Time sometimes passes quickly, occasionally lasts forever. It all depends on one's point of view. Our time in San Miguel is concluding. On one hand we just arrived, yet the last time in New Jersey seems ages ago.
We settled in and almost feel at home.
Except when we don't.
We are getting spoiled. Our place does not have a washer/dryer, but I drop off our laundry in the morning at a laundromat two doors away. Clothes are washed, dried, ironed, folded, and packaged for pickup the same evening. Two loads cost under $6.00. I never ironed underwear. I rarely iron anything. Or fold.
A maid cleans the house, changes the sheets and provides clean bathroom and kitchen towels.
Garbage pick up occurs three times a week.
Taxis are readily available and reasonable. During a rainstorm we waited only a few minutes before a cab pulled over. No phone calls, no standing in the street waving like a maniac trying to get a cabbie's attention. An easy and civilized process.
On the other hand obtaining the bill at a restaurant or cafe can be challenging. Lingering over drinks, sitting and talking after a meal is expected. No hurry here. Relax, take your time, chill out, the bill will eventually be presented with a flourish...
An afternoon at a rooftop bar.
Knowledge of Spanish is unnecessary, although attempts at communicating in the native language appreciated.
Public restrooms are neat, clean, modern, and often outfitted with features like folk art, plants, stained glass windows, unique hardware.
An unusual stone sink at a restaurant restroom.
Sign in a cafe indicating the entrance to an important place.
We observed few name-brand hotels, stores or restaurants (thank goodness!). A Domino's pizza is close by, motor scooters used for home delivery.
A Starbucks cafe sits almost concealed and unobtrusive in a historic building downtown, only a small sign over the door indicating what lies within.
A Walmart-owned megastore graces the edge of town. The nearest mall, half an hour away, houses a long list of popularly-known stores. We stayed away.
We shopped at markets in town - the daily food and merchandise mart, the artisans market, the Tuesday food, flea and everything else market, and the Saturday organic market. Some meals we prepared at home, but the proliferation of interesting, reasonably priced establishments offering varied culinary experiences were difficult to resist.
The city's architecture dates from the Colonial Spanish era, beginning in the mid-16th century, primarily formidable thick stone buildings constructed around a central courtyard and hidden behind brick or stone walls. Run-down-appearing wood doors offer not a hint of what lies beyond. Churches, reflecting the strong Roman Catholic presence, appear around almost every corner, ranging from small chapels to large, imposing edifices encompassing several blocks.
Typical street scene.
Hilly terrain, cobblestone streets and narrow stone sidewalks make getting around precarious.
Individuals peddling wares in the streets, Mom-and-Pop storefronts operating out of run-down, cluttered alcoves to well-appointed, beautiful venues abound, often next door to each other. Taco and fruit wagons, ice cream stands, individual and family-owned cafes with four or five tables reside alongside restaurants outfitted with several rooms and a landscaped patio, complete with uniformed staff, the result a vibrant, eclectic and fascinating mix.
Then there is the art. Co-op galleries, artist-owned galleries, working studios. On main streets, tucked into alleyways, comprising the first floor of residences. Permanent spaces, temporary shows, performance art, theater, lectures, classes.
San Miguel loves holidays and any excuse for a celebration. We witnessed wedding processions, religious holiday parades, and a funeral led by musicians and native dancers.
Native dancers in a funeral procession.
An added bonus of spending time in the area is the affordability of lodging, meals, tourist attractions, and other amenities.
All these can be found in different places around the world, of course, but few connect the dots like the compact, cosmopolitan, UNESCO World Heritage city San Miguel de Allende.
San Miguel entices, inviting people to linger and stay awhile. We tell people this is our first visit, and the response by locals and ex-pats alike is, "When are you coming back?"
I am not sure, but hope it is sooner rather than later.