Gran Real Yucatan Hotel
Calle 56 #474 esquina 55
Centro historico, Mérida, Yucatán, México
(999)924-8268 (999)928-6081 (999)928-6082
The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel is another historic home converted into a multi-story hotel.
The entrance surprised me, it was unassuming with two glass doors that opened onto an unadorned foyer.
I got a room on the third floor. I liked the room, it had a room safe, a refrigerator, a good air-conditioner and a balcony with a view of the pool. Maybe the third floor is lucky for me.
Placards in the room advised travelers how to save on water by reusing their linens for a day or two by placing a placard on their bed or hanging their towels up. But, I am not sure some of the staff pay attention to the cards or my hung up towels because they changed the towels.
The hotel has an elevator and ramps which I used everyday.
The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel is an easy walk both to the large mercados and Plaza Grande.
Friday afternoon, Fideo the bartender, made a papaya & agua, a non-alcoholic beverage, for me. Later, as I explored the mercados, I realized I could buy groceries from several grocery stores and keep them in the room's refrigerator. I bought some juice and bottles of water.
Later, I enjoyed the hotel's pool. The pool is about 4 feet deep. While not a large pool, I swam mini-laps. Lounge chairs and umbrella roofed tables sat on the pool's large, oval cement skirt. Garden areas, complete with geckos, filled in various spaces near the pool and along side the building walls.
While the hotel had several guests, it was quiet. The hotel staff were very attentive and helpful.
Friday night, I went exploring the area around the hotel. There wasn't much to explore. At night, there are few tiendas open. To get something to eat, you need to walk to Plaza Grande or eat in the hotel. I had a delicious dinner at the hotel in the bar area near the pool. The bar area has a TV and several round tables with barrel chairs. Also, the hotel had decafe coffee, not easy to find.
|(Brochetas de Pollo)|
Saturday, as I stood on the sidewalk before going exploring again, I thought about Mérida and all of the changes it has gone through.
As I began my Staycations in Mérida, changes are all around, new hotels, improved infrastructure, new cultural centers, businesses, restaurants, cafes, shops, services and more. I find the changes overwhelming in many ways. In a word, this is the gentrification of a city.
I tried to imagine what this area of Mérida looked like a 100 years ago. One hundred years ago, in 1919, Mérida was still lush with the riches from "Green Gold", the production of henequen.
I imagined unpaved streets, homes and businesses without electricity and various types of horse-drawn wagons and carriages used for passenger travel, and merchants and builders carrying supplies.
The 1898 Spanish-American war spurred the demand for natural rope fiber. Over the next years, over 1000 haciendas/henequen plantations were built and developed in and near the city to cultivate the "Green Gold."
The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel was part of a henequen farm and later a served as a farm export site. Mérida, at one time, was the richest city in Mexico due to the production of henequen. But, over the next three decades, the sales of henequen would decline then crash.
The Mexican Revolution, the U.S. Great Depression and Mexican land reforms reduced the price and demand for henequen fiber. In the 1940s, the creation of synthetic rope fibers reduced the demand for henequen significantly.
Most of the haciendas were eventually abandoned.
In the 1990s, a few remaining Hacienda and colonial home owners, and Mérida's city government strengthened their agenda to appeal to tourism through a program of preservation. Tourism is the new "Green Gold" for Mérida and the world.
I explored the mercados again and found several blouses for under 50 pesos each, that is a bargain. I also discovered another economica cocina, Super C&C, where I had a tasty torta pollo. Mexico appeals to my tightwad nature.
|(Super C&C, economica cocina)|
At most economica cocinas, you can get a meal for 50 pesos or less.
|(Source: XE Converter)|
For the last two years, the Mexican peso MX has valued roughly between $18.00 - 19.50+, meaning for every U.S dollar, you get approximately the value of the peso minus commission which varies depending on the money exchanger you use.
For example, today, 10/20/18, 1 US$ is worth $19.49 pesos. So, a lunch for 50 pesos is about $2.56 US.
Later, I went to Plaza Grande and visited one of the new tourist centers. This one had huge videos running various displays of tourist highlights to visit in the Yucatan. I found one video display fascinating. It was an interactive map. By putting in various terms in the search bar, the map would display locations related to the term. I put in "parque" and found lots of parques in Mérida.
While I was familiar with several of the parques, a few were new to me. The tourist guide explained some of the history of some of the parques like Zona Arqueológica de Xcambo near Telchac Puerto on the coast. This parque has not been had a complete archaeologic survey which illustrated there were still many archeological sites to be found, explored and studied in the Yucatan.
I stayed there for at least an hour, putting in different terms and exploring the map, planning future trips.
