Using My Imagination in San Cristobal de las Casas

We returned from the jungle eager to give the high-altitude town of San Cristobal de las Casas a second go. Being quick to judge is not a trait about myself I’m particularly proud of, but it does mean I’m also quick to love, and on the last morning of our previous visit, I had fallen in love with a little square called Plaza de Mexicanos. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time; I called it ‘The quiet little square with the coloured houses and the white church.’ I did know, however, that there was a gorgeous little apartment for rent right on the square with a teeny tiny balcony overlooking the church.

Why did I know this?

Well, I have an uncanny gift of being able to super-impose my life upon almost any place we visit, no make that every place we visit. Yes, that’s a lot of imagined lives, but I have a super-sonic imagination (read: I often live life more in my head than in reality, again, not my finest personality trait), as well as an innate desire to live many, many different lives in many, many different places. So by default, when I happened upon the gorgeous square in a quiet part of town, I spied the little yellow sign on the little balcony crowded with neglected pot-plants and I thought, I could live there.

Yes, I’m pretty easily led.

Now my dear boyfriend tends to live within the realms of reality a little more than me, to say the least, and has humored my flights of fancy on many an occasion, but on this particular one he felt I needed a reality check.

Which I did. We actually had no intention of living in San Cristobal, it was the balcony that did it to me. What can I say, I’m a real-estate floozy.

“It’s probably a dusty, crumbling mess inside,” he said. “Cold, too, and definitely no wi-fi.”

He was probably right, but that didn’t stop me from making him trek all the way to Plaza de Mexicanos in the dark and the cold, after a five-hour bus ride back from Palenque. I knew there would be no chance of us even seeing the apartment that night, but I just wanted to stay nearby my imagined life in the hope of making it an almost-reality, at least for a week or so.

I thought I’d seen a few posadas in the area around the square, though as we made our way along the narrow cobbled foot-paths, heavy-laden with luggage, panting and puffing through the thin mountain air, I began to chastise myself for being a neurotic idealist for whom the simple hostels right alongside the bus station some kilometers ago simply wouldn’t do, daaarling.

We found ourselves in the desired square without any potential lodgings. The flags strung from the church’s steeple flapped noisily as an icy wind whipped through them. I flashed Tyrhone an innocent smile, belying my indignation that I was not caving and returning to ‘tourist land’. I would find somewhere lovely and full of character to stay if it killed me (and believe me, the chill that was settling in my bones signaled it was a distinct possibility).

Now, I’m not going to say I hadn’t noticed a beautiful little boutique hotel opposite the church on our last visit. In fact, I’d admired it as somewhere I’d stay with my Mum if we visited together, as a base for our trips to the outer-lying villages where we would source exquisite pieces for my future online Mexican textiles business.

My imagination had already ‘been there, done that’, bookmarked it for a future date, and written it off as being most certainly out of our present budget of Not Very Much.

Now, if you are reading this, thinking, This chick needs to get reacquainted with reality, then, a) you’re not far off, and b) spare a thought for the poor guy who has lived through my varying degrees of insanity for the last 6 1/2 years. Now imagine travelling the world with me. Yet, he is patient to the point of ridiculous and because he knows me better than I’d like to admit, indulges my antics with little more than a shake of the head and a gentle, mocking laugh, usually accompanied by an exasperated yet affectionate, “Oh Jane…” (my middle name).

Which was exactly the reaction I got when I instructed him to “Stand out here with the bags and I’ll go in and ask how much like I’m just passing by, because it’s going to be really expensive and I don’t want to look like I’m a desperate filthy backpacker, but just like someone who wants to know how much a room is, for interest’s sake.”


Then I straightened up the clothes I’d been wearing for a week and entered the lovely lobby via the french doors. To my surprise I saw a sign that showed the price of a double room was just 300 pesos, or $25. I couldn’t believe it, and thought there must’ve been some mistake. It was just $5 more per night than we’d payed for a room in a very basic posada on the main street on our previous stay. And I know I described it as ‘charming’ a few posts ago, I just forgot to mention that ‘charming’ actually meant showering over a toilet without a seat.

But this place had toilets with seats, and even showers with doors separating them from the rest of the bathroom, which, I might add, were tiled in a gorgeous yellow and blue mozaic. I knew this because by the time I rushed outside to give Tyrhone the “It’s okay, it’s in our budget, we’re staying!” news, I’d already nosed around two of the rooms thanks to the very accommodating young girl on the desk.

