San Miguel de Allende: When meh turned to love

It was really tough for me to leave Europe. Tigger had his mind and heart set on Mexico pretty much the whole time, but I was going to be leaving Europe practically kicking and internally screaming. Even though I finally came to terms with the move, while standing in the check-in line at the airport I was ready to turn right back around and head elsewhere in Europe.

I looked forward to certain things about living in Mexico, but it wasn’t enough for me to ever really feel excited to head there again.

san miguel, la parroquia, cathedral

Our arrival to San Miguel (SMA) was a bumpy ride, so to speak. We spent our first few days back in Mexico in Cancun. We wanted a place to just relax while we adjusted to the big time zone change and from a long day of travel. We had about a 2-1/2-hour flight to Mexico City coming up followed by a 4-plus-hour bus ride to get to San Miguel, so a brief interruption was needed.

The day of our journey we experienced a delay from the outset as Mexico City’s airport was closed due to fog. We had it better than some. Our departure was only delayed by about 2 hours. Others had been sitting around for 7 hours waiting.

After all that, we had a taxi ride to the bus terminal. Thankfully, we only had to wait for about 45 minutes for the bus. The ride itself was smooth and pretty comfortable. By the time we arrived at our Airbnb place, we had been traveling for about 12 hours.

The next morning we awoke to a power outage. Not the best start.

We headed out to explore our neighborhood. I knew we were a bit out from the center, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for our neighborhood. Tigger described it best: “It looks post-apocalyptic.”

san miguel

After a couple of days, we figured out the bus system and experienced another adventure just arriving to el centro, the historic area (which is what you see in almost all photos from the city). Walking around the colonial district really lifted our moods. We felt the charm that people speak of about SMA.

We found the fresh market, ate some good Chinese food, and felt better about maybe staying here. But I still wasn’t convinced entirely.

We returned the next day so that we could explore the centro more thoroughly. After walking around some neighborhoods and finding some gorgeous parks, I began feeling more intrigued. We decided to start looking for an apartment.

By the time we were walking to check out our 1st apartment, I was falling in love with SMA. Our potential neighborhood lifted my spirits, and I felt a huge grin on my face. Unfortunately, we were told the apartment had been rented that morning.

We were sad, but we headed out to our 2nd place to check out. That area wasn’t as good, and I just couldn’t see staying there. The apartment itself was also depressing. We headed back to the jardín (the beautiful park in the main square) to gather our thoughts and contact the person for apartment #3.

We found some WiFi so I could see if she had answered a previous email and instead noticed an email from the guy from apartment #1. It turns out the renters had pets, and the owners don’t want pets there. The place was available once again!

As we walked back to the place, once again I felt my spirits lift and the smile spread on my face. We were both in love with the neighborhood. The apartment turned out to be pretty good, too. We decided we would give it at least 4 months to see if we really wanted to make SMA our base.

We moved in a couple of days ago, and we’re still in love with the city. Every day as I turn the corner and see the colonial buildings with the church at the end of the road, I can’t help but grin.

san miguel

Some observations about San Miguel:

  • When living as an expat, it can be nice to have an expat community. However, I’ve seen some areas get really changed by the large number of tourists and expats. San Miguel indeed appears to have retained its culture. It seems to be a place that welcomes visitors and expats but is going to retain its heritage.
  • I have been pleasantly surprised at the lack of English being used here. When people approach me, they speak Spanish automatically. In smaller restaurants, they often don’t have English menus, which is something I love.
  • The main areas one would want or need to visit, be it for sightseeing or for grocery shopping, are within walking distance. However, the buses (which can be a bit of an adventure) cost about 30 cents USD, and you can go to most areas in a taxi for about $2.40 USD.
  • I expected to see a lot more foreigners. I’ve been told the influx usually begins in earnest in December and ebbs around March. It will be interesting to see if their presence is much more obvious then. In the meantime, it doesn’t feel overrun at all, and that’s a relief.
  • San Miguel has remained surprisingly affordable in terms of restaurants, transportation, and groceries. Rentals are a bit more than some other areas in this region of Mexico, but you can still find really good deals. We have a fully furnished 2-bedroom apartment and pay about $530 USD per month. The price includes almost all utilities and Internet (we pay electric) as well as weekly linen changes. We have a large terrace, too. We are about a 7-minute walk to the main square which means we are very central. Of course, if you’re willing to live a bit further from the centro, you’ll find cheaper places.
  • Probably because of the amount of expats here, there are plenty of stores where you can find things you might be craving or missing. For the most part, the prices aren’t too awful for those items.
  • Unlike other areas I’ve visited in Mexico, I don’t feel like I’m a walking dollar sign here. We haven’t really had to deal with too many touts, and the few that have tried to sell us stuff were also pitching to locals. When shopping at the local vendors, I don’t feel like I’ve had to pay a “gringo tax.” (We bought all the stuff in the photo below for a total of about $2.71 USD). Also a bit surprisingly, the taxi drivers we’ve used so far have been very honest (they don’t use meters, but there are understood rates for going to certain areas).

san miguel

We think we just may have found “home.”

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  1. Welcome to our paradise, Talon and Tigger! I knew you were going to fall in love with it. All the cool kids do! Looking forward to spending some time with you as soon as I return. Also, looking forward to your future impressions of SMA as you gain experience in your new “base camp.”

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  2. Glad it’s working out… Please continue to blog. I’m super interested in your experience there… We might join you in 6 months to a year! Thanks for taking the time to share. It is greatly appreciated.

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  3. Next time we go to San Miguel we’re flying to Leon. We got to tne Mexico City airport when they were having heavy rain. I could see ribbons of lights as we were landing. It turns out it was all the cars stuck on the highway because of street flooding. It took us four hours to get away from the airport. We were stuck in the street not moving and hungry. By the time we got on the Federal Highway all restaurants were closed. We arrived at San Miguel at 4am- four hours later than planned. The streets were still hopping. It’s a great city. Enjoy!

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    • That sounds horrible! I’m hoping the next time we fly we can leave from a closer airport.

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