Sunday, March 17, 2013

Campeche - Part One

Some of the beautiful tiles through the Hotel
 Hotel Castelmar in Cambeche, a lovely spot and our home
for 2 nights

First let me say that we really loved Campeche and highly recommend a visit there. It's a beautiful small city full of history and art. Founded by the Spanish in 1540 on the location of the Mayan city of Ah-Kin-Pech it was a rich and important port during the Colonial era when large plantations growing henequen from the agave plant florished. It declined after the Mexican Independance but revived when petroleum was discovered offshore in the 1970's. Money from this fueled a refurbishment of the facades, monuments, walls and forts during the 1980's. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Beet Carpaccio at Marganzo Restaurant, our favorite
restaurant. We were there twice and Hilly & Tony 3 times
In the early years it was constantly attacked by Pirates and numerous forts and heavily fortified walls were built to surround the town. Only small portions of the walls survive but almost all the forts. Most of these forts have been turned into museums or in one case a Botanical garden.
We drove from Merida in the morning and were delighted when the Hotel Castelmar checked us in early. It's a beautiful place right in the center of the historic area. They recommended we eat at Marganzo nearby and it was terrific. We made a reservation to eat there again that very night. The food was mostly Mayan specialities which we enjoy trying. I'm planning a blog post in the next week or so entirely on Mayan food and am trying to make some of it at home.
This is a city that you can see with your feet and we did. Hilly and Tony headed west along the coast to a historic fort with a museum and Scott and I went east down to the Nature Reserve which stretches for at least 70 miles along the coast. We both enjoyed seeing the fisherman and their boats. Scott and I walked around the protected lagoon where many of them are kept and they sell their fish. The baby sharks used in the regions signiture dish, Pan de Cazon, were for sale here. I had it for lunch my first day - layers of baby shark in tortillas covered in tomato sauce.
The main square is really pretty with the 16th Century Cathedral at one end, some of the city walls and mulit pastel colored arcaded homes and municipal building surrounding it. In the center was a cafe and tourist information booth. One day we had lunch up on the second story overlooking the Plaza at Casa Viejo de los Arcos. I had delicious fish covered with a Pepian sauce made with roasted squash seeds. Scott and I shared a dish of sikil pak, a mayan hummus, with chips as an appetizer. Yum.
Tony, Hilary and Scott at Marganzo
Unlike Merida, which outside the Central area is very city like, commercial and run down looking, Campeche is well kept, freshly painted and swept clean through the downtown area and into some of the older suburban areas. The town must subsidize somehow the cost of keeping up residential and commercial facades on an ongoing basis.
There was a lot of art around town. Bronze statues that appear to be permenant show residents going about their normal life in Colonial times. It makes for great interactive photos. There was also a major show by a Mexican artist, Jorge Marin. More than 20 life
Several of the streets were closed to cars and filled with art

sized sculptures were displayed beautifully around the main squares and in the pedestrian only street. They were of male athletes performing with simple bird masks. A giant pair of wings was set up in front of the sea gate where people could pose for photos. Of course we did.
More about the rest of our stay in my next posting.
One of the many charming sculptures around town
depicting every day life years ago

You knew Heather was an Angel, right?

16th Century Cathedral in the main square

Surrounded by multi colored houses and shops

The perfect place for people watching and just resting

Mansion Caravel, now a municipal office, once one of the
largest mansions in the Colonial era here

Great wrought iron work trims many of the buildings

Lots of places to have a coffee or drink

No excuses for not finding the backpack you like.
This  "futball" game looked WELL used
Another pedestrian street filled with art
Or cafes
Heather gets friendly with a Don
Baby sharks are a local specialty dish
A number of the forts have been made into museums,
The outside of the fort with guard house
Most of the buildings looked freshly painted.
Even the simple homes looked pristine - someone's working
long hours and using a lot of paint 

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