“Don’t drink the water!”  

“Aren’t you scared of getting kidnapped??” 

“Wait, you and two other females are driving through Mexico?? Why?”

Yes, these are some of the comments I received upon informing people of my plan to visit Mexico {for the 4th time} and road trip across the center of the country with two girlfriends. Annoying and misinformed? Yes. I can understand peoples’ initial concern if their only exposure to a country is the sensationalized version they see on the news. And I can understand general apprehension that any new activity conjures up… but why? they ask. Why not?!

I like to believe that my travel companions and I have achieved grown-up status by now. We are women. Women who work and travel and buy houses and shit. We seek adventure, and understand the implications of that. We know that scary and unfortunate things happen everywhere in the world but that is not a reason to stop going outside.

San Miguel de Allende, Gto.

Day 1: Established in approximately 1555, San Miguel de Allende is also a UNESCO world heritage site boasting dramatic baroque and neoclassical colonial structures and large plazas where families and tourists congregate. Built in the 17th century, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel church is located in the Plaza Allende, a grand cobblestone area, accommodating only pedestrians and the late night mariachi band.

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We arrived into town without much trouble, again, finding parking very near to Hostel Inn, our domicile for two nights. Famished, we picked a narrow street and walked down it until we came across a small, family owned restaurant with an open air dinning area. For approximately $5 US, we each received spicy squash soup, a main course, coffee, a beer, and dessert.

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San Miguel is where you want to be for the magic hour- that beautiful time before the sun goes down on a clear evening- everything becomes ignited with solar magic. We spent time in the plaza and entered the church, then chased the sun down a perfectly imperfect narrow street until the last rays balanced on the lip of the horizon.

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We found a rooftop bar and had a drink while admiring the plaza lit up below us. We went to Milagros, a well-known bar and restaurant in search for snacks and drinks. We enjoyed another evening of relaxing, laughing, crying, sharing stories and just being together.The bar tenders invited us out for an after work drink at La Cucaracha, a bar notorious as a services industry hangout-open late to accommodate all the locals working in tourism. Jovial conversation and several shots of mezcal later, we headed back to our room for the night. 20150323_180234-1

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Day 2: The Hangover. Ok, so that was unexpected, but I will tell you what: Mezcal is a force to respect, and appreciate in moderation. If you have been drinking the night before, just outside of San Miguel proper is  La Gruta hot springs and spa awaiting you and your pounding head. Here you will find sprawling landscape with ample seating in the sun or shade, and waiters appear out of nowhere to fetch you something from the bar. PhotoGrid_1429748171085

Spread out over the property there are several pools filled with water at regular temperature, then a few more pools varying in hotness. In one pool, you must swim through a tunnel, as the water becomes progressively hotter. This leads to a huge circular soaking area covered by an enormous domed roof. It’s kind of dark, really hot and oh so good for sweating out the toxins.

San Miguel de Allende is the place for artisan handicrafts. With several open-aired markets to choose from and store fronts lining many of the streets, it is hard not to let a colorful textile lure you in. And by all means, shop and buy! Don’t be afraid to barter for a reasonable price, but if you really love that embroidered pillow case or piece of artwork, don’t leave without it. PhotoGrid_1429748292726

San Miguel has a thriving artist community and is home to many foreign residents. The foreign influence is apparent with the many cafes, bars, antique shops, and galleries catering to this population. My initial reaction to this was negative, but witnessing the Mexican and foreign worlds coexisting, was refreshing. The Mexican culture was not being stifled, many businesses were thriving due to the tourism from visitors and expats, and because of its UNESCO status, the city was protected from architectural degradation or unwarranted western influences.

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I believe I’m not the only one who felt a familiarity with this beautiful city; as if I had been here before. Safe and clean streets, balmy air, and a magic vibration that seemed to be following us. 2015-04-22 17.20.56

After picking up takeout and margaritas to go, we ate dinner at a friend’s house, a beautiful colonial inspired house with wall to wall tiling, fountains, lush vegetation, and two rowdy dogs. We ended the night drinking a beer in the main plaza, watching a late-night progression form in front of the church with singers, musicians, people on stilts, and one lone burro.

Next stop: Queretero!

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4 Responses

  1. VickyFlipFlop

    I really loved Mexico when I was there last year. Such a vibrant and colourful place both in people and architecture. I’d love to go back and a road trip definitely sounds like a cool way to see it. And yeah, I had a few experiences with the Mezcal too. Rough stuff!

    Reply
    • olsonpdx

      Mezcal will definitely grow some hair on your chest! I have to go back and road trip on the coast through Oaxaca and maybe Belize, how fun, right??

      Reply

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