Monday, October 24, 2011

Road Trips

We love road trips, short or long, it doesn’t matter.  It’s all about the adventure.  One of our favourite road trips is to a small Spanish colonial town - Izamal - between Cancun and Mérida.

Monastery under restoration

The easiest way to reach Izamal is by driving up the four-lane toll highway 180D from Cancun.  The first time we visited Izamal we turned at the exit that is closer to Mérida.  The next time, we turned off at the exit closer to Valladolid – which made for an interesting trip along a narrow winding road, through three very small pueblos, Kantunil, Sudzal, and Juan Pablo.

We were the subject of much curiosity and gawking as our Canadian car slowly navigated the “topes” (speed bumps) and narrow shoulder-less roadway.  I'm sure our friends were convinced we had absolutely no idea where we were headed as we squinted at the windshield, muttering "I don't remember this.  I don't remember any of this."  We just hadn't realized that there were two different exits off of the main highway.


Marketplace in centre of Izamal

Eventually we arrived at the centre of Izamal, a lovely little town settled in the early 1540’s by the Spanish. During the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan (1527-1547), Izamal was one of the largest and most beautiful cities on the peninsula. The city was considered by the Mayans to be the home of Kinich Kakmo, a manifestation of the sun god, and of the god Itzam Na.  Following the capture of Izamal by the Spanish, the local population was ordered to dismantle the top of the enormous pyramid in the center of the city. Upon the flattened pyramid, at the place where previously had stood the sanctuary of the god Itzam Na, the inhabitants were then directed to erect the new monastery and the church. 

For decades many of the building including the market, colonial buildings and the monastery have been painted a lovely golden egg-yolk colour.  The cobble stone streets, the iron lamp posts, and the clippity-clop of horse-drawn carriages give the town a tranquil old-time ambiance.  The site is undergoing a massive restoration with state, federal, and UNESCO money.

Our car, a horse-drawn carriage behind Kinich temple
After visiting the monastery we decided to find a restaurant in Izamal for lunch, as the drive back to the bigger city of Valladolid would take about another 45 minutes and we were starving.  We happened upon the only sign that we could see that said restaurante. 

Wow!  Was it cool!  The Restaurante Kinich (named after the Mayan Sun God Kinich Kak Mo)  is about a block off the city square, with a pretty entrance, and a large cool palapa-covered interior.  Delicious smells wafted out of the kitchen.  Inside the restaurant was a smaller hut with three traditionally dressed Mayan ladies sitting on large rocks, hand-making tortillas over a very hot wood burning fire.  The food was fabulous.  It has become our favourite place to have lunch on our road trips to Izamal. 
 

Ladies making tortillas inside Restaurante Kinich
After lunch (with much discussion about directions between my navigator and me) we decided to try and find the Kinich Kak Mo temple ruins.  We drove around and around this very small town – only to discover that the temple was right next to the Restaurante Kinich where we had had our fabulous lunch!  It turns out that my navigator was right all along – and I once again was 180 degrees out on my directions!  (Okay, I said it!  You were right!)

We have returned to Izamal several times with friends, and every time it is just as enjoyable as the first time.  Road trips!  Love 'em.


Restaurante Kinich - our favourite place!


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love your blog!! And Izamal is my favorite city off Isla. So much to see and do. LOVE the folk art museum there and Restaurante Kinich! Thanks for taking the time to write so that those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live on Isla can experience it vicariously!

Ellsworth Mciltrot said...

The Mayan culture is considered as one of the best civilizations in terms of technology. And it's a great thing that their ancient cities still stand out today. Your road trip certainly made you more interested in the Mayan culture.