San Miguel de Allende

After nearly six weeks in Guanajuato it was time to say a sad goodbye and head onto new places in search of new adventures.  As amazing as Guanajuato had been to us it was beginning to become a little too comfortable and far to easy to stick around.  Our first stop after Guanajuato was only a short trip down to road to San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Although a new place and another beautiful colonial town SMA was not a huge ‘adventure’. The town itself has one of the higher percentages of American residents in all of Mexico, for us this meant a few things: lots of English spoken and tourism targeted at Americans meaning a higher prices.

Vista of SMA with the Parroquia and centro

Vista of SMA with the Parroquia and centro

We had booked a hostel with no fuss which was a short walk to the centro with all the churches and plazas which always accompany town centres here. The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel is quite stunning, I regularly compared it to a Disney castle although it is a church. It is made of a pinkish stone and almost glows during the sunset.

There are a surprising amount of churches in and around the centro, as we weren’t quite sick of looking inside them yet we made it our mission to see most. Wandering cities was beginning to become a speciality of ours, it’s usually our “first day” adventure.

We accomplished quite a bit in SMA, and ventured out of the centro most days. First stop was Fabrica La Aurora, a highly recommended old textile factory which has been converted to lots of small artisan studios and galleries. Of course living out of backpacks makes it difficult to buy much and as I had already crammed my pack full with the leather goods purchased in Leon I was not going to be shopping any time soon. Luckily looking is free! The morning of browsing was topped off with delicious gourmet burgers for lunch which were a bit of a splurge but hit the spot.

Tom is happy with his burger and onion rings

Tom is happy with his burger and onion rings

Our afternoon was supposed to be spent at a gardens nearby but as we couldn’t locate it we headed back to the hostel via the long route. The long route basically meant that we kept getting lost while trying to find places on our map. We did manage to locate the toy museum which was quite cool. I found it hard to enjoy as I had a very sore stomach for some unidentified reason, but I persevered none the less and saw some great Mexican children’s toys, a lot of which were handmade

Trains in the Toy Museum

Trains in the Toy Museum

The mercado a block from our hostel was a treasure trove of fruit, vegetables, food stalls and flowers, and all cheap of course. We stocked up with dinner ingredients and headed back to the hostel to rest our weary feet.

The next day we had the mission of finally finding the garden. It is called El Charco del Ingenio and is a well rated SMA attraction, Google told us that it is a walk-able distance from town so off we set. First things first we needed food and returned to the mercado for some of their street food style stalls. While there we bumped into one of the guys also staying at the hostel who recommended the pollo milanesa tortas, so we decided to try them and this was the start of a food love story. Tortas = Delicious!

Our torta being made, nom nom

Our torta being made, nom nom

So Google was correct about the garden being an achievable distance to walk, but it proved to be a bit of a tiring walk as it’s predominately uphill and we were stuffing face with torta at the same time. Have I mentioned how delicious the tortas were yet? The walk is actually quite interesting because (if you take a route like we did) you walk past all the large fancy houses overlooking the city. I’m not sure if you were to go via bus you would see them, so for this reason alone I would recommend walking at least one direction to the gardens.

The gardens themselves are quite spectacular for us, being New Zealanders who are not used to flora of the spiky cactus variety. The paths wind their way over a downwards sloping hillside towards the presa (dam) which is currently being rehabilitated so ensure the health of the existing ecosystem of birds, fish and plants. It’s a very pretty place. The tracks lead you towards the photogenic gorge after the dam which has some great rocks to clamber. Further down it gets deeper and there is a ladder which you can descend into the lower section gorge with a waterfall and pool. The ladder is very high and straight down so exercise a lot of caution here.

It's a long way down into the gorge - El Charco del Ingenio

It’s a long way down into the gorge – El Charco del Ingenio

Overall the day was quite peaceful wandering the garden paths but interspersed with some adventurous exploration of the gorge lead by Tom as per usual.

The next day also involved getting out of the centro to a small town with a beautiful old church called Atotonilco. The church interior is covered by beautiful old murals and it is a UNESCO site. Although being 40 minutes from SMA we were within a short walk from another tourist site in the area: the hot springs. So we consulted our map and set off down the dusty road to La Gruta. The afternoon was spent lazing around three pools of differing temperatures and although the air temperature wasn’t hot, the heat of the pools made up for it. The sun came out for a while so we crept from the warmth of the water and sat on some loungers to rehydrate with our favourite Mexican beverages: agua frescas and nibble on some corn chips with guacamole, YUM!

The ceiling of Atotonilco, photo doesn't do it justice

The ceiling of Atotonilco, photo doesn’t do it justice

On our last morning in SMA we went for one last wander around the town with the intention of scoping out the bus stop back to the central de autobuses. What we ran into was a parade with army, tanks, people on horseback and with helicopters and planes flying low in formation overhead. There were people everywhere and no traffic, meaning no buses. Having little to no itinerary this didn’t bother us too much and we followed the locals towards the main plaza where marching bands were playing their crazy and energetic drum and trumpet tunes similar to what we had heard in Puerto Vallarta during the Virgin of Guadalupe festivities. One last place we had yet to visit was the Casa de Ignacio Allende, namesake of the town and one of the fathers of Mexican independence. The house had a museum style exhibit on the ground floor about the independence. Upstairs in old casas is where the living quarters were located and this house was set up in a replica of what it could have been like for Ignacio Allende when he lived there with his family.

Parade in SMA

Parade in SMA

In our time in SMA we also visited a few other places which were lovely but didn’t get in-depth mentions in this post. Those places were:

  • Ignacio Ramirez Centre – an old building turned into a cultural centre with gallery space, dance and music rooms and studios around a beautiful courtyard.
  • All the churches in the city (pretty much)
  • Mercado de Artesanias – where we got all our fruit and vege
  • Juarez Park

Unfortunately we were unable to find a way to visit Canada de la Virgin which is a archaeological site situated between Guanajuato and SMA. It is something highly rated but you seem to need a tour to reach it. Everyone we talked to rated it so if you are in the area and get a chance I would definitely go see it.

And so we headed back to the hostel to pick up our packs (they never magically get any lighter like I always wish) and head onwards to our next destination.

A SMA street

A SMA street

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