San Miguel Allende: My First Post-Vaccine Vacation
Those who know me know I’m a serious travel junkie- I’ve been to over 73 countries and don’t plan on taming my wanderlust any time soon. I’ve experienced incredible places and met unbelievably cool and warm people, immersed myself in all the culture, and sat on airplanes for absurd numbers of hours. But my most recent trip to San Miguel Allende stood out to me slightly more than the rest. Usually when I come back from a trip, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and my vacation becomes out of sight, out of mind. This time was different, however. I found myself pining for SMA, googling “second home in San Miguel Allende,” and asking my husband Ragu multiple times if he can “work from anywhere” so we can spend summers in SMA (alas, he can’t).
This was my first post-vaccine vacation and that itch to get out of the monotonous routine I’d acquired over the pandemic was intense (even when everything changes on the daily at a small business!). Bags packed and jewelry layered, my husband Ragu and I took off on our 10-day getaway, a trip that can only be told in journal entry day-by-day format. So here goes. By the way, if you want any specific tips, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel is my passion and I am happy to help!
First, the things that stuck out:
- The COVID precautions were amazing! When you enter any establishment, they give you hand sanitizers, they sanitize your feet, take your temperature, and get your contact info for contact tracing. On top of that, if you aren’t wearing a mask in the city, city workers will gently offer you one.
- The level of conscientiousness regarding health and wellness is astounding. Many of the restaurants in the city offer vegan and gluten-free options.
- The uniqueness of the city is almost unparalleled- The dwelling spaces in this town are a magnificent maze of artsy and charming courtyards and spectacular rooftops with jaw-dropping views
- The juxtaposition of Old and New: The city is both old world and modern, and fun and colorful with its multimedia art and colorful architecture; feminine and warm with its beautiful flowers and generous and kind people; it’s both traditional and cosmopolitan with tons of international cuisine as well as authentic finger-licking Mexican fare.
We arrived at the Rosewood Hotel, a beautiful property with incredible service and amazing food. We enjoyed drinks and dinner at Luna, the hotel’s uber popular rooftop restaurant. When I say this place had views, I mean it had views. Intricate cathedral steeples scattered the landscape as funky lounge techno music played in the background.
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I had fish tacos, of course, and don’t forget a medley of habanero sauces… Even on vacation I need my spice fix!
Let’s start with brunch: all you really need to know is there were bottomless mimosas, but an a la carte menu and buffet option were offered too, for those who require food! We indulged in the Huevos Placeros and tacos (yes, brunch tacos) and then hit the streets.
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Finally, we reached the site of what easily could’ve been on the cover of National Geographic (in fact it has!): Parroquia de San Miguel. The majestic gothic church pierced the sky at the center of a magical colonial town.
For drinks and dinner we settled down at Casa Hoyos, a rooftop restaurant with breathtaking views. The highlight? My Lavender Sour mix drink in a cool bird glass. (Ingredients: Gin, Cocchi americano, aquafaba, crème de violette, lavender flower, lemon).
We feasted on Spanish tapas, surrounded entirely by native Spanish speakers, such that my broken Spanish was tested many times over. . The atmosphere was so damn cool -- under the radiant gaze of a majestic church a DJ spun Spanish music with heart-thumping bass.
The buildings are thoughtfully painted in brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red, and every so often a vibrant blue flanked by exposed stone would appear.
After brunch we wandered around the colorful alleyways and popped into an outpost of Mexican designer Sindashi. I loved the traditional hand-painting on modern silhouettes, something the designer is known for, and invested in a sleek hand-painted dress. Covid is almost over, I told myself. I will have a chance to wear this somewhere.
We closed out the night with dinner at Moxi, a Michelin Star restaurant very close to our hotel. Moxi offered a tasting menu which we, of course, got. The atmosphere was awesome- chicly artistic and modern- and the food and service were top notch.
We spent the morning relaxing in the shade at the hotel’s pool under a cabana. It was literally picture perfect! We made our way to brunch at a bakery- after all, San Miguel is known for its sweet and savory, fresh-baked breads! My favorite was the almond paste stuffed croissants, and believe me when I say they were better than the ones I’ve had when I lived in Paris.
Our activity for the day was horseback riding at Rancho Xotola, a family owned ranch that snaked through the mountains. The 4-hour ride took us from peak to trough, and we learned a lot about the cacti and vegetation in the area.
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Honestly, the best part about the ride was that they teach you how to ride fast and race! Thomas was the patriarch and our guide--he was amazing. He encouraged us to sing while we rode our horses and I took him at his word. After I belted out La Bamba, I reckon he may have regretted his instructions!
We began our brunch eating adventures with a 2 hour wait for brunch at Lavande, but it was so worth it! We had fresh roasted coffee, French toast, and eggs benedict, and it really was the best brunch I’ve had in the Northern Hemisphere.
