We left Mexico City in the early afternoon via a shuttle service bajiogo that offered concierge pick up at our bed and breakfast and arrived at our airbnb in San Miguel de Allende just in time to catch our first sunset. Nestled in the hills of SMA and just a 10 minute walk to the centro historico, we had this view for the next 4 days and immediately made ourselves right at home.
Su casa es mi casa, si?
San Miguel de Allende is a quaint colonial town about 3.5 hours northwest of Mexico City. Known for its Spanish influence, breathtaking sunsets, enchanting puertas, and quite frankly the largest population of white privileged senior citizens outside of The Villages, Florida…It’s no wonder this charming cobblestone town has its own alluring appeal.
At night this town sparkles, music and dancing fill the cobblestone streets, and every other day is a cause for celebration. Fireworks and cannons echo through the valley creating a symphony of sound and color that washes over you while you dream of churros y chocolate.
But first, Andy’s tacos. I ate here a few times because who wouldn’t? This food truck serves what I would call expatriate sized tacos al pastor and immediately became my late night comida crush. Located on Insurgentes near the corner of Hidalgo. You want to go there.
The next morning we awoke naturally to the sound of rooster’s crowing. It really does work. We had a promising day filled with hiking pyramids and exploring canyons on horseback and our morning view ensured us that the day was off to a good start. San Miguel wakes up slowly. As we headed into town for breakfast around 7 am the streets were empty with a few delivery trucks making their morning rounds.
But first desayuno. We grabbed a bite to eat at Cafe de la Parroquia
and dined al fresco.
Buenos dias huevos rancheros.
After breakfast we strolled around the town square known to the locals as el jardin. The blush neo-gothic spires of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel make for an easy backdrop against the perfectly manicured laurel trees. I was coral crushing hard.
The best part of our trip was our excursion to Canada de la Virgin with Albert Coffee Tours. We met in a hotel lobby with roughly a dozen other like-minded tourists and headed via van to the official site pick-up. There we met a few others where we then merged onto a bus and were instructed on the process to visit this newly discovered pyramid ruin. It goes like this…
Opened to the public in 2011 Cañada de la Virgen was discovered in the late 70’s on a German family’s private property. Imagine the politics involved having this site recognized by the Mexican government as a historical site…so it wasn’t until the 90’s that the excavation process finally began. Due to the pyramid being located on private property–one bus that seats roughly 26 people is allowed on site at a time.
There are still many unknown secrets about this civilization who inhabited these valleys from 540-1050 A.D. Albert Coffee was the most informative guide and extremely passionate about this discovery. In fact, he was involved in one of the excavation phases in the early 2000’s.
Scientists still do not know much about the people who inhabited this area but it is clear that their mathematical, astronomical, and architectural contributions were highly developed equally rivaling those of the Mayans. Discoveries show this culture worshiped the moon. The pyramid itself serves as a massive astrological clock. It is architecturally precisely aligned to calculate the phases of the moon. Over the course of the lunar calendar the moon moves up and down these stairs mathematically dictating key phases of the lunar calendar. It’s absolutely astronomical!
Scientists believe this site could have served as a learning grounds for astronomers and priests.
For instance, this ‘sunken patio’ served as a water mirror where the priests could study the stars.
Our tour with Albert from start to finish was close to 4 hours. I highly recommend booking one of his tours! I had also arranged through him a horseback excursion through the canyons afterwards. Vaquero Leo met us at the site pick-up and brought us to his family’s hacienda, Xotolar Ranch which has been in his family for four generations. His great-grandfather bought the property after profiting from the silver mine rush at the end of the 19th century and they’ve been ranching ever since.
We enjoyed a home cooked meal with the Morin familia. We sampled nopales for the first time, nibbled on sopas, and had the best enchiladas to date.
Leo and his Tio shared some family stories around la mesa.
After the most satisfying comida, we were ready to saddle up and explore the canyons of San Miguel de Allende.
It was a beautiful ride through the canyons.
There was some rocky terrain…
but nothing a vaquero can’t handle.
Half way we refreshed at a tiendita. Leo laughed when I told him we call tienditas bodegas in Philly. He said why would you call a little store a barn?
We made our way back to the Morin hacienda just as the sun began to set behind the hills.
Mi caballo Zopilote
An immersive day spent learning about the history of the people, the true meaning of familia, the understanding of the land, and the beauty of this country.
The next day was Palm Sunday and and the kick off to Semana Santa. And believe you me, the Mexican people know how to throw down a Catholic celebration. We strolled into town and met up with the entire pueblo of SMA as they made their pilgrimage down to the town square.
My favorite part of Mexico was witnessing the importance family plays in this culture.
Exploring the cobblestone streets of San Miguel.
One distinct characteristic of San Miguel are the unique doors throughout the town.
That neo-gothic blush spire though….
Picture perfect in el jardin
That evening we settled for a restaurant that offered roof top dining. The food wasn’t anything special.
But the sunset views were worth it.
Our last day full day in San Miguel we spent exploring the mercados.
Each day our walk into town led us down an undiscovered alley…
and around a colorful corner…
which always led to a dramatic door.
Las puertas de San Miguel de Allende.
And somehow always back to el jardin.
Where my favorite
castle iglesia lies.
I can’t forget to mention the often overlooked Iglesia de San Rafael that shares the courtyard with old blush.
El jardin is always bustling mid day. Nieves and jugos carts circle the square–lined with children anxiously squirming for a cold, refreshing treat.
Women walk the town selling these precious dolls.
I became obsessed with their colorful tehuana traje. I may have purchased a small tribe.
If our time spent in Mexico has taught us anything, it’s this one simple rule: when in Mexico visit all the mercados.
Mercado Ignaci Ramirez hit the comida spot and I could spend an entire day at Mercado de Artesenia.
Hydrating before my shopping spree…
I mentioned my thirst for shopping and I was not kidding. Mercado de Artesania in my humble opinion is truly the heart of San Miguel.
Located in an alley between Mercado Ignacio Ramirez and Calle Loreto, spanning 6 or 7 blocks–this market showcases an array of SMA’s trademark stamped tin, ceramics covering every color of the rainbow, dia los muertos paper-mâché in every shape and size, and so much more. I spent a solid 2 hours wandering these alleyways. Making sure I acknowledged each booth–admiring every detail of art…which worked up quite the appetite!
Hmmm, sandia agua fresca o horchata….
Milanese torta y mi favorito, sandia agua fresca.
Tambien muy guapo.
After our adventurous appetite for mercados had been satiated, it was time for una siesta and then cervezas at cantina El Gato Negro. We love a good dive bar experience and this watering hole serves Victoria by the pesos.
One last costume change in Mexico. Even our airbnb doors have a story to tell.
It’s all downhill from here.
I thought we would enjoy our last sunset from The Rosewood Hotel’s Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar. Note to self: I thought wrong. This property boasts having the best views and upon approaching the hotel we could see the terrace was relatively empty– with just a few dotted silver heads. (Remember, you can’t escape the elderly in SMA.) Perfect timing to catch our last sunset on a Monday evening, right?
This boujie business insisted on a 45 minute wait–ironically the exact amount of time needed to miss the sun setting.
For such a small town this shouldn’t be an exclusive experience. I don’t recommend supporting this establishment, but if you’re one of those who insist IG is better than real life… just make sure you’ve made a reservation.
Instead I recommend to opt for the adjacent restaurant…
with the handsome vaquero
and an unpretentious view without the wait.
Adios San Miguel.