Tranquil Valladollid

Valladolid Travel Blog

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Pool at Meson del Marques in Valladollid
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Valladolid is the third largest provincial town in the Yucatan and named after Valladolid Spain and manages to have that European charm and look and feel as well as some good food and lots of nearby sights including the ruins at Chichen Itza and Ek Balam and a whole bunch of cenotes.  The drive from Coba is only 60-90 minutes and Cindy had picked out the centrally located and very charming Hotel Meson de Marques located right on the main square of the town. It is very nice and the staff is all very friendly with somewhat old, dark rooms, a beautiful courtyard with an upscale restaurant and a big fountain and a really nice pool (a little chilly but refreshing).
View at Ek Balam


Based on the Lonely Planet review, we opted for the nicer room which was spacious if a bit dark and had a little balcony overlooking the pool.  The hotel does have gated parking which was kind of nice (we need to protect our spiffy Dodge Challenger). At the front desk, like everywhere we have visited so far in the Yucatan, there was a giant bottle of hand sanitizer which they appear to really love here and a helpful lady.

After getting settled in, we decided to take a dip in the pool and cool off after the long walks at Coba and Tulum.  The chilly water felt great and there were two other couples talking about some of the ruins that they had visited.  One of them said she really liked Ek Balam which we had heard before so that is definitely on the itinerary.
View at Ek Balam


After swimming for a bit (and grabbing a beer) we decided to walk around the town a bit, starting off in the square with the ever-present Cathedral and a park (currently closed for renovations).  The central part of Valladollid is pretty compact and cute although they are doing lots of road work and burying electrical so the cobblestone streets are somewhat a mess.  It seems very un-touristy which is kind of nice.

After the walk, we opted for having dinner at the hotel which had come highly recommended. The service was great and the courtyard is really nice overlooking the fountain and surrounded with local art.  We had some very tasty Yucatecan food including Conchinita Pibil and a Mayan Chicken dish with olives, capers, etc. and some xtabentun liquor for dessert which is anise flavored liquor made from fermented honey.
Jaguar Mouth Carving at Ek Balam
  Belly full and pleasantly inebriated, we opted for an early night and headed back to the room to chill and watch some TV.  An hour or so later, explosions started happening.  It ends up that the Cathedral is having some anniversary or whatever and the locals were drunkenly parading around the streets setting off very large bottle rockets from their hands (which doesn’t seem entirely safe).  I went out on the balcony to try and snap some pictures (unfortunately having no tripod so they are kinda out of focus).

Friday, October 23, 2009
We ventured out for breakfast at a little local coffee place called Squimoz which I guess means something or another (however if you Google it, you just get something from Lonely Planet about the restaurant).  It had pretty good coffee, smoothies and omelets if you are in the mood for something less authentically Yucatecan.
Acropolis at Ek Balam Panorama


After breakfast we fired up the Challenger and headed off on the road to the ruins of Ek Balum which we eventually found without too much trouble.  Two cute little kids ushered us to park in the shade under a big tree and told us they would watch the car (a euphemism for expect a small tip) so we said OK and headed in.  The text below is from the sign at the entrance and tells a bit about the history of Ek Balam.

“Commander Juan Gutiérrez Picón relates in the “Account of Ek’Balam” (1579), that Captain Francisco de Montejo granted him the capital of the district of Tiqulbalon or Ek’Balam, containing five villages, for having been one of the conquerors of the region. According to this Account it also states that Tiquibalon was founded and populated by the great man called Ek’Balam, who built most of the five structures at the site and that the rest were constructed by other captains, under his orders.
Wall Carvings at Ek Balam


Ek Balam is a Yucatec Maya name -apparently taken from this leader which may be translated as the “black jaguar” or “bright star-jaguar.” The enormous dimensions of the buildings are what stand out at this site, as well as the fact that the central part is surrounded by two walls, an uncommon attribute. The most important structures are found within the walled enclosure of less than one square kilometer and distributed within two large, connected plazas, referred to as the Central and South Plazas. Numerous constructions of different sizes are found around these.

The walls have five entrances in different sections of its periphery and five sak be’oo roads which depart from them in the direction of the four cardinal points.
Trippy Couple at Ek Balam
The south side of the wall is a special case as it has two entrances and two sak be’oob. The most important cultural period at Ek Balam was the Late Classic (700-1000 A.D.); however, the early inhabitants arrived earlier and remained living there until after 900 A.D., as demonstrated by a few small constructions built after this date. Their characteristics are very different from the older buildings, which makes it clear that the society suffered some changes and dedicated less resources and work to construction.”


We decided to wander around on our own and really enjoyed the site.  It is not particularly large but the buildings, especially the Acropolis, are really nice.  When we walked up the crumbling steps of one of the smaller buildings we ran into an older hippie-esque Amercian couple that was uber-spiritual and looked like they teleported here from Sedona.
Comida Corrida in Valladolid
  She was standing in front of a doorway chanting something or another and the man was doing a pretty good rendition of a Tai Chi long form (this in the heat while wearing the trippy black vest with the Incan monster thing on it you see in the picture).  

