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If you are wondering what is going on in and around THE PLANTATION  have a browse through the Blog. This will include interesting articles to enhance your holiday experience.

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Cleo Dickson



This colonial city of Mérida was once home to the greatest concentration of wealth in the world. It was the sisal barons of the 19th century who hired Parisian architects to build the opulent villas along Paseo de Montejo, a wannabe Champs-Elysées. 
Like Havana, for which the city doubled in the film Before Night Falls, the historical centre known simply as Centro has had a Unesco makeover. It's not always easy to spot. While the cobbled streets are mostly swept, and the gardens of the Plaza Grande are manicured and in flower - its glossy-leaved trees sculpted into squat oblongs or perfect spheres.

Take a joyfully authentic ride through local life. Breakfast might be buttery croissants from Escargot, a chandeliered bakery that could hold its head up on the Left Bank in Paris, accompanied by segments of oranges and grapefruit sprinkled with chilli from a yellow street cart and washed down with agua de frutas squeezed in a hairdressers-turned-café. Lunch could be the best seafood in town, at Marlin Azul, a turquoise-walled joint with red vinyl booths and noisy families tucking into deep-fried fish fillets so fresh they still taste of the ocean.

Parque Santa Lucia to watch couples dancing to classical salsa (before 11am on a Sunday - and make sure to taste the melting, fragrant vegetable-and-turkey tacos at Ana Sabrina's stand), as well as where to go to have early-evening cervezas and snacks (tiny Cantina La Negrita for Mexican brews, chilli-dusted popcorn and often a band to complete the buzzy atmosphere). And, of course, where to buy the best If ever you've lusted after a hammock, this is the town to get one. Meridans are serious about hammocks - most homes have them indoors as well as outside. Hamacas el Aguacate is a family-run business.

THIS IS NOT the only shopping experience in town. Mérida is where anyone in the state who has anything to sell - and everyone does - congregates. Walk down any of the main streets in Centro and you'll pass shops with retro typewriters, engine parts, embroidered blouses from Chiapas and traditional guayabera shirts of every colour and style. Panama hats of varying quality are available from holes-in-the-wall near the cathedral, there's a huge clothes shop called Liz Minelli and in the market district you'll find star-shaped piñatas.

The central covered market, Lucas de Gálvez, positively hums with inclusiveness. Ladies with coiled, oiled hair in the back of cheap shoe shops selling plastic flip-flops alongside sparkly baseball caps, torches and sunglasses will be making tacos by hand from speckled-yellow cornmeal dough. 

At the next stand are huge bowls of stacked chillies: red, orange, yellow but mostly green, some small and squat and surprisingly fierce next to slimmer ones that are more likely to be hiding their heat in their seeds. 

Stagger out into the plaza to have a cold drink on the bench where the old ladies sit and you'll see Casa Rubio across the road, with its colourful, stitched Mexican belts and shirts, cowboy-style hats (in childs' sizes, too) and over-the-top, excellent value traditional cowboy boots in hot pink, orange and white.

Afterwards, try the chic Oaxacan restaurant Apoala on Parque Santa Lucia, to recover on the terrace. Seriously delicious lunch of sea-snail ceviche with buttery avocado, sharp lime and smoky chipotle, and charred vegetable salad with fresh tuna and jicama, the sweet radish relation that crops up in everything, and a glass of very cold white wine. 

Mérida is appealing for lots of reasons. 'It's an easy way to feel removed from the world.

In an evening you may want to try the sculpted concrete rooftop bar in Rosas and Xocolate, a funky, modern, seriously pink hotel, I am drinking shots of tequila and salt-encrusted sangrita, a citrusy, spicy Bloody Mary-type mix, and having a debate about where to go for dinner. It's either world-class gastronomy at Roberto Solis's restaurant Nectar, or tacos. After much discussion, we opt for the tacos at Noche Mexicana.

Saturday-nights there is a street party on Paseo de Montejo, a few steps down the road. Street-food vendors and silver and semi-precious jewellery makers compete to cluster around the stage, where performers, including dancing troupes straight out of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, wait in the wings to take their turn after the resident slapstick duo. The night ends, late, at La Fundación Mezcalería, a bar and club with hundreds of different tequilas and rough, smoky mezcals stacked up against the wall among neon art. 

The clientele is young, lounging on velvet sofas. The bar staff are pierced, the music is jumping, the crowd primed to let loose on the tiny dance floor, if your will love it!