I have a relative (whom I won’t out) that reads the summary and reviews on Rotten Tomatoes before he or she sees a movie. Before. Feels like cheating to me. How can you enjoy a plot if you know its twists and ending? How can you not succumb to preconceived notions? I prefer being surprised. But of course I’m also a hypocrite — I read reviews on almost every campground we stay in before arriving.
We’d heard the reviews of San Miguel de Allende before we arrived. Several folks in Guanajuato — including one lady who’s grandfather was originally assigned by the Queen of England to oversee the empire’s silver mines — warned us that San Miguel de Allende was a gringo and tourist city. And when those modifiers are used in conjunction with a place, the inflection is usually, somewhat, derogatory, even when used by gringos and tourists. Of course, we’re gringos and tourists, so why should we care? I suppose we’re hypocrites here as well.
As such, I had my preconceived biases, and I mostly succumbed to them for the first two days we were in San Miguel. I found myself thinking: if I see one more damn ascot in this city, I’m going to, I don’t know, chuck a tortilla at that wall. Or: if I see one more boutique clothing store, I’m going to, I don’t know, likely be jealous that I can’t afford the clothing in that store. Or finally: if one more of these Upper West Side types complains about the lighting in this restaurant, I’m going to, I don’t know, probably do nothing….
But by the third day, like a cloud of relief, my biases lifted. I found myself admiring the ornate and well-preserved baroque Spanish architecture. You can sense the pride the locals and the gringos have for their city. I also found myself walking at a, what is for me, leisurely pace, which according to my wife is still around a nine-minute mile. You can’t help but amble, with your head on a swivel, in this city. And finally I found myself luxuriating in creature comforts. You want to dine out (we had an especially delicious meal at Ten Ten Pie), play tennis (our campground was actually squeezed between three clay tennis courts), and take in a museum (the Museo de Juguetes was unique and impressive).
By the fourth day, I was ready to end our trip and setup home. San Miguel de Allende does that to you. You’ll want to buy an ancient, preferably restored (or in my case, restorable), stone house with a luscious courtyard and within strolling distance of the city center. You’ll want to bask in the temperate climate. You’ll want do nothing but walk the cobblestone streets, occasionally stopping for shade beneath a topiary tree in a vibrant courtyard facing a neo-Gothic church while indulging fresh-made limon ice-cream and listening to sublime mariachi music.
San Miguel is, paradoxically, uptight and laidback. But that’s just my review. Don’t let it influence you….
P.S. One funny thing about San Miguel that I’d like someone to explain to me, perhaps when I’m older and wiser, is the rhyme or reason behind when the church bells ring. These are times I noted from the church closest to our campground: 3:30am, 7:47am, 8:13am, 6:50pm. Whenever. Occasionally they rang every fifteen minutes for a couple hours. It’s almost as if any person brave (or drunk) enough to climb up to the belfry was allowed to go deaf. Occasionally, someone sounded like they were practicing Ava Maria, but for the most part, it just sounded like helter-skelter banging.