Allan and I have taken advantage of a 5 day respite to visit the picturesque town on San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. The break came about as we letted our Playa del Carmen condo to a friend in return for his offering his Wall Street flat to us in New York City last Spring. Instead of staying with friends or perhaps renting something in Playa, we opted to visit San Miguel after hearing so many rave reviews. After all in 2012 Conde Nast rated it the #1 destination in the world.
We purchased non-stop airline tickets on Volaris out of Cancun to Guanajuato for a bargain rate of less than $200 USD round trip per person. The short 2.5 hour flight was thankfully uneventful and quite easy. Upon arrival in Guanajuato, the geographical center of Mexico, we were struck by the landscape and climate. We are about a mile above sea level in an arid dessert filled with cactus' and mountains.
San Miguel is about 1.5 hour drive from the Guanajuato airport on well paved, winding roads through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In many spots I swear I was in Tuscany, as the landscape is similar. San Miguel from a distance looks like someone took a white brush and painted the city on the side of a mountain. It overlooks a manmade reservoir, which I'm told was formed by flooding an existing town, and when the water level drops you can see the top of the church in the now submerged city.
In some ways San Miguel looks like Merida with cobblestoned streets, busy side walks and traffic. Unlike Merida, most of the buildings in San Miguel are painted in desert colors - oranges, reds and yellows. The cathedral in the Jardin (park in the city center) reminds me of the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain, by it's ornate design and beauty. By night the church glows and radiates beauty.
We are staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast called Casa Calderoni (www.casacalderoni.com), in the city center close to the Jardin. The B&B has a beautiful open air courtyard with plants, winding steps and refreshing air. Our room has a very comfortable bed with plush pillows and down comforter. The free breakfast includes an assortment of fruit, coffee, juice and your selection of freshly cooked eggs and meat. Allan and I could not be more delighted with this wonderful B&B. To make it even more special, owners Ben and Mary, are often around for breakfast to chat with guests and make them feel welcome. I could not recommend their B&B enough. At night I recommend visiting the roof deck to appreciate the spectacular view of the cities sparkling lights.
One of the features of our bedroom to which I am not accustomed to in Playa are space heaters. The climate here is quite interesting. By day it starts in the 50's F and as the day progresses, the temperature rises to 70s F and higher. Sitting in the sun I strip down, but then if I move to the shade I am cold even with a jacket. Again I am reminded of what it's like in a semi-desert climate. At night we absolutely freeze and put on the space heaters.
We are also not used to the dry climate. We are itching a lot, and having to use a lot of body cream, which in humid Playa is not necessary. What I thought were mosquito bites are actually just dry skin. It's not an issue, just something we've noticed in this more arid climate. I am sure if we were here for any length of time we would just acclimate.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the art galleries and stores in the Fabrica La Aurora (http://www.fabricalaaurora.com/). We knew San Miguel was filled with art, but I didn't expect the scale, quality and diversity. The gallery has around 60 stores all in one location, which seems to wind around in a labyrinth. From home decor to paintings to cafes, I would recommend spending a couple of hours walking around. Even San Miguel itself is filled with art. It seems around every corner is another gallery, another art store with beautiful creations. No wonder San Miguel is known as a haven for artists.
We have also had several great meals. Bhaji, just off the Jardin, has some of the most delicious Indian food we've ever had. The space is quite small, with roughly 8 tables, but the prices are low and location very convenient. One evening we went to the rooftop bar, Luna, at the Rosewood Hotel. The bar overlooks the whole city and at night provides a panoramic view of all the sparkling lights from the churches and buildings. There are ample heaters and blankets to keep one warm in this open air establishment. It is a must see. And right around the corner is Calenda, a lovely restaurant with live jazz music. The food is exquisite, international cuisine, and coupled with a visit to Luna, makes for an unforgettable evening.
In our short 3 days in San Miguel I am realizing how much we have not seen. Last night at the Rosewood Hotel we discovered this whole new neighborhood with great shops and galleries, that we unfortunately won't have time to visit. We are beginning to realize why San Miguel has become such a popular spot to live for expats; it's beautiful, with a great artistic culture. The food is very good, people friendly and it's much more like living in Mexico, compared with Playa del Carmen which is vacationland.