San Miguel de Allende… it will suck you in
Funny tidbit: Upon arriving to the campground in San Miguel de Allende we met Joachim and Bärbel our new neighbors -a German couple who are driving a really cool and large 4 wheel drive RV around the Americas- one of the first things they asked us was how long we intended to stay for. We immediately replied in unison: “2 to 3 days max”. Bärbel simply laughed and said, “that is what we said when we got here nearly a year ago!” Bärbel’s prediction turned out to be somewhat true; we ended up staying in San Miguel for 3 weeks!
There are many things about San Miguel de Allende that make it an appealing place to stay. For starters the town has a very quaint small town “feel” (even though it is fairly large town of 62,000 give or take). This “feel” could be because of the classic old colonial spanish architecture, with narrow cobble stone streets, neat shops, and a nice plaza with a beautiful church sitting up on the hill (actually several plaza’s and churches). The town also has what seems to be the largest number of resident ex-pats and is a popular weekend destination for Mexico City folks (it seems that people who live in Mexico City tend to get away on the weekends, as just about every town within a few hours drive gets a large influx on the weekends) which means that this town has all the amenities of a larger city. Another appealing aspect of San Miguel, the one that was the impetus for our long stay here is the Instituto Allende. The Instituto offers spanish language classes as well as just about any art class you could possibly desire, from weaving to painting to most importantly (at least for Lacey) silver jewelry making classes. After chatting with Bärbel and some of the other ladies in the campground who were participating in the class, Lacey decided that it would be a great class to enroll in.
We originally planned to stay for a week while Lacey learned to work with silver, and since we would be static for a week we decided to take the time to take care of a series of small things that had been adding up as we traveled. One of the biggies on this list was getting a solar panel we could use to supplement our electrical needs and take care of our battery draining issues. We had already purchased a photovoltaic panel/charge controller at a deep “Bro” discount from our dear friends Steve and Amy Bohner from Alchemy Construction, but the panel was sitting at BajaRack’s warehouse in San Diego waiting for a safe delivery address from us. Of course the shipping took a little longer than we thought it would and Lacey liked her class so much she had to stay another week. When the panel finally arrived thanks to the diligence of our friend Sergio at BajaRack, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. I mean much worse. A very unseasonal crazy rain storm in which it poured 5 days non-stop, punctuated by intermittent thunder and lightning and periods of hail as well. We lived in a tarp city for 5 days… and yes, this is supposed to be the dry season, I guess the rain gods are not paying attention to this fact.
The campground we stayed at in San Miguel has been our favorite so far, The San Miguel de Allende RV Park and Tennis Courts. At first glance the campground itself is nothing special. They do have great bathrooms (some of the best so far) and tennis courts if you like to play tennis. It is also conveniently located in town and the downtown area is just a short walk away; admittedly a short walk uphill at an altitude of close to 7,000 feet sometimes does not feel that short. You definitely get in shape if you stay here for long. The most appealing thing about this campground is the great group of folk who stay here, many of whom return year after year. Everybody is very welcoming and there is a great sense of community amongst everybody that comes through here. We made some great friends, it was hard to say good bye.
Perhaps the only draw back of the campground is that it is located right next to a church that likes to ring its bells allll night long. Since this bell ringing, along with setting off aerial bombs (very loud booming fireworks) at ungodly hours in the morning seems to be a Mexican custom everywhere, you can hardly blame the campground. At some point you just have to go with it…that and buy a good pair of earplugs!
San Miguel de Allende is a lively town and it seems as though there is always something going on to celebrate. While we were here the town celebrated the birthday of Ignacio Allende who is the namesake of the town and a national hero of the revolution. The town celebrated by having a big parade through town and a special mass that we didn’t see (the idea of sitting in church for a few hours on such a beautiful day was enough to overcome any curiosity we had).
Another great place in San Miguel is the Botanical Gardens, Charco del Ingenio. They are located up on the hill outside of town. We took a bus to get up there and as we didn’t quite know where they were we asked the bus driver. He told us he would tell us when it was time to get off. Eventually the bus driver called us forward, pointed up a street and told us just walk up the street and it was right there. We started walking and pretty soon the street had turned to dirt and the buildings slowly started disappearing and still there was nothing to indicate the botanical gardens where anywhere around. Apparently the bus driver had sent us on a wild goose chase, but after about a half hour of walking around in the middle of nowhere and asking directions we finally found the place. It is an amazing preserve of a total of 380 hecatares, crisscrossed with pathways and all variety of native plants. It is a beautiful place to spend a few hours walking around and has great views of the town below.