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January 2014

Ek Balam: The Home of Black Jaguar

Just twenty minutes north of Valladolid are the ruins of Ek Balam, a fantastic archaeological site which boasts some of the peninsula’s best-preserved Maya sculptures.

The San Bernardino Convent in Valladolid

The Calle de los Frailes, or the Street of the Friars, cuts diagonally across Valladolid, completely ignoring the otherwise strict grid-plan. A little fresh, but we’ll allow it. This is one of the Valladolid’s most historic streets, home to specialty shops and popular restaurants, and it ends at the steps of the San Bernadino Convent.

The Casa de Los Venados

The largest privately-held collection of modern Mexican art in Mexico can be found in the home of John and Dorianne Venator, in Valladolid. The couple have been indulging their passion for over 35 years and have packed their house, one of the city’s most historic properties, with over 3000 individual pieces.

The Cenotes of Valladolid

An inexhaustible number of cenotes riddle the limestone earth of the Yucatán Peninsula, but Valladolid is blessed with some of the most beautiful. In a single morning, we visited three, the first of which is right in the middle of town.

Valladolid

We spent two nights in Valladolid, the second city of the Yucatán state. Found two hours due east of Mérida, near Chichén Itzá, it’s a magical place… and that’s official. In 2006, Mexico added Valladolid to its honorary list of Pueblos Mágicos, only the second town in the Yucatán to win the honor, after Izamal.

The Incredible, Horrible Chichén Itzá

On a visit to Chichén Itzá, you’re going to oscillate violently between love and hate for your fellow man. The mathematics, artistry and astrology involved in constructing these ancient buildings… people did this? People are awesome! But still, there’s no way around it: people are terrible. Today, the site is overrun with money-grubbing locals, megaphone-wielding guides and sheep-herd tour groups. On leaving, I said to Jürgen, “The ingenuity and ambition of humanity is truly inspiring.” And then: “I wish everyone was dead.”

The Casa-Museo Montes Molina

Most of the mansions along the Paseo Montejo have either fallen into a state of disrepair or been converted into banks. But the Casa Montes Molina is a fortunate exception. Owned by the Montes-Molina family for generations, visitors can today tour this amazing house, or even rent it out for special events.

The Corners of Mérida

When founding cities around the Yucatán, the Spanish were nothing if not organized. Mérida’s streets are laid out on a perfectly square grid, with a naming convention that is logical almost to a fault. North-south streets have even numbers which increase as you head west, while east-west streets are odd numbers which increas as you head south. So the street to the east of Calle 54 is Calle 52. If you’re on 44/73, and go one block north then one block west, you’ll be on 42/71.

The Anthropology Museum in the Palacio Cantón

Not only is the Palacio Cantón one of the loveliest buildings on Merida’s Paseo de Montejo, but it’s also home to one of the city’s best museums: the Museo Regional de Antropología de Yucatán.

Other Sights in Campeche

We had circled the path of the old fortifications which once protected the city, and taken a trip into the jungles of the interior to visit Maya ruins, but it wasn’t until our final hours in Campeche that we spent much time exploring the city itself.

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