Our Next Trip South 2007
Visiting the town of San Miguel de Allende. It has been a National Monument since 1926
Hopped in Willie and drove north west a ways to visit the town of San Miguel de Allende. Didn’t expect the turn off to Mexico 111 to be so soon and missed it. - story of our travels- Bill keeps asking me if there are any bicycle paths I
would like him to drive on - reference to our 1978 strip in Brazil! I just keep my mouth shut. Any way a quick turn around and we were heading the right direction. A good road through a couple of small towns. One of which seemed
to be setting up a festival of some sort in front of its church. Lots of canopies going up and a group of guys walking down the road carrying musical instruments. Saw a couple of people riding along the road on their horses.
Soon we were in San Miguel -the whole town was declared a National Monument in 1926. The street became narrower and cobblestone the buildings older and older. As we passed side streets we could look down - and I do mean down- them to see the town way below us. We just followed the traffic and soon turned down one of the little streets. We could catch glimpses of the church towers from time to time. Many church towers. We were soon right in the middle of the place, of course there was no parking to be found. Finally we asked and were directed to a parking lot. “Straight two blocks, right two clocks, right again one block then left. You’ll see it.” One of the many things that confuse me in the Spanish language are the two words straight and right (as in turn right.) Straight ahead is derecho turn right is derecha they tend to sound the same to me. So after listening to directions I don’t know if we should continue on or turn. Good thing Bill understands. So we derechod and we derechad and we found the lot, parked and set out walking after first getting directions on how to get back there. As we started down the driveway to the street we got our first Wow - right out the gate walking down the street was a man wearing a tan cap, a camouflage type t-shirt, jeans and black work boots. So what? You say. Well he was leading two pack donkeys. One brown and one gray. They were carrying what looked like a heavy load - five big white cloth sacks on each side. On down the street they walked as we watched. We turned left walking on the narrow sidewalk (if someone was coming one of you had to step into the street) and crossed over the main street going down some stairs on the other side. Right at the bottom of the stairs was a lady sitting on a blue metal chair making gorditias - small round tortillas stuffed with cheese or other things. She had her card table and cooker right there in the street. People were buying from her. Then we turned and looked up the street. Another Wow - a beautiful church. The walls around the grounds were painted a kind of dark mustard yellow and growing all over them were bougainvilleas of every color. The church itself was of a lighter yellow with stone spires. We stopped and went inside and watched as three nuns prepared the interior for a wedding. They were putting flower sprays on the pews and putting down a red carpet and on top of that kneeling benches for the bride and groom. In the chapel next door a young girl dressed in a long white dress was celebrating her confirmation.
In the next block was a rust colored building with lots and lots of carved stone work, wrought iron balconies at each window and massive carved wooden doors. TPOC! Then we came to the plaza with the most awe inspiring church exterior I have ever seen. As we were driving in we caught glimpses of it every time we passed a side street but that didn’t prepare us for its reality. It is called La Parroquia. It is the parish church and is a neo-Gothic style and it is pink sandstone. The original church was constructed in the late 17th century in a plain Franciscan style. But in the late 1800s this section was added on. The Indian stone mason who designed it had no formal training and worked from post cards from France. Inside is a little chapel devoted to the Independence movement and moments of the town’s history. In the arcades around the plaza all sorts of handicrafts are for sale. Each shop having something more intriguing then the other. Also Indian women sitting on the stone sidewalk with their wares spread out on blankets i.e. flower arrangements, baskets, painted figurines, and colorful dolls. In the plaza the dark green iron benches were filled with people just relaxing. As we neared them we realized most of them were speaking English. San Miguel has a population of over 62,000 many of who are from the US and Canada. Back across the street to the church. In front of it is an imposing round fountain. The base of it where the water would be is decorated with multicolored tiles of mainly white, blue and yellow. Inside the vaulted ceiling and the side chapels are equally as beautiful. One little chapel has murals on all the walls that tell the history of the town. Back outside still walking up hill towards another church we were surprised to see a French soldier on a horse patrolling the streets, in fact there were two of them. Their wide brim flat hats, red scarf tied around their necks, blue coats with white front lapels and brass buttons, white pants with their black stripe and knee high polished black boots with silver spurs really set them off from the rest of the crowd. Then later I saw a modern policeman on a bicycle - he had on a black plastic bike helmet, black gloves, a black long sleeve t-shirt with elbow pads and knee length black lycra bicycle pants. The pants had big pockets and around his waist were his gun, radio and various other necessities. Quite a contrast.
We checked out a couple more impressive churches, one built in the late 1700’s. The exterior has a lot of elaborate stone carvings. Inside the ceilings are very high and there is more of the stone carving. It never ceases to amaze me what was accomplished without modern tools and know how. We walked back to the plaza to have a soda in one of the outdoor cafes and do a little people watching. The town is eye candy. The buildings are painted brilliant colors, just made to photograph. One building will have iron balconies at its windows, another will have carved stone surrounding the doors, windows and just under the roof. Another might have a whimsical carving above the door. Most of the doors are big, some big enough to have smaller doors cut in them for people. They are painted iron, carved wood or painted wood. All interesting.
Again we were at an altitude above 6,000 feet and we were both slowing down so we started back towards the car. By now the plaza was filling up with more vendors, the cotton candy man, the person selling brilliantly colored balloons and little plastic pull toys, a few older people begging and families with small children. From passing cars and open doors came the sounds of music. Suddenly we could hear a mariachi band playing. As we neared the first church we visited we saw the band in the courtyard - they were playing for the newly married couple. Friends and family were congratulating the bride and groom and others were throwing rice on them. We stood and listened for a while. Then back up the stairs and down the street to the car. Bill stopped to take a picture of a sign on a big set of double doors (closing off a driveway) There was a big E with a line through it and the words “ We flatten tires for free.” A very pretty and interesting town.
On the way back to Quéretaro we stopped at the little town that was setting up for a festival on our way in. Now everything was in full swing. The band was playing, food was being cooked and children were ridding the fair rides. We stopped because we saw the panaderia sign. Right there behind a long table displaying bread and rolls a lady was baking her bread. Bill bought a piece - a round flat roll of sorts about eight inches across with seeds on the top. It was hot and it was delicious. I wish we had bought more. We ate most of it on the drive back to the campground.
Back at the campground we picked up our laundry and then went to the restaurant to have coffee and go on line. While we were there a big rain storm hit. Didn’t last too long, but was fierce while it lasted.
To see photos from San Miguel Allende