle 86. This did not seem right as calle 86 was not much more than a gravel road but, being the experienced road trippers that we are we followed the instructions and ventured off the highway and into the countryside. You see a lot of “have nots” on the way to the hacienda, but this is the case with all haciendas, they are always tucked in the countryside among villages that support them with labour and products. This is just the scene around here, whenever you leave the urban touristy areas into the countryside where Mayans live in small villages.
About 15 minutes after leaving the highway the GPS advised that we should “turn left” on calle 23 and at the end of the road it cheerfully announced “you have reached your destination”. Not so fast. It sent us to a now closed back entrance to the hacienda at the end of a small gravel road. However, being the Yucatan hacienda experts that we are we drove around to the left, followed the road for a very short distance and sure enough, we were at heaven’s gate, I mean, at the gate of the beautiful hacienda Petac. If you drive there, turn left at 21, not 23, it will take you straight to the front gate. We were in for a few days of bliss, and you can read about here.