I got a bus to Valladolid (I’m having trouble pronouncing that name), a more typical Yucatecan town than Cancun, which is pretty taken up with tourism. I did some sightseeing including the Convent of Sisal, the oldest church in Yucatan, built in 1552. It was a fortress as well as a church and convent.
This town is interesting with the details of Yucatecan life. Some of the women still wear the traditional clothing, but I see the embroidery is machine-stitched now, rather than hand-stitched as it was long ago. Still, they’re really pretty. The signs on the houses are pretty, too. I saw “The House of the Grandparents.” A pretty Mayan house with thatched roof has been preserved—one still sees many of these in use, but I imagine that won’t last long.
The other hostelers here were especially interesting, from every country imaginable. One USAer (the only one besides me, in fact) had been in the Peace Corp in 1963—really an early one!
Two others (Lorri from Canada and Wiltrout from Austria) and I took a bus the next day to visit Ek Baalam, a minor Mayan site. Still, even though minor, it was quite exciting to see. I no longer climb up these steep and treacherous pyramids, but admire and photograph them from the ground. There was also an added value of some wildlife to be seen—a four-inch caterpillar that shown bright green against the old stones, and a beautiful Great Kiskadee chirped in the trees.
Upon returning, I finally had a good ‘linner’ in a more modest restaurant. The last two days I had followed the Lonely Planet’s recommendations for ‘good food’ in upscale restaurants, but I found them disappointing. This dish was a combo of Yucatecan food, which I enjoyed. And a beer tastes good these days, as it is very hot and humid.
Monday I took two buses to Rio Lagartos, a fishing village in a nature preserve lagoon that boasts flamingos, along with many other beautiful birds, including frigate birds. I hired a man to take me around in a boat for good photo ops. The lagoon connects with the Caribbean. After my boat ride, I ate filet of fish stuffed with shrimp on shore, but I didn’t turn pink like the flamingos do. A couple of Sol (never heard of it) beers rounded out my lunch. The two buses that I took each way took about 2 ½ hours, but it was well worth it.
Tuesday was museum day, but I forgot that one, a private house with a collection of folkloric items, was only open at 10:00 AM when everybody gets a guided tour. I did see their city museum with its artifacts from Ek Baalam, and also some nice murals. The zocalo area with the cathedral is very pretty, especially in full sunshine as it was.
The next day was Nov. 20th, a holiday relating to the Revolution of 1910. There was a parade, which I saw parts of as I walked to the Casa de los Vanados (House of the Deer), the private museum that I had missed the day before.
What a grand collection! The owners live here permanently now, after totally restoring the 17th C. house, as well as collecting Mexican folkloric art for fifty years. We even toured their private dining room with its commissioned ‘personage’ chairs of famous Mexicans, including Sor Juana Inez del La Cruz.
Later that same day I moved on to Izamal, where they, too, were celebrating Nov. 20th. Some young men were trying to climb a greased pole to pull down a cache of ‘goodies,’ which they finally were able to do.
The centerpiece of this town is the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, which was built in 1561. It is huge! It, like the rest of the town, is painted a deep yellow color. Before the Spaniards came, this town was a religious center with three pyramids, which were built about 300 BCE, but built on older foundations. The Spaniards tore these down and used the stones to built the Convent. The rear of the convent has not been painted, and shows the enormity of this project.
The street of my hotel was, like all others in town, a place of constant sunshine with that warm yellow color. It really was a charming small town.
This morning I took a bus to Merida, on which I had to stand for the first half hour, but then I got a seat. I have checked into a great hostel (I think) called The Zocalo, which is located right on the zocalo in an old colonial house. My bed is a regular single bed (not a cot or bunk) with a very thick mattress. I hadn’t eaten before I left at 8:00, so the manager invited me to have breakfast, which lasts until 10:00. They served eight kinds of fresh fruit, toast, cereal, peanut butter and jam, etc. and good coffee! They have wifi—I guess that goes without saying these days, although I didn’t have it in my hotel in Izamal. And the price? $8/night. I told him that I might just stay in Merida and take day trips, and he said that if I stayed longer than 5 nights, he would get me a discount! Good heavens!