I settled on a ground-floor front room with wooden floors, complete with French windows that opened onto two little balconies that overlooked the church. Framed black and white photos of San Cristobal adorned the cream-coloured walls and a small wooden chair sat against a mirrored dressing table. It was gorgeous, and for the price, I couldn’t believe our luck.

So to cut a long story not-very-short, we stayed at the Belen Posada for a week, sometimes doing very little except staring off into the mountains or across the rooftops from the roof terrace, (yes, it had a roof terrace!!!),

The view of  Plaza de las Mexicanas from the roof terrace (see my future apartment on the left with the yellow sign?)

Looking out over the rooftops

That’s what I look like when I get my way

And sometimes doing a bit of work (Tyrhone redesigned his blog and launched his new design website). We even managed to pull ourselves away from our little home on occasion to visit a couple of museums and restaurants (l actually held a tarantula in the highly underrated and little-known insect museum!).

Insect museum San Cristobal

And that’s what I look like when I’m terrified.

We ended up moving to a room at the back of the hotel thanks to some early-morning church bells that I didn’t bargain for in my little ‘I’ve got a balcony overlooking the square’ fantasy, and unfortunately, I suffered a day of dreaded food-poisoning (seriously, what is it with me and altitude? First Nepal, then China and now Mexico??!!!). But luckily it passed quickly (!) and I got to stare at the pretty coloured tiles of the bathroom whilst thanking God I had an actual toilet seat to sit on.

The exterior of the lovely Belen Posada

The interior

Pretty bougainvillea-clad staircase

The staff were absolutely delightful, and spoke not a lick of English which led to some very funny encounters. But we muddled our way through, and thoroughly enjoyed our stay, often feeling like the only guests since we always had the roof terrace to ourselves. On our last evening, we were sitting in the square having a hot chocolate after dinner, and the beautiful young girl who had checked us
in on our first night finished her shift, exiting out the front doors and taking off down the street.

I realised we wouldn’t see her again and gave her a wave as she rounded the corner, but I didn’t think she saw me. I got a bit sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye (evoking more mocking from Tyrhone), then next thing I knew, she came running back, gave us both a hug and a kiss and two cookies in a plastic bag.

I got my goodbye.

I never did get to look inside my imagined future residence, however, but I had a wonderful time teasing Tyrhone about how I was going to decorate it when we moved in, which he found highly annoying extremely amusing.

It’s true that most of the time, it’s better for me to have my feet firmly planted in reality while my head drifts off into the clouds, but sometimes, just sometimes, I am reminded that a healthy imagination leads to experiences I would never have had if I had just done the sensible thing. This was one of those times.


~ The Belen Posada doesn’t have a website; If in doubt, it’s the only hotel on the Plaza de Mexicanos~


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Using My Imagination in San Cristobal de las Casas — 20 Comments

      • I think I was drunk when I initially read this post…because I just read it and don’t remember reading it. Wow. Day after Thanksgiving fun.

        I have a feeling I will re-write this post (unintentionally) replacing Tyrhone’s exasperated with Shawn’s exasperated “Oh Mel…”
        Carmel recently posted..Thanksgiving RecapMy Profile

      • Thank you!! I really didn’t think I could hold that tarantula, but something about the friendly guy that worked there made me feel naively safe. Weird :)

    • Yes, sometimes I forget that this whole journey of creating a unique and fullfilling life for ourselves began with just a thought. We are only limited by our imaginations – here’s to limitless possibilities Jill!

    • Ha! Thanks Andi, I was like, “I can’t, I can’t, I’m doing it, okay take it off!” It actually wasn’t that bad. Since I’m such a scaredy cat, I was kinda proud of myself :)

  1. What a beautiful find, sometimes it’s definitely worth a “just passing by” inquiry to find that the place you’ve been oggling is within reach. Loved the photos and the story. My husband and I have been on the road for two years and I feel just as lucky that he accommodates my whimsy imagination as well.
    Erica from recently posted..Five Must-Eats in Sri LankaMy Profile

  2. An absolute delight to read as usual and I would like to be in on your Mexican textiles business!
    Look forward to seeing you soon and catching up properly.
    Lots of love dear Sarah.