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Old 07-09-2012   #31 (permalink)
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Looking forward to reading more!
We stayed at el Meson and went to Ek Balam ourselves, year before last.
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Old 07-10-2012   #32 (permalink)
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Day 9, Thursday, May 24th, 2012
We slept in today later than expected, so we decided that Ek Balam was out of the question since such a late start would put us there in the heat of mid-day. Instead, we decided on a little more exploring of Valladolid, so walked down to the San Bernardino de Siena Monestery, being careful to walk on the shaded side of the street. We were going to stop at Casa de los Venados on the way but it seemed to be closed so we continued on. First, though, we checked out San Servacio Cathedral across the square, check in with our tour guide at MexiGO Tours behind the cathedral to confirm our tour for the next day, then had brunch at Squimz.

San Servacio

Parque Fransisco Canto Rosado





Squimz

Squimz

Squimz

I really love the Colonial architecture of the houses here, even the most decrepit & decaying buildings still have the soul of a bygone era. We've often chatted about if we ever come into money how we'd love to buy one of these old buildings here or in Mérida or wherever and restore it back to its former glory. One can only dream, eh?!




















After walking for what seemed like forever, we arrived at the San Bernardino de Siena Monastery. I was not feeling so great all of a sudden and needed to find a bathroom...now. We found the entrance and asked where there was a bathroom and they said we'd have to pay the entrance fee. Scott paid while I literally ran. Feeling much better after emptying the contents of my stomach, we decided to do a self-tour of the monastery and grounds. There was only a few other people around.

The monastery itself is beautiful. Very large, with many rooms and hallways. On the main floor there was a photography and painting exhibit, and down the hall a museum with collections of things from its past. A dalmation was stretched out by one of the doorways, having a little siesta. We spied a dark staircase leading upstairs so we headed up to see what was up there. All the rooms seem empty and the doors/gates are locked. We could, however, look down into the courtyard below and out through the windows. At one end you can enter a room above the chapel and look down upon the pews and alter area. Very beautiful, even though neither of us is particularly religious.

















[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/77023988@N06/7481054218/][/url


After touring the inside of the building, we headed outside to check out the well/water wheel building which is actually built over a cenote. Many of the objects on display in the museum were found by archaeologists who dove in the cenote. It was a beautiful building, and the grounds are very lush. There are some ruins of walls around the property as well.








Getting very hot and sweaty, we decided to head back to the hotel for a siesta. This heat really takes everything out of you. A little hungry, we stopped by Dominos right on the square near the hotel. We thought it was quite funny when we got our box of pizza and the sticker said "GRNGOS", lol. They never even asked our names, but we were clearly the only gringos in there.


After eating, we napped in the air-conditioned room a little longer than anticipated. About four hours later, oops, we decided to freshen up and figure out what we were going to do. We hung around the hotel for a bit longer, then decided we'd have dinner at a place recommended by our tour guide, called Conato (we've seen it spelled Conauto, Conuto, etc., but it's actually Conato). It's located a few blocks away in the neighbourhood behind the cathedral. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's a really cute eclectic place inside. We were first given a table by the window, next to a Crown Royal bottle acting as a flower vase, lol, but the heat was too much and they could clearly see that us gringos were sweating up a storm, so our server moved us closer to one of the fans. No a/c here...and no English. There was only one other table seated in the small restaurant, but with the quality of food and the service I figured it should be packed.

We started with a Conato Stuffed Mushrooms, soooo yummy and cheesy, and of course we had guacamole (this must go with every meal, lol). For my main I went with a pasta with shrimp (sooooooo good), and Scott had some sort of burrito-looking thingy that wasn't actually a burrito...sorry, I should have took notes, my memory is bad. Overall the food was awesome, the service too...and it was very very affordable...I think we paid under $25 for both of us including appies, mains, drinks and tip. I will definitely go back here in a heartbeat.

