The new year is full of some big changes for us. A couple of weeks ago we flew to Mexico City and jumped on a bus to San Miguel de Allende, our new home away from home. While this might be a surprise to many of our readers, those that know us well know that we’ve been thinking about this for a long time.
We started tossing around the idea of living in Mexico nearly 15 years ago. After several Mexican vacations, we became intrigued by the bold food, colorful art, and lively culture. You can’t beat the pleasant weather and friendly people. Now, as early retirees, the lower cost of living and the promise of good affordable healthcare is also appealing.
We had pushed Mexico to a back burner for years while we had fun exploring Spain, but it recently came back to our attention. Good friends of ours spent time in San Miguel de Allende last year and thought it might be our kind of place. We continued to hear great things about San Miguel and decided the timing was right for us to finally make it happen.
San Miguel is no beach resort. In fact it is far from the coast, more or less smack in the middle of the country. San Miguel is located in the mountains of central Mexico, about a four hour drive north of Mexico City. At an elevation of 6500 feet, it has a mild climate with warm sunny days and cool nights.
San Miguel de Allende is so named in honor of Ignacio Allende, a national hero for his leading role in Mexico’s independence from Spain. This quintessential colonial Mexican city was founded in the 16th century and the Baroque colonial architecture in the historic center is well preserved. The cobblestone streets are lined with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The most iconic building in the city, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel parish church was built in the 17th century. It’s pink neo-Gothic facade was added in 1880 by stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez.
San Miguel was designated a UNESCO World Heritage City in 2008. However, it has been popular with expats from the US and Canada for much longer. Expats started moving to SMA after World War II to study at the local art schools. The first art school, Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes (University School of Fine arts) was established in 1938. At the end of the war in 1945, US Veterans were able to use the GI Bill for free education and many took advantage of the opportunity to study art in San Miguel. Since then, it has become known as a haven for artists and a popular retirement destination.
San Miguel has been getting a lot of international recognition lately as one of the top travel destinations in the world by publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines. We’ve come to see for ourselves what all of the fuss is about.
We have already been wowed by the food scene. This last shot is emblematic of our experience so far. We love soft shell crab no matter the situation, but put it in a taco with sliced serrano peppers, add a glass of Mexican rosado wine, a sweeping view of the city from a rooftop restaurant during sunset…this is why we are in San Miguel de Allende.