Explore. Experience. Engage.

The Keys To San Miguel De Allende

Author: Bruce D.
Date of Trip: January 2012



There are field trips to many nearby points of interest. You can visit the university silver mining town of Guanajuato, a "World Heritage Zone." Here some of the streets are subterranean and even have underground right and left turns. When you pop up you can tour Diego Rivera's family home. The University of Guanajuato, established by Jesuits in 1732, has an enrollment of 8,500 and is considered one of the finest schools for music and theater.

The ghost mining town of Pozos, forty minutes away, is worth visiting. Bring your camera. There are ruins, mine shafts, and tunnels, but be careful where you walk. You could drop out of sight. Pozos has two great hotels, the Casa Mexicana and Casa Montana.

In Dolores Hidalgo, home of Father Don Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest who became the father of his country, you can visit the church where the war for independence was born, buy gorgeous talavera pottery and ice cream in flavors you won't find back home. Of course they have chocolate, vanilla and strawberry as well as flavors like cheese, avocado, corn nuts, beer, tequila, mango, papaya, water melon and cactus, to name but a few.

Nearby, in Atotonilco, an Indian word for hot water, you can visit the fascinating sanctuary that attracts pilgrims from all over the world. Atotonilco is also a World Heritage Site. If there are retreatants you may not be able to enter.

Two hours away you can experience Mexico unspoiled in Tequisquiapan and Bernal. In Bernal there's a rock that rivals the Devils Tower in Wyoming. In Bernal dine at the Mesquite Cafe where the food is scrumptious, and you can ponder the rock while you eat and argue if it's true flying saucers drop by the monolith to pay their respects.

But you don't have to leave San Miguel. Here you'll find lectures, art shows, plays, films, bird watching, jazz, ballet, ethnic dance, and even belly dancers. Yes, belly dancers. We watched a splendid troupe of beautifully costumed belly dancers perform on an outdoor stage at the Instituto Allende with the sun kissed La Parroquia as their backdrop.

There's everything and more in San Miguel, from Bridge to "Coffee With Roul," who'll tell you how to coordinate your financial needs at home and in Mexico. Catch Raoul after the muffin sale to raise funds for the school for the deaf. The students baked muffins to die for.

This Friday I'm especially interested in learning what activities will take place at the Biblioteca, one of the worlds most unique libraries. There can be lectures, performances, slide shows, and readings. It's not surprising the Biblioteca has a large collection of books and other materials in Spanish, but it also has an English collection of 22,000 volumes. The odds are good you'll find copies of your favorite magazines.

Like the Jardin and the Instituto Allende, the Biblioteca is a place to meet. In the afternoon you'll see many English speaking expats volunteering here as tutors, helping Mexican students with their studies. Expats and informed tourists know the Biblioteca, Instituto, and Jardin are the essential keys to delightful experiences.

The library has two palm shaded patios. Food and beverages are served on one patio, where two for one drinks of beer, wine and liquor are served from the morning opening till last call. The perfect place to reread War and Peace. I read that the Sunday Home and Garden Show tour is still a fixture of the social scene. The tour departs from the Biblioteca on Sundays at noon. It's best to buy your ticket before Sunday. It's common for several hundred people to take the tour.

Home tour tickets are US $15 or the peso equivalent. The funds raised help San Miguel youth. You tour three homes. I've yet to visit a home that wasn't stimulating in style and decoration. One of my favorites would have been suitable for a potentate with a large harem. The owners were asking $650,000.

Sunday morning, with ticket in hand, wait on the patio just inside the entrance to the Biblioteca. Have a steaming cup of hot chocolate and pan dulce, Mexican sweet rolls, and listen to the wonderful music of Tuna Normalista, a group of eleven musicians attired in red and gold velvet Spanish troubadour costumes.

Tuna is Spanish for the fruit of the cactus. A normalista is a student teacher. This marvelous group plays familiar tunes like Besame Mucho and tunes you may not know but will come to love, like San Miguelito. Tuna Normalista is often asked to kick off the Home and Garden tour. Frequently you can hear the group playing at night about the town in better restaurants.

I decide to head over to the Biblioteca, stopping on the way at El Tomato, a vegetarian restaurant on Mesones, for breakfast. Here they disinfect the fruits and vegetables as they do in most of the restaurants that cater primarily to expats and tourists. At El Tomate you sit at glass topped tables, have tasty comida, food, prepared with care, and watch the people passing by. As you exit El Tomate, look across the street and to your left. You'll see Tio Lucas or Uncle Lukes.

Tio Lucas is a cozy supper club and bar with the best jazz groups in town. It's simply great for an evening out. Max Altamirano is the most gracious bilingual owner. Max usually gets around to every table to greet his guests and makes you feel he's honored you have chosen to spend the evening at his club.

At Tio Lucas the portions are large. It's okay to split an order. Try a Caesar salad. The waiter creates your salad at your table with great fanfare, putting on quite a performance. If you enjoyed the salad show you'll love what they do with flaming desserts like crepes cajeta.

At the Biblioteca I purchase our tickets for the Home and Garden Show and check the bulletin boards. People leave messages, advertising services, rentals, what they're selling, as well as requests for roommates, rides, you name it. A poster advertising a concert this evening at the Instituto Allende catches my eye.

Later we shop at the mercado, have a lunch of sopa de fideo con caldo, vermicelli in chicken broth and almendrado de pollo, chicken in almond sauce, on our patio and decide to attend the concert.



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