Monday, February 17, 2003
We got a noon bus out of Villahermosa to Palenque, state of Chiapas, and arrived about 2:30 p.m. It was a short walk to the Zócalo, where we looked around for just a few minutes before settling on a hotel, the Hotel Lacroix, 180 pesos ($16) per night.
Hotel Lacroix is one of the oldest hotels in Palenque and is run by a family of French origin who arrived here in 1830. This place has character out the wazoo. A crazy old man with bloodshot eyes checked us in. He thought we were Italian. The rooms surround a courtyard, and the walls are decorated with homemade murals. Our room has two double beds, a ceiling fan, a curtain instead of a door to the bathroom, and no door or curtain separating the shower area from the toilet and the sink. There is no hot water. The door to the room is secured with a padlock. The closet contains around 15 heavy, warm blankets, though I can't imagine it ever getting cold enough in Palenque to need more than one. The Hotel Lacroix has six rooms, but we were the only guests. This place is great!
After settling in to our home away from home, we found a travel agency, Viajes Tonina, and made arrangements to travel to Guatemala in two days. The travel agent spoke only Spanish, but we managed to communicate. She spoke very clearly, and we all pointed at the map a lot. She thought we were Italian also.
Hanging around at the Hotel Lacroix
After an excellent lunch at Pizzaria Palenque and a lovely two-hour siesta, we ventured to the Zócalo. In true Mexican fashion, the bushes were trimmed into interesting shapes, though we couldn't tell what most of the topiaries were supposed to represent.
Numerous vendors were set up in the square, many of them selling very cool paintings on leather. Many more vendors were selling a variety of snacks, some of which we could not identify, for example, the overflowing cups of what looked like big giant wrinkled olives. Maybe they were olives. It remains a mystery. If you know what these are, please let us know!
Our plan is to get up at 6:30 tomorrow morning to visit the Palenque ruins before it gets too hot.