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After three days in San Miguel de Allende, I have to say that this place is paradise, and I could never live here. It’s the most gorgeous town, a U. N. World Heritage site, beautifully preserved, many buildings hundreds of years old, bright houses and narrow streets, a sense of scale and history. But there are three realities here. There’s Mexico with its profusion of flowers, trees, butterflies, birds, the land itself which brings forth such a wealth of beauty and produce – fruits and vegetables and cacti.

There’s the world of the people whose land this is, who are still working that land, producing the fruits and vegetables and selling them on every corner – but who are also driving taxis and working as cleaning ladies and locksmiths and providing every other service for the third reality, the gringos, who have invaded in such profusion. And even that large group can be roughly divided, I gather, into the artists who have chosen to live and work here and the retirees warming their bones in the sun – one local blogger called life here “assisted living, with better food.” “One third,” one said today. “It costs one third less to live here than in the north.”

So it’s a stunning Mexican town full of history and gringos. An odd mix, and the most wonderful place to visit.

Highlights: a trip to las Grutas, a local hot springs, with banana palms draped over the pool and a long swim through a tunnel into a very hot cave. We melted.
– our day trip yesterday to the nearby town of Guanajuato, which used to be the silver capitol of the world. Now there’s a university, and the town, unlike this one, is full of young people and very few gringos. We took the hour and a half bus ride there and spent a marvellous hot day sightseeing non-stop – took a cab up the mountain to the Pipila at the top with its incredible view, and then walked down, where we visited Diego Rivera’s earliest home and a museum which features every incarnation of Don Quixote – a long story, don’t ask – and sat in a square under the church bells eating lunch. I had chilaquiles – fried tortilla chips in cheese sauce with black beans. Annie’s stomach had been unsettled and mine eventually was too, but nothing has stopped us. We finally got the bus back, watching on the unavoidable flip-down screens a BBC documentary on neanderthal man and then the start of a macho American film called “Battleship.” The strangest selection of entertainment on Mexican busses.

And today – a tour with Fred, a retired Texan, who has lived here for 7 years and takes groups around town 3 times a week, with all payment going to his charity that looks after local children. We spent 3 hours with this very knowledgeable and respectful man, as he explained history, architecture and the all-important list of Mexican saints. I learned that the fabulous tree I’d fallen in love with the other day, and the sculpted others in the Jardin, are breadnut trees, and that there are about two dozen churches in San Miguel which ring their bells all day long. As indeed they did during our tour. We went to a church where the nuns were preparing a vast array of flowers – the interior drowning in scent, and huge piles of lilies and roses being formed into displays, the whole altar covered with them. We thought it must be for a wedding, but it’s for the celebration of St. Beatrice tomorrow. Lucky Beatrice.

As we explore this country, we’ve also been making friends and getting drawn into the busy social life here. We had dinner on Thursday night with Jim’s friend Barbara, a fascinating woman from Montgomery, Alabama in her seventies, who’s old-style Republican yet so free-thinking and tolerant, I told her she couldn’t possibly be Republican. We’ve met other friends of Jim’s, and tomorrow are invited to the art opening of the friend of a Toronto friend of mine. Already our dance card is filling up. Good thing we only have a few more days here, or we’d be exhausted. In fact, we were invited to dinner tonight with Jim and some of his friends and begged off – stayed in the quiet house to eat leftovers with avocados and mangoes. Heaven.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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