Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tour to Valladolid, October 2012

The church of Valladolid, festively decked out with colored flags
It seems like a long, interminable drive, especially on the ultra-boring but super-quick toll road where you will pay $140 pesos (at the time of this writing) for the privilege of traversing its hallowed and rough concrete, but after about 2 hours of driving you arrive in the city of Valladolid a large small town whose name only a few non-native speakers can pronounce.

La Casa de los Venados

The tour today involved reaching the famous Casa de los Venados folk art collection at the beautiful home of John and Dorianne Venator just one half block off the main square before the tour got underway. Each day, at 10 AM, the Venators graciously open their home and their absolutely stunning folk art collection to anyone who wants to see it, in exchange for a small donation to the local Lions club whose members support local activities and projects to make life a little better for some of the less fortunate in the city.

A little something in the bathroom
It is the largest private collection of Mexican folk art in private hands and it is one of those things that must be seen if you are in the area. From paper maché to iron to wood to clay and ceramic; this collection has it all.  Everywhere you turn there is something to look at; a cat under a chair, the chair itself, the lamp above the chair and the wall behind that - it's a visual feast!

An evil nun miniature
The tour takes about an hour and although the guides do speak English, it is far more enjoyable if you are fortunate enough - like we were today - to get a personal tour by the owner himself and enjoy Johns explanations on his favorite pieces and some anecdotes ranging from the building construction to how some of the pieces in the collection were obtained.

A must see and the purpose of this day trip.

Smoked Meats of Temozon

It's on your left, as you enter town
Next stop was nearby Temozon just back across the highway on the road to Ek Balam, for a taste of their justifiably famous smoked meat. While they were still setting up, they were kind enough to prepare some tacos of smoked pork and spiced pork wrapped in home made corn tortillas and roast tomato salsa. Unbelievable! Behind the sparkling clean store/restaurant/meat counter/carpentry shop were the smokers and of course I had to visit them and take some photos while the young man stoking the fires to minimize flames and optimize smoke, explained the process.

The finished product is on the tray in front
It was here, in pork heaven, where my faith in humanity was restored. We left the restaurant, purchasing several pieces of pork for later and drove back to Valladolid. Upon reaching the entrance to the Zaci cenote, I realized that not only had I left my camera, but also my iphone, on the table at the restaurant in Temozon! So a quick drive over the same route back to the restaurant and what would you know, the phone and camera were safe, tucked behind the counter by the smiling girls who made up the counter staff. I was deliriously happy and once again we drove back to Valladolid.

Pork ribs, smoked
The Zaci Cenote

In reality, what we were trying to do was to make time since the Taberna de los Frailes was not open yet for lunch. So, a visit to the cenote of Zaci. Although no one swam, and the water was a little greener than at any other cenote I have seen lately, it is a pretty little place with artificial waterfalls and blue water populated with plenty of black catfish.

La Taberna de los Frailes Restaurant

Finally, after much waiting, it was 1 PM and we were able to enjoy the delicious food, beautiful ambience and truly outstanding service at my favorite Valladolid restaurant: La Taberna de los Frailes.

The imaginative grilled watermelon and panela cheese appetizer with papaya vinagrette - really

A perfect ending to a perfect day, and we arrived back in Merida at 5 PM, a full 9 hours after leaving this morning!

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