It was a spectacular Saturday in San Miguel. We are definitely trying to utilize these last few weekends here that are actual weekends (i.e., when we don't have Saturday a.m. duties) for galavanting to nearby towns and cities here in Central Mexico. On Saturday, October 20th, we headed back to San Miguel de Allende, the pretty little colonial city beloved by expats and others that is nestled in the hills about an hour's drive northwest of Querétaro. We had never stayed the night in San Miguel before, but this time we were planning to make a whole state-of-Guanajuato weekend out of it, so we booked a cute little hostel a few blocks from San Migeul's central garden/plaza.
During the afternoon, I walked around in perfect sunny weather partaking of the city, the expats, the galleries, the shops, the plazas, the newspapers and posters and other announcements of evening events, and just so much art. For decades I have known about the artist/writer expat scene in San Miguel de Allende, and I have even known a few people who have come to Mexico to spend some time there, but it's another thing to just wander around in it and be confronted with the many gringos, the Texas accents, and the rather polished and shiny manner in which they carry themselves through their afternoon. Cultural centers, art and craft fairs, yoga classes, embroidered bags, brightly colored clothes, not a few items that are - frankly - overpriced...all these things are part of the scene of course. I just kept walking into galleries when they caught my eye, at least one on every block, and I loved all of the Day of the Dead themed stuff making its presence known.
I become curious about people who settle permanently/indefinitely in other countries. Not because I can't imagine being an expatriate, or because I would miss the U.S., or because MURrica is the best or anything silly like that. No, it's because I can't imagine how on earth they decide. With so many countries on Earth, how do they pick just one? (Note: I can't figure out how people decide on just one city IN the U.S. or other home country in which to live, either.)
As the early evening began, Brian and I headed out together to San Agustin Chocolates y Churros, which was just a little bit of heaven served on a plate, and with a great view out the window to a UNESCO World Heritage temple, to boot! The "chocolates" are drinks -- you know, like hot chocolate, only so not at all like hot chocolate you've ever had, but so much more! I got the Spanish style - less sweet, more yum. I also had a churro filled with caramel. OH MY GOD. Yes, I said a churro filled with caramel. Even after Brian and I finished our treats we stared at the churro-making guy through the window from the sidewalk for a while.
Night had fallen, and we did a bit more wandering and rambling, making our way back to the central garden plaza, as usual, where we enjoyed people watching, expat watching, and mariachi watching. (Of course, expats and mariachis are people, too, but the act of watching and the different things you care to observe are what differentiate these.) After a while, we headed down Hidalgo street to a bar I had discovered on my afternoon ramble; it caught my eye because it was a blues bar with 2-for-1 Dos Equis specials. (Insert "I don't always ___ but when I do ____" joke here.) It turns out to be owned by an expat who previously had a bar in Acapulco but who wisely moved on when that city turned to a violent, dangerous, scary place a couple years ago. We asked him about that a little bit, and he replied that he watched it turn from a nice place to a bad place. "I remember when it turned bad. I remember the day," he said. Ahhh, the war on drugs. Good ol' violence, solving problems. Totally not at all.
I had a place picked out for dinner, but we also had vague plans to meet up with one of Brian's students who is in a band and had informed Brian that they were playing in San Miguel that night at some "event." Not a bar, we knew that, but our directions were kind of strange and bilingually confusing. Nonetheless, we intrepidly set out and continued to enjoy our strolling and people handing us flyers about karaoke and whatnot. After a long, arduous search for "the arch" (which I knew! I knew where to find it! I was right, even though the doormen threw us off!) and a conversation with the doormen who were like, "No, this is a wedding" and a trek too far up the hill when we didn't believe enough in ourselves to insist we had found it, we ended up getting in contact and the band was, in fact, playing at the wedding -- at a really cool wedding spot on the hill overlooking San Miguel de Allende. SUCH a great spot. I absolutely must have a party there someday. The musician-student-friend came down to meet us when the band was on a break and we went in with him past the doorman ("hi, it's us again, we were right after all!") and they gave us a free drink (thanks!) and then we went up to the dance floor/plaza/band set-up (AWESOME lookout over the lights of the town) and we just kind of sat back"stage" which was basically like two chairs up these little steps from which we could watch the good times roll. It was completely and totally random. There was no real reason to be there, really, other than just hanging with the band. Just enjoying the view, man.
At midnight I turned into a pumpkin even though the band kept playing (they were going to end at 1 a.m., they said...no, at midnight...well, maybe not at midnight....who knows?) because I was starving and so we parted merrily and headed back down the hill to the restaurant that serves food until 2 a.m. On this walk, we were able to check out even more of the San Miguel nightlife, and my goodness! There's quite a bit of it. People dressed to the nines, pulsing music, lines spilling out of clubs, people spilling over sidewalks, drunk people, happy people, pretty people, a great time being had.... it is definitely worth spending a night in San Miguel de Allende in addition to days.
Sunday morning we stopped at the Starbucks on our way to the bus station. Let me just say right now that I'm pretty sure the San Miguel Starbucks is the coolest Starbucks ever. It's right down in the center of the town across from the plaza in an old building and it has arches and high ceilings and wood and it's L-shaped and the collection of colonial architecture buildings has a courtyard and iron-barred windows and whatnot. Indescribably awesome for a Starbucks. Love it. Totally wished we had time to stay and sip our coffees there, but we had to hustle to catch our ride to the city of Guanajuato.
So, the first half of the weekend? Lots of thumbs up!