Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Valladolid - The Colourful "Sultaness of the East"

It is always great fun to see our world though the eyes of our friends.  Last spring we took a road trip to another of our favourite colonial cities - Valladolid, located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.


Cathedral in Centro Valladolid under-going restoration

We left Isla Mujeres on the 9:30 a.m. car ferry, as we couldn’t see the point of dragging everyone out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to catch the earlier boat.  I was up early anyway in excited anticipation of a road-trip; a Christmas-morning-can’t-wait-to-rip-open-the-packages feeling.  The drive to Valladolid is always a long boring trip on an almost dead straight road though a dense jungle of trees just tall enough to block your view.

The road has one well-marked but very gentle s-curve, and one tollbooth stop. Other than that, if we had had an autopilot system we all could have tucked pillows behind our heads and snoozed for a couple of hours.


Valladolid Centro Public Park
 By North American standards Valladolid is a very old, and beautiful colonial city.  The city was originally established on a lagoon a few miles away but the early Spanish settlers complained about the mosquitoes and petitioned to have the city moved further inland in the mid 1500’s.   I can sympathize with them.  I hate mosquitoes!  The City of Valladolid has undergone a major facelift in the last year or two, with a repaint of all of the city square businesses and homes in shades of pale pink, soft green, sherbet orange, glowing amber and glistening white.  The cathedral and city square park are also being refurbished.  It’s a visual feast for the eyes.  

Our favourite restaurante in Valladolid

We arrived in Valladolid shortly after 12:30 p.m., and drove in a meandering route through the city trying to remember the way on their narrow one-way-only-streets to the Taberna de los Frailes (The Friar’s Tavern).  About the time our friends became convinced that we didn’t have a clue as to where we were going, and they were surely going to starve to death, or die of dehydration locked inside the car – we found it!   Well darn.  The restaurant was closed.  I glanced at my wrist watch and realized it was only 12:45 and the lunch hour had not yet started.  I popped around the corner to the outside patio where a waiter was setting up for the day and asked him in my really bad Spanglish what time they were due to open.  Twenty minutes –perfect. 

Convent of San Bernardino de Siena (monastery)

Across the street from the Taberna de los Frailes is a large structure that had been the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena.  We decided to walk around it and take a few photos while we waited for the restaurant to open.  Much to our delight we discovered it was open, and available for self-guided tours for a small entry fee of 30.00 pesos (about $3.00 CDN). 
Built during1552 to 1560 by the Franciscan monks, the Convento (actually a monastery) of San Bernardino de Siena was in use until 1755 when it was abandoned.  At some point in time an effort was made to restore the building as much as possible and to use it as a church, meeting hall, and community gathering place.  The soft peach-pink tones of the ancient sand stone exterior have been accentuated by the lovely pink colour on the interior plaster. 
One of my favourite photos - inside monastery

To the locals this imposing cathedral is called “Sisal” the ancient name for their small town.  Part of the building was erected over the vault of a very large cenote, an underground water-filled cavern that was created millions of years ago in the soft sandstone by rainwater.  The monastery was created to be self sustaining with huge orchards, vegetable gardens and fresh water from the cenote.  (No mention was made whether or not the monks operated a distillery on the property – strictly for medicinal purposes of course.  Maybe Tequila? Or a Tequila-brandy?)
After wandering through the monastery we enjoyed a wonderfully tasty lunch and a glass of wine at the Taberna de los Frailes.  I then dragged my friends into my favourite store in the centre of Valladolid.  It's a wonderful store - called Yalat - with hand-made linens from various areas in Mexico.  Expensive!  But fabulous. 

Surinder, Lawrie and Jenda - we're waiting for car ferry

Happy, tired out, and ready to head home we retraced our route - catching the last car ferry from Punta Sam to Isla Mujeres.




1 comment:

Life's a Beach! said...

Lynda, I'm bookmarking this! We're thinking about taking an off-island trip in a few weeks to Valladolid and some points beyond!