San Miguel de Allende…

To celebrate the one year anniversary of Hubs’ knee surgery we went to Mexico.

Not to the beach but inland to a delightful, colonial city called San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

The streets were cobbled, the trees were worked around,

AllendeCobbles

and we walked…a lot!  Very good exercise for us both.

Our airbnb was at the top of the hill and the main square was a generous mile away.

We went down in the morning;

On our way every corner turned was worthy of a photo…

Walls of fresh flowers, draped like blankets, announced a beautiful home behind iron bars.

AllendeFlowers

Somebody had told us,

“If you see an open door, look inside, you’ll be amazed!”

We were!

Huge courtyards hidden behind an innocuous doorway with chairs and tables scattered around a sprawling tree hung with ribbons and lanterns.

AllendeCourtyard

After several hours of visiting what the city had to offer from a flea market

to the Art Institute,

an Antiques Emporium

to historic museums and art galleries,

we’d stop for a coffee, or a beer, or an agua con gas and watch the cars and pedestrians negotiate the narrow streets and sidewalks…

AllendeNarrow

…single file like Albion Road in Broadstairs where my parents lived.

Then we’d head back up the hill to eat a pastry on our little patio and enjoy a well earned siesta along with the rest of the city,

including the dogs.

Allende3Dogs

Awakening refreshed (afternoon naps are the best for that) we’d change and walk back down into town in the evening;

past the townspeople gathered for a parade,

or a fiesta practice…yes, they practice their fiestas, loud music blasting, dressed in costume, little pockets of practicing citizens…

in search of a place for happy-hour margaritas or a glass of wine & olives

and people watching.

Dinner was always up some stone steps to a roof where we’d sit and enjoy picturesque vistas of the city stretching towards the distant mountains.

AllendeView

We could have been on the Mediterranean with the array of colors and terra-cotta tiles in the forefront!

The menu at one of the restaurants was very ambitious,

AllendeMenu

and both our sons asked,

“How did they taste…

“…the ants and the grasshoppers?”

As delicious as anything fried in fragrant olive oil and served with warm, crusty bread!

We’d catch a taxi on the way up the hill at night…too dark to mange the cobbles without twisting an ankle

or a new knee.

For our final evening we went to the open air upper terrace of The Rosewood Hotel, of Hunt family fame, for appetizers & a cocktail

and the elegant, pink, wedding cake towers

AllendeCathedral2

of the Parrochia which dominates the skyline in the West.  It was a constant landmark for us, as soon as we caught sight of it rising above the rooflines we knew where we were.

We heard it too; the bells called out the hour and the quarters,

they pealed just before mass summoning the faithful to pray;

it was quite impossible to  escape the sounds of catholicism,

and oddly comforting knowing we were covered by prayer for most of the day and into the night,

AllendeCathedral

reminiscent of the year we spent in London within earshot of the bells of St. George’s in Beckenham.

At the Rosewood a photo shoot was going on and a waiter joined in the fun by taking our picture as we prepared to enjoy our drinks.

AllendeHotel

We bowed out just before sunset,

and went in search of another rooftop experience and our last dinner in this city of ex-pats.

San Miguel was so like Spain,

“How lovely to take a 2 1/2 hour flight and feel as though we are in Europe,” I remarked to Hubs.

In Marbella the Americans ran small bars and cafes,

in San Miguel they ran art galleries.

I saw repairs to the cobbles done by hand with picks and hammers.

I saw a truck of bricks being unloaded by a line of men passing them brick by brick to be re-stacked where they were needed.

I saw ice unloaded bag by bag from the back of a flatbed, thrown up to a man on a rooftop above.

I saw pig carcasses transported in the back of a pick-up and mentally decided to avoid the pulled pork tacos that evening.

I saw another tree standing unperturbed, its boughs incorporated into the stonework.

AllendeTree

There was no heavy machinery, no stop signs or traffic lights or zebra crossings.

The water was drinkable straight from the tap,

the food was excellent,

the papayas were sweet,

and neither of us got ill.

The cars on the cobbles made a lot of noise late into the night; they barreled over them racing the wind down the narrow streets.

Then silence at midnight…until the birds woke us up, just before the bells, and another day in paradise began.

We were the only ones on the airport shuttle back.

I took one last shot of a Mexican shop as we drove out of town, this one selling songbirds in little cages swinging from branches,

AllendeBirds4Sale

memories of Beirut in the Lebanon.

Farewell to San Miguel, a city rich in culture and evocative of many other places I’ve visited.

“It really was a getaway…” I mused, “without having to venture too far from home.”

We were treated to miles upon miles of brown and desert fields with outcroppings of rock.

Some were cultivated, most were not.  There were no signs of tractors or combine harvesters.

Hard labour and subsistent living was evident here among the rural locals although there were some eating places along the way and I wondered out loud to Hubs,

“I bet the food’s good, imagine your grandmother’s cooking…”

I hoped our few pesos went some small way to helping with the economy.

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