Although we tend to turn in pretty early (especially by Mexican standards!) we actually did venture out after dark in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.  It's a very lively city at night, and the lights for the holiday season made it especially festive.  This building with its colored lights, rotating through a rainbow of colors, was one our favorites.
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Do you prefer it in red?
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Or blue?
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Or perhaps green?
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Or basic white?
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Or maybe bright pink?!
The colored lights seemed to show up best on the blue background.
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"Feliz Ano Nuevo" (Happy New Year)
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Tis the season
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This church looked pretty lit up at night
One of the highlights of our time in San Cristobal, and indeed on our entire sixteen-day Mexico trip, was happening upon a paper lantern ceremony purely by chance.  I'd seen pictures and video of such ceremonies in Thailand, but never dreamed of seeing one in person in Mexico.  It was a small gathering and not very organized as the lanterns were sent up at all different times, but it was still beautiful and magical.  I can only imagine what a very large lantern ceremony would be like (for example, see these amazing images).  Our pictures are not very good quality, but hopefully you will get the idea.  It was much better in person with everyone cheering and pointing.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
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People working together to get the lanterns launched
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Up they go
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Fire in the sky
Next up -- the beautiful birds we saw on our trip.
 
One notable architectural feature of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico is the many beautiful churches that grace the city.  Barry made it a personal goal to photograph each one of them within walking distance of our hotel.  Here are the results of his efforts.
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This one was especially beautiful to me
The church above had a very pretty adjoining garden:
The next church required quite a climb of switchbacked steps to reach.  My quads were still sore from Palenque, so I only made it to the top once.  I think Barry made the climb at least three times!
As a "Carolina girl", I'm always partial to the colors on the church below!
Moving in for a closer look -- so pretty.
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A pretty church against a stunningly cobalt sky
This one had so much intricate work on its face:
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There are many more people dressed in traditional Mexican garb in San Cristobal than other cities we visited in Mexico.
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Church playing peek-a-boo from among the markets and shops
The church below was all decorated for the celebration of the La Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12.  This is the only church we went inside.  When we were there, some sort of ceremony was about to begin, but Barry was able to get a few photos before it started.
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This church also required a climb to reach, though not as steep as the one with all the switchbacks
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Elaborately decorated sanctuary
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This neon sign was a bit over the top for me!
A carnaval with rides and food booths lined the street leading up to the church but was never open when we walked by.  I think it's a night-time thing and only temporary as part of the December 12 celebrations.  I expect the flags serve double-duty as decorations for both La Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations and Christmas.
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View from the top
Stay tuned for San Cristobal at night!
 
We got a lot of walking in around the beautiful colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico's Chiapas state.  I thought I'd share some of the many photos Barry shot as we walked around town.  San Cristobal's architecture was strikingly beautiful. 

You'll likely notice that we (and others) are dressed more warmly than in Belize in some of these shots.  It was much cooler and less humid up in the Mexican highlands than what we were used to -- and breezy as well.  Morning temperatures were in the 40s, but the sun warmed things up quickly and mid-day temperatures hit the 60s and 70s.  When the sun was out, it felt great, but overcast skies off and on made it feel a bit chilly.  Still, no rain, bugs, or humidity made for very pleasant sight-seeing weather!
There were several pedestrian-only streets, like the one above, that made walking easier and more pleasant.
We climbed up this switchback staircase to a beautiful scenic overlook of the city.  There's a school and church up top, and we read about a cafe on Tripadvisor, but never saw it.
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What a view!
Stay tuned for much more from San Cristobal...
 
Before we leave Campeche and move on to the next city on our Mexico trip, we need to backtrack just a bit to share an interesting bit of Mexican culture that we knew nothing about but witnessed up close and personal during our travels.  

As we were on the bus from Merida to Campeche, we started noticing both individual and groups of cyclists along the shoulders of the road.  Some of them carried flags, posters, lights, and lots of other gear.  We had no idea what this was all about at the time, but knew it had to be something other than random chance.
They were riding in pretty poor conditions in some places, like in this construction zone as we approached the city, which was hilly and had gravely shoulders and large vehicles passing by.  Gotta give them lots of credit for this difficult journey!
As we took our walk in Campeche after checking into the hotel, we continued to see more of these groups of men on bikes as well as some in trucks.
And on the long walk to the ADO bus station the next day, we continued seeing more of them, riding in the midst of very busy city traffic.  The mystery deepened.
Some of these guys had huge burdens -- I don't know how they managed to ride their bikes with these loads.
When we finally had a chance to do a little research online, we discovered that December 12 marks La Virgen de Guadalupe (Our lady of Guadalupe, i.e., the Virgin Mary) fiesta.  This date is widely celebrated throughout Mexico's predominantly Catholic community.  Many of the faithful make pilgrimages to Mexico City, where the Basílica of Guadalupe is kept; while others travel, primarily by bicycle, to other churches throughout Mexico for the celebration.  According to this site almost everywhere there is an altar to the Virgin Mary, a celebration occurs on December 12, which is "one of the most important dates on the Mexican calendar."  The photos above were taken on December 10 and 11th as the faithful headed to Campeche's churches for the celebration.

