San Miguel ~ Santa Fe ~ Prague ...sister cities
The phrase sister cities have a long-reaching tradition of connecting cities from all over the world. In my mind, it is their sharing of beautiful architecture, history, fabulous food, and that special something, perhaps their soul, that makes them unique and similar at the same time. As fellow blog/traveler/eaters, JB and Rene from 'Will Fly For Food' suggested, on their recent trip to San Miguel this could easily be Mexico’s Prague (Linda’s favorite city) and Santa Fe, its transplant younger cousin in New Mexico, USA. Buddha said, “once a year go where you have never been”. San Miguel de Allende has been in the back of our minds for ages. Why it took us so long to visit this enchanting city, I have no idea, I just wish it had been sooner.
At an elevation of 6,234 feet San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era and Unesco World Heritage city in Mexico’s central highlands, is known for its Spanish baroque architecture, thriving arts scene, cultural festivals, and food, oh the food! In the city’s historic, center lies the neo-Gothic church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, whose dramatic pink towers rise above the main plaza, and El Jardín, a magnificently manicured garden.
Now to delve deeper into the magic, down winding cobblestone streets and behind brightly colored buildings in an endless array of the friendliest restaurants, cafes, and local shops. It’s like unwrapping presents at every turn. There are some extraordinary luxury accommodations and countless small boutique hotels but none more deserving of mentioning than the Belmond, Casa del Sierra Nevada, (owned and operated by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton group, renowned for their luxury hotels, trains, river cruises, and safari lodges) and of course the renowned Rosewood, and lavish Live Aqua. And important to note, if it hadn't been for being invited to the Newcomers brunch by The SMA Expat Community Resource Center, I would never have seen Hacienda El Santuario, voted Trip Advisor's Top Choice for 2022. You'd never know it existed until you entered through the centuries-old doors from the street, a must-visit while in town. The brunch of fresh orange juice, fruits, chilaquiles, and coffee, just off one of the courtyards and among the muraled walls in the bar made for a delightful, mesmerizing Sunday morning.
What we decided to do other than the hotel routine was to travel the Airbnb way and thus, we were to experience the real street level and rooftop colonial flavor. One, Casa Danzantes in the heart of the city, two doors down from the Belmond, which was handy for cocktail time. This five-bedroom four-story house was simply amazing and as told by the housemaid, Adelana, the favorite place of Julia Roberts, Silvester Stalone, and the late Lucille Ball. The other, was a three-bedroom apartment, Casa Clara Luna on the eastern hillside of Capilla de Piedra with stunning views of the city. We had more places to dine than meals in a day. At the end of this article will be The Phantom Gourmet’s list of recommended must tastes.
The flavors are ceaseless, from late-night taco carts, which are the after-restaurants close go-to’s for local chefs from all over the city, to some of the trendier upscale rooftop tapas bars and tucked-away courtyard restaurants, making San Miguel an international intersection for some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in Mexico. Conde Nast Traveler voted SMA 'The Best Small City in the World' for the second time.
The warmth of this city and its surrounding areas, beyond the visual highlights at every turn, make for a place many of the over 18,000 ex-pats from Europe, Canada, and the States, call home. Thanks in large part to Ava, Nancy, and the team plus the welcoming committee, dogs, Jerry, and George. The Expat Community Resource Center is a lifesaver for any foreigners wanting to make the move. The information and services they provide are some of the best I've seen anywhere in the world. This is no more evident than in the video interview endorsements from some of those who have chosen to make this place their home. Well-organized events, from Mexican Healthcare, (using US Medicare in MX) to The temporary Visa & permanent residency process, to regular Sunday brunches and newcomer dinners every Wednesday night at different venues each week, what cool ideas. All invaluable!
Like so many places in this world, we may fantasize about escaping, to live a new life, lured by its location, the romance, and the kindness of its people. Do put San Miguel de Allende on your travel list, and don't wait as we did, if not to move to, but just to experience this intimate, welcoming, safe, friendly sister city, it's where you will find a land of enchantment. As Anthony Bourdain said, ‘when you travel you take something away with you, hopefully, you leave something good behind.' We left a part of our hearts there. This is one of those places that will be etched in your brain and your soul forever.