My little adventures south of the border.

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Valladolid – Day Two – Ek Balam

So I could feel myself coming down with a cold when I got to Valladolid. It wasn’t bad yet and I wasn’t going to let it come between me and Ek Balam. When I checked into the hotel, I asked the desk clerk where I could go to rent a car. He said that they didn’t rent cars in Valladolid. What?!?! What city doesn’t rent cars?! I guess that would be Valladolid. So I asked him how I’d see Ek Balam, and he told me to walk about a block down the street and there would be taxis and collectivos that could take me there. So that’s what I did. Since I was the only one so far, the driver had me wait in a vacant building until some other tourists came along who wanted to go.

Typical Valladolid street…

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Bougainvillea grows everywhere down here…

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Here’s the vacant building I had to wait in. I wonder when this place was built. I started picturing where I would put the kitchen and courtyard pool when I bought it and renovated it…haha! It sure had some history.

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Quite a ceiling…

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I’m not sure how this pattern is put on the walls…maybe stenciled?? I would like to have seen it when it was new.  Who knows how long ago that was.

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Okay, the driver rounded up three other people, so we’re on our way!

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Here we are winding our way through town…

It took maybe a little over a half hour to get to the ruins and we passed through a couple of little towns, one of which was Temozon. I thought it was kind of strange to see these pretty white horses tied up to these pavilion-like buildings. But when I took the bus from Chequila to Cancun, I actually saw quite a few horses just tied up to trees or buildings along the way, so I guess it’s not that uncommon.

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An old church in Temozon…

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Gift shop along the way…

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As well as these bikers. These guys would ride through Valladolid with sirens blaring so loudly that you’d think ambulances and emergency vehicles were going through town. I don’t know who or what they were.

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Well, here we are at Ek Balam. There is no fanfare for these ruins. It’s a very low-key entrance, as opposed to Chichen Itza where there are restaurants, a huge parking lot for buses, as well as about a million vendors selling their wares. Not so in Ek Balam.

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And they just have a few vendors at the entrance to the grounds.

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Here are some of the structures…

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There weren’t many people here at all, which made it so much more pleasant than Chichen Itza.  I knew that you could still climb the main tower, but when I got there, I said, “Do I really want to??”

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Because of my cold, I wasn’t feeling my best, but convinced myself that after coming all this way, what choice did I really have? Ugh. They have platforms off to the side on different levels with various “rooms.”

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So after resting a couple times on the way up, I finally reached the top…yay! Thank the Lord Baby Jesus, there was a nice breeze up there, which certainly helped since it was pretty hot that day. There were some nice views. The forest seems to go on forever.

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There were approximately 20 people at the top with me, most of whom were about half my age. As far as I could tell, I was the only American and the only one speaking English. I had to ask someone to take my picture because there was no way I wasn’t going to document this.

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Oh, no…now I have to go down. Ugh, again. After breaking a wrist after a fall a couple of years ago, the thought of tumbling down this ruin did not appeal to me, so I embarrassingly went back down step by step on my butt the whole way. Oh, well, I’ll never see these people again, and at least I didn’t fall, so that’s a good thing.

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Ruin guard dog?

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Here is some info on some of the buildings if you’re interested.

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I can’t believe I didn’t move the leaf on this one.

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I’m thinking this might be the ceremonial area? Just a wild guess.

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So I walk back to the parking lot thinking I would just hop on a collectivo back to Valladolid. Well, there were collectivos there, but they were all pre-arranged transportation and they told me that collectivos don’t come to pick up people there. What?!?! How the heck am I supposed to get back to Valladolid? So I go back to the area where you get your tickets to wait for the other people that were in my collectivo on the way to the ruin. (One was a woman who was born in Mexico but was currently living in France, and the other two were a couple from Italy.) They finally show up and I ask them how they’re getting back. Turns out they’re not going back to Valladolid but are getting a bus in the other direction. I must have looked kind of panicked because they started asking some of the staff how I’d get back. The woman from France spoke fluent Spanish and she talked to a taxi driver who agreed to take the three of them to where they’d catch the bus, and me and two other guys back to Valladolid for 50 pesos each. Mind you, these taxis are the size of a Kia Rio and they have a sign on the side that says the maximum capacity is four people. This picture isn’t the best for showing how crowded it was in that car, but there were four of us in the back and two passengers and the driver in the front. Crazy.

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Fortunately, the three taking the bus only had a drive of about five miles, so it wasn’t too bad. The passenger in the front turned out to be an Indian guy from California who decided to come to Mexico by himself for two weeks. It was his first time there and he was so excited about his trip and adventures he had, and was telling me all about them. He arrived in Mexico City and traveled by bus up to the Yucatan and was flying out of Cancun. We shared stories about how people think you’re crazy to go to Mexico alone and how silly we thought they were. He mentioned that he had met a lot of other people traveling on their own, but that I was the only American one. Crazy woman that I am.

Back to Valladolid. Since I would be leaving the next morning, I set out to see Cenote Zaci, which was right in the middle of the city, only two blocks from my hotel.

Just like the “Hollywood” sign.

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After climbing the ruins a few hours ago, my legs felt pretty much like Jello, so when I saw these steps down to the cenote, my only thought was, “Oh, Lord…I’m going to have to climb back up those.”

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But I was there, so I felt I had no choice. *sigh*

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These things are pretty cool. I’ve seen three so far, but I’ve never gone swimming in one. The water is always really dark, so it makes you wonder how deep they are.

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This little girl took forever to talk herself into jumping, but she finally did it…then thought it was pretty neat.

This picture looks kind of upside-down, but it’s the stalactites on the ceiling.

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A refreshing snack at the restaurant that sits at the top of the cenote. (The walk up the steps was very slow, by the way.)

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And a final picture of the doorway on the opposite side of the courtyard from my room at the hotel…I think it’s a pretty picture. Adios, Valladolid.

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Next stop? Isla Holbox!

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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!

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.