LIFE IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO
My wife and I fell in love with San Miguel de Allende within 24 hours of our arrival in December 2006. We were attracted to the light, the colors, the sky, the flowers, the birds, the cobblestone streets, the food, the music, the old people, the children, the parades, the parks, the festivals, the markets and the pace.
It’s often said that first-time visitors either “get it” or they don’t within the first few minutes after they arrive. We “got it” quickly. Before we left 10 days later, we were proud owners of a new home and a new lifestyle that we have never regretted.
On this page my wife and I have put together a group of links that we hope will give you some of the flavor that we so cherish. I hope you will visit our wonderful community, and when we see each other on the street perhaps you will look at us and think: “There are two of those happy old people who love SMA.”
SMA IS FULL OF THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO GO.
WALK, WALK, WALK
One of our favorite walks is around the large botanical garden. This garden claims to have the most cactus and succulent species in Mexico, plus a long list of other plants, animals, and birds. Bird lovers might be interested in a list of birds logged in the botanical garden.
The Audubon Society has a terrific program that even includes multi-day trips to go birding. We have gone on several wonderful day hikes with them and found them very enjoyable. Plus, we get to see parts of the area we wouldn’t likely visit. In January we are going on a week-long trip with the Society as a way to see other parts of Mexico and do some interesting birding.
PROFESSOR ALBERT COFFEE AND COYOTE CANYON ADVENTURES
One of the best tour guides we have ever had is right here in SMA. Professor Albert Coffee and Coyote Canyon Adventures have put together a wonderful tour of the Cañada de la Virgen Pyramid. Coyote Canyon Adventures has a great site that introduces you to many local activities including horseback riding, ballooning, ATV tours, cooking classes and Albert’s tour to the Pyramid.
SPANISH SPOKEN HERE
Most visitors can get along fine with only English. But you’ll get much farther if you know some of the local language. The most popular place to go for Spanish classes is Warren Hardy Spanish. Both my wife and I, along with most of our friends have gone through his classes. For many people it is a great place to make new long-term friends, as you will see if you read the testimonials on the site.
GUIDES TO EVERYTHING
Many shops in SMA offer free copies of the San Miguel Walking and Shopping Guide. Much of the information it contains is available online. The site gives important information on restaurants, bars, bakeries, chocolates, ice cream, hotels, B&Bs, antiques, drug stores, doctors, dentists, art galleries, studio galleries, cooking classes, dance classes, language schools, spas, house rental agencies, etc. In other words, most of the services you might need in SMA.
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
To find out what’s going on in SMA, you can start with a basic calendar with links to the events. This calendar includes concerts, theater, art classes, music festivals, gallery openings, lectures, charitable events, dance classes, yoga and zoomba classes, movies and lots more. Watch this list once a week and you will get an idea of all the things you might do.
To whet your appetite, check out an online list of short descriptions of special events, along with pictures to peak your interest.
Many of us who live in SMA walk every Friday to the Jardin to pick up our copy of the weekly newspaper, Atencion San Miguel. It contains a calendar of events (not always complete) and also lots of stories about life in San Miguel, including politics, the community (both Mexicans and ex-pats), non profits, a weekly computer article and lots more.
A great source for what's happening in San Miguel is San Miguel Events. This is a weekly report that will give you a good idea of what's going on in SMA.
ART AND CULTURE
SMA and nearby cities have enough parks, religious sites, art, museums, mansions, plazas and markets to keep you active and engaged as long as your stamina holds up. Here’s a guide to get you started.
I am still amazed at the bright colors of the flowers in SMA. The pictures you will find here give a sense of the brilliant colors you will experience on your trip to SMA. I still love to walk through the town and parks to soak up the color and sights of the flowers. By the way, a couple minutes with the pictures on this site and you will see why photographers love SMA.
The fact that we bought a house during our first visit is not uncommon. If you get hooked like we did there are many good real estate firms and agents in SMA, but we have a favorite. I think you will find a few minutes on the Sotheby site great fun. You will not only see lots of houses, with a price range from $12,000,000 to $100,000, but you will get a feeling for the lifestyle and color of SMA and Mexico. Many of these prices include the furnishings you see in the photos. Linda Moss of this office is one of the hardest working realtors I know and is glad to show homes in any price range.
