“No one was going to hand me my future. It was up to me to reach for my dream, grab it tight and make it come true.” – Ernesto dela Cruz (a character from the cartoons, Coco)
I only wanted to visit Mexico before so I can see the Chichen Itza and see Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. But a Mexican-Amrican friend I’ve met during one of my travels told me to visit San Miguel de Allende. I’ve never heard of it but after she showed me photos of this quaint little town, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Then quite recently, I saw the cartoons, Coco, that is inspired by the places in San Miguel de Allende and Guanjuato, I just couldn’t wait any longer to be there.
The remoteness of San Miguel de Allende is part of its charm but quite a bit of work to get there. I took the ETN bus from Mexico City’s Terminal Norte (central bus station) to San Miguel de Allende for about 5 hours. It was a comfortable ride and the best provincial bus I’ve ever on, however, I was sat beside a girl who kept on coughing, she’s very nice but c’mon she was ill. I knew for sure i got her virus!
Indeed, I got her virus and was poorly for 2 days! San Miguel de Allende or SMA is on highlands, so it was also chilly up there. Another downside of travelling solo is when you get ill, you have no one to buy your medicines or even your food when you couldn’t even get up the bed! But that didn’t stop me from exploring and falling in love with this place despite being poorly.
I arrived around night time at my hotel Casa Loteria. I chose this hotel because it is just walking distance to the centre of this quaint town, which is the Paroqquia. The hotel courtyard is very quaint and also my room, plus I have my own Juliet balcony viewing the main street below.
It was very quiet and dark already at 7pm, but since they say it is a very safe place, I just walked going to Luna Rooftop Bar at Rosewood Hotel, which is around 10 minutes walk away only. Glad I did because the lovely view up there made me excited to see more of the idyllic town in the coming days. The food is great again and the local rose wine I had was good as well.
The next day, I joined the Historical Walking Tour that meets up at 10am at Jardin across the Parroquia. It is not free but the proceeds will go to the charity helping the indigenous people SMA. None of the guides or members of this charity are Mexicans, they were all foreigners who considers SMA now as their home.
San Miguel de Allende has been popular for Mexicans looking for a holiday retreat and it’s also an art colony for many artists. The colonial architecture, mild weather, and the authenticity of the locals there makes it a popular retirement place for Northern Americans, making it one of the safest state in the country.
How I wished I went here during its popular festival, Day of the Dead, which was featured in the cartoons, Coco. It looks fun and unique. I love dressing up so it would be fun to paint my face and dress as skeletons. Maybe on my next visit!
There’s a statue of San Miguel El Grande at the Paroqquia (not Coco’s Ernesto dela Cruz, lol!), a monk who founded this town. “Allende” derived from Ignacio Allende, the hero of the independence movement against Spain.
So that’s the Miguel where the name of the child Miguel in Coco was derived from, too. There are a lot of art institutes in SMA, it’s an art colony especially for art collectors and aspiring artists as well.
After the very informative walking tour, I took the Tourist Trolley at main tourist office to got to top of El Mirador and that would go around SMA for 1.5 hours. The view from El Mirador was stunning!
When we got back to the centre, I took the trambilla or “chicken bus” for a 10-kilometer ride to Sanctuario de Atotonlico, also known as the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico” because of the delicate murals inside this church done by the artist for a period of 30 years.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the historic centre of San Miguel de Allende and remain as a place of worship and pilgrimage site until this day.
On my way back to my hotel, I was already very ill, so I just bought my dinner and medicines and stayed the night to rest for the following day. Unfortunately, I think I over-fatigued myself that I wasn’t well the next day, it was even worse.
I was just chatting with my husband and one girl friend all day because I feel like she was my mom. I always miss my mom whenever I’m very ill. (On a side note, that girl friend of mine I was taking to during those times passed away few months after, when she gave birth to her son)
Anyway, the following day, I wasn’t that well yet but I felt I can already go around but just taking it easy. However, since I already missed a day, I need to choose between Queretaro or Guanajuato. I chose the latter because this is exactly the inspiration of the “after-life” city in the cartoons, Coco.
It is only 1.5 hours bus ride from SMA. Then I took a taxi going to the centre at the Jardin dela Union. I was also surprised with the long tunnels and underground roads around the city. I didn’t realized that Guanajuato is city built on and in a mountain!
As soon as I arrived the centre, I took the funicular to El Pipila behind Teatro Juarez, to take me to the hilltop panoramic view of Guanjuato. This mountainous city is the capital of Guanajuato State and the whole historic centre is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was breathtaking! For me I like it better than the El Mirador of SMA. It’s considered by the locals as the “Most Beautiful City in Mexico” because of the colourful houses built on a hilly ground.
Guanajuato is a walkable city but I took the Tourist Trolley at Plaza dela Paz at Centro next to Basilica to get around as I wasn’t feeling that well yet. It was 2 hours ride though and I regretted taking it because I only have a day in Guanajuato and I should’ve just walked around the centre.
Perhaps by walking around the centre, I could have seen the infamous street Callejon del Beso where couple visiting this place will always have to kiss, haha! But I was alone so okay that’s fine. But I regret not to visit Diego Rivera’s Casa which is a museum now. This is Diego Rivera’s hometown. He was a famous muralist even before he married Frida Kahlo.
If I am going back to this state, I will be staying in this city next time, too bad I only had a day I wasn’t able to see that much!
And that was the end of my trip in Mexico!
There are still so many places and so many things to do in this country that it will require you to stay longer or visit again. It started with a challenge to complete my 7 Wonders of the World, but I ended up discovering more about this very interesting country than what I planned to see.
I am really proud of myself that I have done this trip even if I have to go alone. Honestly speaking, I got worried at first as well, but I had a strong feeling afterwards that I will make it through and since I want to make this trip happen, I just booked it and trusted my gut or otherwise I may never make it there if I will wait for other people to join me. No one was going to hand me my future. It was up to me to reach for my dream, grab it tight and make it come true.”