We spent most of our most recent trip at the Hyatt, Room 1701. Mom and Dad were in Room 1703, right next to the “Regency Club” lounge with endless free coffee, fruits, and danishes in the morning, and cocktails with decent appetizers at night. We usually like staying at guest houses, but when you’re accompanied by two wobbly people in their 80s, and who haven’t left the States since 1963 (Mom) and 1948 (Dad), a nice American hotel chain is the safer choice.
We arrived Saturday night after a long day that began with a shuttle van in South Jersey pulling into my parents’ driveway at 4 in the morning. From Philly, our only available flight to Houston was at 7:15 a.m., and the flight to Merida from there was at 7:20 p.m., which extended our day to a nearly intolerable length. They at first appeared to be traveling light, but then I saw the tote bags and fanny packs that I begged them to leave behind. We each had two boarding passes and our passports. Keeping track of everything became overwhelming. For a while, it looked like Paul wouldn’t be able to join us, but I thought I’d be able to lead my folks without him. Not so. I could see that it was a two-man job getting my parents around safely. Then friends Joanna and Jorge met us at the airport. Again, I thought it would be nice to have friends greet us there just because it would demonstrate to my folks that I had a support system here. But I was so rattled after the long day, that their assistance was a godsend. It took a village to get my parents to Mexico.
By the time we got there, it was dark, and their first view of the city was a decidedly unglamorous Avenida Itzaes. “Mérida isn’t what I expected,” Mom murmered. We assured her quickly that there was more to come. Turning on Avenida Colon, the buildings were more elegant, but still hard to make out in the shadows. A heavily attended music concert in the Parque de las Americas impressed on them how the citizens here like to go out at night. But celebrations were also going on at the Hyatt when we arrived. In the lobby, raucous noise from a wedding party on the second floor spilled over into the lobby, which had recently been remodeled into a somewhat alienating, futuristic atmosphere, creating an environment more welcoming to young visitors than to old. After a confused and tortured check-in, we finally settled my parents into their room. Then, Mom gave me her patented sad eyes. “Don’t leave our side,” she implored us. “I’m scared.”
After they went to bed, Paul and I snuck down to the new lobby restaurant. Spazzo and its undercooked risotto are gone, and in its place is the promising new tapas restaurant Amuza, the Mayan word for “fun.” Its design is hip and trendy, and the servers are very much on point, despite early reviews to the contrary. Somehow, however, delicious chaya fritters and Serrano ham croquettes came out lukewarm, a reminder that this hip new spot is still in Yucatán, where foods never come out piping hot. We went up to our rooms when we realized we had been up 22 hours straight.
The club lounge was open at 7 that morning, and that’s when Mom knocked at our door. I’m usually up before dawn, but not today. I threw on some clothes and we went to the lounge. From the window we could see the sweeping panorama of puffy clouds and of high rises towering over Mérida’s once low-lying landscape. They were impressed. Ironically for the Hyatt, the best part of the view is that faded Porfirian beauty, the Fiesta Americana, perhaps the hotel’s biggest rival. Soon we visited the shopping mall there and an old-timey department store restaurant at Sanborns. Huge hit! Mom and Dad each got a hamburger (no onions, well done), and Paul and I each had the tacos pibil. Strangely, Mom had the same reaction I had. The restaurant reminded her of Philadelphia. Neither of us can put our finger on why. The server wore a costume-y uniform, which we photographed. We walked to the patio overlooking the Paseo de Montejo, where the Sunday bicyclists were riding. Mom’s view of Mérida was looking up. Dad remained silently noncommital.
Then came the escalator up to the Fiesta Americana lobby. The very swiftly moving escalator. We nervously got them to hop on and off the moving stairs, and Mom marveled at the colored glass, the soaring ceilings, the chandeliers…all things that reminded us of older hotels at home. They would have enjoyed the Fiesta Americana better than the Hyatt just because of the lobby, but I knew from online reviews that service, the view, and the amenities would be better where we were. One thing the Fiesta Americana lobby has that got lost in the Hyatt renovation. A concierge! Her desk is gone, and so is she. Too bad.
We went shopping at the little arcade below the lobby and found a souvenir tote bag. You can never have enough tote bags. We also found a hand-painted cane, with snakes and jungle creatures, for Dad to walk with and to give Mom nightmares. We got a white, long-sleeve guayabera for Dad to wear to a recital we were invited to that night. I especially wanted Mom and Dad to see the recital to get a taste of expat cultural life and to meet other extranjeros. I wanted her to note, on her own, how happy and contented they seemed. A gambit, but one worth taking.
But before that, I wanted us to take a double-decker Touribus trip around the Centro. What a perfect way to get your bearings in a new country. But after the shopping, all my parents could do is nap, and I don’t blame them. So we went to our rooms and recharged ourselves for the recital that evening.