This morning, I was startled awake by the sounds of machine-gun fire. At least, that was my first thought – until I remembered where I was, and what month it is, and realized that those gunshots were really fireworks. At 4:48 am (according to the change of clocks overnight), they began; and in near-constant succession, they lasted until… the sun came up.
Hola from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The always-surprising and extraordinarily colourful town in the central highlands of Guanajuato state, a 4 hour drive north of Mexico City, conveniently situated, for many, on the way to the Texas border.
Other than these recurring, out-of-the-blue, nocturnal blasts that shriek through the skies, waking roof dogs, babies, roosters and people like me; other than the very chilly morning air from December-March; other than the hordes that descend on this city every weekend; and other than the potential risks of cobblestone-filled streets in the city core, this is one helluva charming town.
Yes, even those cobblestone streets are weighted with charm, as are the clickety-clacks that echo down an alley when donkeys and horses pass through.
The towering and always iconic, pink-stoned, gothic-style Parroquia (a parish church, not a cathedral) and the majestic ‘jardin’ right across, dotted with square-trimmed trees that provide necessary mid-day shade for strollers who take a break on park benches below. The statues and fountains, the mojigangas (larger-than-life, papier-mache walking puppets), the tilework and fluttering ribbons, the ochre and yellow painted exteriors of homes, the coffee and hot chocoate and churros and tacos and quesadillas and atole and gorditas and yes, the list goes on and on…
One year into the pandemic, I left Bali after my octogenarian father fell (in Canada), underwent surgery and – perhaps as a result – his cognitive mental state began to tumble alongside. I spent a few months helping out my parents in Canada as best as I could, setting up caregivers and other services, sorting out a mountain of documents, organizing medical appointments, ordering medical assistive devices and cannabis oil prescriptions. There would only be more work, more hand-holding, more interventions, that my 2 sisters and I would need to manage (on their behalf), from a distance.
Mexico was more manageable – and infinitely warmer than Montreal. And so, bienvenidos!
There are days that I miss Bali still; my expat friends who stayed behind, my Balinese friends who have suffered for so long (with the shutdown of the tourism industry), the beach, the ocean, the views of Mount Agung, the dogs and Angelique, nasi goreng and some of the best croissants I’ve eaten – yes, even in France.
But, as with many people whose lives were upended, unhinged, shaken up, and rerouted, I’ve made the best of this pivot. And with gloriously blue skies, hot balloons speckling the morning horizon, jacaranda trees now in full bloom and amazing street murals painted on walls at every turn, really.. I’ve lucked out. For those of you who have not been, San Miguel is a gem. Come and visit, please!
If this town has been on your radar, and you’re ready to step out of lockdowns and your comfort zone, craving to travel and let your creative spark soar, come and join me, right here in October! I’m so excited about a painting and writing retreat I’ve put together, at one of the most delightful, quaint and historically-renowned venues in the center of town. Places are limited. Share with friends and sign up asap! Hasta luego… xx