A Cold, Hungry Canadian’s Impression Of Mexico
Given that there are 10 Americans for every one of us Canadians, it’s no surprise that the bulk of living overseas information available online is slanted toward our southern neighbors.
This becomes painfully apparent when my American colleagues write about their adventures in places like Mexico.
Case in point: Consider the beaches.
If you’re an American and love the beach, you can quickly pick up and move to a state like Florida or California and be at the beach all year long. Not that that’s an option if you’re looking for all that an overseas lifestyle has to offer: adventure, culture, lower cost of living, and more.
But, thanks to the United States’ comparatively warm climate and availability of beaches, when Americans write about Mexico, they often gloss over the beaches—treating them as an afterthought rather than a centerpiece.
For Canadians, the beaches are not something to quickly dismiss. The two or three months’ worth of beach weather here in Canada—also known as black-fly, mosquito, and horsefly season—just won’t cut it. And if you live somewhere like Alberta or Saskatchewan,a beach day is a rare event.
Then there’s the food. Funny enough, I spend my days writing in Canada’s wine country, in a town called Vineland, near Niagara Falls. The closest thing we have to authentic Mexican food around here is Taco Bell. (Actually, there’s one good place to get a fish taco, but since I can’t support him by myself, I’m afraid he won’t be around long.)
Yet the minute you get south of the border, even in Buffalo, there are great Mexican restaurants everywhere. The farther south you go, the truer this becomes.
So, when you read reports of the Riviera Maya or the Baja Peninsula or Lake Chapala, little is said about the wonderful food. It’s just not that different from what many Americans experience at home.
If the extent of your traveling thus far has been centered around Cuba, then you may have written good food off completely as a prerequisite for a piece of paradise to relocate to.
Take heart. Having lived in Mexico, I can tell you with certainty that Mexican food is wonderful… and, it’s not all hot.
Yes, the salsa verde can peel your skin if you’re not careful, but it’s an optional condiment. I have Mexican friends who almost never eat hot sauce. “It’s for the gringos,” they tell me.
Forget piled-high plates of watery Super-Bowl nachos—that’s not Mexican food. Instead, think fresh fish and shrimp; handmade, warm corn or flour tacos; and incredible pork carnitas… not forgetting mouthwatering, warm churros, generously dipped in sugar, for dessert.
And, of course, there’s the limes. Mexicans even put lime on their peanuts. They have lime-flavored potato chips. Massive bins (like the ones you likely see filled with watermelons in your local grocery store) are overflowing with thousands of limes in Mexican grocery stores.
Fresh food is available everywhere. Little boys sell fresh mangos and sweet papaya on the street corners. Roadside stands sell fresh papaya and watermelon juice instead of lemonade. Wonderful ripe avocados are abundant. For us Canadians, availability of fresh fruit all year long is incredible.
Back to the beaches…
My wife, daughter, and I are beach people. We’ve been to some of the best beaches around, and some of our favorites are in Mexico.
The west coast of Mexico, where we lived for a time, is beautiful, but it’s not the place to go if great beaches are high on your priority list. For that, you need to head to the Caribbean side.
Playa del Carmen, a town of about 150,000 people, sits about an hour south of the tourist trap known as Cancún. True, if you spend all your time on Playa’s 5th Avenue, you could easily write it off as a tourist trap, too. But, that would be a mistake. It has a lot more to offer, even just one or two streets over.
The beaches in Playa del Carmen are magnificent. Cool, flour-white sand runs perhaps 200 feet wide and as long as the eye can see. The turquoise water completes the dreamy travel-magazine look.
For a few pesos, one of your newfound amigos will gladly supply you with a freshly cleaned lounge chair, so you can read a book, take a siesta, or watch the water-taxis as they bring the turistas back and forth from nearby Cozumel.
Another 15 pesos will get you a cold Corona with fabulous, fresh lime delivered right to your lounger, propina included.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than this. Wonderful, fresh food in a Caribbean paradise. It’s why Lisa and I didn’t hesitate to move there, 7-year-old daughter Olivia in tow.