Wednesday, August 15, 2007

San Miguel de Allende: Overview



Our plane landed at Queretero at sunset. Upon descent, I noticed that the clouds and mountains had conspired with the sun to give us an appropriate welcome. The scenery stunned us as we slowly walked across the runway toward the world's tiniest baggage claim and onto Manuel's minivan for the hour-long trip into San Miguel. Immediately we realized that were in for a great week.

Food, Shelter

We arrived after dark in front of a large wooden door on an extremely narrow street called "Animas" just blocks from central San Miguel. We had rented a room, unwittingly, from a woman who had recently completed a fascinating documentary about expat life in San Miguel called Lost and Found in Mexico. Since she and her husband were in Dallas at a film festival, her daughter showed us to our spacious room, impeccably decorated with artifacts from trips to Oaxaca. The room looked out into a garden courtyard, and we looked forward to afternoons, book and wine in hand, among the hummingbirds.



The food we encountered was remarkable. We enjoyed an amazing variety of salsas. From the restaurant salsas, the standout had to be the green chile salsa at Cafe La Parroquia that featured massive chunks of avocado. We enjoyed fresh fruits and fantastic meats, culminating in an unbelievably affordable Chateaubriand at Tio Lucas. For a break from the spicy, we headed to La Palapa, which is a funky little burger stand run by a US expat off Calle Nuevo. La Palapa sits next door to the Longhorn Smokehouse, a Texas-style barbecue restaurant run by a British man who lived in Houston for roughly 30 years. As one expat told us, San Miguel offers any type of food you could hope for . . . except Thai. Restaurant ambiance in San Miguel is almost unbeatable. We enjoyed martinis on the rooftop bar of La Azotea, and we shared pasta in a peaceful courtyard at Chamonix.

Activities



Before visiting, I had searched on line for lists of "things to do," which proved to be rather pointless. Aside from eating, San Miguel really offers two main activities--either wandering or sitting. Both proved to be fantastic.



The main joy of wandering came in discovering random architectural details like the door knocker pictured above. The town is full of fascinating nooks, small churches, and interesting fountains. The wandering also carried us into amazing shops and art galleries. And maybe more significantly, we encountered the world's most terrifying handicap ramp, featured below.







We also spent a lot of time just sitting in the main plaza, called the Jardin. From a bench in the Jardin, we watched men laden with inflated playthings sell items to jubilant children. Our favorite toy was a 10 peso balloon designed to be inflated and released. Upon release, the balloon makes an obnoxious screaming noise as it flies around.



We also watched the interesting cast of characters that move around the square on a daily basis. Our favorite was a guy we nicknamed "Teddy Roosevelt." He wore knee-high riding boots, khakis, a denim button-down, a wide-brimmed olive hat, and a narrow TR-style mustache. Teddy drew our attention by sitting kids down on benches, studying their eyes and their feet, and determining the quality of the child's soul based on the examination. He also purported to be a miracle worker. Needless to say, his antics left many Mexican grandmothers a little disturbed.



After a day of wandering and watching people, we would normally retire to the room while the afternoon rains arrived. We'd grab a book, open a bottle of Mexican wine (best $5 bottle I've ever had), and just enjoy the rain.



1 comment:

George said...

I digress from the topic of this particular post, but I believe it's labor day weekend, starting in about 45 minutes-- who won the chako contest? Photos?

 
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