Add Graeme Green to the growing list of British travel writers who are singing Yucatan’s praises. Greene writes on wanderlust.co.uk that the region “calls out to be explored”….
Mayans, mezcal and mot-mots – Road tripping through Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula
Few travellers think of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for a road trip. But with 100-year-old cantinas, cool cenotes, colourful birdlife and ancient Mayan ruins, this is an area calling out to be explored..
“We are good ‘alcoholic’ people,” laughed La Negrita owner Patricia Martin, as another round of mezcals magically appeared on our table. “If you’re going to be drunk, you may as well do it professionally.”
Patricia clearly loves what she does: running La Negrita, a lively cantina (bar) in the 2017 American Capital of Culture, the Mexican city of Mérida, in the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula. It was easy to see why in this place where the good times rolled and beer and mezcal flowed abundantly.
A Cuban band played to a packed dancefloor. Couples energetically rumba-ed the night away. All the while, Patricia, the life and soul of the cantina, greeted friends with hugs and kisses, ordered fresh rounds of mezcal and clapped her hands to the music.
Mezcal with grasshoppers (Graeme Green)
Each glass of mezcal arrived with the rim coated in worm salt and a side dish of grasshoppers. “They’re called Chapulines,” Patricia informed me, as I tried the salty, crispy insects. “The red salt is Sal de Gusano, dried chilli powder mixed with agave worm, from the plant mezcal’s made from. This is the traditional way to serve mezcal.”
Later in the evening, we reluctantly left and rushed, a little more than half-cut, over to the 19th century José Peón Contreras Theatre to catch the local symphonic orchestra and a visiting oboist playing Beethoven, Haydn and Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack from The Mission. Mezcal, Cuban rumba and a Classical concert may seem like an odd mix, but that’s just Friday night in Mérida.
Sign in Mérida’s central plaza (Graeme Green)
The capital of Yucatán state, Mérida was our first major stop on an adventurous road trip exploring the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico. It’s not an area often thought of for road trips (many travellers never make it past Cancún).
Unlike the coach tours, we had the freedom to make our own plans, detouring to check out an old colonial church or stopping in Valladolid to walk around the leafy plaza or buy tortas (Mexican sandwiches) from a street stand. Most of all, though, having a car opened up possibilities for exploring colourful small towns, lesser known Mayan ruins and the thousands of little-visited cenotes (sinkholes) dotted across the peninsula.
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