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Hello. It's me (us). In San Miguel de Allende with Adele.

sunny 22 °C

Well, now we're in San Miguel. Adele has been with us the entire time we've been in Mexico. She's everywhere. Markets. Cafes. The OXXO stores. Adele's inimitable voice and lyrics have followed us for the past two and a half months - our touchstone to home. How huge is a star when they are piped into a gas station in a mountain town in Mexico...and the attendant is humming along? Good thing we love her music.

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So...San Miguel. Last year we were in San Miguel for Semana Santa, and had such a great time - between the Easter festivities, the art galleries, walkable streets, lovely parks, the great food and the near-perfect climate, we decided we would come back and spend the following winter here. Here's part of the reason why:

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But, we started talking about all the places in Mexico we hadn't visited yet, (we will never get to them all), and changed our minds. We decided to drive down one more time, tour around the interior, and make San Miguel one of our longer stays - our holiday-within-a-holiday. By the time we arrived here three days ago, we were very ready to get out of our car and stay put for a while - we'll be here for 23 days. We've rented a spacious one-bedroom apartment with a terrace in a mainly-Mexican neighbourhood about 10 minutes from the central square. Our neighbourhood is pretty and amazingly quiet - with the exception of the barking dogs who all appear to have sundowners until about 9:00 pm, and then pass out for the night. We even have an on-premises parking spot for our car. This is a street close to us - quite typical of the twisty, narrow cobblestoned streets in SMA.

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Speaking of our car - we took it to a local bodyshop, and after they examined the car's accident damage on the rear left wheel and bumper, and took note of the many other scrapes and dents we've accumulated over the years, they gave us a quote of 6000 pesos - at 12 pesos to the dollar, we will have all our body work done for $500 - in Canada it would have been at least double, if not triple that cost. We had $500 U.S. deductible on our Mexican insurance policy, so this will be a cash transaction - making all parties happy!

Other housekeeping notes - we've discovered a dental clinic close by - we will both have our teeth cleaned ( about $50 each), and I am on the hunt for a hairdresser. Stephen is scoping out nearby gyms. I've dragged out my Spanish notebooks to work on again. I even cut back dead foliage on the plants on our terrace - my fingers are itching for some real gardening. The gardens here are luscious - either full-blown courtyard gardens, or more commonly, colourful pots lined along the edges of rooftops.

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So, with a few nesting details out of the way, we're ready to enjoy San Miguel to the fullest. San Miguel has a large and very active gringo population that has had a profound effect on the development of the city. Not for nothing has it been christened "Gringolandia." While the Mexicans out-number the ex-pats 10 to 1, the central core caters largely to the gringo population and the tourists. We've spoken to a large number of gringos, and almost all of them live here full-time, or for several months a year. Many own homes, and there are no end of luxury shops to provide the essentials. This store, which I mistook for a gallery, carries a sparse, but tasteful selection of objets - a swath of silk drapery fabric, a designer chair, some small bowls.

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We popped by the Europa liquor store - a well-stocked and democratic shop that carries wines from $5 to $500. One entire wall was stacked three cases deep and probably 25 cases long, with alcohol for a wedding this weekend. Apparently a number of chilangos (Mexico City residents) choose San Miguel or Oaxaca for their special events.

It's easy to see why. San Miguel is a wealthy town, but in a discreet, best-families kind of way. The streets are filled with well-toned older gringos - a parade of nice shoes, linen pants, good watches, oversized jewellery and real Panama hats streams by on the cobblestoned streets. The cathedrals and churches are stunning. The city's setting is dramatic, with endless photo opportunities. The architecture is delightful - and all the colours match. Simple restaurant and hotel lobbies look like movie sets.

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We have spent a fair bit of time in the cities of Oaxaca and San Miguel, and we have tried to understand what the key differences are between them. They both have substantial gringo populations, accessible, walkable and beautiful centre cores, fantastic food scenes, and rich artistic and cultural backgrounds.

With our limited time in both cities, (three visits over a five-year period), our impressions are thus:

Oaxaca feels more Mexican, and having a bit of Spanish is both helpful and even necessary. The gringos appear to be more involved in wanting to learn Spanish, in giving back, and integrating into the Mexican culture. At the same time, the ex-pat life is well-defined and well-connected - you see many of the same faces at the English-language events.

