18 December, 2006


Part VI - Ten Day Jaunt in Mexico

On hindsight it was probably the worst day for travelling to another town. Today was Nov 20, Day of the Revolution, thus any town worth its salt held a parade. True enough, central Guanajuato was blocked off to vehicles. Just stepping outside the hostel brought me face-to-face with marching bands and curious onlookers. Taking the advice of the hostel manager, I walked across town towards Mercado Hidalgo carrying my stuff and chanced upon a cab there. Right on!

San Miguel de Allende is one of those small, lovely colonial towns that tourists fall in love with. For all its charm however, I found it a bit of a letdown after visiting Guanajuato. All the elements were there - hillside setting, colorfully painted houses, winding cobblestoned streets, majestic church domes - but somehow it didn't have the "Wow" factor. Not for me, anyway. San Miguel is incredibly popular with American retirees though, thousands of whom have settled here and consequently driven up prices - real estate and otherwise. To give you a rough idea of their presence (and purchasing power), quite a few upscale restaurants offered a prix-fixe Thanksgiving holiday meal package. Only in San Miguel de Allende!

Pictured above is the pink, pseudo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, on the south side of El Jardin in the center of town. Looking nothing like any other church in Mexico, this over-the-top building has an even more incredible history. Legend has it that the architect of the distinctive facade, which was added only at the turn of the 20th century, was a self-taught Indian stonemason who did not even possess the necessary degree and license, and came up with the design solely by looking at postcards of Europe's gothic cathedrals. He then drew up the plans on the sand in front of the church site to explain to the workers what he wanted. Other detractors have claimed somewhat sarcastically that, with its turrets and spires, the Parroquia served as an inspiration to Walt Disney in creating his magical kingdoms.

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