In 2012, the colonial city of Valladolid was added to the list of Pueblos Mágicos (magical villages) in Mexico, a designation highlighting towns that have particular historical, cultural, and/or natural significance in the country.
Since Valladolid, in the Yucatan state, is an easy bus ride from Playa del Carmen, we were excited to visit for a few days back in October of 2015. And it did indeed prove to be a magical place.
Here's an article from Huffington Post on a few of the Pueblos Mágicos, including Valladolid.
Our journey started with a morning walk to the bus terminal and a three-hour bus ride on the comfortable ADO bus. Arriving in Valladolid around lunchtime, we had only a short walk to our hotel right on the main town square, but check-in time was not until 3, so we had some time to kill.
On the way to the hotel, we stopped in a restaurant on the square for a quick bite to eat outside. The sights and sounds of this charming city were already delighting and intriguing us, and we couldn't wait to see more.
We chose our hotel, El Mesón del Marqués, based on Tripadvisor and Playa forum reviews. It was an excellent choice and very reasonably priced. Our room was around $55 US nightly and included a hot breakfast. Surprisingly quiet despite being centrally located, the hotel's inner courtyard seemed very far from the bustling town square.
After passing through the simple facade, the hotel lobby was a visual feast.
The inner courtyard had a nice pool and lovely greenery and trees, giving it a rural feel rght in the heart of the city.
The hotel spanned an entire block from front to back. Here's the back entrance and Barry peaking out one of the doors.
Immediately outside the front of the hotel is the main square park, Francisco Cantón Rosado. The park attracts people from all over the city as well as many tourists, and day-tripper tour buses park here, so it is almost always bustling.
The hotel is the second building in this photo, pink in color. The large trees growing in the inner courtyard are visible behind the facade.
Back inside the hotel's courtyard, there's a nice restaurant specializing in, what else, Yucatecan cuisine. We'd read good reviews so enjoyed a couple of dinners there, plus our complimentary breakfasts.
They built the restaurant right around this huge tree!
Here's some of what we tried in the restaurant. The soups were particularly tasty.
Below is a typical Yucatecan plate of various chicken dishes. It was tasty but left me craving a salad! Fortunately, the restaurant did have some delicious fruit and vegetable juices blended on the spot that were bursting with nutrition. On the right is one made with beets that we particularly enjoyed.
On our first night, we splurged for dessert and shared flambéed Bananas Foster, which were incredibly delicious. A magical way to end the day in a magical city!
We have a lot more to share from our time in Valladolid, so please stay tuned for Part 2!
As promised in our year-end blog post, we are taking a trip back in time to share a few of our travel memories in Mexico. This post takes us back to lovely Akumal, where we took a day trip in early October 2015.
The small resort village of Akumal is an easy and inexpensive 23-mile collectivo ride south from Playa del Carmen, where we were living.
Akumal means "Land of Turtles" in the Maya language, and this little beach town is indeed all about the turtles as the endangered Green Sea Turtle spawns here, and their nests are protected along the beach. Their town cistern, seen in the photo on the right, has the town's turtle logo painted on it. Akumal is also a very popular snorkel and dive spot, and several hotels and rental condos are available for tourists who want to stay right there.
When we got off the collectivo on the road into town, we walked east towards the village and the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We missed the first cut-through to Akumal Bay so ended up walking a bit farther north than we intended, but our error meant that we got to walk around the point north of Akumal Bay.
Here's a map of the Akumal area (from http://www.i-akumal.com/area-info/maps). We started our walk near where you see "Policia" north of Akumal Bay.
The beach around the point is rocky and didn't make for easy walking, but it was pretty and peaceful with only single-family homes nestled along the shoreline. You definitely want to wear water shoes at a minimum here; we were in tennis shoes.
As we rounded the point and saw the many pangas (small fishing/dive boats) anchored in Akumal Bay, we were surprised to see these ancient cannons. Turns out that even though Akumal was officially founded as a dive resort in 1958, the history of this area goes back to the Maya people in the early 1500s. At some point after that, a shipwreck stranded a group of Spanish nationals here, one of whom survived and taught the native Mayans the strategies of war. (Source: Akumal Dive Shop)
Fortunately, the area now is muy tranquilo, and the old cannons sit idle.
