Letters to the Editor

Much to do in San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – When we first arrived in San Miguel we wondered what we would do for three weeks. A few days later, we were pondering how we could fit everything in that we had planned.

This town of 61,000, in the mountains northwest of Mexico City, boasts some of the country’s grandest colonial facades—it was founded by the Spanish in 1555—especially around the town square, the Plaza Principal. The square’s showpiece, however, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, is more Disney-esque than colonial. This towering church is said to have been designed after a French cathedral, hence its soaring, Gothic-like pinnacles. When lit at night it has a decidedly “magic kingdom” feel.

Although its history and architecture are impressive, it is the arts that draw the thousands of tourists to San Miguel each winter. In the 1940s artists, writers and other creative types from the United States, Canada and Europe began to discover the then-sleepy town, delighting in its clear mountain air. Some have settled here; many more return for extended stays every year.

Today, San Miguel has the highest ratio of art galleries to inhabitants of any place in Mexico, and the town hums with cultural activities. The Instituto Allende offers everything from Spanish lessons to master of fine arts programs, and operates exchange programs with other art schools in North America. Bellas Artes, the cultural heart of San Miguel, stages dances and musical events. There are always gallery openings to attend, foreign films to see and live theatre to watch. If you’d rather just sit back with a good book, the Biblioteca Pública has more than 14,000 volumes in English.

For the active, there are yoga classes, jogging trails in Parque Benito Juarez and a couple of places to play tennis. You can takes tours of elegant homes, and the hillside town lends itself to energetic walks. Hot springs are a short bus or taxi ride away.

Many, us included, rent a villa for an extended stay. Casa Joanna had a charming, bougainvillea-draped garden, a small swimming pool, a rooftop deck, a well-equipped kitchen and a lovely master bedroom. While it looked fine, our casa had a few drawbacks: the unheated pool was chilly for swimming in February and there wasn’t a comfortable chair in the place. Lesson learned: ask more questions when renting via the Web. However, it was ideally located and, in most respects, served us well.

One of the best things about a San Miguel vacation is that it is reasonably priced. There are dozens of restaurants and two people can eat well, with wine or beer, for about 300 pesos (about C$33; US$28.50). Often, there is live music as you dine. A movie, with drink and popcorn, costs about 70 pesos (C$7.75; US$6.50) and an evening at the theatre is 115 pesos (about C$12.75; US$11). Last but not least, San Miguel enjoys a dry, temperate climate. In February it was cool in the evening, but a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.

For more information on San Miguel visit the privately run website at www.sanmiguelguide.com.

For information on travel in Mexico call the Mexico Tourism Board toll-free at 1-800-446-3942 or visit its website at www.visitmexico.com.

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