June 27, 2016: Hello, did you miss us?
Yes, we’re a little behind, but we’ve been spacing things out to cover a period without much interesting to talk about. Or at least that’s some decent post hoc rationalization for you. Anyway, by the end of this post you’ll be caught up to us as of today.
At our last post we were in Teotihuacan. On Wednesday, May 18, we left Teotihuacan and moved north to San Miguel de Allende. It’s a relatively short drive, at just over three hours.
This area of the High Plains has some serious industry and agriculture. This of course means that the area has more money than some other regions we’ve visited.
We spent a week in San Miguel. We chose to stay on the outskirts of town so that we didn’t have to deal with the narrow cobblestone streets of the city’s center. Unfortunately, we didn’t pay close attention to the route that Google chose and so we got a nice tour of the narrow cobblestone streets, in the van.
This is a problem we’ve encountered with Google Maps before in Mexico. While it is amazing that we can navigate pretty much the whole country, and even get street views, not all Mexican streets are wide or level enough for our very modest vehicle. Sometimes we’ve been directed down streets that were too narrow, or which sloped too extremely, or had corners too tight for us to follow the directed path. Not very often, though.
We again used Airbnb to find a small apartment. We stayed in this pretty yellow house. This time, the owner lived onsite and has built a 2nd story casita above her first floor home.
The neighborhood wasn’t ideal, as there were thousands of barking dogs (that’s only a modest exaggeration), but there was a nice deck
and a beautiful garden with frequent hummingbird visitors,
incredible views [click photos to enlarge]
and stunning sunsets. [click photos to enlarge]
San Miguel de Allende is one of the oldest colonial cities in Mexico, colonized in the early 1500s. It was on the trade route for silver being transported from mines in the area to Mexico City, and made a good living off the traffic.
It is also the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, one of the fathers of Mexico’s revolution from Spain that started in 1810. Prior to 1826, the city was named just San Miguel. Allende’s name was added for the prominent role he played in Mexico’s quest for independence. (By the way, it did not end well for Allende.)
The home of the Allende family, sits on the Jardín, the park at the heart of the city’s center. The home now houses El Museo Histórico de San Miguel de Allende, also referred to as Casa Allende.
The most notable building on the Jardín is the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. Not a cathedral, but a parish church. The original church was constructed in the late 1600s, but the current Gothic facade came much later, in 1880. It was designed by a self-taught Mexican architect who is said to have planned the facade after seeing postcards and drawings of European Gothic churches. [click photos to enlarge]
San Miguel’s historic center is well preserved because of severe economic decline that happened after the Mexican revolution and again after silver mining ended in the region. In recent times Sam Miguel has reinvented itself as something of an artist colony. You can find not only traditional arts and crafts, but every art form you can imagine. Artists from all over the world call San Miguel home.
A former monastery has been turned into an art and culture institute, generally called Bellas Artes, but actually named el Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante” del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. That’s quite a name to live up to.
Like we said earlier, the Jardín is the heart of the city. It’s a modest, attractive city park full of shade, and surrounded by beautiful colonial architecture.
By the way, see that cart with the extended awnings and the people sitting on stools? That’s street food in Mexico. While you do see roasted corn served on a stick, or tamales served on a plate to be taken away, for the most part Mexicans expect to be able to sit down and eat their food. Large food trucks all the way to small push cart food stands almost invariably store stools and a flip up counter for their customers, and usually some means of shade. On some urban street corners, a row of carts like this will line the curb, with stools set on the sidewalk, and awnings strung from the buildings all the way across the sidewalks providing shelter from sun and rain.
What is now trendy in the US to call “street tacos” are really just tacos. You can get a variety of tacos from a street cart, but the “authentic” Mexican taco is made with meat cooked like this:
These tacos aren’t served on the street, they’re served in restaurants. But call them street tacos if you will, it’s good to see something approaching the real thing in the US. Now if we could just do something about the tortillas . . .
Anyway, here are some scenes from elsewhere around San Miguel:
Outside the center, there are not-so-picturesque modern buildings.
We could have taken hundreds of pictures of interesting doorways. There’s probably a coffee table book featuring them on Amazon.
San Miguel’s artisan markets are full of goods from all over Mexico, but those produced locally focus are mostly made from iron and tin. [click photos to enlarge]
We don’t know the origins, but San Miguel has a very large retirement community. Many (arguably too many) of these retirees are Americans and Canadians. Not all, though. We met the nice couple sitting next to Laura in a bar – they are retired Mexican teachers who are running a small b&b.
We feel like we didn’t fully appreciate San Miguel, possibly because we were feeling anxious to get back to the States for a while. We will definitely return to this region in another season.
On Wednesday, May 25th, we got up early and made the long drive to Monterrey, with a short stop to seek shelter from hail under a pine tree. [click photos to enlarge]
We spent just one night there before crossing back to Texas. We found the Mexican version of Chili’s next to our hotel serving surprisingly good tacos. And even corporate chain restaurants in Mexico know that tacos needs lots of different sauce!
We crossed back into Texas on May 25th at Colombia, about 20 miles northwest of Laredo. If you’re ever driving into Texas from Mexico and have to pick between these two options, don’t choose Laredo. Colombia was incredibly smooth and we were the only non-commercial vehicle crossing. Nice!
Back in Texas, the adventures didn’t stop. We encountered this guy on the road about 50 miles from Laura’s mom’s house.
We stayed with Laura’s mom for a few weeks, while going in to Houston a couple of times to see friends and take care of business. With Houston friends, we took a day trip out to Brenham, Texas, stopping on the way at Texas Star Winery, where we sampled some good estate grown red. In Brenham, we stopped by Brazos Valley Brewing Company, and sampled their array of high quality brews.
Elsewhere in Brenham:
After our time in Texas was up, we headed back north to Minnesota:
So what’s next? Is this the end of the blog? Are we done traveling?
Not by a long shot.
As we said, we spent a few weeks with friends and family in Texas, and now we’re in Minnesota, again spending time with friends and family. We’ve also done a fair bit of work recently. And we don’t blog about any of those things, so there isn’t much to say about that time.
But we will be traveling again, very soon. Possibly today. And if you keep reading, we’ll keep writing.
So, click “Follow” if you want email updates when we post, and, as always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!