The hardest thing about being a tourist is resisting the urge to be a tourist.
The dirt cheap, watered-down margaritas from Carlos ‘N Charlie’s wage a constant war with the ear-splitting music from Senor Frogs. And with the divine Siren song of just-like-home greasy Hard Rock Cafe fries wafting in the air, we turned our back to commercialized Cozumel and headed inland.
It’s amazing how one or two blocks can make all the difference in the world. I remember thinking that the first time on my first trip to New Orleans years ago. A couple wrong turns off St. Charles in the Garden District and I was in a very un-Garden District-like neighborhood.
“Zermatt? Do you know someone there?” asked our snorkel guide with the strangest look on his face. “What do you want with Zermatt? Is nothing to see,” he continued, trying to explain to the two tourists in front of him that we really didn’t want directions there.
Two blocks in from the screams of “Here, lady! I have deal for you!” and “Come see my purses/tequila/bracelets!” is what the residents of Cozumel call home. No one is hawking their wares to the tourists, no one is trying to give you a ride anywhere – there are no tourists and the streets are completely torn up.
When we turned that corner onto Calle 4 (4th street), my heart sank. There was no way that I was going to walk down that alley. The buildings were tall, keeping the narrow street quite dark in the late afternoon. The heads of every local working on the sub-street plumbing turned and looked at us. I could guess what they were thinking, “Tourists. Don’t they know that Senor Frogs is the other way?”
I tried to chicken-out but there was no way that my husband was going to listen to me whine the rest of our vacation about how I didn’t get to go to Zermatt. (Smart man – I’m a whiner.) We pressed on down the street for what seemed like the longest two blocks ever.
If I had regretted my decision to let my husband drag me down Calle 4, those feelings were completely banished as we made our way back to Tourist Central, our baked goodies in hand:
“Mmmm. Zermatt?” Asked a stranger sweeping the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
“Yes. Si!” I replied, holding up the clear plastic bag holding our pastries.
“Good, very good. Best bread. Mmmm.” He called after us in his heavily accented English, and rubbing his tummy with the last word (the international sign for “Yummy.”)
It’s what I wanted to accomplish as a tourist – to do something very un-touristy.