Inside Conato












After stuffing ourselves, we started the walk back to the hotel. It was dark now and we were a little outside the typical tourist area, with dark allies and unfamiliar streets. I was a little nervous at first, but we did not encounter any unsavory characters, lol. Just as we were about a block from the hotel (so, maybe six or seven blocks from the restaurant I figure), I hear "excuse me" , and turn to find our waiter running towards us, out of breath. He explained, in broken English (god love him) that he had accidentally overcharged us and wanted to return our money! My understanding was that a few drinks or something from the other table accidentally got written on our bill. Now, we're talking maybe 100 pesos. This guy chased after us, not even knowing where we were staying, to give us back less than $10! Amazing. This would never happen here in Canada. I told him to keep it...he earned it!

Dropping tired (as usual), we headed to bed as tomorrow we have a full day of touring Chichen Itza, Yokdznot cenote, and Izamal before heading into Mérida...
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Old 07-11-2012   #33 (permalink)
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Thank you for sharing our adventures! I also love your sense of humor and writing style!
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Old 07-11-2012   #34 (permalink)
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Loving your report!
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Old 07-11-2012   #35 (permalink)
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great report

you guys needed a week off when you got home . wow i couldnt keep up with that schedule..
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Old 07-11-2012   #36 (permalink)
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Thanks for sharing your awesome report!! I, too, am scared in the water. I have my own life vest that fits me perfectly and I take it with me everywhere we go. It is a well traveled life vest It makes me able to enjoy myself much more, so it is worth it.

Looks like an awesome trip!!!
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Old 07-12-2012   #37 (permalink)
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Great pictures! Keep it coming...
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Old 07-13-2012   #38 (permalink)
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Old 07-13-2012   #39 (permalink)
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I am loving your report! We did this trip to Valladolid and Ek Balam (sorry, sounds like you may have missed that ruin?) and love it. We only stayed one night in Valladolid and wished we had spent more time in that charming town. Well, now at least we know where to eat when we go back next time! Love the story about the waiter running after you - that is the true Mexico we know and love - not the one showing up in U.S. media.

I digress - but thank you for this report and please continue! Can't wait to read the rest!
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Old 07-14-2012   #40 (permalink)
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I am really enjoying your trip report so much. Your writing is great and so descriptive and I love all the photos. I love how you always "stuff" yourselves every meal (sounds like us, ha ha ha).

I am amazed by how much activity you did on your vacation. It's hard sometimes in the sweltering heat (it can take a lot out of you).

Can't wait to read the rest.
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Old 07-15-2012   #41 (permalink)
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Sorry it's been taking so long to post the trip report...I'm finding it difficult to find the time, and the upload speed here in rural northern Saskatchewan is akin to that of a third world country, lol. Thanks to everyone for all your kind words and comments

Here goes...

Day 10, Friday, May 25th, 2012...part 1
We awoke this morning at sunrise so we could get ready for our big day touring before ending in Mérida. There wasn't much time to get breakfast at the hotel as we had to be in the lobby to meet our tour guide from MexiGO Tours (I feel so bad, I cannot remember his name for the life of me...he was an adorable 20-something man from Valladolid of Mayan decent...Gilberto, perhaps???). At just after 7 a.m. he picked us up in a seven passenger van, but lucky for us there was no one else on the tour! We got a private tour He then drove us over to the MexiGO Tours office where we grabbed coffee and fresh pastries he had for us. He also supplied cold drinks throughout the day.

Leaving Valladolid, we stopped to pick up our guide for Chichen Itza, a middle-aged man, also of Mayan decent, who could speak Spanish, English, and Italian. (Sorry, can't remember his name either...that's horrible). Along the way he pointed out various things and talked a little of Mayan history. Before we knew it we were arriving at Chichen Itza, just before the hoards of other tourists arrived.

