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The Tuesday Markets in San Miguel de Allende sprawl widely and draw locals from far away. The markets sell clothes, foods, hardware, knitting yarn, goldfish...basically all the things that one would find in a mall or a big box store. The key difference is that everything gets carted away on Tuesday night.
Rosewood Hotel in San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful (and pricey) place to stay right in the heart of San Miguel. But even if you're not a guest, it's well worth a visit to its restaurant, 1826, which is named after the year the town adopted the name San Miguel de Allende in honor of Mexican Independence hero Igancio de Allende. The crispy corn empanadas with shredded chicken and Oaxacan cheese are a delicious treat.
November 2 is one of the most important days on the Mexican calendar - and one of the most colorful for visitors. With history dating back to the Mayans and Aztecs, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an extravagant celebration of life. All over Mexico, people honor not only deceased family, friends and ancestors, but also historical and cultural heroes, like the artist Frida Kahlo seen at top left in this picture. Grave sites are cleaned and decorated with flowers, traditionally marigolds. Altars, called ofrendas, are set up in homes with pictures of the departed, candles, candy skulls called calaveras, and favorite foods, often including a bottle of tequila, mezcal, or a cerveza (beer). In many cities and towns - notably Mexico City, Oaxaca, Pátzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende - large altars are set up around the plaza and the streets are festooned with colorful, intricately cut tissue paper banners called papel picados. Parades, music and other festivities often go late into the night. Dia de los Muertos provides a unique Mexican cultural experience and a celebration of life for all!
While watching a bull meet its grisly end is not everyone's idea of a pleasant afternoon, the costumes and fanfare accompanying a bullfight are worth the price of the ticket. This bullfight in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MX featured a column of young men dressed as matadors who taunted the bull till it charged, slamming the first young man back into his colleagues who absorbed the blow. In a classic macho fashion, the front guy, only marginally wounded, was met with a standing ovation for his bravery. A woman in a silky red dress danced with a marvelously well trained horse. A parade featured the Queen and her entourage in their finery followed by the exquisitely adorned matadors, all accepting roses tossed from the stands. After the bullfight was cancelled due to rain, the ring was opened to the spectators to "play" with a young bull. One man, so drunk he could barely stand, taunted the bull, but then made the mistake of turning his back. The bull charged, a horn passed on each side of the man's waist and the bull tossed him into the air. Stunned, but unhurt, he too came out to bow to the audience who threw full cans of beer at his feet. You never know what will happen in a live sporting event. The consequences in a bullfight can be as rough on the humans as the bull.
I was excited to learn of this pyramid site that was just recently opened to the public. Day trips leave from San Miguel and very inexpensive. It's quite a hike but the view of the country and the gorges are beautiful!
A day in the San Miguel kitchen of Paco Cárdenas provides an indelible memory of a Mexican holiday. I've taken cooking classes around the world, and this was one of the best! We had an opportunity to visit San Miguel's Central Market, snacking as we shopped for ingredients for our meal, then got to do our chopping, cooking and sampling in the chef's beautiful terrace kitchen, before tucking into a three-course luncheon. Everything about the day zinged with color and great flavors. A cooking session with Paco is perfect for small groups--we were four-- and comes with an added bonus: a chance to try one of his signature desserts (Paco is a pastry chef and co-owner of the popular El Petit Four French bakery and patisserie in downtown San Miguel de Allende).
As if the warm climate, friendly people and sizzling art scene aren't enough, San Miguel de Allende explodes with yummy colors everywhere. You may as well not bother putting your camera away because you will constantly be tempted to pull it out and click a picture.
Two blocks from the sidewalk cafes, shops and crowds of the main square of San Miguel de Allende is a lovely plot of pure peace. Despite a long official name, it's known locally simply as “Bellas Artes” Walk through the huge wooden doors into the colonial courtyard. Unless a gaggle of girls is spilling out of a ballet class, you’ll feel an immediate sense of peace. Built in 1755-65 as a cloister for the Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the building has kept that sense of reflective peace, as though it's ingrained in the walls. Recently reopened after a two-year renovation, it is home to one of the best art schools and exhibition and performance spaces in San Miguel. Check out the current exhibitions in the galleries, then wander around the courtyard, with landscaping lush as a jungle—20’ tall poinsettias, 30’ tall bamboo, fruit-laden orange trees, palms and leafy ferns. The center of the square is anchored by a splashing fountain topped by an endearing concrete Lamb of God. Climb the stairs to see the murals on the walls, most dating from the 1940, and the arch-framed views of the bell tower and dome of the neighboring “Las Monjas” church. And don’t leave without seeing the amazing abstract mural in a downstairs room, painted in 1948 by Davíd Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the famous triumvirate of Mexican muralists—along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. It is arguably the most famous work of art in San Miguel. Non-flash photography is allowed.
