Unhurried Tempo in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
It’s more than nostalgia that brings Americans and Canadians back time and again to visit San Miguel de Allende, the mid-Mexico, high desert, UNESCO World Heritage site. My family has been coming here since the 40’s when an aunt and uncle, both artists and veterans, adopted the place as their own. But what draws people to this picturesque town—safe, gentle, and welcoming—is that it’s a refuge from modernity: Mexicans here are quick to smile and say hello, there’s not a traffic light in sight, and you’re way more likely to hear church bells than a horn honk. Known locally as SMA, the easy pace of San Miguel de Allende takes a few days to settle into. Here are a few shortcuts to get you started:
Pack warm clothes for winter months. Days are sunny and warm but at night the heat is quickly lost.
Forget heels. Instead you’ll need sturdy flat shoes. Cobblestone streets are charming to look at but tricky to navigate and very slippery when wet. They don’t call it the Town of Fallen Women for nothing.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00 a.m. at the front of El Jardin, the city’s focal point, is an English-language tour of the city. Featuring architecture, culture, and history, the tour showcases San Miguel as the cradle of Mexican democracy. The tour costs about $9 and all proceeds go to a local charity for kids.
Every Wednesday at 12:30, another charity, So Others May Eat, has been feeding the town’s elderly for nearly 25 years. Lunch is served by visitors, almost all of whom are newcomers. Join them in the plaza behind the Parroquia, the town’s main church.
The Biblioteca Municipal holds the largest collection of English books in Latin America and is also the social and educational hub for North Americans. Here you’ll find lectures, local and regional maps, films, house tours and more, all in English.
Buses run frequently and they pretty much go everywhere. Catch one next to Plaza Civica for about forty cents. For longer trips, say a day trip to nearby Guanajuato, Diego Rivera’s birthplace, or pottery center Dolores Hidalgo, take clean and comfortable luxury buses from Central de Autobuses, a short taxi ride downtown.
If you should tire of Mexican fare, try the homemade pasta at slow food specialist Mare Nostrum on Umaran, or the unsurpassed fusion offerings at The Restaurant on Diez De Sollano. Hecho in Mexico on Ancha de San Antonio serves freshly made vegetarian plates, hamburgers and fries, and a killer margarita.