San Miguel has been accused of being a Disneyland - a sanitized version of Mexico, filled with the amenities and niceties that can buffer a grittier Mexican experience. Is that true, or even fair? We don't think so. San Miguel is a hugely appealing place to visit and/or escape winter. There are interesting things going on every minute of every day. You can take workshops in dozens of creative endeavours, attend plays, concerts, movies and lectures. There is yoga, Pilates, zumba, golf, tennis, riding, swimming, hiking and soaking in hot springs.But, the essence of Mexico remains.

If you don't feel like doing any of that, you can just head for the zocalo, where there is bound to be free entertainment. We had no end of fun watching this young man balance this tiny young woman on his hand.

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We had front row seats to admire the evening view of the Parroquia - the pink frosted confection that lends to the Disney image.

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As we were wandering the streets today, we came upon this salon, offering "fish" pedicures. Had I been so inclined, I might have sprung up onto one of the seats and submerged my feet in a tank of tiny fish, who would then nibble the unsightly dead skin off my heels.

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While we are on the topic of water, we also saw this extraordinary sight. This tiny park was across the street from the Sierra Nevada Hotel (whose standard rooms go for $500 US). A trough of water and stone washboards was provided for residents to wash their clothes and a number of women had their clothes sorted and ready to be scrubbed. I loved the fact that the two worlds were not separated from one another, but the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty was striking.

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Further on up the hill we came upon this tree filled with egrets. Not much to say about them except they were a fairly unusual sight for us - I'm sure the Mexicans who walked by us wondered what all our excitement was about.

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We've been to a number of great restaurants so far - usually characterized by the decor, the food, the company, or all three. As we waited for our table, we had a grand chat with three spirited older ladies from the U.S. who live in mortal fear of Trump being their next president. They had voted the day before, so the subject was fresh in their minds. Interestingly, they all knew about our new PM! They promised to move to Gabriola if the dice don't roll properly in November.

Our corner table, patiently waiting for our 4-course lunch.

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A sign on our table that I personally appreciate very much. We've seen these signs before in restaurants in Mexico (not that they are particularly heeded - addiction to cellphones seems to be universal)

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A small world story - we popped into a "mercado" today for lunch - a bratwurst and homemade sauerkraut made by an Italian from New Orleans who moved to San Miguel years ago. (Delicious). We started up a conversation with the folks next to us - Torontonians who spend 3 months a year here. They have a friend on Gabriola - Sheila Malcolmson!

Talking - it doesn't matter the language - it is the glue that binds us. Two women deep in conversation (gossiping?)

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See you in a few days with more stories.

Posted by millerburr 18:13 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

San Miguel is, indeed, a lovely city. I appreciate your contrasts between Oaxaca and San Miguel. I would just add the indigenous component and folk art from the many villages around Oaxaca. They are both wonderful places to spend days, weeks, or months!

by Marilyn Horn

Marilyn, you re so right - those are significant differences, that add such richness to being in Oaxaca.

by Ginny

Another wonderful read that transports us to a sunny and interesting place with you! Cheers Dave and Laureen

by Dave and Laureen

I haven't commented for awhile Ginny and Stephen, but I can't resist any longer. I begin my day with your blogs when they arrive and it's difficult to decide that one is more interesting than the other. I've told my friends the pictures and writing are so exquisite that the blog is better than any travel book I've read. That's why I've saved them all in folder on my computer. Needless to say, it's the best blog I've ever read and Richard and I want to go all the places you've been based on your pictures and descriptions. Keep doing what you are doing. We are there with you in spirit and would love to visit personally if that time ever comes again.

by Mary Ann and Richard

This is exactly what I'm thinking and have to say that these blogs have been my best travel plan for the year!!!

by Cherryl Reed

Oh! I love this town. On my list now!

Carol

by Carol Martin

Make sure to take a trip to Dolores de Hidalgo where there are fantastic tile (azuelos) shops (I want to bring back one of the toilets and sinks!) and the market there is quite good as is the zocalo. An easy first class bus ride. Enjoying your blogs. I liked Oax better than SMA but no question the latter is a hopping spot very geared to Gringo interests.

by jon snipper

I heartily agree with Carol! We, too, love this town! You've sold us on SMA with your photos and highlights! It looks like the two of you will have a lovely time there.

by Heather

Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments - you have no idea how much they mean to us. You are our connection to home, family and friends, and seeing a comment pop up from one of you makes our day.

by millerburr

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