Campeche

Campeche Travel Blog

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Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Monday, October 26, 2009
The drive from Uxmal to Campeche was a bit further than our usual 1-2 hour jaunts but good roads and nice scenery and we eventually found our way onto the main road that parallels the waterfront and heads into the central part of town.  At first glance, Campeche didn't appear to be any where near as quaint as Merida but once we made it into the central area, it looked nicer with typical Spanish style buildings.  The streets are all very organized numerically and we sort of surprisingly stumbled on our street without much problem.  A little man tried to save us a parking spot in front of the Hotel Castelmar but a truck driver snaked the spot and so we were escorted over to a private parking lot and then into the hotel.
Seafood Platter at Marganzo Restaurant Campeche


Hotel Castelmar is a nice enough place with very nice staff, a pretty courtyard and a nice pool (but not as nice as Luz en Yucatan); however they were doing a bunch of renovation and they only had one, tiny room left.  We took it figuring we could spend the night and perhaps check out some other options this afternoon.  Like virtually every other hotel in the Yucatan, the front desk had a huge bottle of hand sanitizer.  Not sure why but the Mayans seem to be really into that stuff.

Wandering around the streets of Campeche is kind of nice but you don't get that colonial, European feel that Merida had - maybe it is off season but so far we aren't particularly thrilled to be here.
Shark Chili Relleno at Marganzo Restaurant Campeche
  We did wander down the street to check out another Lonely Planet recommended hotel called the Hotel Lopez.  It was a little bit high-techy looking in the lobby and the girl at the front desk had one of the bellman show us a room which was not much better than the one at Castelmar and smelled of excess Pine Sol or some other stinky sanitizer (told you, they are really into sanitization...) so we figure we will just stick with Castelmar.

After a bit of a relaxation in the cubicle room and a quick dip in the chilly pool, we asked for a restaurant recommendation and the girl at the front desk said that the Marganzo restaurant on the main street was one of the better ones around.
Pool at Hotel Castlemar Campeche
  We had read in Lonely Planet that, while it does cater to tourists, it is not like many of the other restaurants serving marginal, overprice food and has truly excellent meals.  Feeling lazy, we decided that walking the 5 minutes to the restaurant rather than driving somewhere sounded like a good plan.  We ended up having a great dinner with some chili rellenos stuffed with shark, a local specialty and a giant seafood platter with grilled calamari, shrimp, crab, octopus and fish that was excellent.  The wait staff and manager (who suggested our menu) were all very attentive and nice and we leisurely relaxed in the air conditioned restaurant enjoying our meal and cocktails.

We ended up watching a bizarre movie with Ashley Judd and Ewan McGregor called Eye of the Beholder about a nameless private eye tailing a serial killer woman around the US for years on end even though they never really meet.
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
  On occasions, he actually acts as her protector and keeps her from getting caught.  I can't remember if we saw the whole thing through - the Centenario might have won out...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Being a large port, Campeche, which was founded way back in the third century by the Mayans, became a huge target for the Spanish who repeatedly tried to invade it.  The Mayans held them off until the mid 1500's when they finally won and took over.  All traces of Mayan religious beliefs were systematically wiped out and replaced by Christian beliefs and supposedly, practicing the Mayan faith was punishable by death.

Meanwhile, the other European powers including the Portuguese, English, French and Dutch all had their eyes on the port and repeatedly attacked.
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
  In the late 1600's a huge group of pirate ships attacked and massacred many of Campeche's inhabitants which led the King of Spain to start construction on a massive hexagonal wall surrounding the city.  Walls over ten feet thick and strategically placed guard towers surrounded the entire town.  The ramparts had an opening for ships and extended all the way to the see to that shipments could safely arrive.  Eventually, as the pirating died off, the walls were dismantled and now only remnants of them remain.

The girl at the front desk said that they had finished tiling one of the bigger rooms and graciously offered it to us so we changed rooms to a somewhat bigger, nicer room before heading off to the local market for some pictures and breakfast.  This was definitely not a touristy market, all locals dressed in the typical Mayan dresses with colorful vegetable stalls everywhere.
Hammerhead Sharks in Campeche
  The fish market had all of the delicacies that we dined on last night including lots and lots of baby hammer-head sharks.  I had no idea that people actually ate hammer heads and always think of them as those gigantic, creepy things slowly cruising the depths of the ocean.  Apparently Campeche has quite the palate for the baby ones, I suppose the Veal of the Ocean.  

As usual, it took us forever to decide on a stall to eat at but, after walking around the entire place, we settled on a crowded little one with just a few stools and a bunch of the locals milling around.  We ended up having Chicken Tortas which had breaded, deep-fried chicken with pickled red onions and were truly fantastic.  The proprietor couple who spoke zero English were really nice and offered us tastes of their conchinita pibil as well.
Torta de Pollo in Campeche
  Everyone in the Yucatan is really nice (so don't let the tales of woes in the rest of Mexico scare you off...)


