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San Miguel de Allende — Ciudad Muy Bueno

August 16th, 2018 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Coffee Shops · Uncategorized · Wi-Fi


Many times I question my decision to do The Dirty Gig to fund my travel.  But as I headed north of Celaya, Mexico to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico I was convinced that doing disaster recovery work is worth it for the travel.

San Miguel has never been on my radar before, and yet Conde Nast Traveler selected it as the numbero uno city in the world a few years ago.  I’d say I got pretty lucky in coming to this part of Mexico, oddly enough, to work on robot computer controls at an automotive factory, damaged in a flood.


San Miguel de Allende

So … the first day off, I headed north.  Immediately, as I headed out of Celaya the land seemed to take on an agrarian beauty ….  rolling hills with low mountains in the background, corn and other crops nearing harvest … and after another fifteen minutes of driving, the countryside transformed to wine country, with vineyards on both sides of the road.  There between the rows of grapevines was the first new, well-paved rode I have encountered in this part of Mexico.  A strategic tourism ploy, I am sure.  There were many hardcore bicyclists out on the road too, attacking the foothills.  Impressive.


Everywhere else in Mexico the roads are in serious decay, except for the ever-present speed bumps.  Motorists really have to pay attention to keep from knocking out the front end of their rental car.  The chug holes seem to be the antithesis of the speed bumps … pretty much the same size, in the 180-degree opposite.  Based on the driving skills of some of the commuters I have seen, the speed bumps may be the smartest thing going here.  The only time people slow down.  Ha … there is always a funny sign to alert folks that a speedbump is near.  It looks kind of like an abstract, dark set of boobs on a yellow background.  The first time I saw the sign, I thought I was approaching some swinging beach.

Back in Celaya, the streets are a hodgepodge of disrepair, mixed in with a few street hustlers, here and there.  Some are pretty  creative.  For instance, if you park at Wal-Mart, a covey of bucket-carrying cleaning guys will surround your car and insist on washing it for a few hundred pesos.   Elsewhere, I have seen a teenage girl juggling in an intersection, hoping to make coin between green lights.  There have also been ambitious-looking father and daughter acrobat teams doing “up-on-my-shoulders” tricks for change.

But my favorite panhandler?  Remember the world-class potholes I mentioned?  The other day I drove past a young man, weathered and thin, but sporting a beaming smile.  He had a shovel on the side of the road and was shoveling gravel and some hot asphalt from heaven knows where … and had taken it upon himself to fill in potholes.  Will pave for food.  Very creative, and so mutually beneficial.  People were funding his endeavor.

So, anywho … the roads to San Miguel improved along the way.  Then when I hit the scenic, historic city, the streets retrogressed a couple of hundred years … shrinking down to one small lane between multiple-story buildings, paved with seemingly ancient cobblestone.


As luck would have it, following sporadic instructions from a finicky GPS (again), I wasted no time in heading down a one-way street the wrong way.  It wasn’t busy, and cars were parked on both sides, turned every direction … so I wouldn’t have noticed my infraction, had it not been for the police officer chasing on foot behind my rental car.  Thank goodness I saw him and I didn’t see any night stick pounding on my window.  I pulled over and apologized profusely in broken Spanish, and yes … played the “Stupid Gringo” card — or SGC.  He was quick to recognize my stupidity was sincere and was merciful, allowing me to turn around.  Nice guy.


The next road I took led me high above the downtown plaza, to a scenic overlook.  There was parking there, and I snatched it up.  No sooner had I climbed out of my tiny rental, that a family beside me asked me to take a tourist shot for them.  What a great icebreaker, these cell phone cameras.  My new friends are from Guatemala, and were all too happy to tell me about their beautiful land and live volcanos as we shot tourist shots.

I think the older women were sisters on vacation, and they had their young niece with them.  She served as interpreter for the group and accordingly earned herself a PingWi-Fi t-shirt.  Very nice people.  Two minutes later and a couple from Texas stopped me to chit chat.  Friendly place.

It was about a mile downhill from my parking spot to the main plaza.  Oh my … the bells of the magnificent cathedral were sounding off in the distance below as I hiked down the narrow sidewalk.

Just as I notice a strange pipe sticking out of an old two story building, an unknown liquid shot out of it onto the sidewalk and street below, narrowly missing a couple of pedestrians and a car as well.  Kinda unusual.

Everywhere there is old adobe-like brick, stucco, vibrant colors and rooftop gardens … a great walk.  The city is surrounded by mountains and it is a hike up the hills.

After circling the plaza a few times, I started peeking inside the surround shops and galleries.

Everywhere, there are dolls and statues and posters of the eyebrowed one — Mexico’s favorite artist, Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon.




Frida y pollo

Just a little off the square was some sort of reception facility, and I saw a group of people sitting around the second-floor inner courtyard.  At first glance, I thought the people sitting in rows of chairs were in a church service, as they watched some speaker on a television screen.  Soon, I found out that the people were watching an address by a visitor to the Guanajuato International Film Festival or #GIFF.

I looked for t-shirts but saw none, but the film festival poster was pretty interesting, so I inquired.  It wasn’t for sale, but they said they would give me one … and … in fact, the poster designer “was right over there.”  He gave me a poster, and how could I resist getting the artist’s autograph on the piece.


In addition, I met the executive director of the festival, Sarah Hoch from Kansas, a 40-year ex-patriot American.  Nice people.  Good luck with the film festival in the future. (San Mighel de Allende is in the state of Guanajuato.)  The festival features events in two cities, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato Capital.

Sarah Hoch, executive director


GIFF Film Festival

With my new film festival poster, signed sealed and delivered, so to speak, wrapped up and protected in two venti Starbucks cups, I moved on.  Funny, Starbucks would only give me one cup … ha … I had to fish a second cup out of the trash bin … but I washed it.  I digress …


On a more positive note, so far, Starbucks Wi-Fi here in Mexico has outperformed my own Starbucks — one of the swankiest new stores in Fort Worth’s ritzy Clearfork area … just sayin.


Ha … I also wandered/stumbled into the filmmakers lounge somewhat by accident.  So tempting to engorge on free food … too bad I am on a diet.  Oh the pastries!


In an ongoing quest for THE perfected Mexican souvenir t-shirt.  So far, I am undecided, but tall of the wrestling mask t-shirts are calling my name.  We’ll see …


As I had heard, San Miguel is full of ex-patriot Americans and former Europeans as well.  So there is something really familiar about the place, despite its colonial period charm … cathedrals, plazas, street vendors juxtaposed with nice boutiques and fine restaurants.  I wondered into one cool restaurant and ordered the almond crusted trout (with a side order of molé sauce, which raised an eyebrow or two).  Pretty delicious and the presentation did not disappoint.  The filleted trout was buried in almonds, up to the neck.  Do fish have necks?  Anyway, up to the … oh, up to the gills, I should say.  And at that point was the fish’s cute little head still attached.


Starbucks in San Miguel was a happening place, overlooking the most interesting sculpture in town, a favorite selfie destination, judging by the lines of people shooting photos in front of some winged, archangel type

Did your mom ever tell you not to play with your food.  Ha … she wouldnt if it still had a head.  I stuck the fishhead on the top of my water bottle throughout dinner, twisting it off every time I took a swig.  Stupid gringo!


Ha … then about three quarters through the meal, I looked down and to my horror found out I had been walking all over the plazas of San Miguel with my fly open.  Stupid Gringo.  No I know how the  ex-patriots who came up and introduced themselves knew that I am an American, right off the bat.  This ugly American set the bar pretty high.  So embarrassed.

Know what I sayin?