San Miguel de Allende December 2009

If you have not seen pictures from our first trip to SMA in Spring 2008, they are at
We returned to SMA almost two years later after spending our 2008-2009 winter vacation in Oaxaca.
Both cities are at altitude so they were not very hot, but were still 40 degrees warmer than Cleveland.

San Miguel de Allende from El Mirador or "the view".  The pink church in the center is La Parroquia which is across the sreet from the jardin or garden that is the heart of SMA.

Since we were in Mexico over Christmas we thought it was appropriate to include at least one tree.

The main house of Casa Crayola.  Beyond that open front door is a breakfast cafe open 6 days a week.  While Casa Crayola is not a B&B it offers the best of both a B&B and a condo.  We could prepare our breakfast or walk 50 ft to the cafe.

Casita 3, our home for two weeks.

The goldfish pond outside our bedroom window.

The cafe, where we attended a Christmas Eve dinner and concert on the twin Yamaha pianos.  The owners partner is a pianist and also teaches here.  Pat was able to practice when the pianos were not being used, while Steve stayed in the casita and practiced flute.  We also attended a Spanish harp and guitar concert, and heard gypsy jazz, flamenco guitar and jazz flute in restaurants.

We managed to get in two birding trips, one to El Charco del Ingenia botanical garden and one to Rio Laja.  Here is Pat between our guide Norm and Canadian birder Ken.  Norm and his wife live in SMA while Ken and his wife are winter visitors.

Black Necked Stilts.

This beautiful guy, a vermilion flycatcher, was everywhere.  R: A Giant Kiskadee.  Although 3 drank at the fountain in front of our casita, this was the best photo we got.


Fabrica la Aurora, a textile factory converted to artist studios, displayed a lot of the old machinery which fascinated Steve as much as the art fascinated Pat.  More photos of Fabrica and the story of our painting are in our previous trip photos.

L: Merry Calderoni's studio.  R: Our Calderoni painting is safely back on our wall after the artist redid it.

Some of the studios at Fabrica la Aurora

San Miguel seen from the lookout or El Mirador.  Even at this scenic point, arts & crafts are the topic of the day.

We came across a wedding near the jardin, where mimes joined in for a photo op.

Ignacio Allende, one of the namesakes of SMA, was a hero of the 1810 revolution against the Spanish.  His house is now a museum.

Two courtyards of the Allende Museum

I could not resist getting my little pocket knife sharpened.

Like Mark Twain said (of Montreal), you could not throw a brick without breaking a church window.

A poster of the doors of SMA is popular.  Here is one, with a detail photo of the door knocker.

The lake above the dam at El Charco del Ingenio is a good birding site, in addition to viewing the botanical gardens.

A view into the canyon below the dam and one of the lower pools.

From this mirador you get a great view of SMA and the lowwer dam.  Notice the gatekeepers house in the lower right.

This pipeline brought water to the fabricia.  Walking it from town to the dam was a test of manhood.

The gatekeepers house for the lower dam (circa 1600); pipeline from the upper dam in the background.

Steve at the gatekeeper house.

  Ann Arbor church friend Jennifer Butz is now living in SMA

She extensively remodeled this Mexican house for more space and a lot more light.

Her garden is the latest project.

You can buy almost anything in SMA, sometimes in amazing combinations.

This rider depicts Ignacio Allende

Some market photos.

SMA has a wide array of restaurants and any that cater to tourists follow modern sanitation guidelines.  You can safely eat a salad!  Ice comes from a central source and uses the same agua pura you buy in bottles.  A few we can recommend include The Food Factory and the Wine Bar (tapas) at Fabricia Aurora, Casa Crayola for breakfast and nearby Media Naranja for lunch, San Augistine (chocolate and churros), Bagel Cafe for breakfast or lunch if you are near the jardin, The Palapa near the Instituto for fish tacos (ask for directions),  Ole Ole for fajitas and bullfight atmosphere, Nirvana (Thai soup) and El Pegaso (eclectic menu, try the chiles en nogada).  Gumbos, in the Fabricia Aurora neighborhood, is a nice pizza restaurant that also delivers.  The chef owns CasaBlanca, which we have yet to try.  More upscale restaurants include Belle Italia (Osso Bucco), Bugambilia, Vivoli, and The Restaurant (16 Sollano).  Recommended but we did not get to:  Jackies (take a taxi) and Socialite (Italian, on Correo).  Lots of norte americanos like Tio Lucas, Mama Mia and Harrys New Orleans but they were too touristy for our taste.

(short drive outside SMA)


The church at Atotonilco has been named, along with SMA, as a World Heritage Site.  The money is going to restoring the frescoes inside. 
So far no effort to restore the outside frescoes, just fresh stucco and paint.


We hired a guide to show us Guanajuato, about a 1 hour drive from SMA.  During the colonial era, it was a fabulously rich town owing to the silver mining in the area.  It is a highly photogenic city and deserves a couple of days to explore.  Next time we will spend more time there.

This church was built by the owner of the biggest silver mine just outside Guanajuato city.

Silver riches supported the theater (L) and the church (R)

Architecture is typical of Spain.

Another Guanajuato church.

Miners first diverted the river into these tunnels to prevent flooding, later diverted it even deeper and turned these tunnels into roadways to ease traffic.

Some people extended their homes above the tunnel in the open sections.

Guanajuato from their mirador.

Our choice of San Miguel restaurants

North of downtown
Media Naranja (ask what it means) at the corner of de la Luz (where Hidalgo becomes Aurora) is great for lunch

Café Crayola, 48 Aurora, wonderful breakfasts open mornings only, closed Wed.

Food factory in the Fabrica Aurora for dinner or a break from shopping

Ole’Ole’ on Loreto, legendary Fajitas, bull fight theme

Gombo’s Pizza and Crepes at #2 Tatanacho in Guadalupe is hard to find but they deliver.

Downtown (within 3 blocks)
San Augustin across from San Francisco church, famous for churros and chocolate

Bagel Café on Correo is a bit of an American hangout, breakfast and lunch

Bella Italia is known for its music, especially when Doc Severinsen plays.  Best Osso Bucco I ever had!

The Restaurant at Sollano #16 is expensive but possibly the best in the city

Vivoli has good Italian on Hernandez Macias.

El Pegaso is known for its Chiles en Nogada

Bugambilia has nice atmosphere, music and good Mexican food.

South of downtown
The Palapa, a food stand on Nueva off San Antonio near the Instituto de Allende, has great fish tacos

The Instituto has a nice café in the upper courtyard and an okay sit-down restaurant in the lower courtyard with an unforgettable view of downtown and the Parroquia.

La Puertecita hotel has beautiful grounds and a great Sunday buffet.

The End? 
Probably not.  Next trip we will stay longer spend more time in Guanajuato.  I want to write more about what it is like to visit SMA, but for information on retiring in SMA go to and buy the video.

Thanks to Murray Freidman, Marti MacInnes, Caren Cross and Norm Besman for local information and to Carly Cross and her staff for being such excellent hosts.

Steve & Pat