Sunday Drive

Upper Yucatán, México
November 2016

It took me five minutes to get lost today. I was driving the rental Chevy west from the pickup point, and I went straight through an intersection where I should have turned left. I noticed something was amiss when the numbered streets reset to lower numbers. Eventually, it set me out on the expressway that wraps around the outskirts of Mérida.

After a couple of questionable turns, I found the road that leads back through the city to Uxmal. Of course, if I’d just turned the other way on the expressway, I would have gotten there sooner.

Continue reading →

Day of the Iguanas

Uxmal, México
November 2016

The spirits of Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Burton are strong today at Uxmal. I’ve seen dozens of dragon lizards, if not quite iguanas, bathing in the sun or crawling out from the rubble. They are the last remaining residents of Uxmal.

I have returned to Uxmal to correct a mistake I’ve regretted for twenty years. And as soon as I crest the hill leading from the entrance and see the grand House of the Magician, I realize I will never accomplish it.

Continue reading →

Mérida, at Last

Mérida, México
November 2016

It’s taken me more than twenty years to come to Mérida. But Mérida is worth the wait.

Spanish meets Mayan meets Caribbean.  A small, tropical city of colonial townhouses and colorful mansions, of narrow streets in the old centro and the wide boulevard of the cosmopolitan Paseo de Montejo. Churches galore and museums, too. The best food in the Yucatán. Chichen Itzá and Uxmal an hour or so away. A quick drive to the Gulf of México.

And the most vibrant weekend social scene at the Plaza Grande.

Comida

Mérida, México
November 2016

Now the food is getting serious. The waiter at La Chaya Maya sets down the sizzling plate and says something about it being hot. I can feel the steam emanating from within the mound of banana leaves. Carefully, I slit them open and pull them apart.

Inside is pollo pibil, a half chicken roasted in banana leaves and served with steamed onions and tomatoes. I had a late lunch today, so I may not be hungry enough to finish this feast. But I’m going to try.

Continue reading →

Black Friday

Campeche, México
November 2016

For a while it looked as if I’d be stranded at the Edzná ruins. I waited more than an hour at the dusty crossroads before the combi finally arrived heading back to Campeche. That’s the problem with combis — they come when they come.

Combis leave when they leave, as well. I waited nearly an hour for the outbound combi to depart this morning.

The Edzná ruins are a fine display of Mayan architecture. Atop a long staircase, the Edificio de los Cinco Pisos (Five-story building) towers over a spacious acropolis. In the grassy field below, the grand plaza has another tall pyramid, a ball court, and a long stepped building that looks like stadium bleachers but was once a government building for the Maya. It’s nice, too, that the ruins are not as well-traveled as Chichen Itzá, Palenque, and Uxmal. But then, that explains the transportation problem.

Continue reading →

Thanksgiving

Campeche, México
November 2016

The last time I was away from my family at Thanksgiving, Karimé Alvarado and I pulled into Buenos Aires after a marathon overnight bus ride and headed straight to La Estancia restaurant in the microcentro. We feasted on lots of everything: empanadas, chorizo, steak, and mass quantities of wine. Two hours later, we were back on the streets of Congresso looking for pizza.

This time I’m on my own. I’ve been away on the holiday before, but it never hit me like this in Cambodia, Egypt, Italy, and Peru. In those places, the day passed without me noticing.

Continue reading →

Yaxchilán and Bonampak

México
November 2016

The three-hour van ride down a rutted, two-lane highway through the remote Lacandon region of Chiapas leads to the riverside. We board a long boat and head down a river of muddy, red water for another hour. Disembarking at a horseshoe bend, a brief hike through the jungle, to the sounds of monkey cries, ends in a sudden clearing: the Late Classic Mayan ruins at Yaxchilán.

Situated along the river bank on two sides of a long, open plaza, Yaxchilán is known for the fine stelae and lintels that adorned its buildings. In the main plaza, the buildings are mostly crumbled single-story structures, along with a ball court and displays of stelae. But climb up the steep hills on the edge of the jungle, and more impressive buildings with well-preserved roof combs await.

Continue reading →