Our next stop after bustling Merida was Valladolid, another inland colonial town but much smaller. It’s a good base for visiting several nearby Mayan sites and also supposedly a pretty little town for strolling around. That last bit may be true at other times, but right now, Valladolid is undertaking a massive repaving project.
Nearly all of the streets in the center of town have been torn up, which, combined with the rain that poured down two of the three days we were there, turned central Valladolid into a muddy mess. We wore our hiking boots the whole time; this was not a place for sandals.
Despite that, Valladolid was a nice place to visit. There was a lovely 16th-century church and monastery, a pretty plaza in the center of town, a “food court” bazaar with all kinds of stalls selling cheap yummy things to eat and drink, and an unexpectedly good Italian restaurant where we swapped tips with other travelers. It’s an authentic working town, where you see much more of real Mexican life than you do in the resort areas on the coast. And it let us get to one of the most famous Mayan sites, Chichen Itza, early enough to beat the crowds.
Even the rain wasn’t all bad. We spent a leisurely afternoon in the roofed, open-air restaurant at our hotel (Maria de la Luz) watching the rain, drinking a pitcher of agua de pina (an entire pineapple chopped and blended with cold water), and catching up on our travel journals. There’s something delightfully evil about watching other people scurry around in the rain when you’re warm and dry and relaxed.