Thursday, November 22, 2007

Car Trip 34

There was no way we could make it all the way from Acayucan to Cancun in one day. We had originally planned on spending the night in Villahermosa but that plan got scraped long ago. It was decided then that we could and would shoot for Merida today. So off we went.

We mostly backtracked the route B and I had taken to start our journey and to get to Veracruz to meet up with L. We were back on what has now become to me the familiar old Mexico 180! Straight freeway shot all the way to Villahermosa, about 156 miles. Piece of cake except for the border crossing from the state of Veracruz back into hot old Tabasco. We got stopped at the military check point there. Although not the scariest checkpoint we had encountered, it was by far the most thorough of them all. Even though it was spitting rain, they made us all get out and stand over there please in the rain. Not fun. And I could not get close enough to watch them do the inspection, which always makes me nervous. With no guns, drugs or illegal immigrants found to be stashed in our little car, they waved us on our way.

Just after Villahermosa we found a place to pull over and we switched drivers, putting B behind the steering wheel. I was very glad to do this. Not only was I sick and tired of driving, but I did not want to be the one driving across that bridge at Frontera again! Let B deal with it while I squeezed my eyes tightly shut! We made it over it just fine and proceeded with no further adventures or really anything of interest. We had seen it all before. And this was my third time on this particular stretch of road through Mexico.

We were getting hungry so we started to look for a restaurant as we passed through Ciudad del Carmen again. Nothing. We followed the road along the coast, looking for a seafood restaurant or something. The ones we did see were few and far between and they were all closed. We continued the 92 miles to Champoton with stomachs growling and eyes peeled for a restaurant. Just before reaching Champoton proper, which is also right on the Gulf, we came to an area of a whole line of restaurants. Take your pick. So we did, choosing El Pelicano. It was just the closest one to where we could pull over and park. There were no parking lots for these restaurants. Just pull over anywhere you can and squeeze in with the other stopped cars and semis.
We had been expecting just food. Something to fill us up and be on our way.

We thought we might be in for something a little different when they brought the "botana", or appetizer. It was so good, L asked them what it was. It was a dipping sauce made out of roasted Jalapeno peppers. These were blended into a paste and then mixed with oil, garlic and black pepper. Talk about fire! It was one of those hot sauces that make you exclaim over the hotness but that you just can’t keep your chip out of! Then came the main course. B and L had both ordered the breaded chicken breast. What they got were three huge breaded breasts each. Since L has a hollow leg, he had no trouble downing all of it! I had ordered "La Mexicana", not knowing what it was going to be but not much caring either. Surprise me. What I got was big chunks of chicken breast, cooked and served in some kind of red hot sauce with lots of garlic, tomatoes and more Jalapeno pepper pieces. My lips were on fire by the time I finished it, but finish it I did! That meal was without a doubt one of the best ones we had on the whole trip. The next time we pass by on that road, we will for sure stop there again!

With me behind the wheel again, we pulled out onto the road again and headed for our final destination today, Merida. About another 110 miles, and none of it on freeway now. It was turning out to be another very hot day. Hotter than usual for early May. This was Sunday, May 1. When we finally hit Merida around 5pm, the temperature was still 86 fahrenheit.

I have mentioned Merida before in my babblings. I love Merida. It is the capital city of the state of Yucatan and we have been there many times. Many of you may remember that we were there last July with Juan and his family! Merida is full of colonial buildings, parks, museums and even a zoo. It is considered the cultural center of the whole Yucatan peninsula. It is sometimes also referred to as The White City because of so many white buildings. I especially love Merida on Sunday when the area around the center of town is closed to all but foot traffic. Merida on Sunday is a party. A tame party, but a party just the same. There are bands everywhere, playing every kind of music. Of course, salsa music prevails! There are food vendors, mostly selling tacos, fried meat and anything you can imagine that can be fried in fat. The entire main plaza is turned over to merchants selling everything from balloons to handmade clothing to cheap trinkets. It is like no other city I have seen.

We had no trouble getting a room at our old stand-by hotel right downtown, The Reforma. We last stayed there with our friends Jerry and Loretta when they came down for a visit. I was starting to notice a bit of decay at that point, but, hey, this is Mexico. This time we were really disappointed in our room. It stank. Literally. There was some kind of bad odor coming from somewhere, and it wasn’t from us! And the bathroom door wouldn’t even close! We immediately insisted on a different room, which we got. It was so hot that night, the air conditioner in our room never did reach the coolest setting. It ran on high all night, trying to cool down the room. We have decided that we are not going to stay there anymore.

So a quick shower and then we were to be off and about fantastic Merida. Although L has been to Merida many times, he had never been there on a Sunday. I was looking forward to hearing what he thought of it since the city is totally different then.

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