Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Campeche is the only fortified city in Mexico. Ramparts, fortifications, walls, watchtowers, portcullises, and cannons: it feels like we're back in Europe! But inside the historic walls, the life and atmosphere are distinctly Mexican.
Sunday, March 26th, 2023
From Izamal, the yellow city, a long road awaits us to reach our next stop: Campeche, the capital of the state of the same name. It's hot. Very hot. The car's air conditioning works in two stages: it works very well when we're moving, but as soon as we slow down, it stops! We suffocate with each village crossing and each "tope" 🥵 And in Mexico, there are plenty of those! We stop at the cemetery in the small village of Hoctun. It's a very pretty and peaceful place where graves are adorned with floral motifs painted by local artists. Some graves are equipped with a lock. Indeed, an old Mayan tradition that still persists today in some villages is that the bones of deceased loved ones are removed and cleaned during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead.
Next, we head to Homun. There are numerous cenotes in the area and we plan to cool off in one of them. The problem is that there are so many that it's difficult to choose! On the advice of our friends Léo and Juju, we opt for the Yaxbakaltún cenote, which is not very expensive and seems different from the first cenote we visited a few days earlier. We access it via a very steep staircase that descends into the cenote and takes us to a platform in the middle of the water.
The place is calm, magical and a supreme privilege: we are completely alone! Great, we can enjoy the place to the fullest and monopolize the Tarzan rope and diving board. Everyone goes for their own personalized jump on the rope, including mom! However, probably traumatized by her forced jump, she categorically refuses to approach the diving board 😅 We can touch the bottom on the edges, the water is clear, there are plenty of small fish, and the sun's rays illuminate the place. And, the further we move away from the edge, the deeper it gets! 5 meters on one side and 18 meters on the other! Equipped with our masks and snorkels, we observe the slope that sinks into the depths. Impressive. We had an excellent time!
In the early afternoon, Mexican families start to arrive, and we decide to leave the place to them. We are hungry, so we drive a bit and stop at the first village we come across. There is a street vendor offering ceviche in a large plastic container directly on the counter. We hesitate. Is it really reasonable to have ceviche here, stored in the open air for who knows how long? 🤔 Reassured to see that the locals are not asking themselves as many questions as we are, we decide to give it a try. And we are glad we did because we get the best ceviche we have ever had. It is amazing! 🤤 Lucas also tries a very local michelada , a purely Mexican cocktail with...lots of stuff in it!
We finally arrive in Campeche in the late afternoon. We pick up the keys to the room and head directly to the waterfront to witness the most beautiful spectacle of nature: the sunset over the sea. A spectacle even more incredible that we share all together ❤️
Campeche is the only fortified city in Mexico. Due to its strategic location on the Gulf of Mexico, it was often targeted by pirates. To protect it, the Spaniards built a wall all around the city. The city's ramparts are still visible today. Inside the fortifications, the place is very touristy. There are super trendy and fancy restaurants selling pasta and sushi. Where did the cheap tacos go? We take the opportunity to stroll through the streets in search of souvenirs.
Bon, c’est joli, mais si on mange dans le coin on va devoir casser la tirelire. On quitte le centre-ville et on se dirige vers le marché local. Tout est fermé, sauf un stand de rue. On s’installe et on mange d’excellentes tortas, des sortes de sandwiches mexicains avec un pain brioché et garnis de la même viande que les tacos. Pour nous, comme d’hab’, c’est al pastor. On en a pour seulement 7,5 € à quatre. Record battu ! En plus, ce sont les meilleures tortas du séjour. On termine la soirée sur le malecon où on déguste d’excellents machacados : une banane ou des fraises écrasées et mélangées à de la glace pilée, le tout enduit de crème, de vanille, d’un peu de cannelle et d’un coulis au chocolat. Un délice ! 😋
Monday, March 27th
We can't leave Mexico without immersing ourselves in the heart of a local market. This morning, we take everyone on a little tour to the city's big mercado! We walk there from our hostel, which gives us the opportunity to discover the colorful streets and fortifications of Campeche.
We arrive at the mercado just after it opens. It's already bustling with people on all sides. We buy freshly squeezed fruit juice and immerse ourselves in the lively alleys. The market is huge, from the fish market where all kinds of fish and even sharks are sold, to the charcuterie with its disturbing smells, to the brightly colored fruit and vegetable stands, clothing, spices, seeds, and other products. We enjoy wandering aimlessly around. We even buy bananas and roasted sunflower seeds to snack on.
Mum had a wish for her trip to Mexico (well, actually, she had plenty, but this one was rather easy to fulfill). She wanted to visit a real hacienda. Luckily, there is one near Campeche. To get there, we take a road that quickly turns into a bumpy path. Rémi weaves between the potholes and iguanas that cross the road at breakneck speed with a swaying gait. It's too funny! We pass by fields of papayas, then sugarcane. Finally, we reach the Uayamon hacienda. It was built in the 17th century and was, at the time, one of the most important haciendas in the state of Campeche. It produced cattle, sugarcane, corn, and agave, among other things. Today, the hacienda is a luxury hotel! At €250 a night, we won't be spending the night here, but we're delighted to explore its beautiful park and magnificent buildings from another era.
We had dinner at a restaurant facing the Gulf of Mexico. The view of the sea was amazing, but the ceviches and grilled fish were almost inedible. Oh well, you can't win them all. We then hit the road again towards the interior of the country! It took us nearly three straight hours to get to the jungle, specifically to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Tomorrow, we are going to explore the Mayan city of Calakmul, lost in the heart of the jungle. But before that, we have a nice surprise reserved for Mom and Lucas! 😋