Tom and I decided to head off on a little adventure.Those of you who know me, know I don't like a lot of planning, at least in my personal life; Now in business, that's a different story.
So my plan was to drive over to Izamal, do a walk about, see some of the stuff we've not seen before, and some stuff we have seen before. Stay the night in a hotel many friends rave about that is owned by a couple we've met but don't actually know.Then next day, after some more walking about drive up to ek balam. I found a great eco-hotel on the internet, just 300 meters from an entrance to ek balam, amazing grounds, pools, trails, birdwatching, people that work in animal care, fostering, adopting out, spay n neuter clinics - you know all this appeals to me! so stay 2 nights there, then drive up to San Felipe and poke around, eat some seafood and come home. Just a weekend getaway. Plus give us, and a new house/pet sitter a chance to see if we are a fit!
So we got away Friday, about 2pm, Tom had an appointment. We decided to take the Chevy; yucatan plates, better gas mileage, etc. Big bottle of water, bag of carrots sticks, cucumber sticks, and cherry tomatoes and we were off. Tom bought and wanted to bring a big bag of chips, but thankfully forgot about them.
Drive to Izamal was uneventful, after a slight wrong turn on my part, we were soon righted. We did drive through a number of small quaint picturesque villages. We spent a small bit of time in Uayma. I'll make that a separate post because of the photos. But here's a teaser -
Hotel - Izamal
We got to the hotel. The first room they showed us, king bed, was right on the street (packed diryt street, so quite dusty), and when we inquired about the noise it was implied it could be noisy from traffic - no thanks. next room, queen bed, trundle bed, and kitchenette, a bit of overkill and quite pricey at 850pesos per night, but off the street, and what was left. so alrighty then. Asked for and received a fan, but even that couldn't cool off the room, so resorted to the air conditioner.
The grounds are nice, landscaped with wandering pathways between all the rooms/cabanas, the reception/dining room is spacious and blissfully has lots of fans, and wifi, although a quite weak signal - wifi is not available in room, sort of a pain. Pool at the rear of the property is attractive. two parrots in an enclosure next to the reception area add a bit of jungle ambiance, and a couple of friendly cats give it a homey feel.
Our room was decorated in what I would call yard sale greek island cast offs. Shower head needs a good cleaning, but plenty of hot water and sufficient pressure which was nice. But WTH, two bars of rosa venus soap????? Blech! Kitchenette was sort of silly, but having the fridge was nice, although it froze our water bottle and nearly froze the veggies - there were coffee filters, but no coffee maker, one very small pan, and a single burner hot plate. No condiments. but having a fridge was nice, did I say that already?
Staff was friendly, but we never saw the owners. So overall it's an ok place to stay, a short easy walk to historic centro, and the large piramide. Also a number of tallers and artist studios in walking distance. Being vegetarian, and understanding that the owners are, I expected a better vegetarian selection on their menu. Oh, a full breakfast is included in the room rate.
I sent an inquiry about a room through their website on early on 22 March, and as of today still have had no reply. Would we stay here again??? NAH?
While in Izamal we did a lot of walking about, up and down many streets, we went in to a number of tallers and artist studios. We sat quite a while in the evening in the main square people watching and enjoying the breeze. We visited 2 piramides - el Conejo and Kinich Kakmó. The view from Kinich Kakmó alone is worth the climb. It was pleasant.
Next day, after climbing the piramides we returned to the hotel, had breakfast, showered, packed, checked email, checked out and hit the road. We were on the road by about noon, or noonthirty.
On our way to ek balam we drove back roads through all the small villages and pueblitos - stopped at churches, stopped at parks... we drove through Valladolid and stopped at the restaurant at hotel maria de la luz. Had lunch, walked around a bit, enjoyed the park, and continued on towards ek balam, again deciding on the small back roads.
We reached ek balam and had just a bit of trouble locating our 2 night stay eco hotel, Genesis Retreat!
