Day 3 Valladolid
After a good night's sleep we woke up to the reality that we had to leave Holbox. No, say it's not so! Damn, we love this little island. We lingered and had breakfast a little place called Et Voila (yes it's French). I had a traditional Mexican breakfast while Lisa had a pancake with Nutella (fruit bowls included). The pancake was literally like a cake and while delicious, it was too much but the price was cheap. We found everything in Holbox to be very affordable. Alas, it was time to go. We packed up promising to come back and took a golf cart taxi back to the ferry pier. We ferried back to Chiquila, walked over to our rustic parking lot and paid our $12 to get the car out. We put 20 liters of gas in the car and headed to Valladolid. The drive was uneventful (yay) and took a couple of hours to get to the city. Just a heads up, if you rent a car, have some music saved on your phone and bring a male to male cord to plug into the radio. The long drives can actually be quite boring and this way you won't have to listen to the same Mexican music over and over.
A little about Valladolid. The town was originally founded by the Spanish in 1543 taking over a current Mayan city. The site has historical relevance as a location for the 'Caste Wars” and “the first spark of the Mexican revolution. The city is designed in an easy to navigate checkerboard pattern with a park in the town square in the middle. It is definitely a colonial town with pastel buildings and Spanish architecture. Valladolid was declared a “Pueblo Magica” (magical city) by the Mexican government in 2012 because of its natural beauty, cultural riches and historical relevance. Don’t miss a chance to have a tour of Casa de los Venados (House of the Deer). This is an 18,000 sq. ft. private home / museum of Mexican folk and contemporary art owned by an American couple who spent nearly ten years renovating this masterpiece of colonial architecture. Tours (in English and Spanish) are given most days at 10 am but advance reservations are advised. There are over 3000 pieces of art in this collection which is one of the most comprehensive and extensive collections of Mexican folk art in private hands. Calle 40 #204 at the corner of 41, just ¼ block from the main square.
We checked in to our hotel, Casa Valladolid Boutique, and we were pleasantly surprised. The grounds themselves were charming with a pool, lots of tropical plants and a nice breakfast dining area. The hotel was only 2 blocks from the city square. The room itself was amazing. It was large with 2 nice double beds. The bathroom was also very large and modern with a nice spacious shower with a rain shower head and plenty of hot water. We were on the second floor and there was a window that opened up to the courtyard. There was also a small balcony with chairs to relax and enjoy the scenery. We were pleased that the room was less than $60 per night.
It was still early in the afternoon and we decided to walk over and explore Cenote Zaci. Cenote Zaci is cenote in the center of the city. A cenote (sin o tay) is a sinkhole in limestone with a fresh water pool at the bottom. Cenotes are located all over the Yucatan Peninsula. The cenote was only a 4 block walk from our hotel. This cenote is an open cenote that is around 150 feet across and 200 feet from top to bottom. It was located in the old settlement Zaci (thus its name). It is a fairly easy walk down to the water. The water was clean, cool and refreshing. The Maya felt that swimming in cenotes could be magical, and we will not dispute that feeling. This place was amazing. There were several different levels that you could jump or dive from but do so at your own risk. After enjoying part of our afternoon here we walked up to the restaurant at the top and enjoyed a cocktail and some (really big) empanadas.
We went back to the hotel and prepared for dinner. Some very good friends of ours (Karen and Dan from Cozumel Sailing) had recommended Casa Itali an Italian restaurant that was their favorite. We looked up the location and found that it was literally right around the corner from our hotel, in fact I think that our room may have backed up to the kitchen. Casa Itali is a small place with only 32 seats, so it fills up fast. We were waiting with several other people at 7 o'clock when it opened. We were able to get seated at a small table for 2. The restaurant filled up quickly. Whenever I go to a new Italian restaurant my go meal is the lasagna which I ordered. Lisa ordered the pasta and vegetables. We also got a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo to go with the meal. The food was absolutely delicioso. Now I know why it is people's favorite and they keep coming back. The best part was that the total bill was around $25 for the both of us. Amazing.
We went back to our room. I walked a couple of blocks and got another bottle of wine. We hung out on our balcony and looked back on the great day that we had and started to plan the next day's excursion.
Day 3 Another fantastic day!
Day 2 and our only full day on Holbox. This was one of the laziest days of my life and also one of the best. First a little bit about Holbox. Isla Holbox (pronounced “hole bosh” meaning “black hole” in Maya) is an island north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, in Quintana Roo State. It's part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve and separated from the mainland by the Yalahau Lagoon, which is home to flamingos and pelicans. The car-free island, between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, is rich in marine life such as sea turtles and whale sharks. Highlights include laid-back Holbox Village and Punta Coco Beach. Lisa and I actually like Holbox a lot more than Isla Mujeres. We also like it more than the islands of Abergris Caye and Caye Caulker in Belize, although if you get a chance to snorkel Hol Chan Reserve off of both of these islands do it. It is truly amazing. Holbox reminds me a lot of Buzios in Brazil back in the late 80s. Holbox became famous for its whale sharks which are in the area from June until mid September.
