Built by the Spaniards in the 16th century, the walled city of Campeche sees few foreign visitors according to Lonely Planet. Walking the streets of the colorfully painted facades it was true we saw no one with a camera and locals stopped to avoid walking into my frame. Clearly they are not tired of waiting on tourists.
The old town’s tidy streets have no overhead power lines and few exterior signs, just a grid of painted facades, some with peeling paint. Most of the one-way streets have cars parked on one side. 59th street is a pedestrian only street that fills with tables of diners in the afternoon and evening.
There are few notable sights in town but it makes a pleasant overnight stop on the long drive to Palenque.
We visited the Museo de la Arquitectura Maya, a small informative archeological museum with quality carvings and explanations in excellent English. Of particular interest is the stunning jade funeral mask.
Off the same plaza is the Centro Cultural Casa Número 6 with period furnishings in an old colonial home. Worth the 20 peso entry fee and the 10-15 minutes it takes to browse the rooms.
If you haven’t seen enough ruins the archaeological site of Edzná is 60 kilometers to the southeast and there are 30 or so smaller Chenes sites to the northeast.
Sleeping and Dining
Hotel Boutique Casa Don Gustavo
Hotel Boutique Casa Don Gustavo, located on the pedestrian street that traverses the old walled city, is a lovely slice of old colonial life. The small hotel has beautifully appointed guest suites and larger accommodations.
Our spacious two room standard suite was decorated in dark woods against burnt gold walls. The sitting area has a small table with two chairs and a wardrobe. The bathroom and shower are reasonably large for this size room with good water pressure. The wifi connection was also better than most places we’ve stayed on the peninsula. The one lacking amenity was in-room coffee service but if you ask at reception coffee will be available when you want in the morning.
Breakfast Americano served in the courtyard starts with a basket of baked goods including cookies and various types of rolls and breads – all of good quality – and a plate of fresh and tasty cut fruit artfully presented. The main dish is eggs cooked to order. Eggs ordered sunny side up were perfectly cooked and served with a tomato pico de gallo, refried bean and tortillas.
Service is friendly and efficient and the breakfast nearly flawless, one of the best we’ve had in Mexico.
Lunch at Marganzo
Marganzo, A large dining room, more upscale than casual, is decorated in dark woods, a black and white checker-board tile floor, murals of the city wall and has servers dressed in local costumes. The extensive menu included a long list of local and Mexican specialties.
We ordered the grilled octopus served sizzling hot with grilled tomatoes, roasted potatoes and spring onions. Although the dish was well executed the octopus was not as tender as I’ve had at other places. The fish filet with chilies (ajillo) was served with rice and sautéed vegetables – all nicely done.
Dinner at La María Cocina Peninsular
La María Cocina Peninsular, a small casual eatery with brightly colored walls in pink and blue, has a fun festive vibe. The menu specializes in local Mayan cuisine with a variety of meat and seafood options. We tried a couple of the classics to start, the guacamole and the lime soup. For the guacamole the avocado, smashed to a soft cream, is molded in a bed of finely diced sweet onion and tomato. The lime soup is a rich chicken broth laced with lime and shredded chicken.
For mains I ventured out of my comfort zone and ordered the shrimp encrusted in crispy coconut. While the plump shrimp were crispy on the outside and sweet on the inside, the sweetened coconut was just too sweet for my tastes. Certainly this one counts as an ordering error rather than a fault in the preparation.
Don’s fish of the day was two meaty filets beautifully cooked on a bed of shredded pickled vegetables and garnished with lentils.
The chef, Enrique, appeared at the end of the meal to ask about our dinner. We told him honestly about the shrimp. He explained that his version is actually less sweet than the local traditional preparation. He obviously takes pride in his food. It’s no wonder the restaurant ranks #1 on TripAdvisor.
The restaurant was empty when we arrived at 7:30 on a Saturday evening and was just starting to fill at around 8:30.
December 14, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Yucatan Peninsula page.