After breakfast we walked to the central square where there is supposed to be a trolley tour of the sites of Campeche.  Unfortunately, the only guide who speaks English wasn't going out for a few hours and only if eight people show up.  The ticket man said that some other couples were interested and we should come back this afternoon.  We decided to brave the heat and continue on our foot tour of Campeche, stopping at the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Purisima for a rest and respite from the heat.   As we were walking through the park, a group of Mexican high school kids asked if we spoke English and if they could video-tape an interview of us for their school project.
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de Campeche
  It was pretty funny with them asking set questions of us about why we were in Campeche, whether we liked it, etc. and vaguely shaking their heads at our responses.  They were very thankful (some did better than others) and tried not to giggle too much as they watched and filmed each other asking us the same questions.

Even though the shoreline isn't very picturesque, we thought we would walk to the water and perhaps determine if the oceanfront fish restaurants at the entrance of town were within walking distance (it would be a really long walk....).  On the way, a woman from Merida who was visiting family and spoke a tiny bit of English befriended us and walked with us for a bit.  There was not much to see at the shoreline and we decided to head back to the Museo de Estelas Maya which ended up being a very nice little museum with lots of stelae carvings and boating stuff (and thankfully an air-conditioned room where we hung out for quite a while.
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de Campeche
)  You can also go up on the roof and walk the ramparts looking out towards the ocean which used to come all the way up to the wall but has since been dredged and filled in.  We walked back to see if the tour was on but no other gringoes showed up so we were SOL and decided it was lunch time.  Just as we were about to leave the park, a second set of high school kids asked to interview us.  I guess this was the B team as we were pretty sure they put 100% effort into reading the questions and had no idea what they meant or what our responses meant.

We had lunch at a great little local restaurant called Cafe la Parroquia which has a huge bar and tasty local food.  I had a giant bowl of ceviche and Cindy ended up getting one of the local specialties called Huevos Moltuleno which is an omelet smothered with tomato sauce, peas, chopped ham and shredded cheese.
Shoeshine in Campeche
  Afterward we stopped by a little local ice cream shop run by two girls and had dessert before siesta time at Hotel Castelmar.

We figured we should try the ocean front fish places a few miles out of town so hopped in the Dodge and drove out to the long string of beachfront bungalow restaurants serving fresh seafood.  Pulling into the parking lot each restaurant (all of which were virtually empty) sent out a waiter furiously waving at us to come to their restaurant.  We parked in the middle trying to avoid them and decided to walk up and down the boardwalk looking from afar to decide on a place.  We did manage to catch a nice sunset but the ocean front is more a commercial fishing look and feel than a nice beachfront and smelled a bit.  We walked back to the middle, ultimately deciding to dine at a little place with a relatively mellow waiter who had a sort of faux-hawk thing going on with his hair.
Ceviche at Cafe la Parroquia in Campeche
  We ordered a whole fried fish as well as a tasty shellfish cocktail with shrimp and octopus and it was really quite good.  

All in all, we haven't been as thrilled with Campeche as we had hoped and decided to head back to the eastern side of the peninsula and try our luck there.  Tomorrow is going to be a long driving day but there is a toll road for half of the drive so hopefully it won't be too bad.  We gassed up the Dodge at the local Pemex and headed back to Castelmar

patirkc_AAA says:
Nice to read about your trip in Campeche!
Posted on: Nov 12, 2015
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Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Seafood Platter at Marganzo Restau…
Seafood Platter at Marganzo Resta…
Shark Chili Relleno at Marganzo Re…
Shark Chili Relleno at Marganzo R…
Pool at Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Pool at Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hammerhead Sharks in Campeche
Hammerhead Sharks in Campeche
Torta de Pollo in Campeche
Torta de Pollo in Campeche
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de C…
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de …
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de C…
Carving at Museo Arqueologico de …
Shoeshine in Campeche
Shoeshine in Campeche
Ceviche at Cafe la Parroquia in Ca…
Ceviche at Cafe la Parroquia in C…
Streets of Campeche
Streets of Campeche
Seaside in Campeche
Seaside in Campeche
Boat and Gulls in Campeche
Boat and Gulls in Campeche
Sunset in Campeche
Sunset in Campeche
Parga Fried Fish in Campeche
Parga Fried Fish in Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Hotel Castlemar Campeche
Campeche Hotels & Accommodations review
Convenient and reasonably nice
Hotel Castelmar is a reasonably nice, conveniently located hotel in Campeche with a wide variety of rooms (our initial room was very small and cramped… read entire review
Campeche
photo by: Biedjee