If you want to “window shop” for SMA housing, without even a hint of a sales pitch, you’re in luck. Every Sunday the Bibliotecha, the local library, puts on a popular Home and Garden Tour of two or three homes. The library is also a good source of ideas on other local events.
According to TripAdvisor.com, SMA and the surrounding area are home to 212 restaurants. Our favorites include La Parada (Peruvian), Café Rama for lunch, the gorgeous, relaxing Nirvana Restaurant and Retreat (absolutely worth the taxi ride), The Restaurant (top rated but also popular for hamburger Thursday) and Santa Monica for Sunday brunch.
The Rosewood Hotel has a rooftop bar with an amazing view and a day-at-the-pool special that includes lunch. We like lunch at the Food Factory, inexpensive family dining at El Reconcito and Ten Ten Pie for people-watching over breakfast. Here’s a list of recommended “cheap eats”.
Arts and crafts
SMA is filled with artists, and the fruits of their work are in evidence everywhere.
The Fabrica la Aurora is former textile factory that’s been turned into a lovely art and design center. With over 30 galleries and another 12 shops it’s definitely worth a stop. Here is a link to an Aurora page that will give you a sample of the kind of art you will see in each gallery. On Thursday the artists are likely to be in their gallery. There is the very sweet little outside café de la Aurora in the back of the Aurora that we always find good for lunch.
Anyone who likes arts and crafts of Mexico should visit the home and gallery of Mayer Schacter . The Galleria Atotonilco is a stop you will not forget. It’s open by appointment only, and it’s a short drive or taxi-ride outside the city. Mayer loves to share his knowledge from decades of collecting art. My wife and I find it difficult to leave without buying something. As a bonus, you’re likely to be invited into his adjoining home to look at his personal collection.
There’s an amazing bonus if you visit Mayer. His place is a five-minute walk or drive from Nirvanna, a peaceful country restaurant and hotel. Here is a link to a sampling of the menu: http://www.hotelnirvana.mx/ENG/services.html The soups, salads, sandwiches, bread, drinks etc. are all delicious.
If your visit is timed right, you can participate in an art walk sponsored by the San Antonio Artist Community. This will give you a chance to spend some time in the homes of many of SMA’s aspiring artists.
Other than the organized opportunities to find art, you can get adventuresome and find some very talented artists who work out of their home or have public galleries. http://www.accesssanmiguel.
FESTIVITIES AND FIREWORKS
The Mexican government recognizes 50 holidays in SMA, and there seems to always be a reason for celebration. Many of these are celebrated with parades, fireworks and music in the center of the city. Here’s a month-by-month list.
Mexico would not be Mexico without music, and SMA does not disappoint. If you are here during the Pro Musica season I hope you will try at least one of their performances. The concerts are held in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It has good acoustics and is about as intimate as a concert venue you can get.
Opera lovers won’t want to miss the Concurso San Miguel, a nationwide contest for young Mexican opera singers. Although we haven’t attended yet, it’s reputation is of a marvelous experience.
Almost everybody we know in SMA is involved in volunteer activity with one or more non-governmental organizations (there are more than 100) that operate here. Here’s a list of 82 NGOs with links to brief descriptions of their activities.
RETIRING IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
If all I have described so far seems too much for a single visit, it might be worth considering taking up part-time or full-time residence here.
For a good overview of retirement in SMA and Mexico, I recommend this site. It covers many helpful topics and issues including art, climate, culture, education, entertainment, ex-pat community, local history, music, romance, volunteering, cost of living, finances, health care, immigration, legal, real estate, etc.
If you’re hungry for still more ideas and information, here’s my suggestion: Fire up your favorite Internet search engine and do a search for any of the following followed by “San Miguel de Allende:”
Chamber music festival
Jazz and blues festival
Blessing of the horses
Art appreciation classes
Day of the Dead
Here are a few YouTube pieces I think you will enjoy. These observations from San Miguelians will give you a sense of how they feel about living in SMA:
If you need still more, there’s only one thing to do: Come see for yourself.