After the travel the day before, jet lag had gotten the better of us all, and so we all woke up early, the birds were chirping outside our bedroom. We even arrived at breakfast before everyone else! The waiter persuaded us to wake ourselves up by trying their Mexican coffee (coffee with cinnamon and tequila) accompanied by tortilla in salsa verde with cheese on top. It was just what we needed, and the coffee tasted surprisingly good leaving us all set for a day ahead.
The walk from Hotel Project Zentik took us about 15 minutes and was pleasant walk with many things to see. There were lots of colourful residential houses, some of them quite run down or not well kept, some looked more like huts than actual houses, others well painted in the vibrant Mexican hues.
Valladolid is a town that can easily be explored by foot. If you have small children take your little one in a pushchair and start your walk into town from your hotel, this way if they need some sleep they can have a nap in the pushchair. There are plenty of pavements, if a little bumpy in places and nothing is too far apart. For those older children with a little more energy the town can also be explored by cycle without too much difficulty. Many of the hotels have bikes for hire.
We passed plenty of little corner shops all mainly selling drinks and crisps, but not much else. We were lucky to find a stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables where we bought some mandarins and bananas as a snack to keep us going later. In fact, as we found later in our travels, many supermarkets do not sell any fresh goods, Mexicans still prefer to go to the market hall and specialist shops.
The Mercado Municipal was easy to reach, as it was only three or four blocks from the hotel. The market hall had different sections, selling everything from local fruit and vegetables to clothes, crafts and meat. It is a great place to stop by even if you do not need to buy anything just to get a real local experience. It also has small food stalls that serve breakfast and lunch.
At Calle 39 we turned towards the centre of town. We strolled past Cenote Caci, leaving the swim there for later in the afternoon and shortly after arrived at Parque Francisco Canton.
Our priority still was to get an ATM so we could finally get some more pesos out to pay for every day expenditure – Mexico is still very much a cash society. The first two machines did not want to dispense money from our European cards. We finally got lucky at the HSBC on Calle 41.
Meanwhile Jerome had spotted an ice cream shop next door and got a deliciously fruity watermelon ice-lolly, just like frozen juice on a stick. We sat down just outside the Cathedral of San Gervaiso, which was decorated with colourful bunting that was gently fluttering in the wind, and made a great photo opportunity for me. Immediately we sat down and were approached by some older ladies, dressed in traditional huipiles (embroidered dresses), who tried to sell us their local handmade goods like hammocks, embroidered tissues and hairbands. They were all friendly and polite and as soon as we told them we were not interested in buying they left us alone. However, it made me feel quite guilty though as I felt it was their only way to make a bit of money in order to buy some food. I guess it is one thing we have to live with when travelling to poorer countries as better off tourists, buy you cannot buy everything from everyone.
The cathedral inside was rather simple compared to catholic churches in Europe, more in keeping with the protestant level of décor.
We made our way along Calle 41 towards the Convento de San Bernadino de Siena. Along these streets you start to get a glimpse of the impressive colourful colonial houses that are the pride of the town, some of them with impressive courtyards hidden behind the closed doors. We turned into Calle de Los Fraies, a charming cobbled street, lined with little shops selling all kinds of local goods and souvenirs.
Here we stumbled upon the Chocolate Museum. This little museum run by a local Mayan cooperative basically consists of a few rooms, a lovely lady showed us around and explained the history of cacao, and the way on how chocolate has been made in the area since ancient times, all this she did in perfectly good English despite saying she could not speak it very well. Cacao used to be the fruit of the gods and is still treasured by Mayans today. In the last room we were able to sample the chocolate, with different tastes like chilli, sesame, coffee, herbs and others. The chocolate was quite bitter and Jerome did not like it very much but Chris and I bought some of the sesame and coffee chocolate to sample later.
Further along Calle de Los Frailes we reached the Convento de San Bernadino de Siena. The convent dates back to 1560 and was one of the earliest churches built on the American continent. Spanish monks built the convent around the largest cenote (sink hole filled with water) in Valladolid, the main source of fresh water for the town. The monks chose this location also for its proximity to the Mayan village as they tried to convert the locals to believe in Christianity.
The impressive covent building also served as a fortress during the Yucatan’s Caste War between the Spanish and Mayans. We stepped inside the convent’s church to admire the murals on the ceiling and then went to explore the rest of the building, which required a small entry fee. Inside, we could glimpse into the deep cenote in the garden and climb up the well worn stairs following in the footsteps of the monks of old. In one of the rooms they exhibited items that were found in the cenote years ago by divers, including muskets, pistols and swords and other artefacts. In the centre of the building we found a courtyard, surrounded by pink walls. Jerome enjoyed exploring the passages.
Back outside we walked across the expansive lawns to Yerbabuena de Sisal, a restaurant serving organic, Mexican food. We sat in the back courtyard and enjoyed fresh mint lemonade and a light lunch of delicious guacamole and chilaquiles rojo, while Jerome had waffles with fruit served by the friendly staff.
Please also see my post about Valladolid on ONE DAY ITINERARY