By Jim Ferri
I woke up in a little bed and breakfast and couldn’t wait to get outside.
It wasn’t that the place was bad — I had a nice comfortable room — but I knew I’d be in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende only a short time and wanted to see as much as possible. Plus I always enjoyed seeing places early in the morning.
It was ironic because I almost didn’t get the room. My friend Greg and I made last-minute plans to come to San Miguel and we found that all the good hotels in the Old Center were full, including the Posada Corazon B&B, my first choice.
Greg had the idea to call his friend Marina who runs a small business in San Miguel, the San Miguel Concierge, wondering if, perhaps, she could somehow help us find some place to stay, hopefully not too far out in the outskirts. In no time at all Marina had us a room at the Corazon, quite a feat since it was a very busy weekend and the place only had six rooms.
A Sleepy Little Mexican Town
I slipped out of the Posada into the morning light and began wandering about. I wanted to find out why so many people rave about this colonial hill town that’s only a three-hour drive northwest of Mexico City.
I soon realized that San Miguel is one of those proverbial sleepy little Mexican towns, and it hadn’t quite come awake yet. There was no one on any street except one restaurant owner out sweeping his entrance. I walked over to the little town square with its little manicured park, shops and the parish church, which has become a symbol of the city.
I love little town squares no matter where they are in the world, and as I roamed about San Miguel’s the changing morning light began its dance on the multi-colored walls of buildings all around me, and I slowly began to be seduced by it.
Breakfast in the Garden
After a while I returned to the Corazon and met Greg for breakfast. It was a great, huge breakfast, all homemade and organic and I left so full I couldn’t believe it.
Our table was on a terrace, shaded by a large tree in a beautiful garden, which was and stippled with a fountain and pieces of sculpture. Along one wall the steeple of the church peeked over a blaze of cascading bougainvillea. Although breakfast was included in the price of the room (it was, after all, a B&B), even those who walked in off the street paid only 150 pesos ($11).
A Spontaneous Tour
Greg and I then set out, with him as my tour guide. He brought me all over town, and we poked into everything we stumbled upon, and I enjoyed the spontaneous nature of it all.
It was almost a touristic wantonness, just wandering about wherever our eyes and feet would take us — into old hotels to explore lobbies and courtyards, down myriad little streets to see this or that, all of it always good fodder for the traveler’s mind and soul.
Along one street we found a kid running along banging an iron triangle, signaling everyone to bring out their garbage since the trash truck was not far behind. As if on cue, everyone stepped out of their doorways and waited on the sidewalk, bringing life to the otherwise deserted way. It was more of a social gathering than anything else as people stop chatting with each other while awaiting the truck.
From the Park to the Market
Further on, In Park Juarez, we came across five kids whom seemed to be practicing for the local marching band, and not far beyond a few artists selling their little colorful creations, most depicting one facet or another of the town about us. Not long after exiting the park we came upon a public wash area where women, all colorfully dressed, were doing laundry. There are several of them still in use around the town, Greg told me.
It was Saturday and early in the afternoon we wound up at the organic farmer´s market, nestled between the Instituto Allende and the Rosewood Artesana Hotel, where you could buy everything from fruit, vegetables, bread and food (cooked and served on the spot), to organic face crèmes, potholders and any number of other things. Judging from the crowd, it was evident the market is popular with the expat community.
Also popular with them is San Miguel’s art community. Greg knew several expat artists and told me that many of them who have settled here donate the proceeds of their sales to local charities.
No doubt these artists regale in the almost magical quality of the light here, and as I looked out at the purple-crowned Jacaranda trees dotting the hillsides and the city, it seemed as if someone had daubed a purple brush all over a magnificent urban canvas…just the thing to nurture anyone’s inner Monet.
If you go:
Marina von Anrep
San Miguel Concierge
(415) 154-4579 (in Mexico)
(718) 71-4479 (US)
Aldama 9, Centro
San Miguel de Allende
Guanajuato, Mexico 37700
(415) 152.0182 (Mexico)
(866) 278-2279 (US)