1) Campeche is a picturesque city with a real colonial Spanish ‘feel’
We would return in an instant to Campeche City! Campeche is the capital city (population about 220,000) of Campeche State. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1540 atop – it should be noted – a pre-existing Mayan city known as Canpech. As a port city, it was continually under attack by marauding pirates and buccaneers – Francis Drake attacked here; John Hawkins attacked here; Cornelis Jol (aka Peg Leg) attacked here. Fed up, the Spanish in 1686 hired French engineer Louis Bouchard de Becour to weave all the defensive systems that surrounded the city into a wall. Since then, Campeche has been a walled city with four main gates to access it and two forts, one of which, San Miguel now houses the city’s anthropological museum.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all of the buildings inside the walled city have been painted to their original, colourful glory. The city is very tourist friendly and easily walkable.
We drove in from Hacienda Uayamon a couple times while there. On our first visit, we parked just outside the old walled city. Upon returning to the car, we found a parking ticket, which strangely had no parking ticket fine noted. Upon inquiring about this with our concierge back the the hacienda, it was recommended to simply ignore it but to certainly mention it to the car rental agency upon returning the car to the airport. Okay, duly noted.
The day before we left, we decided to drive back into town for lunch to try Le Pigua, a noted seafood restaurant. On route about 10kms outside of town we were stopped at a military checkpoint.
(as an aside, military checkpoints into and out of Mexican towns is normal (in so far as being stopped by soldiers is normal, I guess) and we came across many, many of these during our trip)
The soldiers, complete with semi-automatic assault rifles, asked us to pull the car off the road and I duly obliged thinking, ‘uh-oh!’ “Placas, placas!” they kept saying. Seems our car’s license plates were gone. The city, in an effort to get folks to pay parking tickets, actually removes plates when the ticket is issued (not a bad idea really). Initially there was sort-of standoff as I plead ignorance and they seemed at a loss as to what to do. Imagine being on a deserted country road with three soldiers in full kit and guns and you’ll get a sense of the predicament. I tried ringing the emergency number of the rental agency to no avail. And, so, as can happen in Mexico there ensued a waiting game with the soldiers saying our car was not going anywhere, and me (disconcerted for sure) being okay to wait and see. Fate interceded at that moment when the maintenance supervisor at the hacienda happened to be driving into the city to visit the hacienda’s second property – the beautiful Hacienda Puerta Campeche. He interceded on our behalf, bless him, with the soldiers agreeing we could follow him – car placas-less and all – to City Hall where we navigated the bureaucratic-heavy process of paying the fine (about CAD$10) and getting the plates back.
As I said in a letter to the hacienda manager and Starwood subsequently, there are moments when a citizen of a country is given an opportunity to illustrate the true heart of his/her nation. We were witness to one of these that day and Rafael demonstrated the true heart of a Mexican and Mexico. I also want to make it clear that at no time did we feel intimidated or threatened by the soldiers. They also were thoroughly professional and we all had a good laugh after returning from the city and passing back through the same checkpoint upon our return to the hacienda …. this time with plaquas!
2) the streets in the old walled city are brightly painted with cute curio shops; 3) the top of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción pops up over the centre of the walled city
4) a peek inside a courtyard; 5) so pretty
5 & 6) we stopped for lunch at the Hacienda Puerta Campeche
7 & 8) it has such a beautiful pool woven in amid the rooms
9) I love this angle and the colours
10) Hola! dude; 11) the entrance out from the sea gate
12) here’s the back end of the cathedral; 13) into the museum we go
14) here’s the gate with the very modern (circa 1960s) City Hall building in the background
15) we ate here on the balcony overlooking Parque de la Independencia; 16) with the cathedral looming over us
17) we saw more VW bugs here than anywhere we’ve ever been, interestingly, when driving, all leave the hood over the rear engine open and up (probably because it’s so warm in Campeche); 18) more streets
19 & 20) inside the cathedral with very pretty modern stained glass windows
21) I’m still not sure what this building was on the main square downtown … next visit must find out