Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Getting to know SMA just a Little Bit

Café Monet - where I had breakfast on my first morning

Café Monet - where I had breakfast on my first morning

Yesterday afternoon Marc and Sue took me for a bit of a walking tour followed by dinner with a friend. I had spent all morning writing, and felt keen to get out and see more of the sights. We met at the Café Monet and before heading up the street took at look at the little barrio (neighbourhood) behind the main street.

The streetscape is captivating in old historic town center.

There is a little hidden laneway, just inside the "Aldea Arches" which leads to the Life Path Centre, a yoga/Tai Chi Meditation Centre/Boutique Holtel. The Riconada de la Aldea, as it is called, is filled with wall murals and gardens, a few galleries and some wonderful home facades.

The streetscape is vivid and interesting in the old historic town center.
A wall mural on "Riconada de la Aldea"
After touring the little laneway we wandered around the small rectangle that is Santa Cruz (street) and enjoyed a parade of beautiful homes which comprise the small La Aldea Arches Barrio. The weather was perfect even a bit hot (not complaining) and the one cloud in the sky made a very picturesque statement.
A wall mural on "Riconada de la Aldea"

San Miguel is known for its beautiful doors - I was told there is a coffee table book one can buy. It will be hard not to fill this blog with pictures of the beautiful fronts of houses I see on my walks. The historic centre of the city is quite regulated - the colours are restricted to the Browns/oranges and yellows which are in keeping with the district. You won't find any fast food joints - businesses are also restricted.

Next, we wandered up Zacateros (street) wandering in and out of shops and galleries and winding our way up the street to the Templo de la Immaculada Conception, which is both a church and a cloistered nunnery.
The fabulous tree in the garden at the Church of Immaculate Conception
From there we strolled - from now on my "up" will refer not to north/south but to real up/down, since this is a hill town and that makes more sene - up to Hernandez Macias (street) and into the Bella's Artes cultural/arts centre. There are arts classes and lectures here as well as permanent rotating exhibits. Here I saw an amazing wall mural - really a whole room mural created in 1948 by David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Afterwards we continued on to a street named "Insurgentes" and to the Biblioteca Pública (library). The library is one of the main centres of social activity and houses the small Santa Ana Teatro as well as lounges, a big projects room bustling with all sorts of activity from language instruction to crafts. We stopped at the library courtyard café for a coffee. Yes, there are also books here - English as well as Spanish. It houses one of the larger collections of English language books and DVDs in Mexico, second only to the one at Mexico City. Films are shown and lectures take place In the Teatro and most cost only 60 pesos. I earmarked Fri at noon to go see the film "I'll see you in my Dreams", which I had wanted to see at TIFF but could not get tickets.
Actually there are quite a few small theatres tucked away in little spots, seating only 20-30 people in the ahistorical district with jaunt a little cardboard sign in the window advertising what is on for the week. For 10 pesos you get a drink and popcorn and a movie - and some good ones in English. I wonder if these movies are bootlegged copies given the price!
Next through the Plaza Civica and on to the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez - the market. It reminded me of St Lawrence Market in Toronto. It was just closing as we arrived and we only poked around the beginning of it - it goes on for streets and streets. I will have to go back there to have a real browse.

The last stop of our walking tour was the Plaza Principal and the Parroquía de San Miguel Archángel, which I had seen on my first evening during the Day of the Dead celebrations. The pink stone on the gothic spires looks amazing as the sun sets. See the section on the Parroquía in the San Miguel Article from WIKI:

Time was marching and dinner was calling so we headed over to the Berlín Bistro to meet Bill for dinner. A surprise 2 for 1 happy hour meant of course 2 glasses of wine each. Everyone raved about the hamburgers here and although there were quite a few great mains on the menu I decided to give that a go. When the burger arrived it was everything it should have been and I munched happily while the 4 of us chatted about San Miguel and what brought us here.

Bill is a real life example of what can happen when you come to SAM. He arrived here for a month's vacation over a decade ago and once the month was up decided to stay and signed a 1 year lease. He has been living ever since in the same gated community beside the private golf course to which he is a member. As he put it "I always wanted to retire and live beside a golf course, I just never imagined it would not be in the States."

A boy and his parrot :)


San Miguel's population is decent sized at around 140,000. At peak season the Gringos stand at about 10,000, but they have considerable influence in the town, given that they are a heck of a lot of retirees with money to spend. Also, it seems to me, having listened to discussion and from the reading I have done, that a good number of these Gringos are do-gooders, who volunteer at any number of the many philanthropic organizations and events going on here. It is a very good omen when visitors volunteer to improve the place they stay and even put down roots.

This is not the first time I have heard of folks coming to San Miguel and deciding to move here. So far I have seen little which would argue against living here. Rent for full timers is quite reasonable and I understand that a decent place can be had for as little as $500 per month, if you sign a 1 year lease. For Canadians, the exchange is not too bad but for Americans it is a real bonus - the peso has devalued against then US greenback by about 30% - just as the Canadian loony has. Food prices for imported food is about the same as at home but fresh food - fruit and veg particularly are much cheaper. Entertainment and eating out is less expensive. So the financial part of the equation is good - one could live here for less than back home. There is lots to do here and lots of English speaking retirees, artists and free spirits to provide company. So far, it seems the most beautiful city I have been in, at least in the centre of town. I wonder.... Maybe this would be a good place for at least a regular winter escape.

So went day 3 of my San Miguel escape. More to come tomorrow.

Please know that I have only touched upon a few of the noteworthy sights from the walking tour - hopefully enough to give you a sense of the place and perhaps lure you here for a visit!



  1. I did not realize you had responded to my comment on your "opening day" post until I had already moved along to your second day and written a comment there …. so, I will respond back now, on my stop at your third installment.

    It is not too difficult to think our paths will cross at some point in time, Peggy. It occurred to me way back when that Toronto is one of the places to make the jump from Minneapolis/Saint Paul to a direct flight to some destinations I favor in Europe. The only negative is an extra walk through customs entering and leaving Canada. You could buy me a cup of coffee at the Toronto airport.

    I was not aware of San Miguel de Allende until your visit, so I checked it out on a map and in Wikipedia. It does sound like a fascinating place to visit and, maybe, to live during part of the year. Mexico's gun laws are not conductive to my avocation, which is a barrier for me to live just about anywhere which might interest me outside of the United States.

    Anyway, I am (as always) enjoying tagging along behind you in spirit and looking over your shoulder as you roam the world.

    Good luck with your writing project, Peggy, stay safe and see you at your next installment ....

    1. Glad to see I have you along for the trip. Yes,new should see if we can do a Toronto connection at some point. I figured you might have difficulty with travel destinations for long term stay, knowing your desire to take full advantage of that constitutional riigbt given to all Americans.

      See you later - I am off for another walking tour.