Looking north to
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Typical pink wall
For more information go to:
excellent introduction for visitors. I carried it everywhere.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
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.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)