Two special events made last year particularly memorable for my wife, Cynthia, and me. After living in Cuenca, Ecuador for over a decade, we put our furnishings in storage and began traveling the world full-time. And, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.
Our new adventure began with a two-and-a-half-month trip to Mexico. Starting in Mérida, we next visited Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun before leaving behind the coastal heat and humidity for the cooler temperatures of San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala, in the Mexican highlands.
We had read a lot of favorable reviews about San Miguel, and several friends who left Cuenca and relocated there told us they loved it. So, we decided this would be the ideal place to celebrate our golden anniversary.
Currently, over 20,000 foreigners live in San Miguel, over half of whom are from the U.S. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site has been an expat magnet since former U.S. soldiers began flocking there to study art through the G.I. Bill after World War II.
There are a lot of reasons why:
- Temperate climate
- Low cost of living
- Proximity to the U.S.
- Cultural opportunities
- Low crime
Strolling along its narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets, another attribute we quickly discovered is that San Miguel is incredibly beautiful. Everywhere you look is like a scene from a fairy tale.
Pastel buildings are immaculately restored. Carefully manicured parks welcome pet owners, pedestrians, joggers, and sweethearts. Alfresco tables make for pleasant dining outside.
This small city of only about 70,000 residents rises on all sides from the historic center. Dominating the downtown skyline is La Parroquia, the outrageously ornate cathedral with soaring pink neo-Gothic spires.
San Miguel was everything we had hoped for. And more. But, we wondered how could we make our 50th anniversary extra special.
Cynthia came up with the perfect idea. Let’s spread the celebration over five days—one for each decade—with a different memorable activity each day. Done!
Join us as we relive the event and tell you more about charming San Miguel de Allende.
We kicked things off with a lovely lunch at Cumpanio, a hip downtown bistro serving French and Italian classics with a modern twist. The menu featured inventive dishes like pumpkin blossom ravioli in a citrus sauce. Delicious!
Insider tip: Cumpanio’s sister business, Panio, is a bakery with several locations scattered around the city. Their pastries, especially the chocolate croissants, rival any we’ve had anywhere, including France.
What better way to spend the rest of the afternoon than being pampered at a spa? After two calming hours of massages, facials, and reflexology at The Spa, a San Miguel institution since 1984, we floated back to our apartment.
This was our actual anniversary day, so we pulled out all the stops. After lunch of pork al pastor tacos at Restaurante del Parque, a Belmond property near our Airbnb, we checked into the luxurious Mansión San Miguel for a two-night stay. The boutique property’s lush foliage, impeccable rooms, and attentive staff affirmed we’d made an excellent choice.
Insider tip: While the hotel was not far from our place, walking there was nonetheless difficult because the inclines in San Miguel can be extremely steep. But what a view from the rooftop terrace!
It’s important to take your time and be aware of uneven surfaces. If you tire easily, adopt our motto: “Walk down, Uber up.”
On to a gourmet dinner at the rooftop terrace of Casa Nostra, San Miguel’s #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. Yellowfin tuna with pistachio crust and citric foam plus a complimentary dessert from the owner/chef was as yummy as it sounds.
We devoted this leisurely day to relaxing at the hotel. After lunch at trendy Santiago y Macarena (sadly, now permanently closed), our afternoon was spent sharing a bottle of champagne in the rooftop hot tub.
Years ago, in Toronto Cynthia was fascinated to observe people practicing Tai Chi in a public park. Later in Cuenca she had the opportunity to participate in weekly classes at Parque de la Madre.
So when she learned about Lydia Wong’s Mastery School of Tai Chi, only a 10-minute walk from San Miguel’s historic center, the main event for Day 4 was set. Lydia, who instructed many celebrities in London before moving to Mexico, made our class informative and fun.
Insider tip: Lydia has three rental units within her Oasis of Tranquility. Customized Tai Chi, yoga, and qigong packages can be incorporated into your stay.
When you think of alcoholic beverages produced in Mexico, most likely tequila and beer come to mind, right?
Guess what? About 45 minutes outside of San Miguel is Tres Raíces, an amazingly sophisticated winery that we were excited to visit. In addition to the vineyard, the property includes a hotel and top-notch restaurant.
After a tour of the vineyard and cellar, we sat down to a delectable three-course tasting menu with superb pairings. What a perfect ending to our anniversary extravaganza.
There’s so much to love about San Miguel de Allende. The weather is basically ideal (unless you’re into sweating bullets all summer or shoveling snow in the winter). Prices are cheap. The established expat community makes it a breeze to integrate and make new friends.
A brand new hospital opened a short time before we arrived Art galleries, restaurants, and shopping are everywhere. Two international airports are just about an hour away.
We were so smitten with San Miguel that we decided to extend our 14-day trip an additional week. And because we’ve spoken fondly of this destination many times since our departure, we’re certain we will return.
You don’t need a special occasion like ours to pay San Miguel a visit. Make plans to explore this gem of a city as a possible relocation option, or simply a fabulous getaway. We’re certain you’ll be glad you did.
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