Thursday, February 03, 2011

shangri-la goes missing

"So.  What's up with Steve?

"He tells us he is going to tour two towns and all we hear about is Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Guanajuato.

"What happened to San Miguel de Allende?"

OK.  No one has asked.  But I keep thinking someone is going to ask if I ever made it to The Promised Land.  And, if I did, what I thought of it.

Yup.  I made it to San Miguel de Allende.

And I have no opinion about the place.

That requires a better explanation.  My entire exposure to San Miguel de Allende was a single afternoon and a night in a hotel room.

It would be like writing a review after visiting a restaurant to merely use the rest room.  And we have had enough of that on this trip.

My little walking tour did nothing more than introduce me to the exterior of several churches, the local market, and a couple of homes with historical significance. 

And, of course, a brief visit to the infamous jardin that serves as the main set for Richard Lander's late (and lamented) Gangs of San Miguel de Allende.  It must have been central casting day when I was there.  (But I will leave that shtick to Richard.)

I can draw no conclusions from that.  I felt no magic.  Nor did I feel the desire to run away.  I simply felt nothing.

On the other hand, I did not have the opportunity to see the San Miguel de Allende of Babs and Billie.

I still need to do that.  Because I obviously missed getting even a taste of why San Miguel de Allende is supposed to be The Place For Steve.

As Calypso would say: STAY TUNED.

There simply has to be some there there.


Don Cuevas said...

We visited SMA twice last autumn, on passport renewal business. But that business took up very little of our time, so we made the most of a few days there.

I don't know if I felt "magic", but it was enjoyable to walk around the charming streets and look for good coffee and restaurant meals. The later effort was only partially successful. On the first visit, we arrived on September 28 and the town put on a big fiesta, culminating with great fireworks, in honor of my birthday. I really appreciated that gesture.

Our conclusion was that for us, SMA is worth a visit but too self consciously arty and fashion conscious for us. But above all, it's too expensive.

Don Cuevas

Steve Cotton said...

I obviously need to give it more than one afternoon. And the same goes for your home town.

Steve Cotton said...

Maybe the magic takes time -- or I just did not see what I needed to see. An extended future visit may answer that question.

Marc said...

I've been to SMA a couple of times. It's beautiful, and the climate is wonderful. I can understand why northerners have been attracted to the place for a long time now.

However for my money the "there" there is more akin to a Mexican theme park in the midwestern USA somewhere. It's cute, prettified, boutique-ified and prices are in dollars (and expensive). In parts of town there are no Mexicans to be seen, except those doing maintenance and serving the foreigners.

Among other things, what happens in places like SMA is the prices foreigners are willing to pay to rent or buy properties run working- and middle- class locals out of town or to marginal neighborhoods on the fringes. Locals end up being servants to the foreign owners of their home town. The buildings are parks are beautifully restored, but the place loses some of its native culture.

Expat residents can enrich an area's economy and culture, but there is a tipping point at which the place loses authenticity. SMA has tipped. Some expats want that. I prefer Mexico.

A few folks won't like my opinion. Steve, perhaps your investigations will prove me wrong. I'm open. I will be interested to see what you find in San Miguel de Allende.

John said...

Having the benefit of some experience in both very Mexican locations and more extranjero inundated areas of Mexico I can say that both conditions have their attractions and negatives. Here is an idea - why not get at least one of both ;-)

Howard said...

Mmm. I was waiting to hear what you thought. On our Guadalajara - Guanajuato - Dolores Hidalgo - Queretaro - Morelia wanderings last year we drove through the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende and we could have stopped but all the vibes were "keep on driving" so we never saw anything but the gated communities and outskirts. I was wondering if we missed anything.