San Miguel de Allende
We spent our first full day [n Mexico driving from Matehuala to San Miguel de Allende, a place Mike and I had wanted to see after hearing so many wonderful things about its rich history and cuisine. With Maya comfortably in her spot in the back seat, we took off and headed for the mountains. Once you hit this part of Mexico the mountains seem to engulf you. In every direction that you look there are more majestic mountains. They are dusty and dry but their shapes are unique and magnificent. The roads here are a bit challenging because of the number of trucks.
I digress a moment because I remember seeing photos of men, women and children hitching rides on tankers and other tractor trailer trucks, and then reading snide comments about these “caravaners,” as if they had such an easy experience, holding on for dear life on the outside of a truck. Let me tell you, after seeing the winding, steep incredibly ragged terrain, I, for the life of me, cannot imagine how desperate I would have to be to make that trip huddled on top, under or on the back of a huge truck, or even one of their dobles (double trailers).
These trucks drive on 2 lane roads that they make into 4 lanes by dropping their tires onto the shoulder. They crawl up these steep mountains and once they peak it is a free-for-all, high speed chase down the other side, only to do it again and again and again. In our days on the road from Matehuala to San Miguel, to Guanajuato, to Cholula, to Oaxaca to Minatitlan we never came out of the mountains once. Each mountain range we encountered became higher and more lush, only the plant life changed. Never in my life have I imagined mountain ranges like Mexico has. Mike, who loves the mountains, finally said he was done with them after weeks of nothing but. Not only are they incredibly windy, steep and dangerous but the altitude will definitely affect you!
So, this was day one of our trek through mountains and after about 4 or 5 hours we reached our destination, San Miguel de Allende. We had reserved a two-bedroom home near the center of town through Airbnb. It was an interesting place with several apartments, parking and a yard for the dogs. It was painted a deep reddish orange and the flowers were the perfect accent to make it feel welcoming. Each bedroom and the main living area had French doors that opened into a tiny enclosed courtyard, it was like a mini hacienda. The furnishing was sparse and not particularly comfy but we each had our own bedroom and bath and shared living/dining and kitchen. The location was great, about a 10 minute walk from the zocalo, center of town.
Anyone who knows Maya knows that she spent her first months tied on a short rope on a rock pile, that had a profound affect on her. And from the moment we adopted her she made it her life’s mission to seek out the most comfy seat there was, whether it was in my lap curled up with me and our super soft blankie, or on a couch, either burrowed into a pile of pillows. If she was warm she might toss all the pillows off the couch and sprawl out. Other times she might choose to pile the pillows up and perch herself on top of them, high, where she had a view that suited her at the moment. At night she was not happy if she was not snuggled in between Mike and I. Even if she was spending time outside with us at home, she would think nothing of crawling up in the hammock with me if I was reading. She helped herself to any of the lounge chairs to bask in the sun. Rarely, and only if she were hot from the tiny bit of exercise she subjected herself to, would you see her on the floor or ground.
Tootsie, on the other hand, according to Caroline and Bob, never once tried to get up on furniture. She was a beach terrier from Xcalak and was very content with the floor, that was until we left Tootsie alone in our Airbnb with Maya, who apparently schooled her on the finer things in life - how a Mayan dog should truly live. We all came home to find Tootsie curled up on the couch. Maya of course was in on our bed where she had a mattress, 4 pillows and my super soft blankie! Maya and Tootsie took no time in becoming kindred spirits, respecting each other’s space but obviously admiring one another for their successful survival skills.
We spent 5 nights in San Miguel. What a gorgeous city! It reminded Mike and me a little of Charleston and of Florence. It is very much an artists’ community. Expats and artists from all around the world have been flocking to this city since the ‘30s, when a deal was made to offer an artist exchange program to college students. It is a walkable city with lots of history and gorgeous parks. It is also very much a foodie’s paradise.
Mexico is a country rich with history and culture. One of the most beautiful things about Mexico is that it is not white-washed, by that I mean they did not experience the destruction of their entire culture and the forcing of white history. That is not to say the Spanish conquistadores were not cruel, and it is not to take anything away from the facts of what happened, but when you visit any part of Mexico today it is extremely evident that modern Mexico has managed to blend all its historical influences into its own unique culture. Mexicans are rightfully proud of their ancient ancestors while blending the positive, European influences from the colonial period. I became particularly aware of this melding of histories and stories because we, in our country, don’t really share that cultural trait. The Europeans in our background wiped out our indigenous history, leaving us with something, I think, less fulfilling and impermanent. We don’t have the mix of languages, the respect of our native history or the weaving of the cultures and I feel we have missed out on a lot. But again I digress and it is just my opinion.
We hired a guide and spent one day visiting Guanajuato, which is an amazing city. I would not suggest doing it on your own. We marveled at how our guide took us on an adventure that started on the top of the mountain looking down on the city, then we found ourselves in a maze of tunnels underneath the city and last we were up walking down the street entering a church that we had seen from above and below. It is a magical city with incredible architecture, history and winding roads that loop in and around the city, similar to a roller coaster. It is a truly wonderful place that shows just how amazing human ingenuity can be.
We followed up our day by visiting a silver mine up on the top of a mountain just outside of the city. This I have to say is not for any of you who may be the slightest bit claustrophobic. I can attest it is not a pleasant experience if you are, add to that the photos of the slaves and conditions in which these mines were worked over the years and it was overwhelming for me, but a memory that is etched in my mind forever.
I would highly recommend San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato to anyone who loves a mild climate, enjoys the mountains and is a lover of history, art and great food! I can see why so many expats call it home. But Mike and I we need to be closer to the ocean.