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A Strange Familiarity


Globalization travels along many different wavelengths and frequencies but always with the same familiar shape -- golden arches.  I was a little uncertain taking the cab into Playa Del Carmen as I wasn't sure what to expect.  I'd been by and it looked like mid-sized coastal city but I'd never been to the tourist area.  Now, I've been to tropical 'tourist areas' that were hot urban sprawl nestled between megamalls and others that were barely a group of markets with a gravel lot for buses.  Hell, I'd been to one of the latter on the way to Chichen Itza.

I needn't have any concern at all.  There would be no fear, no worry, no potential for trouble.  Playa's Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) is the perfect representation of the modern tourist trap.  Some street entertainers, including a living statue so good it actually freaked me out, with some local colour and restaurants all the while layered with the usual diaspora of global branding--Old Navy, The Nike Store, Haagen Dazs, McDonalds.

Any thoughts of the potentiality of too-much-foreign-ness evaporated when Carlos, my cab driver, took me to the drop-off point, right beside the Scotiabank.  "Easy to remember," he said, "Because it's right across from the Forever 21."  As the trepidation left me, so did any sense of excitement.  Still, I paid for the cab ride.  I thanked him and headed down to the avenue proper, a street set aside strictly for pedestrian use but intercut occasionally by a throughroad.

I have to admit, the planners did a smash-up job.  The area was clean.  Bookended by malls but with less foreign stores on the avenue proper to ensure it didn't feel too corporate.  Barkers selling wares on the street but not so many that it felt too intimidating.  Restaurants of many of different stripes but most selling some derivation of local food, to make sure it didn't feel too un-Mexican.  It wasn't too anything.  And maybe, from a travelers perspective, that sounds damning.  But for someone looking to see something slightly new, safely, with a family?  Quinta Avenida is exactly what they're looking for.



The main square near the far end housed the ferry transfer point to Cozumel, famed stop for Caribbean cruises. The square was open, and currently being worked by a local traditional dance troupe.  It held the lovely view of the ocean with a rather impressive statue guarding the shore from the waves.

I bought myself a steak for lunch.  The resort's meals had been good for the most part but their feature dishes -- the literal meat of the meat and potatoes had been somewhat lacking.  So I got myself a rib-eye at a high-end place by the street.  It went down nicely.  I firmly believe it's always a better vacation if it has a rib-eye in it somewhere. 

After a little more looking around and a small ice cream break, Carlos met me back at the Scotiabank at the appointed time to ferry me back to the hotel.

I had fun at Quinta Avenida, not too much.  But enough.

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