Life in Playa and Chichen Itza

Going to Spanish lessons gives us a bit of a shape to our day.  We normally get up for about 7:30am, have breakfast and then pop over to the school for 9:30.  We finish at 1:30, and then have lunch at one of a number of taco places along the road.  After a quick trip home, we go to the beach for a couple of hours, pop home for a shower and a beer, and then eat out somewhere, often another taco place.  This is Sandra’s, one of our favourites.
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In fact, we eat in a lot of taco places, because the food is cheap and usually excellent and tasty.  A meal of guacamole, chips and tacos for the two of us is usually about $100 pesos or so, less than £5.  Beer and soft drinks are the same price, about a quid, although Sandra’s doesn’t do beer anyway.  Here’s another favourite, El Fogon.  The large kebab-looking thing is called el trompo (the top, as in spinning top).  Actually, it’s lots of pork steaks on a big skewer, flavoured with spices which give it it’s colour.  It’s very tasty.
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We’ve arranged a trip to Chichen Itza, a big local tourist attraction.  Our trip will take us to Chichen, then to a cenote for a swim, then toValladolid, an old Spanish colonial town.  Lunch is chucked in also.  We leave at 7:30am and should return by 7:30pm: it’s a three-hour drive to Chichen Itza from Playa, so it’s a long day.  On the way there, we stop for a break, and find La Guarapera, selling crushed cane sugar juice.  With a bit of lime juice to offset the sweetness, this is delicious.  The gentleman turning the handle is Italian: he worked for London Underground for 16 years, and now he’s selling cane sugar juice from a converted VW beetle in Mexico.
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After a long drive, we arrive at Chichen Itza.  Here’s the main temple, to give you an idea of the place.  It is pretty hot.  Lucky Diane and I have bought big hats.  Fetching, huh ?  I don’t care if it keeps the sun off my head.
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We have an English-speaking guide who tells us about the Maya.  They were able to predict eclipses and so forth with startling accuracy, and their rulers used this to show the masses how powerful they were.  They would stand at the top of the pyramid and say “it’s going to get dark shortly”, and lo, it would.  The room on top is designed to amplify sound, so they could be heard by the thousands of people assembled in front of it.  Sure enough, if you stand in front of it, even where I took the photo from, and clap your hands, the sound is amplified back at you and is clearly audible from all over the square.  Remarkable.  There are a lot of buildings here, including some which pre-date the temple.  The one which looks like an observatory is, in fact, an observatory, used to predict the movements of the stars and planets.
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After walking around the site for an hour or so, and avoiding buying anything from the vendors (“one dollar, one dollar, almost free”), we set off for lunch.  I’m sure the hand-made, hand-coloured masks aren’t almost free, but our guide reckons that a lot of it is made in China, like a lot of stuff in the world today.
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During lunch, some local dancers do a show where they dance while balancing a tray of glasses on their heads.
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And then finally, we go to Valladolid.  This is laid out on the Spanish colonial model: a large Catholic church on a square, with the Governor’s offices to the left, and a fine central park.  We have a quick look round before it goes dark and we have to leave before we are eaten alive by insects (it happened anyway).
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A couple of days off now until I start the pre-course for my instructor course, where they assess what you’ve forgotten of what you should already know.  We’ll spend some of it at the beach, where Diane is making leaps and bounds in her snorkelling, of which more later.

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