The City of Merida has recently commissioned many artists to create works of art that are displayed in various parts of the city, with a high concentration of artwork on Paseo de Montejo. Walk along the boulevard and admire the many original sculptures on the sidewalks.
Paseo de Montejo is also the location of the city's Carnival procession. We especially liked this Sherman Tank built out of industrial cannisters and pipes.
For the birds
We took a day trip to Celestun, on the western shore of the Yucatan. Celestun is at the entrance to the Celestun Inlet, which is a migratory stopping point for flamingos, white pelicans, egrets and a number of other birds. We drove from Merida, which took about 90 minutes. Once we arrived in Celestun, we drove west on Calle 11 until we hit the beach. "Brokers" are just waiting for likely customers, and as soon as the broker spotted us, he helped us park our car and fixed us up with a boat and guide.
Even though the broker, told us we'd get an English speaking guide, our guide spoke only Spanish. No problems - our son put his Spanish studies to good use and translated for us (proving that he did learn something after 5 years of Spanish). The birds are spectacular, and so is the inlet. At the entrance of the inlet, the color of the water immediately changes from a greenish color to a reddish color, due to the algae and brine shrimp. As we traveled up the inlet, we saw flock after flock of bright pink flamingos. Interestingly, they are actually white, but feeding on the red algae and brine shrimp changes the pigment of their feathers to pink.
Our guide also took us through a mangrove forest ("manglores" in Spanish) and we stopped at a "petrified forest". It isn't really petrified, just dead, but why haggle over semantics. We were fascinated by the quicksand demonstration our guide gave us in the petrified forest.
This definitely was one of the highlights of our trip to the Yucatan!
Parking in the city
Parking on the streets in downtown Mérida is limited. Places that say "estacionamiento público" are parking lots that charge by the hour.
Do not park where the curb is yellow. There is parking on Calle 58 between 53 and 55 and 62 between 59 and 61.
Catedral de San Ildefonso
The huge cathedral on the main square is hard to miss if you're in Merida. The church was built in the late 16th century on the site of a Maya temple and uses some of the temple's stones in its foundation. The exterior of the church, with its intricate carvings and tall bell towers, is quite impressive. The inside is large but plain. A chapel to the left of the altar houses the Christ of the Blisters, a crucifix that supposedly came from a tree that was hit by lightning and burned but never charred. The crucifix later was in a church that burned and is said to be the only part of the church that survived.
If you're in Merida on a Saturday or Sunday, it might be wortwhile to stop in for a Spanish mass.
Mural's inside the State Hall
The main square has a number of public buildings all around it. We avoided this building (the Palace de Gobierno) for a day because they have two soldiers standing outside the entrance way, looking quite fierce. However we watched people coming and going, and wandered in to check ourselves. There are many (twenty-seven) murals inside that reflect Yucatan history. Entrance is free.
These are huge murals, one or two of them are two stories high set inside a stairwell. We liked the fact the explanations were written in Spanish and English. We found from our guide books that they were painted by a local artist -- Fernando Castro Pacheco. He has an interesting style -- when painting Mayans, he emphasizes the size of their feet, hands or noses.
As I stated before the murals are intended to portray the history of the Mayan people. As a history lesson, I found them lacking. It is not obvious which is first, and without knowledge of the history, it really is just like looking at a set of disjointed slides. However, I quite enjoyed each mural. Also, just as an aside, you can take good pictures of the Cathedral and Mérida's Main Plaza through the open windows on the second floor.