My little adventures south of the border.

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Valladolid – Day One

I’ve been to Valladolid before, so I’m going to just do a quick post on the city.  I’ve never stayed at the Meson del Marques before, however, and I’m glad I did.  It’s a wonderful hotel right on the main square, so it’s convenient to everything.  You can’t tell much from the front entrance, but that’s how these old Mexican cities are.  The building facades are very plain, but there’s a lot going on behind them.

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I loved my room with the tile floor and the big door that opened up. There wasn’t a porch there, but it made the room seem so much more open and light.

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Looking the other way…

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Here’s the bathroom.  Even though I don’t use them, a bathtub is a real luxury in basic rooms in Mexico.

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Here’s the pool…

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And this is the view from my balcony…it overlooks the restaurant in the lobby.  They had a female singer/flamenco dancer the first night I was there.  It was nice to have that in the background while I was working on the blog.

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When I looked to the left, I could see the main church in the square…

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And here’s what it looked like at night.  I could have definitely stayed here for awhile.

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I love the architecture of these old Mexican cities…especially the vivid colors and the huge old doors.

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Here’s the main cathedral…

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And the altar inside…

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I was lucky enough to arrive on a Sunday afternoon, so I was able to check out the local fare on the main square.

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I have no ideas what these are…

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I decided to have try dinner at this place…

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And I had to try to cochinita pibil…the local specialty.  It was very good!

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The next morning, I went downstairs for breakfast to find these guys rearranging the gates in the garden area.  They were having a hard time figuring out how to put them back so that they all fit in the right places…but they worked it out.

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Here’s the view of my room doorway from my seat at the restaurant.  I figured it was okay to keep the doors open while I was downstairs.

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The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast to guests.  I had the Huevos Mexicanos, which was very good…in addition to the excellent coffee.

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My trip to Ek Balam is next!

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Just a Day in Puerto Morelos

Before I get into Puerto Morelos, I wanted to post a picture of the Chili Rellenos I had at Jeanie’s my last night in Cozumel.  Jeanie’s seems to be a more local place which is just off the downtown area.

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Here are the Chili Rellenos, which were really good.  I have made these myself, and it’s not an easy job.

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When I left the restaurant, I was parked next to the Zocalo in Cozumel.  I am always warmed by the family feel you get when you see all the children playing here…and they are always decorated for the holidays.

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When I arrived in Playa del Carmen the next morning, it was still very crowded, but not quite as bad as when I arrived on the 29th.  The line at the bus station was long, so I opted to have some lunch in the hopes that the line would go down.

I enjoy the Mexican food when I go to Mexico, but sometimes I crave just a good ol’ American dish, so I got a club sandwich…

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…at this place (picture courtesy of google maps because I didn’t get a picture of it).  It was average at best, but what do you expect when you order a club sandwich at a Mexican restaurant??

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As I was heading back to the ADO bust station, I saw this statue, which I had never noticed before.  I guess it could have been new.

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When I got back to the bus station, I saw that the line was outside the building now, so I just waited.  Everybody takes the bus in Mexico.

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Back to Puerto Morelos.  As many of you know, I’ve been to PoMo a few times and really liked it.  When I went there the first time, I found it to be a sleepy little village that only had a handful of restaurants and just a couple bars.  I will always cherish my experience at the Little Mexican Cooking School there, which you can see on my old blog here:

http://isladeb.blogspot.com/search?q=Little+Mexican+Cooking+School

You can also see the “old” Puerto Morelos on that blog here:

http://isladeb.blogspot.com/2010/03/hey.html

Well, it’s no longer that sleepy little village.  The cab driver took me from the bus to the hotel, so I didn’t get to see the beach until after I checked in.  My room wasn’t quite ready yet, so I told the owner I’d do some exploring.  The Amar Inn is right next to the beach so when I walked out there, I was quite surprised to see this…

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I walked closer to the shoreline and it was even worse.  The times I had been here before, there were just a smattering of people on the beach and very few umbrellas or chairs.  I know this was high season, but when I went back to the hotel and mentioned it to the owner, he said it had been like that all year, and that’s it’s been the most crowded he’s ever seen his whole life.  He also said that people were coming from all over the world and not just North and South America.  I was sitting in a hammock waiting for my room to be finished and two very sweet little boys came to join me…they and their parents were visiting from France.  I’ll have to say that in my many visits for the past 10 years to Mexico, most of the people I’ve met have been from American or Canada.  This was a very different trip.

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So here’s the Amar Inn, which is about two blocks from downtown and right on the beach.

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They have a very nice courtyard area which separates the rooms on the inland side…plus they have some rooms that go right onto the beach. It’s a very quiet and peaceful little haven.

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Here’s my room.  It’s very basic, but it was very comfortable.  The owner is extremely nice and accommodating.  He and is family live on the property so they’re always accessible.

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While the fixtures may be dated, I loved this bathroom because the water pressure was very strong and the hot water came on almost immediately. That is a luxury.

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Toilet to match the sink…

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While I was taking pictures in the bathroom, it occurred to me that I didn’t see a sink in the kitchen, which seemed a little strange.

Oh, wait…there it is!  It was hiding!

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I headed downtown to see if anything had changed.  The Zocalo looked to be the same.  Here were the Christmas decorations.  It seemed a shame that they had to gate the nativity scene…kind of takes away from the intent of the message.

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And here’s looking towards the main pier where the crooked lighthouse is.  When I’ve been here, there have been maybe three to ten people at the most on this pier.  Not any more.

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I looked for a quiet place to have dinner and ended up a La Sirena’s.  Another picture from google maps because I forgot to take a picture of the front.