I have been waiting for this my entire life! Growing up I was obsessed with history and archaeology and Chichen Itza was in my top ten places to visit. On our last trip to Mexico we didn't get the chance to visit, though Scott had done so in 2005, back when you could still climb the pyramid...so it was a priority for me this time.

When we arrived, Gilberto (?) dropped us off at the entrance with the other tour guide (who is a licensed tour guide) and went to park the van. Our entrance fee was not included in the tour price, unfortunately, but we knew this in advance and paid at the kiosk. You actually have to go to two different places/kiosks - I'm not sure what the different is, I think one was federal and the other state (?). Anyways, we headed through the gates and behold, there was my first sight of Chichen Itza, and the pyramid (El Castillo). I was in awe. Our guide laughed and said everyone has the same reaction and that they instantly start taking photos, but that if we walked a little further in across the grass to the other side we would actually be facing the main side of the pyramid, and arguably the more impressive side. (Note: the good photos were taken by Scott (photoscotty), and I can only take credit for the not-as-impressive ones, lol)...











Our guide explained the history of the site from the Mayans and Toltecs and Itzaes. He was very knowledgeable. It also helped that I have done a lot of reading about it myself. One of my favourite things, and likely that of most who visit the site, is when you stand at the base of the front side (so not the side you see when you enter the site) and clap your hands you can hear the echo which sounds much like a bird, a quetzal. The sound carries soooo far away and is an engineering marvel. This site is truly amazing.

As I said at the beginning, we were lucky to arrive before most of the other tour busses carrying hoards of tourists from all over the world. Being there early also helped with the heat...although it easily 30 or 35 degrees at 10 in the morning! It was also early enough that many of the annoying vendors had not set up, or were just starting to.















After touring many of the main buildings our guide left us to tour on our own and suggested we head over to the sacred cenote. It's a nice little walk to the cenote on a dirt road lined with vendors on both sides. There isn't much shade, and it seemed to take forever, but I think that was because I was so hot and tired of walking around by that point.


I was left very underwhelmed by the cenote, and you can only see it from the top and not a very good view, really. And it's gross. It is full of algae and is green like guacamole, lol. Not like some of the beautiful cenotes we've been lucky enough to visit. Our guide had told us before that the Maya would throw sacrifices (normally children) in there to drown. Right next to the cenote is a modern thatched building with washrooms and which sells ice cream and cold drinks...at an exhorbitante rate.

After touring the site for a few hours, we were hot and tired and hungry. And the place was starting to get overrun with people. When we started there was just a few dozen people at the site, but by the time we left there was easily a thousand...or more! Just walking through the gates to get back to the parking lot was like being at a concert and having to fight our way through, lol. It was totally worth it, and now I can say I've been there, done that. If I were to do it again: I'd stay in town somewhere so I could be there at 8 a.m. when the site opens so I could get the earliest possible start. Also, bring a frozen bottle of water if you can because your water will warm up significantly as you tour (read: bathwater warm, lol). And bring money...if you want to buy snacks, drinks, or souvenirs it's gonna cost you a small fortune.

When we got to the parking lot we easily found our van, and inside Gilberto was watching a DVD while waiting for us. The a/c inside was much needed and he also had more cold bottles of water for us. We hit the road and headed to Yokdzonot cenote.

The cenote is community run by the local Mayan people and they have done a great job in building infrastructure (walkway, dock, zip line, restaurant, etc.) on the site. Some of the ladies also spend the day cleaning leaves and debris out of the cenote. We walked down along the path to the ladder which brings you down to the dock. Even though I had a life vest and I was so hot and could really use a dip in that water, I knew I would never get in. The water is very dark here and you cannot see much other than a few catfish swimming at the surface. Scott jumped right on in and splashed around for a bit, but I just couldn't do it. He said it was so refreshing and tried everything to convince me to try. There were also hundreds of swallows flying around above the cenote, dipping down to eat fallen fruit and seeds...and maybe the catfish poop, lol. It was actually very loud with all the birds chirping and their flying about certainly didn't help me wanting to get in. We did notice a zip line above, but no one was there to operate it, perhaps because it was off season?




