Haciendas in the Yucatan and strolling the square in Merida

The idea of spending a few days in June in Mexico’s Yucatan sounded like a great idea during Chicago’s too-cool April weather.

So on a recent Sunday I found myself with a bright sun and temps topping 90 degrees, wandering the Yucatan capital of Merida.

It’s too hot but I’m happy to be here, spending the day checking out authentic haciendas and Merida’s typically quaint central square.

Hacienda Yaxcopoil

A sleepy museum outside the capital of Merida. Photo by Terri Colby

We visit the Hacienda Yaxcopoil, once a thriving sisal plantation of 22,000 acres. It dates to the 17th Century, but today it is a sleepy museum.  Since very little has been done to restore the buildings,  it feels real, almost as if the hacienda could even today be a working farm, albeit an aged and run down one. But there is beauty in the faded paint on the walls.

The large rooms in the main building have high ceilings and wooden doors with inset windows that even today open to let in the cool breezes. Much of the furnishings are original.  The three horses that are housed on the property add to the feel of reality.

Hacienda Yaxcopoil is about 20 miles from Merida, close enough to the central city for a tour.  The Hacienda is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The admission charge is 75 pesos, about $7 U.S.

Seats on Merida's square allow for conversation. Some call them You and I chairs. Photo by Terri Colby

Heading  back into town can feel a bit like heading back into the future. If you want to slow things down a bit, take a stroll through Merida’s central square, where families spend the afternoons. It’s typically Mexican with flowers all around and stalls selling crafts and food.  At every entrance to the square, plaster love seats that some call “you and I” chairs, offer visitors a place to rest and chat as you find yourself face-to-face with your companion. So perhaps, you and I, is a better description, even though the Victorian-style loveseats of old still come to mind.

In Merida’s square, I had my first taste of Xtabentun, a Mayan liquor made of honey, anise and rum. The pronunciation of the Mayan word [Ish-ta-ben-tune] makes it sound German.  Served straight up or over ice, this liquor has a smooth taste but it packs a punch. Some say it is an aphrodisiac. Be careful.

This ice cream shop on Merida's square dates to 1907. Photo by Terri Colby

If you go to Merida and walk its square, don’t miss the ice cream at the Dulceria and Gelateria Colon,which has been a fixture on the square since 1907. Some of the haciendas were still around then. So you didn’t head too quickly into the modern world.

Click here for more information about Merida.

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