The best city for tourists is the one that puts locals first. Any good holiday should be part escape and part experience, but too many places in the tourism-dependent Yucatan peninsula focus so much on the former that there’s no chance of the latter. Mérida’s charm is that it caters to the locals, and as a tourist you feel welcomed into the city.
My sister Lauren picks me up at Los Angeles Union Station and makes fun of me when I stress about where to pay for the airport shuttle. “People here just don’t care,” she says. “This is the frontier. We’re the easternmost city in Asia and the northernmost city in Latin America. This is your soft entry to Mexico.”
Having just come from New Zealand winter, it’s not just the warmth of the temperature that’s shocking but also the overt warmth of the people. Complete strangers will give you advice about which juice to get while you’re in line at Jugo Azteca, or discuss which model has the nicest butt at the Mapplethorpe exhibit at LACMA. In NZ you’re seen as slightly crazy if you talk to strangers, in LA you’re seen as crazy if you don’t.