Joany, despite the non stop talking, is a wonderful hostess and provides free wine and beer, stocked in her fridge, to which we are welcome to help ourselves. After a drink we decide to walk into the center of Merida to have dinner. We are in the Historical District and we walk through streets lined with wonderful old colonial houses, some of which are waiting to find an owner that cares enough to return them to their previous glory, and some of which have already found that person.
They are painted in wonderful deep desert colors of burnt orange, sand and green. The windows and doors are covered in intricate and beautiful iron work. The rooms are tall and large with marble floors. The front doors are double, made of beautifully carved wood and 12 feet tall. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling. They call out “buy me” as we pass.
We find the main square, which is the perfect town square with beautiful colonnades on three sides filled with café tables and chairs, and on the fourth side there is an imposing cathedral, The Cathedral of San Idelfonso. It is actually the oldest Cathedral on the American continent dating back to the 16th century. The conquering Spanish dismantled all the nearby Mayan Pyramids and used the huge stones as the foundation for the Cathedral.
The center of the square is full of people enjoying the evening, and watching the clowns and musicians. The streets around the square are lined with horses pulling Victorian carriages. The carriages are all painted white and decorated with flowers. There are few tourists . It is mainly the locals enjoying all this. It is about as different from our life in Puerto Vallarta as it could be.
We end up at a restaurant called the Villa Maria Restaurant. It is highly rated in Trip Advisor and it is the first restaurant recommendation that Joany makes. She does however warn us that it is a huge restaurant and there will be very few people there, but not to let that put us off, the food is terrific.
Joany exaggerated about the number of people that would be there. The place was deserted, other than 5 waiters, all leaning against the wall, talking to each other.
Normally we would walk on by, but as we don’t know of another restaurant we go in. It is a gorgeously restored 17th century mansion with a central open courtyard with art nouveau hanging chandeliers, and beautifully presented dining tables. The waiter asks if we would like to sit there or inside . Inside there are two more dining rooms both equally elaborate in their settings. It is magnificent and deserted. We eat in the courtyard.
The restaurant has pretensions of grandeur, and everything about it appears first class, until we hear a loud bang. We turn in the direction of the kitchen and see two of the waiters dragging a large old water heater out of the kitchen and across the restaurant floor. It is too heavy for them and they keep having to drop it on the tile floor. Sweat is running down their faces. If this is a regular occurrence it might explain the lack of customers.
As for the rest of the evening, the staff is very attentive, the food is good but not excellent, and the prices are high but not exorbitant, until, that is, it comes to the wine list. Most of the wines are immediately recognizable as coming from Costco (they have a Costco in Merida), and the restaurant is charging 6 times the price they paid in Costco. It leaves an unpleasant taste in our mouths.