At Cancún, the hotel we stayed in was at the hotel zone. One night, we went out and tried to find the downtown of Cancún but got lost after entering the city. No one spoke English out of the tourist area. Probably in Spanish ‘downtown’ has a different meaning. We eventually gave up and went back to hotel. We walked to the La Isla Shopping Mall nearby. This is an outdoor mall totally in American style. The best design is that it has a man-made canal winding through the area. It’s a very pleasant night.
Playa del Carmen is a lively town 40 miles south to Cancún. We stopped by for about an hour on our way to Tulum. Although the size is still small, tourism has made this once quite beach town much more comercialized today. The main street is lined with small shops and restaurants. Chain stores, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, can be easily found. Only a few streets away, the sea coast offers high-quality beaches and unbeatable views of blue water. It was one of most crowded beach I had ever seen.
Valladolid is a small colonial city halfway between Cancún and Mérida. We stopped by for one night as we visited the close-by ruin Chichén Itzá. Similar to other colonial cities in Yucatán Peninsula, Valladolid has a chessboard-like street grid. At the city center, it’s a plaza with a park square in the middle, surrounded by stores and a cathedral, La Parroquia de San Servacio. We walked around the main square. The late afternoon sun casted lovely colors on the buildings. The hotel we stayed was Ecotel Quinta Regia. Considering the size of the city, the hotel is quite large. The building are painted with vivid colors and the environment was quiet and nice. It has its own restaurant, a pool and even raises chickens and geese at one corner of the hotel.
Mérida is the capital city of Yucatán and has been the dominant city of the peninsula since it was founded in 1542 on the ruins of a major Maya settlement. The city is also built on a grid system. A highway runs around the city, which extends about 60 blocks to each direction. In the center, it is Plaza Mayor that features the majestic Catedral de San Ildefonso, the city hall and shops and restaurants. Central Mérida is active and busy, but it also suffers from the problem of other big cities – traffic and pollution. In the day time, tourist buses and cars jammed roads around the central area, mainly because the streets are not any wider than other places.
We tried to booked Mexican style hotels before the trip. They are normally small but very elegant, and often rated at the very top on the travel websites. Unfortunately, there were all booked during the holiday season, so we eventually picked Hyatt Regency Hotel. It is located about 40 blocks north from the center, at the most fashionable district of the city. The streets are lined with luxury mansions of 100-year history; poles and arches were decorated with lights for the holidays. We had a walk along the tree-lined Paseo de Montejo boulevard at the last night we stayed. About 30 pieces of Leonora Carrington‘s sculpture works were displayed on the sidewalk. The area was quite and clean. It made a distinct contrast to the noisy town center.