The highlight of the visit was hiking up the very steep and narrow steps of the Acropolis which they are renovating and has some really nice wall carvings (it is hard to say how authentic they are although the people at the front claimed they were recently discovered when a floor collapsed and the archeologists are just cleaning them up).  Above and beyond those if you venture to the top is an incredible view and a nice breeze.  We hung out up there for a bit (and were joined by our hippie friends) before cautiously descending to get out of the scorching sun.

When we exited the site, a girl we had seen in town and who had taken a shared cab in approached us and, with a heavy French accent, asked if we were heading back to Valladollid.
Salbutes in Valladollid
  At that point we weren’t sure what we were doing but said she could sit and talk with us while we decided and that we would be happy to give her a ride back.  She has been traveling in Mexico for about a month but running at a fast pace and is hoping to get back to Valladollid so that she can catch a bus to visit Chichen Itza and then head off to Tulum all today!  After reading about a few little dusty towns that didn’t seem all that interesting to visit, we decided to drive back to Valladollid so we tipped our little car watchers and listened to the French girl’s travel tales all the way back.

We had lunch at the Bazare Municipale which is a covered market with a whole bunch of little food stalls.
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
  Cindy had very tasty Salbutes (fried tortillas topped with Chicken cabbage and Avocado) and I had Linguisa de Valladollid which are somewhat spicy, dry sausages.  If you find yourself here, you should definitely try eating at one of the stalls – great food and cheap.

We spent the majority of the afternoon lost trying to find Cenote Dzitup so we could go swimming.  The directions on the local map and in our LP book kind of sucked and, after trying several of the artery streets off of one of the main circles, finally headed back to the hotel and asked again.  They said it was “really easy” and we headed back out trying to follow their directions but were once again totally lost.  I have no patience for that crap and was getting annoyed (ask Cindy if you don’t believe me ;-) but we persevered and finally went a bit further on one of the roads that we tried earlier and finally found it.
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
  The entrance was kind of cheesy but we paid our entrance fee and made our way down the slippery and somewhat smelly steps into the Cenote (essentially a big lime sinkhole filled with water).  I particularly like the sign about the “slepering” wet stones.  The water is a little chilly and filled with small, black catfish looking things.  A hole in the room lets light stream in and gives an eerie glow to the cave, stalactites and the water.  Bats flutter around the ceiling giving it even more of an ominous feel.  Cindy actually took a dip too (impressive considering it was chilly and the bats were circling overhead) and all in all it was kind of fun.

On the drive back, we stopped at Tempo de San Bernadino which is a convent in the older part of Valladollid and walked around a bit.
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
After getting cleaned up at the hotel, we thought we would just go to one of the local restaurants for dinner and decided to have a beer at one of the places on the square.  It ended up being a crappy disco kind of place so we headed a few doors down to a nicer restaurant for dinner and had cervezas, Sopa de Lima and Papadzules (sort of taquitos with eggs in a pumpkin seed and zucchini sauce).  That was followed up with a little bottle of tequila for a night cap and R&R back at the Meson de Marques. Tomorrow we head off to visit the infamous Chichen Itza and then the colonial town of Merida.

lrecht says:
Thanks Mike - still have lots to write but busy doing Thanksgiving in the mountains. Hope yours is a good one...

Larry
Posted on: Nov 26, 2009
geokid says:
Great blog!!!!
Posted on: Nov 26, 2009
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Pool at Meson del Marques in Valla…
Pool at Meson del Marques in Vall…
View at Ek Balam
View at Ek Balam
View at Ek Balam
View at Ek Balam
Jaguar Mouth Carving at Ek Balam
Jaguar Mouth Carving at Ek Balam
Acropolis at Ek Balam Panorama
Acropolis at Ek Balam Panorama
Wall Carvings at Ek Balam
Wall Carvings at Ek Balam
Trippy Couple at Ek Balam
Trippy Couple at Ek Balam
Comida Corrida in Valladolid
Comida Corrida in Valladolid
Salbutes in Valladollid
Salbutes in Valladollid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Cenote Dzitup in Valladolid
Tempo de San Bernadino in Valladol…
Tempo de San Bernadino in Vallado…
Fireworks at Catedral de San Gerva…
Fireworks at Catedral de San Gerv…
Beers Chips and Salsa
Beers Chips and Salsa
Pool at Meson del Marques in Valla…
Pool at Meson del Marques in Vall…
Meson del Marques in Valladollid
Meson del Marques in Valladollid
Meson del Marques in Valladollid
Meson del Marques in Valladollid
Catedral de San Gervasio in Vallad…
Catedral de San Gervasio in Valla…
Fountain at Meson del Marques in V…
Fountain at Meson del Marques in …
Art at Meson del Marques in Vallad…
Art at Meson del Marques in Valla…
Fireworks at Catedral de San Gerva…
Fireworks at Catedral de San Gerv…
Sleeping Dogs at Ek Balam
Sleeping Dogs at Ek Balam
Valladolid Hotels & Accommodations review
Hotel Meson de Marques
Hotel Meson de Marques is a nice, centrally located hotel right on the main square of Valladollid. The rooms are reasonably nice (Lonely Planet sugge… read entire review
Valladolid
photo by: Stigen