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Thursday, July 31, 2014

South of the border, visiting a magical place

If you can find even one week and a bit of money to gift yourself a short holiday, may I suggest a small adventure? Time’s a wastin’, and San Miguel de Allende beckons.

All my adult life I have wanted to go there, and as luck would have it, my sister had the same dream. Maybe it was this hellish winter, but the stars suddenly seemed aligned. Last week, after thinking and dreaming about this place, we finally went, and we’re back with good news: It’s just as magical as everyone says it is.

San Miguel is three hours north of Mexico City, up in the mountains of central Mexico. There are two problems with the place: It’s difficult to get to, and the streets and sidewalks are ancient cobblestone (rubber-soled shoes only!). You can fly to Querétaro or Leon or Mexico City and then take a car or a bus or a taxi. We flew into Mexico City and took a taxi. The roads are good, but I wouldn’t want to drive them myself.

What I knew about San Miguel was that it was a 500-year-old colonial town with rich history, warm people and a large American expat community. Americans were drawn there over the last 50 years for the gorgeous eternal-spring climate, the low cost of living and, mostly, the arts. The narrow, winding streets are lined with galleries featuring the work of painters and sculptors and weavers. Artists and writers from the U.S. and Mexico moved there to live in a community of like-minded people.

One can look at San Miguel through two lenses: If you’re a cynic, you might find it too Americanized. Many of the locals speak some English. Some hotels have amenities like Internet service. Sadly, a Starbucks has popped up near the central square.

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