Drive around the outer city limits!
Just take a little drive outside the city limits and you pass by gorgeous homes. Or take a "Home and Garden Tour", and you'll see beautiful homes and gardens. This allows the homeowners to show off their homes.
This picture is someone's home. I just loved those large front doors.
This is called the Jardin (pronounced Hardine, like Sardine). It's a beautiful square in the center of town. There are benches all around, where you can sit in the shade to admire the sights and sounds of this wonderful city. On one side is the breathtaking Parroquia Church. Other sides are stores, restaurants, a bank, police station or tourist information. It is also a wonderful place to meet new or old friends.
Travel Notes from San Miguel de Allende
"Everything but the Essential"
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As passionate and somewhat experienced traveler to Mexico, I am afraid I won't join the excitement about by San Miguel de Allende by many travelers, foreign residents and even Mexican citizens. The reason is quite easy to explain: San Miguel is a delightful Mexican colonial town which has everything but the essential: the atmosphere of a Mexican colonial town.
There are some 12,000 foreign residents in San Miguel's urban area or 15% over a population of 60,000. Granted many of those foreigners have their homes and live in or around the city center, it ends up that some 1 out of 4 residents in the city center is a foreigner, not accounting tourists. Many of those residents, generally wealthy North American and Western European, are retirees enjoying the mild climate and the slow pace of life, others run tourist establishments, some others just have chosen to live here for their own reasons. The result is that walking around you will find beautifully-restored colonial homes with SUVs parked in the front, fine restaurants, trendy bars, fashion boutiques, art and jewelry shops and luxury hotels with "first class spa facility with state of the art Cybex weight room".
I am sure San Miguel de Allende is a great place to retire, enjoy life and for relaxing luxury vacations. If you are after a taste of Mexican life in the rightly renowned colonial Central Mexico, head elsewhere (for instance Guanajuato) instead. See also my Photogallery of San Miguel de Allende.
"The Center of American Expatriation"
Famous worldwide for its mild climate, thermal springs and colonial architecture, San Miguel de Allende has attracted over the last 60 years a large community of foreign residents, especially Americans, who today account for about 70% of the expatriate population. American (US) expatriation started at the end of WWII as education grants to war veterans were stretched at the art school Instituto Allende in San Miguel and many veterans came down here to study art, live cheaply and have a good time. In the counterculture years of the 1960s, San Miguel began its career as a center for American expatriation that has lasted till today. San Miguel has lately been undergoing demographic changes which concern many long time residents, who have protested the number of new developments, shopping malls and other overwhelming commercial businesses.
"The Gingerbread Gothic"
The multicultural spirit of San Miguel de Allende is well represented by its major landmark, the parish church la Paroquia, whose architecture is so different from the dominant Baroque usually found in churches throughout Mexico that will leave you fascinated or disappointed. The style is a kind of Gothic, the funniest definition I found is "Gingerbread Gothic" and the closest thing I could pair it to is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Legend has it that the architect of the façade and the towers (added in 1888 to the existing structure) had never seen a gothic church and took his ideas from picture postcards of gothic cathedrals in Europe, sketching his ideas on the sand to instruct construction workmen with what he had envisioned.
My first trip to Mexico! An incredible journey!
"Watch your step!"
San Miguel de Allende is a grand old colonial city, situated in the center of Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato. 145,000 people call this city their home. Don't be surprised if you see gringos (an American). It is becoming a popular retirement home for us Americans. Part of my family just bought a home there this month.
The great part about San Miguel is the archeological monuments that still stand. The majority were constructed between 900 and 1100 AD.
.As you walk around San Miguel de Allende, make sure you watch where you walk since the road & stones are uneven. Also wear comfortable walking shoes. Often you are so busy looking around that you don't pay attention to the road, or traffic. It's an awesome city to see. You never know what buildings are around the corner.
I recently returned from San Miguel, Dec. 18-27, 2004. I will be returning May 10-17, 2005. Would love to meet anyone that lives in the area!
This is the plane that flew me out of California, into BJX- Leon airport. Here we are getting back on the plane after a brief stop in Zacatecas to pick up more passengers. They also checked our passports.
You also have another option of flying into Mexico City, but you would need to take a 4 hour bus/shuttle ride to SMA.
There are also other options. Mexicana is a red eye flight, so you get to Leon faster, but we are taking day flights from now on.
"A familiar site in San Miguel de Allende"
I am not sure of the name of this church or temple. It is located on Canal street, about a block away from the Jardin Principal. Almost every street you walk or drive down, you will most likely spot an old building, church or monument. It's breathtaking. You will never be bored here.