dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mad Dogs and Englishmen... and Gringo Tourists

There is an old song by Noel Coward that says that only "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."  To that we can add gringo tourists.

Last Saturday was the hottest day of our trip with a high temperature of 94 degrees Fahrenheit.   But Frank and I forged onward with our trusty driver David.  We went to the town of Izamal, located about forty minutes to the east of Mérida.  Izamal has received the designation of a "Pueblo Mágico" (Magic Town) from the Mexican Tourism Department. This honor is given to picturesque towns of historical and cultural significance.  It is nicknamed "la Ciudad Amarilla" (the Yellow City) because so many of its buildings are painted a shade of yellow ocher.

While David wisely relaxed in the shade of the town square, Frank and I set out in the heat to explore. 

Before the Spanish arrived, Izamal was an important religious center of the Mayas, and the town is still dotted with the remains of pyramids and temples.  The Pyramid of Kinich Kak Mo is one of the largest in the Yucatan in terms of volume, yet you hardly realize that it is there.  As you are walking down one of the streets of Izamal, in between two buildings is the entrance to the staircase up the pyramid.  That flight of steps is fairly easy.

Here we are almost up the first flight of steps.
When you reach the top of those steps you find yourself on an elevated, level area the size of several football fields.  This space is covered with grass and trees, but you are atop the first level of the pyramid.  You begin to realize its vast volume.  Beyond is another level of the pyramid.

That final portion of the pyramid is much more difficult to climb since most of its staircase has not been reconstructed.  You must carefully make your way up the pile of rubble.

But we did make it to the top!

The climb down was more tricky.  By the time we were done, we were hot, sweaty, and tired.  Nevertheless, we continued our sightseeing.  We went to the major colonial monument of the town... the Church and Monastery of San Antonio de Padua.  It dates back to the 16th century, and was built upon the base of another pyramid.

We then limped on to a small but charming museum of Mexican handicrafts facing the main plaza.  The air conditioning was a blessing.

A large clay jaguar from the state of Chiapas

By this time it was only 11:30.  In spite of our respite in the air conditioning, we were ready to give up on any further sightseeing.  David was still waiting for us on the plaza, and he drove us to the best restaurant in town, Restaurante Kinich.  I have been there several times, but it was the first time for David. It is a delightful place under a huge thatched roof.  There is no air conditioning, but with the ceiling fans the temperature was comfortable.  

The restaurant specializes in the cuisine of the Yucatan.  We shared an appetizer of "papadzules"... hard boiled eggs wrapped in tortillas and covered with a pumpkin seed sauce.  If done correctly, they are delicious, and these were perfect.  For our main course Frank had chicken pibil (chicken flavored with Yucatecan spices and ingredients and baked in a banana leaf).  David and I both had "queso relleno" (Gouda cheese stuffed with ground meat and covered with a white sauce).  Wonderful, freshly made tortillas were served with our meals.  We all agreed that the food was excellent!

(Photo taken by Frank)
 David and I at Restaurante Kinich

Although it was only early afternoon, Frank and I were tired, and we decided to return to the house in Mérida, and do what we should be doing in such heat... take a siesta!

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