There were several small snorkel groups out in the swimming areas trying to catch a glimpse of colorful fish and sea turtles, but for the best snorkeling, you need to take a boat out to the offshore reef. We weren't snorkeling today, just strolling the shore and taking in the splendid scenery. Since we came mid-week, crowds were low, but I suspect weekends are busy, especially in the peak of winter tourist season.
We weren't there at peak egg laying season so didn't see many nests, but we did see this one on our beach walk. There are signs and even local guards to ensure that tourists don't bother the nests.
I enjoyed a little rest on this palm tree leaning into the sea, just south of Akumal Bay.
After our walk, we were hungry for lunch. We'd read about Turtle Bay Cafe & Bakery online, and a quick walk back into town took us there. We are always up for a bakery!
The seating area is set back in a series of palapas, very private and cozy.
We enjoyed some tacos and a cold cerveza for lunch. The food was good, but the service was only mediocre, as I recall. The restaurant was completely dead the day we visited, and the waitress was more interested in her Smartphone than in us. She also mixed up our after-lunch ice cream order, bringing Barry a hot cup of cappuccino instead of the cappuccino ice cream he wanted! Ah well, it was an honest mistake.
On the way out, of course we had to pay a visit to the bakery. Barry, never one to order just single item in any bakery, picked out a large assortment of goodies for us to take back to Playa. This would last us awhile!
We enjoyed our little day trip to Akumal and hope you did too!
Wow! 8800 miles in 26 states driven in our new-to-us motorhome, Pearl, and it all began with a flight back to the US from Mexico, where we'd been living in Playa del Carmen for most of the previous year.
The map above shows our 2016 travels in purple. We made it as far north as Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana; as far west as eastern Idaho and Utah, and to quite a few spots in the midwest and southeast. There are obviously many places we didn't get to, but for one year, we traveled far and wide!
Our Top 10 Campgrounds of the Year.
During our first year on the road, we've been to lot of camp spots of all styles, from one night to a month at a time, from county and city parks to commercial parks to national parks. We've enjoyed the luxury of full-hookups at times, and other times we've boondocked with no hookups at all, and everything in between.
We've been in sites with no internet/cell/TV signals at all to the occasional "luxury site" with cable TV and plenty of bars on our Mifi (internet) jetpack. We've stayed in quiet, dark spots where sleeping came easy and bright, noisy parks where we had to use ear plugs and put black plastic over our windows to keep the intrusive sound and light out.
In the order in which we stayed in them, here are our favorite spots where we camped this year. You can click on each one for our blog post telling more about them. These all happen to be public parks; although we've stayed in some nice commercial parks, none of them quite cracked our top 10.
It's been kind of amazing. We started the year as novice RVers and now, after living full-time in Pearl for nearly a full year, we still have much to learn, but we have come a long, long way. We've had to make our share of small repairs, buy new house and starting batteries, and install a new water heater, but have not had an accident or a breakdown along the road...knock wood!
We've driven back roads through many charming small towns, been awed by the beauty of our country in national public lands, and have explored some interesting cities. We took some incredibly beautiful hikes in numerous states, but as you know, our number one passion is bicycling, and over the course of the past year we've been privileged to ride in some super special spots.
Our Top 10 Places to Bicycle of the Year.
In the order visited and ridden, these are the cycling spots that were highlights for us over the past year. Click on each for a blog post, if you want the deets!.
So What Is Next?
After racing around all over the US this year, we're really enjoying staying put for awhile -- especially since we're in Florida, one of the only spots we'd even consider spending the winter months since we are not fans of cold weather. We're getting some improvements and much-needed maintenance projects done on Pearl and need to take her in to the dealer where we purchased her last January for some service also.
After this? We haven't decided what 2017 will bring but are mulling over a few ideas. In the meantime we are planning to do several posts sharing some of our experiences in Mexico, since we'd taken a blogging break in the latter part of 2015. We'll bring those to you this winter.
To those who are still with us, thanks for following along on our travels. We hope that our posts have been interesting and perhaps even inspiring.
Best wishes to all our readers for a happy and healthy New Year!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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