We arrived at Merida airport after ten 0'clock at night, it was raining and the night air was clean and warm. Alex took out the Lonely Planet Guide to see at which hostel we could find accommodation at that late hour.Alex phoned Nómadas Youth Hotel (tlf.924-52-23) and was told that we could come there. We took a taxi and by mistake gave the taxi driver the name of Hostel Zócalo ( mentioned erroneously in LP guide with the same tlf. number 924-52-23).The hostel (Tlf.930-95-62) was in the centre of the city and on arrival we saw a small band of musicians playing in the plaza. In the photo which I took immediately from the window of the hostel, you can see the plaza below.It had stopped raining. We rang the bell and nothing happened, we rang again a few more times, the door opened and a man in a singlet with a sleepy countenance opened the door and wanted to know what we wanted. We told him that we had phoned earlier and had made a reservation. The man said that no one had phoned him. So Alex showed him the LP guide and discovered the error. We had phoned one hostel and came to a different one
The hostel was one the first floor and as we went up, a troupe of cockroaches appeared from nowhere and scurried about. We went up and the receptionist showed us a room with two beds, with sharing toilet and bath outside. The room overlooked the plaza down, and the walls were full of graffiti. The beds were sagging, it was stuffy and hot and street noise was loud. The man told us that in the morning we could change the room. So after nine hours' journey we got a room where sleep was impossible. In the photo I have posted, and which I took from our room, you can see the plaza and the cathedral in the background.
Early in the morning we heard loud bangs and voices outside our room and opening the door, found many other travellers, preparing and eating breakfast. There was a long table in the middle of the hall, with a small kitchen in the corner, dirty cutlery, plates, cups and saucers piled up in the sink. which turned my stomach. I went to the W.C and found three cubicles with broken plastic doors. When I came back to our room, a young woman appeared at the door and told us that we could change the room later. She was the manageress/owner. I asked her as to how it was possible that the room was full of graffiti, shower and W.C door broken and the place so dirty? She arrogantly told me that it was the backpackers who had wrecked the doors. I told her that we would not stay and will look for another lodging. She told us that we could leave our backpacks in a room and collect them later.
We showered and without eating any breakfast went out to have a look at the city centre El Zócalo and to find another hotel or hostel. The Plaza Grande and its park, with benches to sit down under the shade of tall trees, was wonderful and we had our breakfast at an open air cafe. The streets were lined with shops. So we strolled down the streets and after giving a round, found a hostel, owners of which were Spanish. The place was neat and had an interior garden in the patio and rooms on the ground and first floor. So we took a room, went back to Hostel El Zocalo to collect our backpacks. The young woman told us that we will have to pay 60 pesos for the storage of our packs
We found Merida a very cosmopolitan city, streets were narrow but the plazas broad, el Plaza Grande, in the centre of busy streets and the hustle & bustle of the city, shaded by tall trees and benches to sit on. Los Meridianos, like Madrileños take their paseos (strolls) there. In all cities constructed by the colonial Spaniards, the Plaza is its main centre, beautifully planted with trees and its promenade where people gather in the evenings to listen to municipal band playing the Serenata. Such practise still exists in many Spanish cities and towns.
When Spaniards first settled in the main cities of the colonial America, the neighbourhoods of the elite, the ruling class, were in separate areas of the cities, so that those ill-smelling pulque saturated labour class peons or Indians could not rub shoulders with the noble class. Even in the plazas the gentry with the town officials sat on one side of the park whereas the ordinary people were gathered on the other side. This I personally know from living in Spain, although I have never seen any segregation of classes in Spanish society. You will find a gardener, a mason or a labourer rubbing shoulders with the mayor, the judge or a lawyer in the local bar, playing a game of cards or dominoes, in their leisure time, without any class distinction.
In the evenings you will find well dressed señoritas, chaperoned by their sisters or elderly women, promenading, with their endless chatter, followed by young boys, the young men doing their military service, trying to draw the attention of the girls who seem to be attracted to them, laughing, flirting and enjoying the life which only Spanish know how to do.
Mexicans are known for their love of music and in Merida in the evening, when we came to sit in the park, a band was playing and some older couples were dancing. El Paseo de Montejo, the wide avenue full of shops and restaurants is the main throb of the city and at night some night clubs and one or two discos were open, their garish neon lights attracting the passersby. We found it very pleasant city indeed.