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 Charming Mexico - Try San Miguel De Allende
by

Professor Arnie Greenberg


Looking north to Le Jardin

From the Mirador   

Mexico is a Mecca for vacationers and every part of this colorful country has something different to offer. I’ve tried many venues but my trip to San Miguel, a few hours north Of Mexico city and high in the mountains, proved to be the best family spot I’ve discovered in years.

In a nutshell it is bustling, colorful, a gourmand’s paradise, an artist’s dream that matches most budgets. If only I’d have listened to others who had raved about it. Now it’s my turn to rave. It was absolutely seductive.

Take, for example, it’s location rising on a mountainside from the flats below. And in those flats a myriad of colors in stuccoed old buildings whose exteriors hide the warmth comfort and beauty of the homes behind the high colorful walls.


A shock of color
Our own residence was a plain wooden door on a stone front exterior. Inside was a charming two-story townhouse with modern appliances, maid service, a private garden and a roof patio. It was high enough above the town for a great view but a bit tough to master on a dark cold night. But don’t fret. Taxis to the door are $2 from anywhere in town or a bus to within 50 steps downhill to our place was only 40 cents.

Our stone front was not the norm. Most houses had colorful pastel fronts that often entered onto a richly flowered courtyard. I saw mauve, green, pink, yellow or orange and even light blue house fronts glowing in the ever-present sun. But it was the pinks that called out to me. Wherever I went, the colors followed.

On one street, Adama, you could see a pink wall and a yellow and white domed church, framed by the main Parroquia (cathedral) on the Main Square or El Jardin (pronounced Hardeen).

The Center Square was the meeting place of locals and expatriates. There were flower sellers, balloon venders and French styled benches where you could relax and listen to the Maraichi bands or read your daily paper. The square was always teeming with old and young. On some evenings there were concerts, choirs, and dances by traveling Aztecs or traditional eggshell breaking, a subject I’ll go into at another time.

Every year in late September they even have a Pamplona style running of the bulls around a roped off El Jardin. At this time there are also parades and fireworks over three days, all to celebrate San Muguel’s chief patron Saint, the Archangel Michael. Nearby, you can sit at an outdoor café, restaurant or bar. Facing the square cut trees around El Jardin on one side is the great city cathedral known as Las Parroquia, a pink, neo-gothic church and at the corner nearby is the original home of general Allende, a hero of the Spanish Mexican War.

It has been turned into an important center for the arts but is closed until the spring for renovations. The town’s hero Allende himself can be seen as a white statue at the corner of El Jardin.


Hand made flowers sold at El Jardin

Close by you can even have a ‘bagel breakfast’. Yes, there’s something for all tastes in a city of restaurants. While food was generally middle priced on a North American standard, my wife and I enjoyed dinner in a protected patio, which consisted of soup or pasta entrée and a veal or chicken main course. Add to that two Margueritas to make you feel that you were in the land of Taquila and the total for both dinners came to $11.00. It was cheaper than eating at home and the atmosphere was “perfecto”.


Ten Ten Pie Restaurant recommended for menu and atmosphere

The city goes back to the middle of the 16th century and was declared a National Monument in 1926. Still it was a sleepy mountain village until the art institute was opened and both Americans and Canadians began ‘going south’. It truly a different holiday spot where you can take painting or language classes and get involved with the growing community. In one of their tourist or visitors brochures if pronounces,

“People go to Florida to die. They come to San Miguel to live.”

And they certainly live well with all of the activities, a modern library, and a theatre, exciting shopping in old kiosques or modern shopping centers. There are walking and bus tours with part of the proceeds going to help pay for children’s eye, dental and medical care. Some of the profits go to a scholarship fund for those who might otherwise have to drop out of school,

Combine all this with perfect weather during the winter months where it’s bright and cool in the morning, seasonably warm during the day and cool at night, Our townhouse boasted two gas heaters and a wonderful fireplace. I soon ran out of wood but was visited by a roaming firewood salesman who arrived one morning with two donkeys laden with dry wood.

I remember warm comfortable evenings heated by the living room fireplace. During the afternoon we would sit on the patio warmed by the January sun. By the third week in January we used the fireplace only for atmosphere. We had no rain at all.

We met some of the artists and a few of the locals. One particular artist was Terry Ann Tomlinson, a New Yorker whose work and home particularly impressed me. I will devote an article to her over the next few weeks.

Every Friday a newspaper, “Attencion”, comes out in Spanish and English that lists all the cultural activities of the week. We’d sit in El Jardin and plan out our week. On weekends we would go to Park Juarez where many local artists displayed their art and the locals came out to watch an organized league of determined women basketball players.

Tuesday was always market day and the weekly schedule included lectures, concerts, classes and special events. But just walking around the town in and out of the market or arts and crafts market, was a thrill. Imagine a city with no neon signs, billboards no garish signs or commercial pollution.

On other days you can visit the beautiful Bellas Artes cultural center and sit in on an art course or go to the Laja River or the city of Queretero nearby. Or you can venture into the Guanajuato hills and see why this area was first colonized. It was here that they discovered silver and gold.

Up to recently there were no stop signs or traffic lights. Cars and people respect each other. There were no people losing their temper and even the taxi drivers were cordial and helpful.

At my age I often balk at too much difficult climbing or lengthy distances. In San Miguel I looked forward to the walks down from the hills on narrow, poorly lit but safe cobbled streets and the more strenuous walk back later in the day or night. Each day was a gift as we shed our anxieties and just enjoyed the cloudless days, starry nights, great restaurants and bargain prices. Nearby we found imported beer at the supermarket Gigante, imported from Belgium at $1.99 for a six pack.

We were also lucky to be there when they had two weekends dedicated to art and crafts sales exhibitions. The souvenir treasures of silver or fabric will adorn our display cases for many years.

Today, during the winter months there are over 80,000 people in san Miguel. They fly in to Leon or Mexico City and take special first class buses into San Miguel. The Expats organize special event days from time to time. We went to a Chili cook-off where we tasted about twenty different varieties. It was a state fair type activity with a horse riding and roping display during the afternoon. It was one of the highlights and looking back, I smile. It was one of the nicest holidays I ever had.

Would I go back? You’d better believe it. It’s the perfect place for retired folks. Look for me there next year. I’ll be one of the thousands with a smile on his face and sketchbook in hand. I did thirty watercolors while I was there this winter

 Conde Nast rates San Miguel as one of the best ten travel destinations in the world. It’s easy to get to and for some it has become a permanent home.


Lasso demonstration

Typical pink wall and fountain

For more information go to:

http://www.thesanmiguelguide.com an excellent introduction for visitors. I carried it everywhere.

 #   #   #

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 
 

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