When we arrived back at the Casa Gonzales in Mexico City we were given the same room and, again met a most interesting group of guests at breakfast, a true League of Nations. What we had not reckoned on is that all the museums in Mexico City close on Mondays. On Tuesday we made up for that by taking the Metro to the historic district, first visiting the enormous Metropolitan Cathedral and then the ruins of the Templo Mayor, which are right in the heart of the city. They could be easily seen from the sidewalk and some excavation was still being done. Then came the high spot of the day, a visit to the Ministry of Education building, which has huge murals on almost every available surface painted by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. They were magnificent and depicted both the way of life and the history of the area. Next morning we boarded the deluxe double-decker bus, reclining seats, foot rests and video screens for the four hour trip to San Miguel. It certainly was not a scenic journey as there was so much urban sprawl, lots of factories and very little green space.
In San Miguel de Allende we have an Air B&B, which is self contained on the second floor of a house, whose owners are out of town. Again Robin has come up trumps as it has an outdoor seating area with a barbecue, a heater and lots of plants. We were met by the housekeeper, who comes in once a week to clean and do our laundry. It has a very well equipped kitchen and everything we need. We are very intrigued by the brickwork on the ceilings and Robin has spent lots of time trying to figure out how it’s done.
We had heard so much about San Miguel de Allende (SMA) over the years and have to say it’s the most charming of the colonial towns we have visited. It is about 4 hours by bus NW of Mexico City and is quite high at about 6,000 feet so the mornings and evenings tend to be cool and we are very glad of the gas heating in the house! It’s easy to see why SMA has become an artists’ Mecca. Originally it was the staging post between the silver mines and Mexico City and had very wealthy inhabitants. Historically it is important as it was the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule during the Mexican War of Independence. The streets are cobblestones and are kept immaculate by women out scrubbing them each morning. The skyline is dominated by beautiful churches, the most ornate one being the Parroquia, which looks rather like a Disney fairy tale castle at night.
There is a very large expat community of mostly Americans whose centre is the Bibliotecha. This large compound houses an extensive library, a school for women and girls, a language centre and the venue for all sorts of activities like bridge, mahjong, lectures and poetry readings. Last Sunday we joined their weekly House and Garden tour, which was very interesting. The first house was owned by a realtor from Phoenix, very blonde and flamboyant. Her house definitely reflected her personality being quite over the top and so staged you couldn’t imagine actually living there. The second, Tres Cervezas, was absolutely gorgeous, having been extensively renovated over five years by owners with exquisite taste and deep pockets. The best feature was the rooftop terrace with a pool and panoramic views of the town.
The Bibliotecha publishes its own newspaper, Que Pasa, outlining the slew of activities each day. If that weren’t enough, SMA is a great place to walk as the streets are so pretty and the variety of doorways is a feature. There are lots of very interesting shops with leatherwork, handicrafts and housewares. We have been doing much of our own catering, shopping at the Mercado at prices that will make me weep when I return to Thriftys but the meals we have had out have been so interesting and inventive. At many of the restaurants you can dine in the courtyards which are quite magical, with flowering shrubs and fountains, very reminiscent of our experience in Marrakesh.
Needless to say, we are revelling in the blue skies, sunshine and warmth and feel very fortunate we have two more weeks to sample the wealth of experiences SMA has to offer.