Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Riviera Maya Journal 2 #4 - A Visit to Valladolid

Just 40 miles west of Cobá is Valladolid, a charming city with architecture and customs that recall Colonial Spain. Instead of the traditional open-air Mexican plaza, downtown Valladolid is clustered around a park with filled with majestic banyan and ceiba trees. This lovely public square is enclosed by elegant wrought iron railings. Across the street, the Hotel Maria de la Luz serves the local lunch favorite, a tender, flavorful pork dish called cochinita pibil. Marinated in in habanero peppers, cumin, paprika, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper, the pork loin simmers for hours before making its way to the table. A few forkfuls of cochinita are placed inside homemade Merida bread and dipped in the spicy achiote broth before eating. If you’re waiting for the bill, know that Mexican waiters are far too polite to bring it until you actually ask them to do so. A simple ‘la cuenta, por favor’ whenever you’re ready will do the trick.

The hotel rests in the shadow of San Gervasio, a 600-year-old cathedral that was around when the Mayans were holding off the Spanish soldiers who wanted control of the region. Three blocks away is the historic Cenote Zací, a huge freshwater spring in which Mayan insurgents hid before ambushing the Spaniards in Valladolid’s bloodiest battle. On a happier note, there are several fine arts and crafts stores along Calle 42 with unbelievably low prices. Plates, cups, wall art and many other ceramic items are a real bargain here.

Valladolid is a wonderful place to experience Old World Spanish art and culture at your own pace. Spend a whole day or just a few hours. Daytrippers who venture off the public square will find open-air mercados that sell fresh fruits and meats. Very few people in Valladolid speak English, but they’re extremely gracious to visitors who dredge up some long-forgotten high school Spanish.
-Larry Widen


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