After a good swim, Scott got out and we headed back up top to the restaurant. Gilberto had preordered for us so we didn't have to wait long. We shared poc chuc, pollo pibil, sopa de lima, and fresh tortillas. And Scott drank loads of hibiscus water/juice. The local ladies were so nice and the food was awesome! It really was some of the best we had.






From there we hit the road again towards Izamal. Along the way Gilberto pointed out that all the "hills" we saw in the middle of the fields were actually unexcavated pyramids buried under the jungle growth. There were some right along the highway. I would have loved to explore there.

(I will write about Izamal in the next post...)
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Old 07-15-2012   #42 (permalink)
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Day 10 - Friday, May 25th, 2012 - part 2
Alrighty, so we arrived early afternoon and headed right to centro Izamal. It's known by a few names, mainly "the yellow city" and "the magical city". We could easily see right away why it was known as the yellow city as all the buildings in the centre of the city are this beautiful hue of yellow, almost ochre yellow. We parked the van by the main square and headed up the steps to explore the San Antonio de Padua monastery, built by the Franciscans in 1561 atop (and partially destroying) a Mayan pyramid called Ppap Hol Chak. The atrium at the monastery is apparently only second in size to the one at the Vatican. It is beautiful.






















After touring the monastery for a while we headed back down to the square and took a horse & buggy tour of this pretty city. We wound through the narrow one-way streets taking it all in. At one point we stopped at a local jewellery makers house/shop to see how he makes his wares. We were warmly greeted and invited to the back of the shop outside to where the family works. The jewellery was made of cocoyol seeds and henequin thorns, which they polish and make into necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. It's a very labour- intensive process that takes quite a bit of time, especially for the cocoyol seeds. The gentleman explained the importance of cocoyol and henequin to the Maya people, and then showed us how he polishes the seeds. He eve let Scott have a try at it. At the end he gave us a gift - to me he gave a polished cocoyol bead on silver wire that could be used as a necklace pendant, and for Scott a henequin thorn polished into the shape of a horses hoof. We then went inside to the shop and were never pressured to buy anything...but of course I couldn't resist! Their pieces are beautiful and so affordable. I bought a necklace and earrings for myself, and earrings for both of our mothers. It was a really sweet place and I'm glad we stopped there.











We got back in the buggy and headed to the ruins at Kinich Kak Mo, which is a very large pyramid, with a base covering 2 acres. You find the entrance in a ally between two colonial buildings a few blocks from the centre square. You have to walk up quite a few stairs to get to the main platform from which you can climb the actual pyramid. Some info about the area from Wikipedia:

"...Five huge Pre-Columbian structures are still easily visible at Izamal (and two from some distance away in all directions). The first is a great pyramid to the Maya Sun God, Kinich Kak Mo, with a base covering over 2 acres (8,000 m²) of ground and a volume of some 700,000 cubic meters. Atop this grand base is a pyramid of 10 levels. To the south-east lays another great temple, called Itzamatul and, placed at the south of what was a main plaza, another huge building, called Ppap Hol Chak, was partially destroyed with the construction of a Franciscan temple during the 16th Century. The South-west side of the plaza was limited by another pyramid, the Hun Pik Tok, and in the west was the temple known as Kabul, where a great stucco mask still existed on one side as recently as the 1840s, and a drawing of it by Frederick Catherwood was published by John Lloyd Stephens. All these large man-made mounds probably were built up over several centuries and originally supporting city palaces and temples. Other important residential buildings which have been restored and can be visited are Xtul (The Rabbit), Habuc and Chaltun Ha..." (Izamal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

It was still very hot, and I was super tired, so I sat under a tree with Gilberto while Scott made the climb to the top. He said there is a great view of the city from up there and you can see other pyramids in the distance.