After sleeping in, we had breakfast at a little place on the square called Limoncita. The breakfast was very good and they had good coffee. One thing about Mexican breakfast (desayuno) they almost always give you either a plate or a bowl of fruit with your order. It is a nice extra. After our meal we changed into our swim suits and headed down the beach. We took a really nice stroll giving us ample time to take pictures. I practiced flying my pocket drone but it was a little too windy to get any good video. We walked back to a beach bar (The Palapa Bar) for a couple of cervezas. So, when you travel a lot you are bound to run into some interesting characters. We had (for no better description) a gypsy come by and tell us her life story for about an hour, maybe more. It was interesting for a while, then after 2 beers each I suggested that we get some lunch. This gave us a way out and we went back into town and had some guacamole and margaritas at a little corner bar. We then walked in the other direction to another beach bar (Cariocas) and spent the rest of the day there. It was so relaxing. Holbox has this vibe where you just want to walk barefoot everywhere and leave your cares behind. It it very therapeutic. I think Lisa stated it perfectly. "Walking thru the shops on the sandy, dusty small streets and the beach, you soon forget to wear your flip flops. The laid back-ness of this little sleepy island village unknowingly permeates your soul quickly, you are like a bohemian with no cares in the world and a backpack on your back. Mindfulness comes easy, unlike any meditation book that I have ever read. All the while the thoughts of going back to Austin to sell all my earthly belongings and returning with only a backpack keep racing thru my ADD mind. Look a squirrel!"
Considering that Holbox was not on our itinerary and that we decided last minute yesterday to come here, boy did we make the right decision.
We got ready for dinner (changed out of our swimwear) and decided on a place called Viva Zapata. The town was buzzing with activity and we were glad that we got to the restaurant when we did, as it got really crowded. This restaurant cooks everything over charcoal and we were seated right across from the grill. It was amazing watching the 2 cooks prepare everything. Their lobsters and crab claws were huge. Lisa had grilled vegetables and I had pasta with 10 big garlic shrimp. Both meals were delicious. The next time that we go back I have to try the fish and vegetables cooked in banana leaves that I saw them make. It looked and smelled fantastic. We finished our meal and walked down the street to Viva Mexico for a night cap of a couple of margs. They were setting up a band but we decided to head home to our beach hotel. We grabbed a bottle of wine and went back. We didn't have wifi in the room, only around the open air reception area, so we got a couple of plastic chairs and hung out on the sand drinking wine in front of the hotel and chilled until we went to bed.
Day 2 a smashing success. (We will be back this summer for the Whale Sharks, maybe in August for the Perseid meteor shower).
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In lieu of our Australia trip getting cancelled we decided to take our two weeks and head back down to Mexico and do a tour of the Yucatan Peninsula. We spent a couple of days at our apartment in Cozumel and then decided to head out for 8 or 9 days on our mainland adventure. Our plan was to see beaches, flamingos, ruins cenotes and some of the major cities. So join us as we do a day to day accounting of our excursion.
So, initially we were going to start day 1 by going to Merida, but last night after too much Carnival here in Cozumel, we decided that we would just go to Valladolid. Well, this morning while having breakfast at Amparos, we decided to change gears and go to Holbox. We arranged a rental car in Playa and I reserved us a room for 2 nights on the beach in Holbox. We took the ferry over to Playa del Carmen and met with the Payless agents. We got a little VW Gol for the entire trip for $165. Rental car tip: Always check to see if you have a spare tire with air and a jack (we had a flat in the middle of nowhere Mexico one time) and take pictures of any damage on the car. We got gas at the Pemex (we think that they may have ripped us off by switching a 20 peso with a 200 peso when we paid but we couldn't prove it so be alert). We headed off to Chiquila in the northeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula to catch the ferry to Holbox. It took about 2 hours and was a pretty easy drive, except for all of the topes (speed bumps that sneak up on you). You definitely need a spotter because these things are not well marked and will absolutely thrash a car if you hit it too fast. We arrived at Chiquila at 5:50 pm, found parking from the many lots around the pier and caught the 6 o'clock ferry. It takes about 30 minutes to cross the 10 km of shallow lagoon to get to Holbox, where your taxi is a golf cart. Holbox is laid back, car free island where you get around by golf cart, scooter, bike or just walk. The island is 26 miles long but just about everything is located around the town and the island is less than 1 mile wide. We checked into our hotel, La Diosa Cali. It was very basic and a little overpriced but it was right on the beach and had cold a/c and hot water in the shower. It was also convenient to everything we needed. We walked around the town square which was 2 blocks away and settled in for dinner at Pizzeria Edelyn. We split a large pizza half vegetarian for Lisa and half salami for me. It was good and it was affordable. We then went across the square to a rooftop bar at the Arena hotel for a night cap. This was a swanky bar with a pool on the roof. The drinks were slow to come out because there was only one guy mixing all of the cocktails, but the ambiance was great and the house music was really cool. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel. While Lisa caught up on her emails I went out front and had a cigar and chilled. There was a party next door to my left at a camping venue and at a beach bar just down the sandy street to the right you could hear the music that was going to last well into the night. Day 1 a success.