Friday, September 25, 2009

Notes from abroad: Campeche (1)

Funny, I'd vaguely recalled that the cathedral in Campeche was pink. Luckily the locals have spared themselves the ultimate in pastelisation.

Last time I was here, after a week in Playa followed by the Pu'uc trail, V's sun allergy was as bad as I think it's ever going to get, and so she was confined to quarters and what we saw of the city together was limited to the Plaza and a few blocks around it.

What is it with Mexicans and humungous flag poles? There's a thing on the seafront drive here which looks like a giant car aerial.

There are three Campeches as far as I can tell. First, the part the tourists come for (or rather don't, because for better or worse this is still the least visited of the various UNESCO-protected colonial cities of the region) — the bright and cheery old walled town behind its baluartes.

It covers roughly the same area as the historic centre of Bruges (without the wet bits) and similarly, once you step outside the gate set in the rear wall, you're into a pretty dismal urban accretion. In this instance it all kicks off with an unexciting (and slightly seedy) market and I didn't dare venture more than a block or so east of that.

Beyond the Gulf-side bastions however, the sea has been pushed back several hundred metres to allow for a wide concrete platform — the Pedro Sainz de Baranda — created it seems, so that the local SUV-owning classes may move around laterally without having to venture into the badlands of the back-city.

Rollerbladers, cyclists and old-style strollers are also catered for, but my irony-detectors were tripped by those PEATÓN ES PRIMERO signs. In this city you feel that the cars are sneaking up behind you all the time.

If those dastardly piratas ingleses were still marauding around these shores today they'd have to run the gauntlet of Ford Expedition's cris-crossing the Avenida Costera like freight trains before they even got within canonball range.

It's like someone thought...

"What this grotty old place needs is one of those massive seafront avenues with palms down the middle, like they have in Cannes and Nice."

Well, we're talking about the 60s or 70s before Patrimonios de la Humidad vastly improved the rentability of grot.

The highway zone is a missable spectacle until dusk when the sun starts to sink into seawater and the citizens of Campeche come out to play. Along this stretch there are some restaurants with promising names — Mediterraneo — and some with less promising ones — Videotaco. There are also a lot of karaoke bars.

You'll find some interesting Santa Monica-wannabe residential property along here as well, all dating back to the era when Thunderbirds first appeared on TV.

"And as for the rest of the old town, we'll paint it the colours of a Swedish cushion set..."

1 comment:

scott said...

pictures, man, more pictures!