Also on the Calzada de los Frailes, the Cacao organic chocolate collective produces handmade chocolates, drawing from a tradition that goes back to the ancient Mayans. Farther down the street is the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena, built in the 16th century. Here, I wandered within its stone walls at sunset, exploring the dark stairways as the fading light streamed in through small windows, imagining the hermetic life of the Spanish monks who resided there centuries ago.
One thing I quickly learned in Valladolid: To properly enjoy the local cuisine, keep some antacids handy. This should be little surprise on the Yucatan, which is home to one of the world’s hottest chili peppers, the habanero. Add to that the local reliance on black beans, melted cheese and deep-fried tortillas.
For fine Yucatecan food in the peaceful garden setting of a hacienda courtyard, there’s nowhere better than Taberna de los Frailes (Calle 49 No. 235; tabernadelosfrailes.com), across the street from the monastery. Try the pook chuuk — grilled pork fillets marinated in Mayan white spices and sour orange, or the tikin xic, snapper grilled in annatto sauce. At Las Campanas on the square, I was treated to traditional songs accompanied by two marimbas as I feasted on queso relleno, a chunk of hard aged cheese stuffed with pork, swimming in a white cream-based soup. After that meal, my ambitions for the next few hours were thwarted.
It’s possible to spend the equivalent of a few dollars for a filling meal, as I discovered at the covered market on the central square’s northeast corner. I loved the panuchos — deep-fried bean-stuffed tortillas. And if you’re hankering for pizza, try the Casa Italia (Calle 35, lote 202-J; casaitaliamexico.com), a pizzeria on the Parque de La Candelaria, a park anchored by the Iglesia de Candelaria, with its high arches in the Moorish style and bright, salmon-colored stucco.
The architecture, the quiet evenings spent strolling down narrow streets, and the endless rounds of feasting are among the charms that led my friend Guillaume and his wife, Olivia Villanti, who live in Brooklyn, to bring their wedding party to Valladolid after Tulum. “In Valladolid, you’re in the middle of the city and you can take a walk down the street and you’ll end up somewhere beautiful,” Olivia said.
An occasional walk is certainly not the worst idea after all that eating. Neither was the running regimen I vowed to revive as soon as I got back to New York.