|Subject: Mexico City, Querétaro, and San Miguel de Allende Pt. 4|
Hello fellow travel enthusiasts,
Our last destination on this six-day jaunt through central Mexico was San Miguel de Allende. Another historically significant town in the Bajío region of Mexico, San Miguel has also become an extremely popular destination for travelers. In addition it boasts a significant population of expatriate Americans, Canadians, and Europeans. A city of about 60,000 inhabitants perched on steep hills, San Miguel de Allende's city fathers long ago enacted legislation to retain its colonial atmosphere. All of the city center dates from the colonial period or if constructed since then must conform to strict architectural design codes. In effect, the visitor to San Miguel de Allende is transported back (architecturally-speaking) to the 16th and 17th centuries. Please disregard the overhead electrical lines.
Our hour and fifteen minute trip from Querétaro to San Miguel de Allende was made on a second class bus (servicio económico) for $3.50 each. We knew that there were quite a few buses between the two cities and therefore opted to travel without reservations. Actually a bus was departing as we approached the ticket counter. The agent quickly took care of the transaction and sent us scurrying to the correct platform. The bus driver re-opened the doors and motioned for us to bring our luggage on board as we were departing immediately without time to stow our things in the compartment below. The bus was fairly empty so we lugged our bags to the back seat where we stretched out comfortably. Let me explain some of the differences between first and second class buses. Second class buses usually do not have air-conditioning, make many more stops en route, for shorter trips may not have restrooms, may require you to bring your luggage into the passenger compartment, don't have reserved seating nor a movie, usually have many more departure times, and cost less. Generally, we use first class buses for longer trips and second class buses for those short hauls when we just show up at the station to catch the next departure. However, when traveling in the tropical areas (both coasts and the Yucatan) one might want to give a lot of thought to the increased comfort that air conditioning on the first class buses offers.
The last ten minutes of our journey into San Miguel was shared with a soccer team from a neighboring village. These guys were on their way into San Miguel for their weekly Sunday game. By the time we picked them up the bus was pretty full so they crowded in around Sara, myself, and our luggage. We shared some conversation including some good-natured ribbing on their part about my probable lack of fútbol skills. Nevertheless, they invited me to join them in their game. Sara rolled her eyes and chuckled as I told them that basketball was more to my liking. I always enjoy these conversations with the Mexican people. I find them to be warm, friendly, and very interested in what part of the U.S. I'm from. I'm no longer surprised when they respond that they know San Diego, have family there or in Los Angeles, or elsewhere in El Norte.
Our accommodations in San Miguel were at the Casa Carmen located just two blocks east of the central plaza, the Jardín Principal. I had referenced this B&B in several guidebooks and followed up by looking at their website:
I can't say enough about this place. Extremely friendly hosts in Natalie Mooring and her husband Horace, nicely decorated, cheery rooms and courtyard, delicious meals, outstanding location, and reasonably priced. Our room was $75 a night which includes breakfast and lunch. While there we met a group of six American women who had been staying at the Casa Carmen for years. One lady had been coming to San Miguel de Allende for over 30 years. And in that time she had stayed at eleven different properties finally settling on the Casa Carmen at least a decade earlier as her home in San Miguel .
Casa Carmen Correo #31 C.P. 37700 A.P. 152 San Miguel de Allende Guanajuato, Mexico Tel. and Fax: 011-52 (415) 152-0844 E-mail: email@example.com
Our first order of business after unpacking was to join fellow Travelziner Ed Clancy, his wife Sarah, and their two children Julien, and Elena for lunch. We had a delightful time dining at Rincón de Don Tomás on the corner of the Jardín Principal. As always seems to be the case at Ziner GTG's the time flies. In addition to comparing notes regarding our various travels in Mexico, the family Clancy regaled us with the ins and outs of living the expatriate life in Mexico, including the remarkable accomplishment of building a home during the previous year. And in the It's a Small World Department I was surprised to discover that Ed and I had attended rival high schools in San Diego.
After saying our good-byes to the Clancys we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the cobblestone streets and plethora of shops throughout the hills of San Miguel. This town is a first class shoppers paradise. Housewares are the prime element here. Wonderful talavera ceramic ware from Dolores Hidalgo and perforated tin lights and mirror frames are especially tempting. I can't tell you how many shops we visited over the next three days. I can tell you that we had a great time shopping on this trip coming home with clothing, jewelry, ceramics, a decorative mask, glassware, candy, kitchenware, and metal work. And we still didn't make the big purchases we had planned, a large perforated light fixture and mirror, due to time constraints on our last day. Oh well, we'll be back.
On our full day in San Miguel de Allende we opted to visit a nature preserve and botanical garden called El Charco del Ingenio. We really enjoyed taking a hike through this park. It has a wonderful collection of cactuses and native plants, lots of bird life, and great views from the cliffside trails into the gorge, as well as nice views looking down on San Miguel. I highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary as a little respite from the shops and tourists in town. Taxi fare out to the park was $3. Taxis don't come by the sanctuary so we walked out to the road into town where we eventually flagged one down. We did pass by a couple who had elected to walk from town about a mile or more from the Jardín Principal. See the website for El Charco del Ingenio at:
We had also planned on visiting some nearby hot springs but a severe headache forced me to take an afternoon nap. Sara was content to relax in the courtyard at Casa Carmen and catch up on her reading. Later, well rested and headache-free, the two of us hiked up the steep cobblestone streets to take in the sunset from a great viewpoint overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. On the way back down the hill we saw some first-class hotels along Calle Hospicio. We also noticed a Spanish Consulate, an oddity we thought for a town of only 60,000. But having met some visiting Madrileños at the viewpoint and considering the huge influx of visitors and resident aliens, on second thought the consulate didn't seem so strange.
Our last meal in San Miguel de Allende was enjoyed at Las Bugambilias another venerable restaurant (established in 1945) specializing in traditional Mexican cuisine. Here Sara was able to finally get her own plate of Chiles en Nogada thus satisfying her culinary desires for the trip. Myself, still recovering from my earlier headache, decided to eat light opting for a chicken soup and quesadillas. The previous night I was overjoyed to find corundas, a specialty tamale from Michoacán, on the menu at El Correo across from the post office.
Our last day was mostly an in transit day. After a relaxing breakfast and some hurried shopping we said goodbye to the staff at the Casa Carmen who generously packed us a lunch for our trip back to Mexico City. We caught the next available bus to Mexico City which was Servicio Económico, 2nd class. This departed at 11:20 am, made several stops before a ten minute stop in Querétaro, and then proceeded direct to Mexico City. Ticket cost was $14.40. We arrived at the Terminal Norte del Autobuses in Mexico City about 3:30 pm where we caught a taxi for $7.50 for the 30 minute ride to the airport. This afforded us ample time to check-in, pass through security, and spend our loose pesos on various snack items before boarding our 5:30 pm flight home to the U.S.
One last thought before I say goodbye. As is the case in almost all of our travels I carried some U.S. cash but relied on A.T.M. machines without a single problem to withdraw pesos from our checking account.
Thank you all and I hope some of you might consider Mexico for a future vacation.