Here are two of the beautiful churches we saw in Campeche.  I suspect that the second one, the large cathedral, was where the pilgrims were headed for the fiesta.
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Perhaps the flags were up for the upcoming festival?
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Same cathedral dramatically lit at night
Another fact we gleaned from our internet research is that firecrackers mark the night of the celebration.  Little did we know how much that would affect us later.  (Stay tuned!)
 
As I mentioned in the previous post, we only had one afternoon, evening, and the next morning in Campeche, Mexico, but we managed to make the most of it and got a lot of walking in.  This city we knew nothing about before arriving really did charm us with the beautiful cobblestone streets, colorful colonial facades, and handsome architecture.  Here are some of the sights from our walks around town during our short visit.
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There were a couple of pedestrian-only streets we really enjoyed walking on.
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Part of the old wall around the city on the Gulf side
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City street near our hotel (on right)
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Mural
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There was a McDonald's in the newer part of the city, but we did NOT go!
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The ubiquitous Beetle
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Pedestrian street in the early evening (too early for the fashionable folks to eat dinner!)
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Park at night
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...and during the day
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The park was decorated for the holidays
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Lots of Christmas decorations in Campeche
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Barry's new woman
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My new man
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Loved the festive pinatas lining some of the streets
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Another great sculpture
Stay tuned!  Next we'll head to walking/bike path along the Gulf of Mexico on Campeche's west side.
 
Once the sun goes down, Merida, Mexico definitely does not roll up the sidewalks.  After dark, people are out and about, walking, shopping, dining, and the city lights are very pretty -- especially at Christmas time, when even more lights than usual decorate la noche (the night).
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The Paseo de Montejo at night
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Utility tower all dressed up for Christmas
On Saturday night as we were strolling around after dinner, we were lucky enough to happen upon the area at the south end of the Paseo de Montejo all lit up and filled with vendors selling food, jewelry, leather items, clothing, and other things.  In addition, there was a musical stage performance set up in the park area.  All the singing was in Spanish, but the costumes and voices were charming.  Quite a large crowd was sitting and watching the performance.
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Vendors in park
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Festive Mexican dancers
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And a singer -- wish we could have understood what she was singing about!
The huge Christmas tree in the same area was all lit up.
More night scenes from around town...
The beautiful Merida Cathedral at night...
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Merida food...and then we travel to our next Mexican city!
 
Another interesting place we visited in the Merida, Mexico centro historico was the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), right downtown.  This was on the recommendation of our bed and breakfast host, Larry, and it was spectacular.  It is absolutely free to enter and consists of sizable painted murals depicting the history of Merida.  
There was an open courtyard downstairs, and an incredibly elegant gallery upstairs.
From the second floor, the view of the Merida Cathedral out the windows was as amazing as the murals.
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Merida Cathedral
A couple more murals...I found the description of this one more interesting than the battle scenes.
Leaving the museum, right outside is the stunning Merida Cathedral.  It was pretty much impossible to get it all in a frame since we don't have a wide-angle lens.  It was built in 1598 -- hard to imagine!
Here are a couple of other pretty churches from around the city.
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Cool sign on the church above. Looks like it was built in 1734.
And finally, a smattering of the colonial houses and residential streets we loved so much as we walked around town.
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Pretty as a plum!
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Pretty in pink
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This cutie is for sale -- wouldn't you love to see what is behind the doors?
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Close up of cute light cover and plaque on "House of the Spring". Love!
And finally, here's the hotel we almost stayed in until I decided on La Casa Lorenzo at the last minute. It's called the Hotel Medio Munda, and we just happened upon it while walking.  Absolutely darling! 
Please stay tuned for Merida at night!
 
There are so many interesting sights, buildings, and homes in Centro Merida, in Mexico's Yucatan state, it is hard to know where to begin, but since we spent more time walking along the Paseo de Montejo than just about anywhere else, it seemed as good a place as any to start.

This elegant tree-lined boulevard, often called Merida's "Champs Elysees", was just a short walk away from La Casa Lorenzo (link), where we were staying, so we walked there a couple of times each day.  The shady, wide sidewalks were a pleasant change from the sometimes narrow, bustling sidewalks closer to downtown.  Here, people moved more slowly and there was room to amble, to take in the beauty and history all around.  The Paseo is a pleasant mix of private homes, public buildings, hotels, shops, churches, and restaurants.
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Loved these wide, tree-lined sidewalks
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The clip-clop of horsedrawn carriages provided a nice break from traffic noise
Unfortunately, the elegant Palacio Cantón, which houses the Regional Museum of the Yucatan, was closed for renovation.  It was the gem of the Paseo to our eyes.
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Another view of Palacio
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Front of Palacio/Museum -- the sign explained about the closure and renovations
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Once a private home, now administrative offices
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The Quinta Montes Molina is open as a museum, but we were never here at the right time for an English-speaking tour.
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Pretty in Pink -- the upscale Rosas & Xocolate hotel and restaurant
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A traffic roundabout with monument
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And another...there is a very low-profile Wal-Mart off to the right hiding behind the trees
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Under restoration
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Private home
At the south end of the Paseo was this entry to a hotel and restaurant, and park area decorated festively for Christmas.  We had fun playing around and taking some photos here.
Another very cool Paseo happening occurs each and every Sunday morning, where the street is closed off to motorists and open to cyclists and pedestrians.  But we'll save that for another post.  Stay tuned!