The House and Garden Tour is a must do. It is sponsored by the Biblioteca Pública which takes you into the city’s most intriguing contemporary and colonial homes every Sunday at 11:30am departing from the library at Insurgentes 25.
Food in Mexico is far more diverse than many know. Avoid the expensive tourist spots and hit the back roads and the inner market stalls of San Miguel. The fruits are fresh the grills are sizzling, the beers are cold and the atmosphere is so much fun.
You simply cannot get food like this in the tourist bars... If you are visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico the first thing you need to do is get yourself OUT of the main square. Find the market, head for the center of it and eat your heart out. There are about 20 different vendors/food stalls filled with amazing eats, from crunchy churros to grilled tortas, fresh squeezed liquados, home brewed coffee, mole with meat and rice and beans, delicious quesadillas and so so so much more. Don't forget to try the hibiscus juice or homemade horchada
We were walking with friends through the streets of San Miguel when we came across this intersection where one street was called "Macias Hernandez." It so happens one of us is a Macias, and the other (my girlfriend in the picture) is a Hernandez.
We used quad bikes to get to the place where San Miguel de Allende was founded. A small chapel built in the 15th century marks the spot. It is just one of the stops of a tour that took us through dirt roads, old bridges, ancient doorways and beautiful rivers. Photo courtesy of Zopilote Adventures
In San Miguel, you can eat hi-brow and low, local and imported, by candlelight and streetlight. Your choice--and a lot of choice there is. But if you really want to "get" what and how the locals eat--how they've probably been eating for centuries--you can't do better than to go to the "Tianguis," or Tuesday Market. First spend an hour or so wandering the market aisles, checking out the hundreds of stalls and working up an appetite. Mountains of strawberries and piles of potatoes, tarps arrayed with used wrenches and used saddles, live birds, stacks of second-hand clothes and bolts of flower-bright Mexican oilcloth will catch your eye. Make-up and music (mostly pirated), fresh fish and flip-flops, wool yarn and witchcraft potions... it's here if you want it. Feel free to haggle if you know how. But you came to eat. And the choice is wide and deep. Early in the morning finds stall workers breakfasting on menudo (tripe stew). For lunch, the tacos de cecina (Mexican corned beef) are traditional and delicious. Or try the green--very green--chorizo sausages with briny veggies, hot sauce and a twist of lime.There are gorditas, tostadas, sopes and guisados. You don't really need to know what the words mean. Just smile and point. For the less adventurous who want something vaguely familiar, there are tacos of every stripe. I like the chicken in dark mole sauce and tacos al pastor with fresh pineapple chunks on top. Just go. Just pick something. Just eat it. Then smile.
Buy fresh fruit in the market in San Miguel... there is so much to taste and everything is fresh. Ask a vendor about something you don't recognize, they will likely cut it open for you to taste and if you visit the same seller regularly you are sure to get bonus fruits for free. Sometimes I get bonus watermelons or a kilo of oranges from my favorite guy...
San Miguel de Allende is arguably the most beloved of Mexico’s colonial cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Miguel has a heady mix of art, music, culture, and colonial Spanish architecture from Baroque to Neo-Gothic. The city's love for art is apparent with its abundance of eclectic galleries, music festivals, and annual celebrations. Evening rooftop views of the sunset are sublime and the city boasts some of the most gorgeous boutique hotels in all of Mexico. The San Miguel de Allende trip offered by AFAR Travel Advisory Council member John Clifford includes accommodations in a suite at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, daily breakfast, and a $100 credit at Sense, the Rosewood’s spa, for $1,739 per couple. Book now!
All around Mexico are traveling family Circus'. I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in April 2012, and saw a pink Big Top set up on the outskirts of town. I strolled over in the middle of the afternoon, wandered around, and was "intercepted" by the Tiger Trainer. Without language to communicate, because my Spanish is poor and he spoke no English, he was able to understand that I wanted to photograph the circus, inside the Big Top and behind the scenes. He gave me permission and I attended the next two performances before they left San Miguel for another town or city. My husband and I were the only gringos there so it was great to see this from a completely "local" perspective. For those traveling in Mexico, look around and also ask if the Circus is in town. It is a pretty big event if they are it is great thing to watch and experience. I added a link to all of the photos below.
