Campeche, MX, had been on our list for a while, so we decided to visit a few weeks before Christmas. I did my usual Priceline search for lodging and decided on Hotel Castelmar. I am always looking for Colonial properties, but with modern upgrades. Priceline
got us in there for roughly $30.00 USD (plus taxes) per night, so I booked two nights.
I always get super excited about these road trips around Mexico! We have a few more on our to-do list, but we have covered a lot of ground in our two winter
seasons here. From ancient Mayan ruins to sandy beaches to lagoons full of flamingoes, it's all here. Of all the places we have traveled, Mexico gives us way more opportunities to see and do things on a modest budget. The dollar is strong, and everything is
I know a lot of people have concerns about safety here. Please don't let the bad press dissuade you from discovering Mexico. There are bad areas here, and good, just like the United States or any country. The Yucatan Peninsula is very,
very safe, and there are so many things to do and see! The state of Campeche boasts a very low crime rate. It is in the Southwest corner of the Yucatan peninsula.
The roads between Progreso and Campeche are just fine! We pass many road crews that are
cutting back the constant jungle growth, picking up garbage, and even planting trees! The winter season is mildly hot, and mostly dry except when an El Norte blows through. We hit the weather jackpot on this trip because it was just about perfect, hitting
the high 80's in the afternoon, and no rain.
We arrive at the Hotel and find it´s spotlessly clean, chock full of charming old-world style, and staffed with friendly people. I ask the front desk what the Hotel used to be, and he tells me it once
housed military barracks. They have preserved the old as much as possible, including the two-hundred-year-old tiles and furniture, but added all modern amenities.
After checking in, we really have food on the brain, so I get out the trusty google maps
and find a spot nearby that looks reasonably priced and has a 5-star rating. It's called "Restaurant & Gallery Luz de Luna". There we have a delicious lunch and a couple of Mojitos. We meet a waitress named Pamela and tease her about her name not being
Mexican, asking her what her real name is. She laughs, and tells us that Pamela is what her mother named her! Then the owner introduces us to a bright green Iguana named Cleopatra. I can highly recommend this restaurant, we loved it!
with our tummies happy and start on a walking tour around Campeche. Campeche is a delightful blend of old and new. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a shining example of a harbor town from the colonial period. It is urban, colonial, and seaside all in
one little town!
The city has walls built around it from the 1600s. It's a fascinating fact to me that the walls were not built to keep out enemy armies, they were built to keep out marauding PIRATES! So, for those of us with a little pirate in our
blood, it is like a homecoming.
Inside the walls are 7 "baluartes", interior rooms, which house exhibits, gardens, and small museums. We visit the Mayan Architecture Museum, and one of the gardens. But guess what? It was really getting HOT, and we suddenly
felt like having a siesta! So, we went back to the air-conditioned room and refreshed ourselves in preparation for the evening hours. Hey, when in Mexico......
Campeche after dark is magical, even more so at Christmas time. We made our way to the historical
center, and it was alive with Disney-like color and joy! Vendors filled the square, and a big stage was set up where dancers of all ages were performing! There is a giant Christmas tree, a "snow-covered" village, and a huge inflated Santa Claus. Above it all,
the Cathedral towers are lit up in vivid colors.
We grab a couple of tacos and then find a place to sit to watch all the festivities. Singers, musicians, dancers, even a roaming juggler or two. We are literally entertained for a couple of hours by all
the Christmas magic. Then I have an urge for ice cream, and we wander down the Umbrella street looking for Helado. Sitting on a bench eating our cold treats, we watch as some of the young dancers walk home with their parents and siblings, twirling and spinning
in their sequinned costumes.
We slept like people that had gotten a lot of sun and exercise, then had a delightful breakfast in the hotel's arched courtyard. Although not free, a full breakfast here costs about 5.00 USD including juice/coffee.
spent the morning prowling around the beautifully restored colonial buildings, shops, and stroll the Malecon until, you guessed it, it was suddenly time for more food! This time, I specifically looked for an air-conditioned restaurant, because I do not like
to sweat while I have a meal! What I came up with was a Restaurant called Marganzo, and boy, am I glad I did!
After our fantastic meal, we were served, gratis, a couple of small pinkish frozen concoctions. We detected tequila, but couldn't put our finger
on the other subtle flavor. So we asked, and we were told, it was Tamarindo! (when I got home, I went on a quest to remake these in our own kitchen, and my recipe is even better than theirs.)
Well, you get the idea. We strolled, we ate, we shopped.
Then we took siestas. I bought several Mexican blouses from street vendors, at the best prices I have ever seen. They are really some of my favorites to wear. I purchased a bracelet from some school children, just to see their huge smiles!
We visited the Chocol Ha, twice. Once for dessert that was to die for, and once so I could have the hot chocolate cafe. Every morsel from this Cafe on Calle 59 was delightful. I've never tasted a better chocolate cake, ever, and that is saying something.
On our last evening, strolling down Calle 59, a street that is closed to automobiles and filled with restaurants and tables, we suddenly hear a voice calling, "Miss Paula! Miss Paula!" ( Miss POW-LA!)
Robert says, "Someone is calling you." I shake my
head, but indeed, someone is, and it is Miss Pamela. She is excited to show us her apartment right above the bustling street and invite us to have a Cerveza, and meet her companion, a young man who looks like he just walked off a Mexican Soap Opera set.
But that's Mexico. You can make a friend for life in 5 minutes. We could go back there today, and Pamela would still remember.
As will we.