There’s definitely something of the “Hotel California” about the town of San Miguel de Allende, ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’, or so the lyrics go. Some of the guys in the San Miguel RV Park, where we’ve slung down the door mat and unfurled the chairs, have been here for months, others for years. As each day passes we declare it’s time to move on…and then we discover the washing on the line is not quite dry enough, there’s a long email to be answered, a place we still haven’t seen…and so the list goes on. The New Age druids say it’s the magnetic force emanating from the quartz the town is built on, though I suspect the only rocks in San Miguel attracting all these north American retirees are the ones floating in their margaritas. According to the statistics the Old Gringos represent some 20 percent of the town’s population; like an army of grey-haired conquistadors they shuffle to and fro, eyeing the cobbled streets with a degree of suspicion. Though the great news is, where the gringos cluster the good living is never far behind. So it’s less of the tequila and tamales and more of the merlot and mousse au chocolat. Which is great if you love your food. Of course, this town isn’t all about your next dinner, though I don’t mind admitting, what’s going to fill my plate tops my list of 6 good reasons never to leave San Miguel.
1. THE SATURDAY ORGANIC MARKET Held next door to the Institute Allende, and barely a three minute waddle from our campsite, this place is a total revelation. Accompanied by the dulcet tones of a moustachioed mariachi I wander through a haven of mouth-watering smells, wonderful home-cooking and quality produce. Gravlax beside giant oysters, quiches beside exquisite French tarts (the edible ones), jam beside honey, bread beside biscuits, hams beside sausages and cheeses from goats and cows and sheep. *Don’t forget the lamb burger and trimmings on the way out*
2. THE PANADERIA Two in fact (that we know of). These are not your run-of-the-mill bread shops, rather they are fully turbo-charged purveyors of tarts, gateaux, petits fours, choux, pain au chocolat and a range of breads to make your eyes spin. Any street tour of San Miguel must commence with a visit to La Buena Vida, for a fresh loaf and a couple of croissants (plus their excellent cinnamon rolls, just to tide you over), and never forgetting to schedule into your tour a late afternoon cake at the exquisite Companio (plus maybe another loaf of bread, a baguette, a carrot cake…).
3. THE AMBIENCE Feel the history. Soak up the colonial architecture. People watch in the Central Plaza. The Mexicans are invariably polite wherever you go. In San Miguel they are even more charmingly polite, in the market, the shops, the bars. And they never accelerate when you cross the road. What a friendly place.
4. THE CINEMA Several viewings a day of the latest movies in the cinema on Hernandez Macias. This twenty seater theatre makes it feel like a private viewing. Popcorn and cocktail included in the price. No extra charge for sleeping…ah, bless those old gringos!
5. THE ANGELA PERALTA THEATRE For three nights only they’re performing Sherlock Holmes: The Last Adventure. How curious is that? Hello! Am I in Mexico? Great entertainment in this elegant, 1910-built theatre. Next week: Agatha Christie’s Murder She Wrote. Maybe we should put off….
6. CLIMATE The guide book says San Miguel is cool and clear in winter, warm and clear in summer. We’re at 1900 metres. Every day the sun shines: warm during the day and cool at night. Just the job. I think we might stay another day!