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Trip Report 2017 SMA Trip

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A recap on my February trip to San Miguel de Allende. I went with my mom and we are very close, but can suffer some turbulence sometimes so I was a little anxious about spending a solid week together out of the country. We got on great though and I credit that to two things: having our own separate hotel rooms and the fact that our hotel didn’t have a bar, haha.

San Miguel is really lovely, very pretty. The locals are sweet. A lot of boomer expats and snowbirds from the US and Canada. The short stay tourists that I observed tended to be 50+ too. On the weekend however, young Mexicans from Mexico City and Guadalajara poured into town to party and the city took on a very different vibe which was fun to see. We found that little English is spoken, even by hotel and travel agency staff. This came as a surprise to me but we managed just fine between our limited Spanish and interwebs/apps.

The weather was great, the light is beautiful there. The town square is referred to as the Jardin and it is boxed in by cafes and small shops under porticos. Facing the Jardin to the south is the tall, pink church called Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. Several blocks radiate out from there in all directions full of shopping, art galleries, restaurants, churches, a couple museums and art schools, a library, and a theater or two. It’s a really chill place, not a lot of busy sight seeing but enough to keep us occupied for the week. Many long, leisurely coffee hours were spent in the library courtyard and on the town square.

Like most any new place I visit, I try to do a walking tour early in the trip to get my bearings and introductions. There is a good historical walking tour that departs from the Jardin at 9:45am. The ticket fee is reasonable and the revenue they bring in is put to good use through Patronato Pro Ninos, which is a non profit organization that provides medical and dental services to needy children in the community and outlying areas. If I remember correctly the tour guides work purely as volunteers so the ticket fee and tips both go towards this organization and the children they serve. https://historicalwalkingtour.org/

The trip highlights for me:

- Bellas Artes art school and it’s Siqueiros mural.

- The Ignacio Allende Museum. I love me some independence heroes.

- The Mask Museum. A collection of ceremonial masks worn by various indigenous communities across Mexico. This museum is a labor of love by a very bright guy named Bill LeVasseur. He acts at the owner, curator and docent and he brings this museum to life on his tour. He also owns and runs the gorgeous inn attached the museum, Casa de la Cuesta. We did not stay there but I have no doubt that Bill and his wife would be great hosts.

- Fabrica la Aurora-an old textile mill turned art and design complex-this was super cool. The art, decor and accessories were great but I liked seeing the history of the mill documented on the hallway walls the most.|

- El Charco del Ingenio-the botanical garden that was most magical. There are a couple observatories and paths filled with all kinds of cacti and other native flora. There was also an area of wide open space that looked out over a gorge and further to the west the whole city was in view below. There were big celestial ceremonial structures plotted here and there and all I could hear was the wind and birds. It was awesome. The botanical garden is high up in the hills and you drive through a higher end residential section to get to it and these houses, landscaping, gardens, etc. are gorgeous so that was cool to see too. (There is a house and garden tour every Sunday that departs from the library but we did not make it, regrettably).

- Day trip to Guanajuato-the capital city of the state by the same name. A university town and more of a contemporary living-working city vs predominately a tourist town. Went to the Diego Rivera museum there but a lot of the works it normally houses were out on loan but still worth a short visit. Also really enjoyed the Don Quixote museum even though I’ve never read the book.

Sight seeing aside, the absolute best experiences we had were watching the locals just celebrate life. In the course of our stay we saw a political rally followed by a folk festival, a funeral, a wedding, and a marriage proposal. All of which was accompanied by spirited fanfare. Our last night of the trip fell on Valentine’s day and boy did the place come alive with couples of all ages celebrating arm in arm, strolling the town carrying teddy bears and flowers. So sweet. We were sitting on the town square having our last nightcap watching it all when a mariachi band started into song on our sidewalk, and a minute later there was a proposal at the table right next to us. The girl started crying and then I started crying and then the small crowd around all applauded and cheered. The girl and I made eye contact and both smiled ear to ear at each other and it was a connection that I don’t want to ever forget. This was the best last day of vacation nightcap ever.

If I had a warning on San Miguel it’s that the the pedestrian center is limited to just the main square and there are a lot of whizzing cars on all the other streets which makes walking the very narrow sidewalks a little stressful but drivers are extremely courteous. The fumes form the cars can be a bit much sometimes. Navigating the steep, narrow sidewalks with lots of breaks in them would be a challenge for anyone with mobility issues.

I found SMA to be budget friendly and good for a week stay. My mom moves at a slower pace than me and I’d have covered the same ground quicker alone but there are a few day trips to nearby cities (part of the independence route called La Ruta de la Libertad, I believe) and some wineries and horseback riding nearby to fill in the gaps.

We stayed at Casa Luna Boutique Hoel which was well located, clean and nicely furnished. Our rooms were spacious and comfy, so were the bathrooms. It does not have a proper restaurant or lounge though if that is of importance. The hot breakfast was pretty weak but the fruit and yogurt sufficed for us anyway. Staff was very sweet.

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