My old Springbank neighbour and friend, Bev Cenaiko and I finally did it!! At our Calgary luncheon ‘get together catch ups’ over the years we had often discussed the possibility of leasing an apartment or casita somewhere in Mexico together … plant ourselves into a foreign country for a spell, become part of the community rather than a rushed one or two week holiday …. unavoidable certainly, when one is working or running a busy household for decades as we have …. there are benefits to these so-called golden years 🙂 …… no more rushing!! … San Miguel de Allende in somewhat central Mexico, kind of spoke to us both. I had spent a week here with Brian several years ago and Bev also travelled here with her husband in more recent times. San Miguel is an old Colonial city with much history …. one cannot escape stories of the Spanish conquest and plundering of Mexico … not all of this is pleasant, as indeed is the case globally wherever indigenous people have been “colonized” by other countries.
However unpleasant the past, San Miguel today is a pleasant city in the state of Guanajuato … Population inches close to 100,000 we hear ….. that figure includes thousands of expats from Europe, US and Canada who call San Miguel their winter home. Little wonder!! The cobbled streets are charming although takes the feet a bit of getting used to … the produce is fresh and local … ie delicious!! ….. an artistic kind of vibe permeates the place …. plenty of reasonably priced restaurants, bars, yoga studios, theatre venues for various live performances, opportunities for learning Spanish and plenty of historical towns and sites to explore, all within an hour or two of SM … This is a place to learn about Mexico, it’s history, to enjoy being around the primarily warm, kind, generous Mexican people and yes, certainly also to savour the simple pleasures of a fresh bowl of locally grown fruit … a place to enjoy the Mexican ambiance devoid of the rampant coastal tourism, the five star all inclusive booze fests that have become the defining feature of modern day Mexican tourism for too many North Americans …. not all of that is bad ….. I, as much an anyone, sure enjoy the hazy, lazy ocean side of Mexico as well on any given day, but I was ready to experience Mexico from a more organic perspective 🙂
We flew into Queretaro, yet another old colonial city …. the cobbly old town section was declared a World UNESCO site a few years back …. we booked rooms there at a converted restored home dating back to the 1700’s …. the doors to the former horse stables, formed part of the back wall in the breakfast room!! …. about 20 rooms, all with different configurations, sizing and furnishings, were named after the various Mexican family members who last owned the estate. The central courtyard was surrounded by lemon, orange and grapefruit trees …. charming beyond belief …. we were loathe to leave our surroundings, so pleasant it was, just sitting in the courtyard! ….. but tear ourselves away we did, to explore Queretaro’s parks, churches, a museum and the ubiquitous courtyards and town squares … it was Sunday with church bells ringing every half hour, families milling about everywhere, a happy ambiance filling the air …. a great way to move into the Mexican lifestyle.
After a pleasant drive through the countryside on Monday, we arrived in San Miguel at our lovely Casa Pura Vida, as the owners have dubbed their beautiful home!! Bev and I are beyond delighted …. the place exceeds our imaginings! We unpack and settle in to our home away from home …. we had earlier arranged to meet my friend Francoise for dinner. Francoise, an American from Washington D.C. has made SM her winter home the past four years. It was a delight to meet up with her again … we first met in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2010 where Francoise was the Global host for my team of 16 volunteers. Over a pleasant dinner of empanadas, fajitas and margaritas, Francoise shared stories of her recent adventures, and offered a myriad of helpful tidbits about San Miguel life in general …. walking back to our respective homes, we discover they are a mere few blocks apart!! … Plans are tentatively made to tie up later in the weeks to come …