I am loving my Mexico adventure! Right now, I’m in Cancun but it was so hard to leave San Miguel de Allende after almost 3 weeks exploring the town. I’m glad I started my trip with the “authentic” Mexican experience and lifestyle since areas like Cancun are very touristy and don’t give you the real flavor of the local Mexican culture.
San Miguel de Allende is a small town with a BIG focus on art, music and food. It took me a while to find my way around the city center (“el centro”) but once I did, it wasn’t hard to meet the friendly locals and many ex-pats shared a love of San Miguel. It’s so much more than cobblestone streets and tortillerias.
After almost 3 weeks in San Miguel, here’s 6 things I enjoyed about the city that made it hard for me to leave!
#1. The pesos to dollars conversion rate is awesome.
I had a housekeeper come once a week to clean my Airbnb apartment for just $10 USD! But not only did she clean, she also took out the trash, did dishes and even washed, dried and folded all my laundry (people hang their clothes on the line here and we had no dryer). She was awesome and everything was done better than I could have or would have done myself.
I bought fresh flowers for the casa every few days from the florerias in el mercado for less than $3 USD for a pretty bouquet! I also was able to buy fresh bread and pastries from the bakery (same-day) regularly for 50 cents or less.
#2. You can eat very well on less than $10 USD per day.
Strangely, I’m not a big fan of chicken in the U.S. but in San Miguel, my favorite go-to cheap dinner was a medio pollo (half-chicken) with tortillas, chiles, salsa and french fries. The chicken is roasted fresh on-site and they also gave you juice and free chips and salsa while you waited for your order. Not your average fast-food place at all!
I also had a love affair with the yummy Mexican breakfast tortas you can buy at any stall in el mercado. $1.50 USD bought me a big sandwich on a soft roll with jamon, huevo, lettuce, tomato, avocado and jalapeños. So good! (Side note: I never really liked jalapeños until I came to Mexico. They are in everything and they are delicious.)
You would see everyone from little kids to adults walking around with these popsicles and I found the source in el mercado. It was just a little stall that sells popsicles for 1 peso (less than 10 cents) and ice cream sandwiches for 5 pesos (about 40 cents). I may or may not have bought a bag full of them – in every flavor.
#3. You can spend a whole day people (and horse) watching in el centro.
On any given day, there’s always something going on in the main square! One Saturday in San Miguel, I saw at least 100 cowboys took over the streets of San Miguel, riding horses and singing. It was like a random little parade. I also witnessed a wedding at La Parroquia and ate churros and hot chocolate at San Augustin, a landmark in the city.
#4. There are always fun, cultural events with art, food and music.
I had a great time at the San Miguel de Allende Food Truck and Art Festival. Of course, I had to kick it off by trying a classic Mexican cocktail, the tamarind, chile and black tea margarita made with mezcal instead of tequila. Sounded weird but tasted amazing! I saw a lot of local artists and jewelry-makers with really unique pieces for sale, plus a cool performance from a folk-dancing group. There, I had a nice conversation with an older woman who told me about why she moved to San Miguel from Florida – the lower cost of living was a big factor for her.
I also enjoyed a wonderful evening hearing Tuck & Patti for the first time at the San Miguel de Allende Jazz Festival, the longest running jazz festival in Mexico. Their rendition of “Heaven Down Here” brought me to tears. Before the concert, I treated two of my Airbnb neighbors to dinner as just a small token of appreciation for them taking the time to show me around the city. It was also a nice way to connect instead of eating alone – something I tend to do a LOT of since I travel solo.
#5. You will have amazing meals and impeccable service.
The foodie in me is one of the main reasons I travel. I love to EAT and I love to try different cuisines in every country. A few memorable meals in San Miguel included a great steak dinner with my usual glass of Malbec at Garufa, an Argentinian restaurant. I received outstanding service, but I was unprepared for my server to whip out his cell phone and ask for us to take a picture together before I left. I’m still not sure if he thought I was a black celebrity from the U.S. or if it was his first time meeting a black person or if he just takes pics with all his customers? The world will never know…
I also have to mention the amazing meal I had at Lavanda, an excellent cafe and restaurant in San Miguel. I tried molletes there for the first time – it’s beans and cheese on toast with chorizo. It was great paired with the best hot chocolate ever. Seriously, I would go back to San Miguel just to have another cup of that chocolate caliente!
#6. You will meet interesting ex-pats from the U.S. and learn from their inspiring stories.
Sitting at La Mesa Grande, I met a photographer and poet who had relocated to San Miguel from Austin, Texas. He was earning money from real estate back in Texas as well as his photography business. He introduced me to a young woman who had moved to San Miguel from Washington, DC and had been making money by renting out her place in DC for the past year through Airbnb, earning about $2,000 per month.
We were all chatting it up about our journeys and the differences between the U.S. and Mexico. All of a sudden, the guy leaned forward as if to share a secret with me about his love for San Miguel.
“You won’t find people looking down at their cell phones like the anti-social culture in the U.S. People actually talk to each other here.”
Until next time, San Miguel…