Back in the buggy we headed back to the van. Normally the MexiGO Tour would bring you back to Valladolid, but we had arranged to be dropped off at Kinich Restaurant as we were being picked up by Ralf from William Lawson's and being brought into Mérida for the rest of our journey. Gilberto helped with our bags into the restaurant and told the waiter we were meeting someone so they took good care of us, getting us set up on a couch near the front entrance where we could bring our bags. We ordered some cold drinks and waited for Ralf. The restaurant is beautiful, and we hear the food is amazing, but on this trip we didn't have the chance to try it. We jumped in Ralf's car and headed into Mérida just in time for dinner.




Arriving in Mérida we were amazed at how large the city is. On the outskirts there are many modern stores like Walmart, Chedraui, etc. We wound through the narrow streets and arrived at Luz en Yucatan around 6:30 p.m. or so. Had Ralf not brought us here I'm not sure we'd have found it on our own without help, other than knowing it was next to the Santa Lucia church. There is only a tiny nameplate, no big sign indicating where it was. These colonial buildings are so beautiful on the outside, but they give no indication of what is on the inside. We rang the buzzer and were greeted by one of the managers (not Tom, lol) and led into the office for our key. He also gave us a booklet of important information (emergency, police, etc.), and places to see and places to eat. It was perfect, and we used it often. He led us through the beautiful hallway out to the pool area and up to our room, but not after showing us the free liquor cart in the hallway which we were welcomed to avail of any time! Nice touch.

We had booked a Poolside Casita, mainly due to our budget, and we were not disappointed. Since they were not at full capacity he asked if we wanted to see anything else, but we were happy enough with this room. It's located right at the back of the property and up a few stairs. When you enter the door you are immediately in the kitchenette area with mini-fridge (with two free beers), water jug, table, etc. (no sink, though). To the right is the beautiful bathroom, complete with large walk-in shower and gorgeous tile work. Back out in the kitchenette, through a sliding screen door you are now on the patio which is overlooking the pool. There is an awning above, so even if it's raining you can enjoy the space. Here you will find a comfy hammock, a table & two chairs, and a ceiling fan! Continuing left through the glass door is the bedroom area, with comfy queen bed, dresser, TV and night stand. It's small, but cozy. The a/c worked awesome, and it's a must in Mérida.


















We threw down our bags, freshened up and were desperate to eat after a long day on the go. One of the affordable nearby places recommended to eat at was Los Trompos. It's actually a chain restaurant, but not like any chain restaurant I've ever seen. It was located in the main square just a few blocks away and was quite nice. They have greeters that open the door for you and bring you to your table. The place was packed when we got there around 8 so we were lucky to get a table. The menu is large and has a bit of everything...even for picky tourists, lol. I don't remember exactly what we ordered, but I'm pretty sure there was guacamole (lol), nachos, fajitas, and similar. Great food, actually, and really affordable. They even had live entertainment. After dinner we walked around to take in Noche en Mérida, but were wiped so we finally headed back to the hotel.


Tomorrow is gonna be another early one with a William Lawson tour of the Ruta Puuc!
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Old 07-15-2012   #43 (permalink)
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I have to confess that I have check your thread everyday so I can read your trip report. I am enjoying it so much!

Izamal is a beautiful little town. My husband and I took the buggy tour and enjoyed it very much. Also, we have stayed at Luz de Yucatan and love it!
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Old 07-15-2012   #44 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by newfiegirl22 View Post
Sorry it's been taking so long to post the trip report...I'm finding it difficult to find the time, and the upload speed here in rural northern Saskatchewan is akin to that of a third world country, lol. Thanks to everyone for all your kind words and comments

Here goes...

Day 10, Friday, May 25th, 2012...part 1

(I will write about Izamal in the next post...)
Those photos are beautiful...and the writing's not too shabby either! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-16-2012   #45 (permalink)
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One day I'm hoping to stay in Vallalodid and also Merida. Can't wait to read more!!
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