Valladolid Travel Blog› entry 6 of 15 › view all entries
October 22nd, 2009 – by: lrecht
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had lunch at the Bazare Municipale which is a covered market with a whole bunch of little food stalls.
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.
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.
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