When in Mexico…

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The hardest thing about being a tourist is resisting the urge to be a tourist.

Zermatt Bakery

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.

Zermatt Bakery Zermatt Bakery Zermatt Bakery Zermatt Bakery Zermatt Bakery Zermatt Bakery

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.

Panaderia y Pasteleria Zermatt (Zermatt Bakery)

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.”)

Zermatt Bakery

It’s what I wanted to accomplish as a tourist – to do something very un-touristy.

10 comments… add one
  • It all looks so tasty!

  • Deborah

    I have been to Cozumel several times, but now I want to go back just for these pastries!

  • As I type this comment, and am chewing on a Granny Smith apple. Life is so unfair. 😉

  • ruhama

    Mmmm…I’m a sucker for baked goods. These look absolutely fabulous and makes me wish it were a little closer to home!

  • Getting off the tourist track can be fun…scary, sometimes, but fun!
    It took me awhile to figure out why you were asking directions to Zermatt (lovely little town in Switzerland) when you were in Mexico….. Duh!

  • Inland is where it is always happening – the food, the shopping, the bargins.

  • I wish we had gotten a chance to do some un-touristy things while we were in Cozumel! Looks like fun!

  • My wife and her sister went to Cancun and had a very similar experience. The tourist part was kind of a grown-up Disneyworld. But when they got inland, they found a whole different world, much more rewarding. Thanks for the lovely photos of Zermatt’s pastries. They confirm that the Mexican bakeries here in Chicago are authentic–you could have taken those very photos right down the street from my office in Wicker Park.

    That you can get such pastries in Mexico [along with baguettes] stems from the brief period in the 1860s and 1870s that the French ruled Mexico. Besides their invading armies, they brought an army of pastry chefs with them. The French were soon driven out, but they left their baking legacy.

  • Your photographs are beautiful – what a fabulous post!

  • My favorite thing to do when traveling is to find those local groceries and food shops and pretend like I know what I’m doing. 🙂 Good for you for getting into one when the touristy path was very (very!) easy to stick to!

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