We took a few stops at some cool landmarks around town including a toy museum (which made me miss my little 4 y/o guy), and El Nuevo Mundo, an artisanal handicraft store where I bought a new statue for our home.
Dinner was at The Restaurant (yes that’s really the name) and involved a beautifully lit, old-world exposed stone courtyard and some incredibly tender Ribeye. Sambuca was my drink of choice and it was done very well.
I decided to take the scenic route on my morning run through the botanical gardens and city streets. I loved running past the lavender trees, a plant San Miguel is known for. We decided to forgo brunch today and head straight to lunch at Ka’Ban, an art gallery-meets-restaurant with a sleek modern-meets-rustic courtyard that was part inside, part outside. The bone marrow casserole was to die for and my Aperol Spritz was surprisingly great considering it’s not a usual Mexican drink!
Instead of the usual siesta, I worked at the pool with my laptop in the cabana and then did some laps in the water.
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Dinner was incredible. We went to Quince, a sushi bar situated on a rooftop that offers great sushi, strong ass margaritas, and a massive surprise: If you get there at the right time, around 9pm, drummers start playing modern beats as various acrobats put on a show right next to your table. While the acrobats were prepping by climbing what I thought was a powerline, I kept telling Ragu, “ This is an odd time to fix power lines.” Suddenly, the music gets amazing and the power line mechanics start acrobatics! It was ridiculous in the best possible way.
We decided to fully immerse ourselves in Mexican heritage and learn how to cook classic Mexican dishes at the Sazon cooking class in the Belmond Hotel. The final product: Salmon with mole, which is the Mexican version of curry!
We went shopping for the best ingredients in the city, including fresh tortillas that were handmade by an elderly woman.
The class was amazing- private and hands on- and we actually learned a lot!
We tasted 5 different tequilas, but Casa Dragones and San Julio were the best, and you know it was high quality tequila because I had NO hangover the next day!
Today we really decided to shop till we dropped, because it got pretty hot outside). We visited the markets where I purchased handmade leather shoes and a traditional Mexican smock dress. We also visited the remarkable public library where we bought our son, who is learning Spanish, some cool books.
Lunch was an AMAZING hole in the wall place where Sri Lankan food meets Thai food, and let me tell you, the curry was to die for. We met the warm and charismatic owner Dil Shaad, who is a third-culture kid by way of Columbo, Sri Lanka, Bangkok, Thailand, and Toronto, Canada.
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Diner at Aperi offered a fusion of Mexican cuisine and fine dining, and had a classy, beautiful courtyard and great wine. The pistachio foie gras was my favorite thing there.
We woke up before the crack of dawn and loaded ourselves into the small wicker basket that was tied to… you guessed it… a hot air balloon. It was an unbelievable experience to watch the sun rise from hundreds of feet above San Miguel. To commemorate the moment, we played our old school 2000s and 1990s rap music while on the ride.
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Doce-18 Concept House was our stopping point for lunch, an innovative place where fashion, design, drink, and home brands introduce experiential concepts and products. Our actual food was from Nomada pop up restaurant and included amazing guacamole and mouthwatering risotto. After eating, we went a bit crazy buying tasty chocolate gifts at Muller Chocolate House.
In attempts to walk off the chocolate, we took a self-directed tour of the city’s murals. Cancion India was one of the two streets that stood out, with colorful murals of modern, abstract, and old world art that dated as far back as 1970 and as recent as 2020. The other notable street was Obraje, a more modern-filled walk with only a few traditional works of art.
We enjoyed our final dinner in the city at Fatima7, a Moroccan and Italian infused cuisine on a covered rooftop that was beautifully lit. Per usual, the view was tremendous, as were the mezcal cocktails. The goat cheese pizza was my favorite menu item.
We moved our stay out to Casa Eterea, a completely sustainable, solar powered glass house in the desert at the foot of a dormant volcano. We actually extended our vacation by a couple of days just to stay at this hotel!
As you can see, this place was unlike anything we’d ever seen. It was a beautiful culmination of nature and sleek modernity, that was only about 20-25 minutes outside of the city. There was only enough electricity for computers and phones, but in a place like that you wouldn’t need much else!
The interior was sleek, a stark contrast to the sandy desert outside, which you could view from 90% of the home. We took a hike through the desert, careful to avoid any critters, and topped our day off with some Mezcal that was to die for.
Things I would do differently
- Take more cash. Certain things like cabs, tips, and shopping at the markets require cash, and ATMs allowed very low daily limits to take out cash.
- It is really dry which makes 2pm afternoon heat a lot more bearable than Florida humidity but you get really dry. So it’s best to take with you a humidifier, extremely moisturizing lotion, and great chapstick.
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