That evening, I swam in the hotel's pool, again. Hotel pools are my passion.
Sunday, I took an all day tour, Uxmal and Ruta Puuc booked through Tours Sol Turquesa at C60 #499 x 59 y 61, 999 593 34 88.
Because the Yucatan is basically flat, I had chosen the Ruta Puuc tour because I wanted to see the mountains as well as the other sites.
After a great hotel breakfast, the tour guide came around 8:30am. After picking up other tourists, we rode out of Mérida. As we approached, Grutas Loltun, you can see some of the small mountains in the distance.
Grutas Loltun is the location of a huge underground cavern that Mayans used for thousands of years. Because of my difficulty walking, I waited outside the cave for the others to return from their tour.
Our next stop was Kabáh.
While I have visited Chichén Itzá and Dzibichaltún, and continue to study Mexican and Mayan history, when I first saw the ruins of Kabáh, I was overwhelmed by a flash of insight at the immensity and complexity of the Mayan culture.
While Kabáh is not one the larger Mayan site, it is complex with beautifully constructed buildings and impressive architecture.
|(Codz Poop Palace with repeating images of the Mayan God Chaac at Kabáh)|
(Source: By Mesoamerican - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18453374)
|(Chaac, Mayan Rain God, Source: By unknown Maya artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)|
Two Mayan gods represented throughout most Mayan ruins are the rain god, Chaac and Kukulkan, the serpent. The more I study Mayan history and culture, I am attracted to these Mayan gods. Praying for rain seems universal to all people and Kukulkan's imagery as a feathered serpent also seems universal, too. The serpent invokes images of Chinese dragons and even the dragon in Beowulf.
(Snake featured on walls of Governor's Palace, Uxmal)
(Kukulkan: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147279)|
After Kabáh, we drove to Uxmal.
Uxmal (thrice-built) is 62km south of Mérida. Mayan architecture of the classical period (850-925) in the PUUC region is considered unique and sophisticated among Mayan architecture. Uxmal's unusual pyramid, arched doorways and distinctive carvings that adorn the structures are some of the features that set it apart from other Mayan construction.
After you get your ticket and before you enter the site, you enter the visitors center which has tourist souvenir shops, a restaurant, a small museum and bathrooms. The center sits at the foot of the La Casa del Adivino, or Pyramid of the Magician, a large conical shaped pyramid, a different style of pyramid than those found in other Mayan sites.
Octavio Paz states:
Other major buildings on the site are The Nunnery, a set of buildings forming a quadrangle,
the Quadrangle of Birds, The Ball Court, The Governor's Palace, House of the Pigeons and the House of Turtles. The site is large and there are more features tourists on a tour don't have time to see.
Then, we visited a Chocolate museum and botanical garden. While the emphasis on the tour was the cultivation and preparation of chocolate, the botanical gardens are immense and wonderful. Many of the plants are used for medicinal purposes as well as for spices.
Within the garden are cages. Some cages held spider monkeys, others held jaguars or birds.
Also, as part of the tour, we witnessed a Mayan ritual which included music where the musicians used instruments made from natural elements like wood.
Later we returned to Uxmal and walked up the ramp past the Pyramid of the Magician to a seating area above the nunnery. It was dark, the sky was clear, the stars and constellations shone brightly above our heads. Thunder and lightning sounded and flashed in the distance.
The light and sound show that played across the face of various walls was tremendous. The history and myths of the Mayan were told in dramatic voices and sounds, in Spanish. While I don't understand a lot of Spanish, I enjoyed the show. It was dramatic, artistic and informative.
A major myth regarding Uxmal is the story of the Dwarf King. Some place the story in Kabáh, others in Uxmal. Basically, the story is about a childless old woman who wants a child. She finds an egg and tenderly cares for it. The woman is considered magical or a witch. The egg hatches and a child is born. The child grows into a man but of small stature.
In essence, the dwarf accepts the challenges of the King of Uxmal to various tests of strength, including the challenge to build a pyramid to the King, overnight. With encouragement from his mother, the dwarf meet the King's challenges and bests the King. In the last challenge the dwarf kills him and becomes King of Uxmal.
I appreciated Yucatan Today's version of the myth. In particular, I appreciate the quote below attributed to the dwarf's mother as she gives advice to her son.
It was a long delightful day.
Our tour group and tour guides were congenial. Because I have walking issues, many of the tour attendees helped me navigate some of the rocky walkways, and in and out of the van. I appreciated all the help.
The tour guide teased me in Spanish.
Visiting the ruins of an ancient culture that still thrives today, adds a dimension to the concept of culture.