A few hours drive north of Mexico City lies the picturesque enclave of San Miguel de Allende. A favorite place among artists, tourists, American retirees, and European expats, San Miguel is best known for its historic center, filled with a plethora of preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, many of which have been converted to boutique shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and hotels. While the town’s colonial history dates back to the early 16th century, it was during the recent past – the late 1930s and early 1940s – that San Miguel began to attract artists and writers from around the world. During this period, two prominent art and cultural schools were founded, both of which achieved much success after WW II thanks to the enrollment of many veteran soldiers. As more artists flocked to the city, hotels, shops and restaurants opened to cater to the mass influx of people. The town's cultural, foreign and cosmopolitan nature continues to this day. As you walk through the maze of cobble-stoned streets that weave up steep inclines, you’ll feel the charm of the city and be awed by the many well-preserved buildings. But at the same time, you may get the sense that San Miguel is rather un-Mexican since the most obvious culture relates to foreign residents and tourists as opposed to natives. I happened to visit during the New Year's celebrations, at which time the historic center was cascaded in the light of multi-colored fireworks.
Semana Santa, Day of the Dead, the Aztec "conchero" dancers of Our Lord of the Conquest, Los Locos dancing for St. Anthony--San Miguel de Allende is famous for these and more Catholic religious observances. And they are all worth seeing. But wander down Calle Relox, just half a block from the central Jardín, and you get a glimpse into the mind of a Jewish "sanmiguelense" with a sense of humor. Arca de Noe--Noah's Arc--is a building featuring some of the most impish, charming and endearing gargoyles you've ever encountered. Monkeys and sheep, puppy dogs and big-eyed deer, a bull and what looks like a smiling hippo--all of them giving you a look that says they're just delighted to be there. Atop the roof line, lions and birds and dogs strut their stuff. A frieze of horses, camels, elephants and a bison march along below the cornice. A couple of cats look ready to pounce. And look, there's a scorpion. And over there an armadillo. And what on earth is that fantastical creature? A coat of arms proudly tops it all, while over the big wooden doors a large Star of David beckons you enter the Arca de Noe. The building, made of the same local golden-pink "cantera" stone as the Parroquia church, has been home to the Casa Cohen hardware and ironware store for decades--though rumor has it that they may be going out of business. I hope rumor lies. In any case, a stroll past Noah's Arc is well worth the time. And take your camera. The critters like to pose and their grins are waiting.
Though less well known than in Antigua, Guatemala, the Easter celebrations (Semana Santa) in San Miguel De Allende are every bit as beautiful and intimate. Many of the cobblestone streets are covered with alfombras (colorful carpets of pine needles, flowers and plants). The week is filled with processions and reenactments of the last days of Christ. This photo was taken on Good Friday, where the women dressed in black carry a float (Anda) during a candlelight procession.
In San Miguel, the main plaza is called “El Jardín.” Anchored in front by the frothy Gothic church, La Parroquia, and lined on two sides by arcaded portales full of outdoor cafes and trendy shops, it functions as everyone’s public living room. In the mornings, elderly men and women with rush brooms sweep the church courtyard and cobblestones on the traffic-free street. On wrought-iron benches under the laurel trees, retired gringos trade morning chit-chat. The Jardín is gossip central—where you learn what’s been happening… and who did it. Buy an ice cream cone, get a newspaper, sit in the sun, and wait for someone you met last night to walk by. Because almost everyone in town passes through the Jardín at least once a day. Come back in the evening and the show stars locals enjoying the soft evening air—teenagers ogling each other, abuelas chatting on a bench while keeping an eye on wandering toddlers, young couples carrying babies. One of the mariachi groups is likely playing a birthday song or a rousing version of "Cielito Lindo." Just sit and soak it all up, because it doesn’t get anymore “local color” than this. When you get home from your stay, San Miguel’s Jardín will remain one of the most indelible images in your mind… and in your photo album. The link below will take you to a live webcam focused on part of San Miguel's Jardín.
For a Mexican girl, Sweet Sixteen is not really a big deal. But Sweet FIFTEEN... oh that is another story entirely. Every young Mexican girl dreams of the day she will be a "quinceañera," and the "Quince Años" celebration, marking the birthday when she becomes a woman, will be the biggest day of a her life except for her wedding (and sometimes even fancier than that). The rituals around a girl's 15th birthday are beloved and followed carefully, and many of them foreshadow those of a wedding. Her dress will be elaborate and lovely--she has probably been dreaming of it and sketching it out or gazing longingly in shop windows for years. Her face will be carefully made up. She will carry a floral bouquet like a bride. A special mass in her honor will be said in the church, where she will be surrounded by parents and godparents and where school friends serve as her "court." She will enter the church a girl and leave a woman. After church, solemness is left behind and the party begins. Our young woman will have taken dancing lessons for weeks beforehand to prepare for the traditional waltz with her father. And then everyone joins in the dancing. Good music, good food, and lots of beer and tequila will likely send everyone home happy. The young woman seen here on her father's arm has just emerged from her special mass in La Parroquia church on the main square of San Miguel de Allende.
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