Hotel/Eco Retreat Genesis is a bit rundown, or at least the pictures were taken quite a while ago. I think they should use the word Hostel in their advertising. They showed us two rooms, we didn't like either, the first utilized the communal bathroom, not a shared bathroom, but a pack up your stuff and walk across the compound bathroom. Been there done that, not what I had planned for this getaway. The other - the BirdHouse would have worked, it was second story so the breeze would have been good - once evening had set. there was a swinging bed, but barely enough room between it and the walls to walk beside it. There was an ensuite full bathroom but you had to walk out on to the open balcony and to the side where the suspended spiral staircase is and enter there, all exposed to the compound. No one wants to see either Tom or I walking about in the buff, drying off, getting dressed etc, because if you close the doors to the sleeping chamber I'm not sure there is enough room there to move around around. The room was hot, we were hot, there was a visible fan, but no a/c, it was dry and dusty. Perhaps had we arrived fresh .... But the no a/c was a deal breaker for Tom.
I was more than disappointed. Now we needed to find new lodging. So off we went, first inside the village of ek balam, didn't see anything of interest, then on the highway towards Valladolid. The first place we stopped is brand new Xaman'Ek
This would have been a great place to stay, but unfortunately no air conditioner. 850pesos, but with lots of amenities. You know how Tom likes ac when he travels, oddly, we rarely use it at home, but we have good airflow and he has both an overhead fan and a fan beside the bed for when it is hot.
Next was another brand new, but no visible name motel, basic motel room, tv, ac, unfortunately it was in the middle of nowhere with only a bar across the street, and the pool is still under construction. So continuing on we stop just on the outskirts of Valladolid, Full. So we did what we knew we could, we went to the the Hotel Maria de la Luz. We got a room, basic hotel room, nothing special, I think it was 550 pesos for the night. We dropped off our stuff and set off. We wandered about, took in some sights, enjoyed the breeze. As we were walking a young fellow passed a flyer to us, a free margarita, just around the corner. SCORE!
This is Tom's review for TripAdvisor about la Chispa - Not often do we go we take advantage of flyers being distributed on the street. What got us to go this time was that there was a free margarita being offered. Now that's not unusual but we had just been talking about wanting margaritas a few seconds before receiving the flyer offering us a free one at La Chispa. Fate often delivers in a big way and this was one of those times. Greeted at the door, walked to our seats, menus provided, flyer handed over and the waiter was off to get our margs. The setting was very nice in a hacienda type setting. A few minutes later a new person walks up with our drinks and asks where we are from. That started a conversation with Eduardo, the owner and self proclaimed, manager, waiter, cook, bartender, bus boy and whatever else he needed to be in order to ensure that his patrons are treated well and have a very enjoyable time. Trust me when I say he delivers in a big big way! Since he was the "jefe" I asked for his recommendation and it was the arrachera (marinated flank steak). Superb! It melted in my mouth. His other suggestion was the queso fondido (melted cheese) with longaniza sausage. Longaniza is a specialty of Valladolid. Even though I didn't order it he brought me out a small bowl to try. It was the best longaniza I ever had! My wife is a vegetarian and lactose intolerant and sometimes has a hard time finding something to eat as Mexico is a very meat intensive culture. She asked Eduardo about getting some ingredients on a couple of the menu items changed to accommodate her wants and he said that they would do whatever she wanted. Eduardo suggested a change and my wife said the dish was very good! Oh, and the margaritas were top notch!
A superb experience that will happen again for sure!
Calle 41 #201 Centro, Valladolid, Mexico,856 26 68
Next morning we were up early and out the door heading to ek balam. we go to the gate about 7:30am and did a bit of birdwatching, excellent birding opportunities. Once the gates opened we were the first to enter ek balam that day! We had inquired about a discount for Tom because of his INAPAM card. What we got was free entry, for both of us because on Sundays Nationals get in to INAH sites for free. I guess we're now Nationals because we are Residente Permanente. SCORE!
ek balam is a great site. Directional signage is non existent, and the structure signage is so basic. Regardless the piramides and structures are way cool. I had the deja vu thing several times. I restricted myself to climbing the two largest structures, the views are amazing.
Here are a few ekbalam site fotos -