Finding design-spiration everywhere.
In San Miguel de Allende, the explosion of color + culture + celebration = exuberance. Some say the colonial city is one of the prettiest destinations in Mexico, with charming cobblestone streets, baroque Spanish architecture, and – everywhere, vivid and vibrant art.
The heart of this UNESCO World Heritage site is El Jardín, the square at the base of the grand pink limestone La Parróquia – a gothic-faced parish inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It is postcard-pretty, changing color as the skies vary from day to night, a show-off in the midst of a lovely and lively Jardin Principal. The central plaza is where everything happens, from casual ex-pat meet-ups to quinceañera celebrations, from mariachi bands leading a wedding party procession to diners under the portales enjoying sidewalk cafes. Exuberant!
The biggest surprise of San Miguel is what awaits behind doors cut into the unassuming adobe walls lining the city streets. Abundance straight out of “The Secret Garden” — tucked behind the entries are lush and verdant courtyards, surrounded by historic colonial houses…filled with enough architectural details and flourishes to make a mid-century-aged American swoon! The unexpected opulence of some of these homes (mixed with original character, and sometimes original plumbing), was a wonder. The Sunday home tour sponsored by the local library, Biblioteca Pública, showcases some of San Miguel’s finest houses and is a wonderful introduction to colonial architecture.
I discovered the connection between Previously Owned by a Gay Man and this beautiful historic city after my first visit, while researching San Miguel. (Wherever I vacation, I fall in love with my idyllic holiday and decide the destination should be my next home. In the past two years I have imagined, and researched, a future in: San Miguel de Allende, Montreal, Chicago, Vancouver, Portland, OR AND Portland, ME…it goes without saying that I am still happily at home in California. I spent a blissful two final days in Mexico, after a simple math mistake led me to believe the spectacular casa for sale would be mine for just $150,000. I was heartbroken to discover the currency conversion was actually $1.5 million dollars.)
San Miguel de Allende was “discovered” in the 1930s by a gay Mexican opera singer and movie star named José Mojica. He told friends about the magical city — narrow cobblestone streets lined with magnificent empty mansions and impressive churches, replete with a profusion of flowers and lush vegetation…and soon celebrities and artists joined him, helping to create the arts enclave the city is today. Thank you, José Mojica — it turns out San Miguel de Allende was an early iteration of “Previously Owned by a Gay Man”!
Mercado de Artesanias (Centro) – San Miguel is a city filled with artists and craftspeople, and the Artisan Market is a mix of hand-painted traditional ceramics, jewelry, Oaxacan rugs – along with local foods and the occasional live animal.
Fabrica la Aurora (Santa Cecilia) – A gorgeous old textile factory turned into a collection of shops and galleries – fine art, home furnishings, antiques, gifts.
EAT & DRINK
La Azotea (Centro) – Spectacular sunset views paired with their famous jicama tacos – deliciosa!
La Parada (Centro) – Unexpected Peruvian hot spot, with a lovely patio (where we shared ceviches and Pisco Sours with the coolest ex-pats).
Biblioteca Publica House and Garden Tour – Each Sunday, San Miguel’s library hosts a home tour, sharing interiors and gardens of local homes…from a Colonial mansion to an artist’s studio. (The Biblioteca also offers entertainment, lectures, a cafe – and serves as the local meeting place for just about everyone.)
Mask Museum – Quirky, cool (and just the tiniest bit freaky), the “Another Face of Mexico” museum features a collection of over 500 Mexican ceremonial masks – an opportunity to learn about the indigenous culture, in a beautiful private home.