San Miguel de Allende
I’m glad I arrived after sunset. The travel guides always show pictures of San Miguel during the day, but they illuminate the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel at night, which I think adds to its singular beauty. It’s not hard to imagine why Travel + Leisure Magazine elected San Miguel as the #1 city in the world. The cobblestone streets, the pink cathedral, and the trendy restaurants make for a Mexican fantasy town that feels too idyllic to be authentic.
Even the Airbnb at which I stayed resembled the kind of Mexican hacienda one could imagine at a theme park.
And San Miguel has no lack of culinary curiosities. Before I left, I tasted my first chiles en nogada, a type of chile relleno with a sweet ground beef filling and almond sauce that is served in August and September to commemorate Mexico’s independence from Spain. The colors of the dish correspond to the colors on the Mexican flag.
Lastly, an excursion to the Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, an UNESCO World Heritage Site sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico for its intricately muraled walls and ceilings, topped off the San Miguel de Allende leg of the trip.
When I was researching travel to San Miguel, Luisa at Amaixico.com recommended I make a trip to Guanajuato since I’d be in the area, and I’m really grateful she did. While San Miguel is beautiful and idyllic,
Guanajuato is rich in culture and history, and the town has a distinctly European feel, largely due to the annual Cervantes festival for which it is famous, the Spanish troubadours that wander the city singing, and the beautiful tunnels beneath the multi-colored houses that litter the hills (if you don’t believe me, you can read Ray Bradbury’s description from his short story “The Next in Line,” from The October Country (1955).
The story features the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato, which is something certain to tantalize those of the goth persuasion. Incidentally, it disturbed Bradbury enough to instigate his leaving the country. But I digress.
My favorite thing about Guanajuato by far is the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote. This curious feature of Guanajuato is the result of a Spaniard named Don Eulalio Ferrer Rodríguez, a Cervantes enthusiast displaced from his native Spain as a result of the Franco years. I’ve included highlights of the museum below.
Highlights from the Museo Iconográfia del Quijote
Guanajuato really is a treat, and I hope to visit again sometime, since I didn’t have time to explore everything the town has to offer. Oh, and the colors of the houses that litter the hills of Guanajuato have to be seen.
After Guanajuato, D.F. (Distrito Federal, although now it’s officially called la Ciudad de México) came next on the itinerary. An afternoon arrival preceded an excursion to locate The Palacio de Bellas Artes.
I’d pre-purchased through Ticketmaster for the Ballet Folklórico de México that night (FYI: If you purchase tickets for this through Ticketmaster from out of country, you need to pick up the tickets at a Ticketmaster office that offers printing services before arriving at the venue. I went to Liverpool in the Centro Historico).
It was well worth the effort. This was one of the best live performances I’ve seen anywhere—beautiful costumes, sets, live music—not a dull minute. Also, while the venue is not the florid Palais Garnier of Paris, it’s a far cry lovelier than the prosaic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion back in Los Angeles, worth a visit for its own sake.
(On a side note, I thought it was interesting that across the street from the Palacio, there is a multi-story Sears that is larger than any I’ve seen in the U.S. I also saw a Woolworth while commuting from Condesa to the Centro Historico.)
Murals of Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional