My wanderlust has sparked off my adventures again and as you all know, I am at my happiest and full of joie de vivre when I am travelling and exploring the world. True the signature “HarpreetsWanderlust” style, my partner in crime and I jetted into none other than colourful, vibrant Mexico to tick off yet another destination on my ever growing bucket list of great adventures that these footsteps WILL take around the globe…
Cruising over Cancun and landing at Cancun International, my heart is a flutter and I cannot wait to explore the Yucatan Peninsula, and tell you, my glorious readers of all the adventures we have had! This trip sees us drive across the Yucatan, reveling in the Mayan legends and sites before heading back to the Riviera Maya and indulging in a luxurious beach holiday.
Two hours after landing in Cancun, we have been driven by our private driver Fernando to the charming colonial town of Valladolid (pronounced vajjadoyid) for our first stop of the day, and in time for a spot of lunch.
Fernando takes us to the Hosteria del Marques, the biggest hotel in the town with a highly recommended restaurant. The ambience is a perfect intro to what we are to expect in our footsteps in the Yucatan, a beautiful pale yellow Hacienda with its restaurant tables facing a quadrangle sporting a bubbling fountain, being overlooked by more pale yellow walls and wooden balconies, making the setting akin to a Spanish soap opera.
Now, being a foodie as well as a traveller I am looking forward to trying ‘real’ Mexican fare, and the menu at the Hosteria does not disappoint. First up – the guacamole with nachos. What is striking is that the guac is made fresh at the table by our server Cesar, who scoops out a perfectly ripe avocado into a pig shaped mortar and cuts this up with the side of a spoon, adds freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, a dash of salt and pepper, some olive oil, a squeeze of lime then mixes this up with the spoon again resulting in a gorgeously creamy dip for the freshly baked nachos.
Next up – tacos (of course) and true to the spirit – a Yucatan special stew called stuffed cheese. A slab of cheese floats in a well-seasoned broth with pieces of chicken, turkey, olives, lima beans and a very hot habanero pepper. The combination sounds odd but works well – the stew tastes pretty good!
Satiated from lunch and ready for a spot of exploring, we walk out of the Hosteria and into the main leafy plaza, adorned with food carts, a live band and white lovers seats, giving the whole scenario such a magical atmosphere!
We drive through Calle 41A, a street lined with some of the most opulent houses to be found in Valladolid, all painted in pretty pastel colours much like a Neapolitan ice cream.
At the end of the peaceful street is the Convent of Saint Bernadino, a quaint yet impressive building designed to be both a fortress and a church.
So, the raison d’etre for passing through Valladolid is because this is the closest town to Ek’ Balam, one of the sites we were interested in exploring, and a mere 30 minute drive later, here we were! I must say, driving in Mexico – well the Yucatan at least is not half bad and if we could drive a left hand car, it would have been even more of an adventure! So, if you can, drive yourself when you get there!
This site is in the process of being excavated, and the structures have not yet been restored – and word of warning -boy is it hot here – I had read that the Yucatan is known as ‘tierra caliente’, quite literally meaning “hot land” and at 39°C, this place is an oven! Now, why would we want to visit Ek Balam? Because unlike other sites, you can still climb the pyramids here and feel like a real explorer! Also, being so undersold it is devoid of the masses of tourists and you can wander around the site and really get a feel for what life was like in the Mayan era.
Mind you though – climbing these pyramids is no mean feat! I am puffing and panting all the way up the steps, which are wide and uneven and silly me, fashionista has decided to wear ballet flats – not the most sensible choice of footwear! But, the bird’s eye view of the complex is well worth the grueling climb up and well worth the sore muscles later that evening!
Suffering from what I imagine heat exhaustion to be like, we walk the never ending pathway back to our waiting car, stopping only to enjoy a refreshing drink of fresh coconut water before settling into the air conditioned bliss. I never imagined being thankful for air conditioning and I usually turn it off (much to M’s chagrin) but today, I would sit in a freezer to cool down if i could find one!
Next stop -Chichen Itza! I am glad that this is a mere 45 minute drive from Ek’ Balam and is home for the next two nights. I am excited because we are staying in the heart of Chichen Itza, at the Hacienda Chichen Yaxkin Resort and Spa the grounds of which are part of the famed site – what better way to steep my soul in this adventure than to stay in the heart of the site I am dying to explore?
The terra caliente has me rushing straight to the pool for a cooling dip and much needed sangria, and only after cooling down do I take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the Hacienda.
The main structure is painted in a welcoming terracotta colour, flanked with large archways and decorated with beautiful plants in large earthenware pots. The front balcony has comfortable rattan furniture from where I know in the evening, I will start the snippets of this blog while sipping on a sundowner and drinking in the lush greenery around the Hacienda…
We are staying in the luxurious Ann Morris Suite which is spacious (albeit a bit too big for the air conditioning unit in it) has its own back garden with a hammock, and a lovely front patio with two rocking chairs. The entire suite is surrounded by greenery.
The suite itself has a very interestingly carved bed head, loads of beautiful colourful paintings, and colourful trinkets. I wish I could take some of these trinkets home but with a 26 hour plane ride back and three baggage transfers, I am sure my memorabilia will not get to Kenya intact. Sigh.
Amenity wise -beautifully folded towels and bathrobes with frangipani subtly tucked in between the folds and the customary soap, shampoo and conditioner but no shower caps, lotion or other extras. For tea lovers – word of warning – there is a coffee machine, with a coffee making kit but no tea. A fridge is well stocked with cold water, club soda and being in the land of Coronas, plenty of cans of those too!
Totally satisfied with today’s exploring, albeit a gentle intro to the Yucatan I do sit and watch the sun go down on the beautiful terrace.
Dinner is eaten on the back terrace at the Hacienda, while being serenaded by a Mexican singing trio. More Mexican culinary delights to indulge in – divine chicken lime soup followed by a generous portion of chicken in chipotle sauce, the perfect end to a fantastic first day in the Yucatan Peninsula. Stay with me as I explore the world famous Chichen Itza tomorrow – I promise you won’t be disappointed!