Sometimes the new and the old meet in this modern world of ours with not much of a screeching sound as you might expect. Merida is a place that marries the feeling of an old colonial city with modern amenities–like the presence of Wal-Mart, which I guess is not so unusual here in Mexico but was not very visible where we lived in Costa Rica and Belize.
Early in the day, we made our plans. We knew the first order of business was stocking the kitchen with food. Kevin and Andy had already gone shopping the night of our arrival for a few basics–hot dogs, eggs, tortillas, and cheese–but, of course, with a family of six, we still needed more. Much more. The guys went to the grocery store our property manager had suggested… Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart–that monopolizing monster of a company that underpays and destroys struggling mom and pop stores all over the world. The store we all love to hate.
So this day, we hiked for what seemed like a couple of miles and then finally found it: that sturdy cement mecca, all-powerful world provider of stuff, a company that we oppose theoretically but were honestly glad to see since we needed food for our family and didn’t yet know where else to go. Yes, the Wal-Mart was still in Spanish and pesos, but at least the aisles were familiar and many of the products are the same.
It was bizarre but we were glad to buy a few of the things we needed and hike back to our house. Before we did, however, we had to stop for a 50 cent ice cream cone at McDonald’s. Ay yai yai! We don’t frequent either Wal-Mart or McDonald’s in the States, but here the familiar was comforting.
After a siesta at the rental house, which we still really needed after the long travel hours of the day before, we saw that it was the last night of Carnaval in the historic centro of Merida. We also found a pretty cool-looking restaurant called Rescoldo’s Mediterranean Bistro near our house that we decided to go to for dinner, since we really hadn’t bought much yet for dinner prep.
The meal at Rescoldo’s was magical and delicious! A wood-fired pizza and couple glasses of wine later, I was relaxed for the first time in a week. Everyone got a chance to practice our Spanish a tiny bit with the waiter and also catch up with each other about the last few days. We sat outdoors, with palm and flowering trees gently waving in the breeze around our table, and a fountain tinkling nearby. We seemed to be the first ones to arrive (the restaurant opened at 6 p.m.) but shortly thereafter other people arrived.
After dinner, we started our long trek through the city in the darkness to Santiago Park, where the last night of Carnaval was supposedly being celebrated. We didn’t know much about it but had general walking directions courtesy of Google Maps. The sidewalks were extremely narrow and, with the cars and buses whizzing by right next to us, I made sure to keep Addy and Laura on the building side of me. Lots of people walk but, in this colonial part of town, I guess the sidewalks were built before the traffic got so busy.
In about 15 minutes, we arrived at the park and saw that a large crowd was gathered in front of a pink building with a balcony. Apparently, this last night of Carneval was a play of sorts, acting out “the burial of Juan Carnaval.” I know nothing about this and, of course, couldn’t understand the Spanish well enough to really get the gist. The gathered people seemed to love the show, however, and it was good to see so many people coming out for the fiesta.
After watching awhile over the heads of many locals and expats, we decided to move on since it was getting late and we still had to walk back to the house. Little Addy’s legs get tired fairly fast. Before leaving the square, we walked over toward the beautifully-lit church and saw a line of horse-drawn carriages waiting for customers. Deciding that seemed like a better way to get home than using our own legs, Kevin worked out a deal with one of the drivers–an elderly man with only one leg–for a quick tour of the historic area. Originally, the tour was to end up where we started but we asked him to drop us closer to our house.
As we clopped along, the driver pointed out historic and otherwise notable landmarks. I only caught part of his spiel because of his rapid Spanish, but it was still a lovely ride.
We got home, tired but happy, and fell into yet another deep and dreamless sleep.