A few years ago, I spent Labor Day weekend in the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende. I had heard stories about the eternal spring-like weather of San Miguel – a place where many ex-pat artists reside. But, I was curious to experience the mystic of the city for myself. Previously, my only encounters with Mexico had been along the Caribbean coast. San Miguel is located in central Mexico about 2 hours north of Mexico City. There would be no azure seas lapping at the shoreline. We were heading to the mountains. So, I wondered – what was there to do in landlocked San Miguel? I would soon find out.
Upon our arrival at the Del Bajío International Airport in nearby León, Guanajuato, Mexico, we were greeted by our driver. We loaded our luggage into the vehicle and were off to San Miguel. The drive from León to San Miguel is an hour and a half on a nice state highway. Since we stopped for refreshments along the way, the drive went by rather quickly. We were at the door to Casa Schuck Bed & Breakfast before we knew it. This boutique B&B located in the heart of historic San Miguel would be our home for the next 3 nights (not nearly long enough!). The property was absolutely beautiful! It literally left us (myself and my travel companions) speechless (a rare occurrence in this group!) upon arrival.
Upon entering the reception area, you step out into an enormous central courtyard. Each room is uniquely decorated and situated around the perimeter of the courtyard. For this stay, we had booked El Royal Suite and La Escondida Room. Both rooms were comfortable and spacious. I look forward to returning to stay in the other rooms! Each morning, we were served made-to-order breakfast in the courtyard as we planned our excursions for the day. Casa Schuck created such an amazing environment we really didn’t want to leave each day! But alas, there was an entire city to explore. San Miguel de Allende was named the best city in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine for a reason.
During our brief stay (if only we had stayed an extra day or two….), we managed to explore not only the city of San Miguel, but also the neighboring region. We began our visit with a stop off at El Jardin, which is the central plaza in the city center, and an up close peek at the gorgeous pink church the Parroquia San Miguel Arcangel. Since San Miguel is a very walkable city, we enjoyed exploring the area on foot, stopping in shops along the way. One of my first impression of San Miguel is that it felt very much to me like my former neighborhood in Granada, Spain. The main difference (aside from the extraordinarily clean streets) was the apparent lack of outdoor cafes as are prolific in Spain. We soon learned that most of the outdoor cafes are located in interior courtyards or on rooftops throughout the city. Brilliant!
We were astounded by the sheer quantity of top-notch restaurants throughout the city. This is an international destination without a doubt! There was a Peruvian place, a German place, even a Louisiana place (although the owner has never even visited Louisiana!) and, of course, several Mexican places too! We did not have a bad meal during the entire trip! In fact, we even learned how to prepare guacamole and use a molacete (FYI this is NOT a souvenir to carry onto an airplane!) during a hands-on cooking class at Sazon.
On one morning, we ventured out of the city (with our guide and driver) to visit some of the local pottery workshops. Along the way, we received a brief history lesson about the role of San Miguel de Allende and Delores Hidalgo in Mexican Independence Day (celebrated on September 16th of each year). We also were taken to Santuario de Atotonilco known as Mexico’s Sistine Chapel. The church complex was designated a World Heritage Site and is said to be an excellent example of the sharing of European and Latin American cultures. But, finally, we arrived at one of the pottery facilities. It was fascinating to see the artisans busily creating masterpieces that would soon arrive in shops around the region. Of course, we purchased delicate pieces of pottery that we now needed to find a way to carry home!
As we continued to explore, we wandered through the cobblestone streets between brightly painted buildings trying to catch a glimpse of the inner courtyards through open doors. The architecture could best be described as simple on the exterior with a treasure hidden behind the thick cement walls. While we were busy shopping for treasures at the various markets throughout town, we stumbled upon a wedding procession one afternoon. Later, we learned that San Miguel is a popular destination for weddings. With its colonial character, temperate climate and abiding safety, I could understand why this magical city would provide an ideal setting for a new beginning.