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March 4, 2006
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:: Paseo de Montejo ::

The Paseo de Montejo is a broad, tree-lined boulevard bordered with the magnificent, pompous mansions of the grandees who strove to outdo each other's style (or vulgarity) around the end of the nineteenth century. In one of the grandest, the Palacio Canton, at the corner of C 43, is M's Museo de Antropolog?a e Historia (Tues-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 8am-2pm; US$2.50, free on Sun). The house was built for General Canton, state governor at the beginning of the twentieth century, in a restrained but very expensive elegance befitting his position, and has been beautifully restored and maintained. Given the archeological riches that surround the city, the collection is perhaps something of a disappointment, but it's a useful introduction to the sites nonetheless, with displays covering everything from prehistoric stone tools to modern Maya life. Obviously there are sculptures and other objects from the main sites, but more interesting are the attempts to fill in the background and give some idea of what it was like to live in a Maya city; unfortunately, most labels are only in Spanish. Topographic maps of the peninsula, for example, explain how cenotes are formed and their importance to the ancient population; a collection of skulls demonstrates techniques of facial and dental deformation; and there are displays covering jewellery, ritual offerings and burial practices, as well as a large pictorial representation of the workings of the Maya calendar. The bookshop has leaflets and guidebooks in English to dozens of ruins in Yucat?n and the rest of Mexico.

The walk out to the museum is quite a long one - you can get there on a "Paseo de Montejo" bus from C 59 just east of the Parque Hidalgo, or take a calesa (horse-drawn taxi; US$10 for a 45min city tour) instead. This is not altogether a bad idea, especially if you fancy the romance of riding about in an open carriage, and if times are slack and you bargain well, it need cost no more than a regular taxi. Unfortunately, however, the horses are not always treated as well as they could be. Take some time to head a little further out on the Paseo de Montejo, to a lovely and very wealthy area where the homes are more modern and interspersed with big new hotels and pavement caf?s. The Monumento a la Patria , about ten long blocks beyond the museum, is a titan, covered in neo-Maya sculptures relating to Mexican history - you'll also pass it if you take the bus out to Progreso. To do the Grand Tour properly, you should visit the Parque de las Americas , on Av Col?n, which is planted with trees from every country on the American continent, and get back to the centre via the Parque Centenario , Av de los Itzaes and C 59, where there's a zoo, botanical gardens and a children's park.

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