Thursday, July 08, 2010

On The Road To And In Izamal

We left the island for a few days last weekend in order to attend the wedding of a very good friend. It was to take place in the hometown of the bride, Izamal.

Izamal is also known as the Gold City because of the buildings being painted an eggshell yellow and white. It is located in the state of the Yucatan and is about 39 miles from Merida. Using the toll freeway, it is about a 3.5 hour drive from the island. Just to give you an idea of the size, it has a population of 14,500.

I've stated many times before that of all the millions of kilometers of roads I have driven in Mexico, without a doubt the most boring section is the one from Cancun to Merida on the toll road. Since we had lots of time to get to our destination last Friday, we decided to take the more scenic route and travel the free road. We knew that this would be a longer drive and full of speed bumps beyond counting. We also knew that we would be seeing areas of the Yucatan we had not yet experienced and also be traveling thorough many little villages and hamlets.

Including the time spent at McDonalds in Cancun for sausage/egg McMuffins and the hour we spent at a hacienda along the way for lunch, the total travel time was 6.5 hours. We had the top open on the Tracker and my forehead and nose are here to prove it! I didn't think I could get sunburned anymore, but I was wrong.

As we motored along, we passed many houses like this. This is a very typical home structure in the Yucatan. The houses are an oblong shape with rounded corners.

One will also see many of these along the way. In each town, they look the same and are placed in the same place in each village. The churches were built by the Spaniards when they conquered the Yucatan and are extremely old, yet still in use today.

Once arriving in Izamal, we checked into our gigantic room. We were situated directly across from one of the many lovely town square parks and just down the street from the Convent.

This is a familiar sight in the Yucatan. These tricycles are used to transport every conceivable item that can be used by humans....or animals. They have also been given the nickname of Yucatan Taxi. Here we see why!

View from our terrace to the Convent.

The city and all of the parks are immaculately clean. We saw cleaning crews constantly at work. More importantly, I never once saw a single citizen throw a piece of garbage onto the street. There appears to be a lot of civic pride here.

While resting in the park, I glanced down and this tree caught my eye. The one in the middle of the picture.

What had caught my eye was these dashes of color among the branches. Anybody want to take a guess as to what they are? They are very common in the jungle but not so much in the cities.

From our terrace, the Municipal Building.

I saw a few of these trees around also. I don't know what species they are, but I find the growth pattern of the limbs both interesting and pleasing.

Although we had visited Izamal two years ago and already toured the Convent, our house guest, who was also a wedding guest, had not. Besides, it is a very interesting structure and I had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit it. I thought that maybe my prayers for my brother would be given more priority there and I also lit two candles for him and bought a medallion of one of the saints that protects against illness. Every little bit helps.

A view to the public market from the Convent grounds.

The stairway entrance to the Convent.

Once through the archway above, you are greeted with this scene.

The covered archway rings the courtyard.

The Convent de San Antonio de Padua was in the years from 1533 to 1561. The Spaniards tore down the main Maya pyramid in the city and built this convent on top of it, using mostly the original stones from the pyramid.
We had read and been told that some of the original stones could be still be seen. We kept our eyes peeled this time. Sure enough, here and there were clearly stones from an ancient pyramid. I'm certain that they were not placed this way on purpose. Some early mason probably purposely put them in so that the former pattern showed.

There was nothing to indicate the age of these time worn frescos. My bet is that they date back to the original building of the convent.

Inside the central chapel, showcasing the Virgin of Izamal.

A closer view of the ornate altar piece.

The chapel is also lined with these nooks depicting religious events or characters.

A view from another side of the Convent, showing another one of the town parks. This one is where the carriage rides leave from. Compared to other carriage rides I have seen, these did not offend me at all. The horses had shiny coats, a little meat on their bones and appeared very well taken care of. The cost for a ride was 90 pesos ($7.56US) per hour.

From the back of the Convent, you are able to get a glimpse of the largest remaining pyramid in the city. This is one of three from the original twelve that have been restored. Somewhat. It's that flat building just to the right of the wall.

From the Convent, we took a quick walk over and mini-tour of the Kinich-Kakmo pyramid.

I struggled up that first flight of steps, above, only to be met with this:

The true top, or what was left of it, of the pyramid. I gave that climb a miss since it was jumbled stones to climb over, not really restored steps yet.
The view from the pyramid looking back downtown to the Convent.

And off to the side, another one of the typical churches in the Yucatan. This one restored.

Passing by the Convent at street level, on our way back to the hotel.

Very typical of the colonial cities in the Yucatan, are these sidewalks. I'm sure they were placed as an afterthought once traffic started to increase. They are dangerous thing to navigate and one must always be prepared and on the lookout for traffic when walking along them.

Our tour of the cities main attractions over, we retired to hotel. We were waiting for the groom to join us, go for a few congratulatory drinks and then on to his future in-laws home. We had been invited to dinner there. Evidently we were going to be treated as special guests since grandma herself had over seen the cooking all day. Good thing. I was getting hungry!


Jane said...

Very nice photo tour Wayne. Thank you.

norm said...

A day or so at the beach and I'm bored, driving the back roads of Yucatan never gets old for me.

Most of the really old churches in Yucatan display the old Maya stones. I have found if you sit back and let your mind go blank the patterns in the stone work come out, they are very hard to see because the masons had to be careful that their Spanish masters did not notice the serpents and owls they were slipping into the stone work.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

I love posts like this, thank you so much for the tour.
Exploring the back roads of the Yucatan was an adventure that I could have done for a weeks and weeks.
The only thing missing from the first picture are a few fat pigs in the yard.
I love the Yucatan! Thanks for a nice armchair trip.

jennifer rose said...

Izamal was definitely magical. I hope you found time to eat at Kinich. What hotel were you staying at?

KfromMichigan said...

Great photos .. Thanks! My fav tour was through the Yucatan. The samll villages (and many speed bumps). On our way to Merida and beyond we stopped in every village and every church. We need to do another road trip.

drgeo said...

Churches "built by the Spanish" heh heh, sure they were. Let's see the blisters on Isabella's fingers! No question about Spanish architects, but the indigenous craftsmen deserve some props too! Great tour, makes me feel like I've been there!

Islagringo said...

jane: you are more than welcome.

Norm: I so agree.

Mexican Trailrunner: if you like this post, you would probably really like my other blog. it is nothing but my travel adventures around Mexico and Latin America.

Jennifer: we stayed at Hotel SanMiquel Arcangel, right on the square. I highly recommend it. Continental breakfast included!

K: I admire you. I doubt that I would have the patience to stop at every village and church. There are so many of them!

drgeo: of course I did not mean that the Spaniards actually dirtied their own hands. But they do take credit for having building them!

Jackie said...

Great road trip report.The best kin with lots of good photos.

couzin frank said...

As always enjoy your roadtrips and pic's.

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

Are those Macaws in the tree?


Islagringo said...

Linda: they do look like birds! but they are vermilliads.