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"In the ochre light of dusk, Izamal shines like no other place on earth. For me, here was the real Mexico I had longed to see: Maya gods sleeping beneath Spanish churches, children coming home from their bilingual schools, clutching Spanish textbooks but greeting their parents in Maya. As on the holy church grounds of St. Antony’s Monastery? Men and boys with Maya blood in their veins, all running back and forth in a frenzy, practicing the newest religion in Mexico: soccer."  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/digital-nomad/2012/02/29/izamal/

IZAMAL

FROM MERIDA MEXICO

Day 23 - Sunday, February 25, 2018.  Our Airbnb breakfast was delicious! A nacho-egg breakfast which included Huevos de Muleneos with a perfect fried egg on top of a nacho plate filled with creamy-refried black beans, large corn chips topped with a green sauce and a dollop of sour creams sauce, and topped with some crumbled cheese. As if we needed more to eat, there was also slices of the best sweet bread we have had in Mexico to date, oatmeal, strawberry yogurt, a fruit plate with freshly sliced papaya, mango, and cantaloupe, café au lait, and a  glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  

After eating and gushing with thanks to our Airbnb host for the excellent breakfast, we flagged down a metro bus to take us to the Izamal colectivo stand. The cost only $31 Pesos ($1.21 USD).

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Izamal is called the Yellow City for a good reason. Just about every building in Izamal is yellow. It is a clean, quaint, picturesque, laid back small town. Like Campeche, it does not have the abandoned crumbling buildings or litter. Although Izamal is historically old, it does not have a third-world feel to it.

The colectivo dropped us off next to Izamal's market area. Being relatively small, Izamal was easy to wander around and see so much in one day. The center of the town is dominated by the Convento de San Antonio de Padua on a low hill overlooking the downtown. This complex consists of a yellow cathedral ringed by a yellow arched wall with a huge lawn in the middle. There is a plaza, Parque Crescencio Carrillo y Anacona, taking up the whole city block in front of the walled Convento and another large square, Parque Zamna, adjacent to the Convento. Butting up to the other side of the Convento is a large city market under a big roof. The market houses restaurants, fruit and veggie stands, a big meat butchering area, craft booths, snack vendors, and more. In the plaza facing the front of the Convento were more vendors in outdoor booths.

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We started at the market and worked our way to the Convento grounds and cathedral. We toured the small museum next to the cathedral where an entire room was dedicated to the 1993 visit from Pope John Paul. We noticed a few sisters dressed in traditional habits and a chubby friar in a long brown robe wrapped with a white rope belt. I noted the crucifixes with black skinned Jesus’ – not at all like the typical Nordic Jesus’ that we usually see.

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KINICH KAK-MO 

Mayan for "The fire macaw with the sun face"

Pyramid to the Maya Sun God

 Izamal has many Mayan ruins scattered within its perimeters. The main pyramid, Kinich Kak-Mo, sits high on top of a Mayan-made hilltop. Just getting to the pyramid required toiling up several flights of stone steps. The artificial hilltop took up an entire large city block. Kinich Kak-Mo towers over this hill, and the view from the top of the pyramid is grand. The whole town of Izamal is in view making it easy for plotting out what part of town to start exploring.

After exploring, the travel blogs and tourist articles raved about eating at The Kinich Restaurant, named after the city's pyramid, and we were eager to experience it before the day ends.

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Kinich Restaurant

IZAMAL MEXICO

The Kinich Restaurant turned out to be fabulous. The entire restaurant is under several tall-thatched roofs over solid-wooden frameworks. As popular as this restaurant is, there is a short wait-time until a table is free. Here is where the genius of the Kinich Restaurant starts to glow. While waiting, they serve free all-you-can-drink beer or wine while sitting in very comfortable sofas and rockers surrounded by traditional arts and souvenirs that pique your interest. Only two beers for me and a glass of wine for Wanda later and our table was ready. 

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The meats are all slow-cooked underground and tantalizingly smoke- flavored. The tortillas are handmade right in front of us by ladies in the traditional hipil dress. They flatten out the dough into a thin circle and put them on a flat piece of iron heated by a wood fire underneath.

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Wanda and I split an order of the house specialty; Papadzules Kinich with diced hardboiled eggs and smoky shredded sausage that was slow-cooked underground, wrapped in hot, handmade flour tortillas, and smothered in a traditional Mayan achiote sauce. WOW! It was awesome. I also had a bowl of Sopa de Lima. This version of the lime soup had shredded smoky chicken that was also slow-cooked underground. Wanda added an order of tapas that included fried bananas and giant homemade corn tortilla chips that were the best tortilla chips I have ever eaten, a black bean sauce with grated white cheese, and a killer habanero sauce. The whole experience was as good or better than advertised.

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After Kinich, we wandered the streets. We came upon another yellow church, Iglesia de los Remedios, and several craft shops. The crafts are authentic locally-made traditional Mayan and Yucatan articles. I didn’t see one plastic “made in China” trinket, so I believe the hype. One notable shop had crafts only made from Henequen, a particular fibrous agave plant that has been used to make rope, hats, handbags, hammocks, and other works. The local tequila and mescal are distilled from the henequen version of the agave plant. This particular shop let us sample three different anise-flavored liqueurs made from henequen.

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About ½ kilometer out of town is the Lakin-Ha Cave. We intended to tour the cave, but we ran out of time and had to catch the last colectivo back to Merida. We arrived in Merida just in time to hear a terrific band playing at the Sunday block party at Plaza Grande. The group was hot; the sound was perfect, the streets were jammed with couples dancing – just another Merida en Domingo.

On our walk back to the Airbnb we grabbed a perfect sorbet dessert at the always-crowded Dulceria y Sorbeteria Colon on the Paseo de Montejo Boulevard. This place is a gold mine selling a large variety of sorbets. Now we know why.

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