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I sat upstairs so that I could get a view with a nice breeze.

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I had a vegetarian pasta dish that was pretty good.  I forgot to ask why the salt around their margaritas was red.

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A long-distance shot from dinner of the pier…

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And one of a pelican waiting for dinner…

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After dinner, I went down to the pier to see what was bringing the crowds. The only thing I could see was this fisherman, who had netted some bait.

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Other than that, there was more seaweed…

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I tried to get at least one decent shot that didn’t have a  bunch of people or seaweed.  This was the best I could do.

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Walking back to my hotel along the beach…

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Just not the same feeling anymore.

 

 

Cozumel – Day 2 & 3

Since Cozumel is a pretty large island, I decided that I needed to rent a car to see what it had to offer.  A huge percentage of the island is protected, meaning that nothing can be built on it.  I think the livable land is under 10% of the island, which is incredible since it is in a spectacular part of the Caribbean.  Considering that the Yucatan coast is getting visited by more and more people from countries all over the world, you’d think they’d want to capitalize on that.  I’m glad they’re not…and so are the residents of the island.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cozumel.  For some reason I thought it would be more junky and crowded, but it really wasn’t.  It’s clean and relatively quiet.  I think some of that is due to the fact that they don’t have golf carts there to contribute to the noise and traffic congestion.  I think that’s a good idea.  Since it’s a larger island, it doesn’t seem as crowded, so people can spread out more.  Since I was there right at New Year’s, I would think it would be a very crowded time of year, but it didn’t seem that bad.  Playa del Carmen seemed much worse.

Anyway, back to the car rental.  I asked the staff person at Villas El Encanto to see if she could find a car for me for New Year’s Day.  She wasn’t sure anything would be available, but she came through for me.  As I posted on Facebook, the rental company was ISIS (pronounced “ee-sus”), and I could go pick it up.  Yay!  It’s a family-run company and they’ll do you right.  I would highly recommend them…unless you want a Lexus or BMW.  Then you might need to go somewhere else.  Here’s my car.

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And it’s not the horse and buggy.

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This was no luxury car, that’s for sure, so if you want to rent a cheap car on Cozumel, be prepared for this. It’s bare-bones, a stick shift, no suspension, no power steering, and no A/C. If you drive a stick shift, it might take you awhile to get used to the clutch. It cost me $45 for 24 hours and I paid cash. After I got used to it, I thought it was kind of fun.

So I headed south on the island to see what was there. There are a couple more docks for the cruise ships down that way. I don’t know whether the bigger cruise ships dock here, or if that’s just the way it was when I was there, but some of these things are HUGE! This picture doesn’t do it justice because it looked like a small city. I would love to have gone aboard one because I’ve never been on one before, but they probably wouldn’t let me just go on and look around.

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So once you get past those other docks, things really start to thin out and there isn’t much to see. The sea is to your right and jungle area is to your left. There are occasional restaurants along the way, one of which I stopped at for lunch. I got a picture, but I didn’t get the name.

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Here’s the view. There were snorkelers along the shore.

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And a couple of parasailers in the distance.

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And here are the fish tacos I had.

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I saw a sign for a park and botanical gardens, so I thought I’d stop. I’m a big plant lover, so I thought it might be worth seeing. It was called Chankanaab Park.

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The botanical gardens were just a lot of lush plants that grow in the area, and it was dressed up with replicas of various Mexican ruins and historical Mayan artifacts.

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Hardly anyone was looking at this part of the park…everyone was interested in the beach, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, the buffet and Starbuck’s. It cost me $21 to get in the place, which was pretty much a waste since I didn’t use any of the water features. It’s geared more toward families and children.

As you drive along the edge of the island, you see an occasional restaurant or bar…like the one below…every few miles. They usually have the typical souvenir shops alongside, but that’s about it. There are no homes or any other kinds of businesses.

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There was an area called Punta Sur, which I didn’t check out. According to the signage, it was supposed to have beautiful beaches, but it cost about $20, as well. After wasting $20 on the park, I didn’t want to spend another $20 on this. Maybe it would have been worth it…I don’t know.

For the most part, the coast is very rocky.

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I walked up on that rocky bar that juts out on the upper right of the picture above, and it’s extremely rough and hard to walk on. I wasn’t going to go up there, but a family wanted me to take a picture of all of them so they helped me up, and then deserted me after I took the picture! If you fell on this stuff, it would not be a pretty picture.

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Anyway, I got down safe and sound. Here’s another one that has the Mexican flag on it.

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I wish I had more pictures to share of Cozumel, but I was only there for two full days, so I could only cover so much.

Here’s the ferry getting ready to take us back to Playa del Carmen. I’m just praying that it will be a better trip than the one to Cozumel.

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Here are some pictures as I’m waiting to board.

Looking towards the Yucatan Peninsula…

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Some views of the Cozumel shoreline…I wish I would have thought to drive the other way along the cost to check out the other hotels, but I just didn’t think about it.

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So I discover that I DO have the option of sitting on top of this ferry and I’m very grateful because it’s a beautiful day. Instead of sitting on the benches under the roof, I opt for the open-air benches at the back of the boat.

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I was able to stick my feet out under the rail and felt somewhat like Rose in “Titanic” as she’s leaning over the railing at the front of the ship. (Well, not really, and I’m at the back of the boat so it’s really completely different….besides the fact that Leonard DiCaprio wasn’t there.) But it was WAY better than the hot ferry ride over and I will take this any day.

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Viva Mexico!

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And adios, Cozumel!

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On to a one-night stay at Puerto Morelos next!