as has been amply explained, we got in late on a Wednesday night, August 9 and our old friend and three years now native guide to San Miguel, Susan, met us at our house with cerveza, avocados, mangos, nuts and bread. It was awesome. On Thursday, August 10, Jodi and I woke up late, explored our neighborhood for a few minutes, dutifully saying Buenas Dias! to everyone we passed as we had been instructed. When I lived in Spain, I used to just say Buenas! Or Que tal? but these are, apparently, informal and frowned upon and I am no longer a callow youth but instead a Lady of Generous Proportions and a Certain Age. Therefore I go with formal. Buenas dias! we chirped and everyone on the street smiled and said, Buenas Dias! back until, at the dot of noon, when they smiled and said, Buenas tardes! It was very nice. I find I enjoy being somewhere that people speak to each other rather than rushing by, heads intent on their phones.
Susan took us around much of San Miguel. We went first to the Mercado, which is as you may have guessed from the name, the city market. The Mercado straggles in a crazy maze over several buildings and bits in between and features a nice combination of food, tourist junk and useful everyday items, interspersed with shrines to the Virgen de Guadeloupe. It is easy to get hungry at the Mercado at noon, because everything smells delicious, most particularly, as we found on our first visit, the stall run by an ample unsmiling lady who would not allow photographs, no, absolutely not. The stall was tiny, set up with tables forming a counter inside of which two harried ladies darted back and forth their two square feet of real estate. There were big earthenware pots of food all around the tables and about eight stools to sit on. We claimed three. The food was amazing, the sort of Mexican food that foolish North Carolinians like me eat and think, whoa, OMG,
so this is what every Mexican restaurant meal I have ever had was actually supposed to taste like. I had a chile relleno, beans and rice in some sort of sauce; Jodi and Susan had some sort of beef enchilada thing, all ladled from the big round terracotta pots onto big round terracotta plates. We were forbidden more serviettes – no more napkins for you, wasteful careless Americans! – but our hostess gradually warmed up and got positively cheerful after scolding Susan for her Spanish and all of us, generally, for not enough grandchildren and a variety of other sins which went over my head. She was great. It is nice when just being humbly culpable can make somebody’s day.
After the Mercado we wandered around the streets, marveling and shopping. Jodi had decided she wanted a Birthday Dress and so we set off to find one. We wound up eventually at the Escuela de Bella Artes, where we saw this unfinished mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros, who is my new favorite painter. Then it was back to the Airbnb for a siesta and then: the fancy restaurant, Antonia Bistro, for the Birthday Dinner. The food was incredible. I had ceviche which was like a dream and then octopus. Jodi had shrimp stuffed with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction, generally agreed to be the winner of the night, although everything was so good. The waiters were charming. We sampled several mescals. There was a chocolate dessert of the gods. The view, as you can see, was just as incredible as the food. And we finished up the night with more mescal and wine at an elegant rooftop bar filled with fashionable young things. Yo it was a NIGHT.
I think perhaps it was the bathrooms in San Miguel that were the most awe inspiring. I did not take enough – any, actually, and that was dumb – photos of bathrooms. But take it from me that the bathrooms in houses, apartments, restaurants and bars in San Miguel make the ones in the US look completely pathetic. In San Miguel, the sinks are beautiful, like bowls, or decorated with tiles, or square and sloped and made of terracotta. The faucets and spigots are all different and elegant and charming. The plumbing all worked with a roar. This was true of every single bathroom I visited and when I got home my own bathroom looked quaint and horrible, like something from a plague village in 1600.
On our second day in San Miguel we started a bit later – mescal! You are not so friendly the next day! – and went back to the Mercado so Jodi could buy some sneakers. I asked about shoes and was laughed at: nothing for my giant gringa feet. Oh well; I thought as much. And, because shopping in the Mercado was not enough shopping, we went to the other Mercado, the Mercado des Artesanias. This mercado, my friends, exists for your professional shopping needs. It has everything. Everything, I tell you, and I went there three times during my week in San Miguel. It is the reason that the night I got home was like Christmas for my kids and there is now a beautiful blanket on my bed, gorgeous blue glasses in my cupboard and postcards of Frida Kahlo in a Daft Punk t-shirt sitting on my dresser.
Then we spent more time wandering the wonderful streets, eventually winding up in Susan’s neighborhood enchiladeria: the Taxi Wash. Which is to say, it’s a car wash during the day and a restaurant on weekend nights. And the enchiladas are, as you may have guessed, amazing. The food in San Miguel, like the architecture, is incredible.