Thoughts on San Miguel de Allende

More than anything, I have loved the colors and flowers of San Miguel de Allende. It’s a feast for the eyes and senses every time we go out.

San Miguel de Allende was a shock to our systems after Hawaii. The heat, the altitude, and the dryness initially knocked the winds out of our sails and it took a few weeks to start feeling like ourselves and appreciating where we were. There have been plusses and minuses throughout our stay, but overall it’s been a positive one. Below are some of my thoughts on our time here:

  • Our apartment has been a nice place to stay, with our friendly neighbors an added bonus, but we eventually realized this was not how or where we would want to live if we were to move here. The hill we have to walk up to get to our apartment is a killer. Having a car here would expand the areas in the city we could live and we also figured out we’d prefer a house to an apartment, and we could afford that here.

Two big entrees and two drinks for $20 has been the norm here, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. The quality of the food has always been outstanding.

  • The restaurant scene in San Miguel de Allende has been the highlight of our stay, and being able to eat out twice a week without breaking our budget has been a lot of fun and a big positive. There’s an amazing variety of restaurants in the city, all of them extremely affordable for what you get, and we have yet to not enjoy a delicious meal and great service at any one of them.
  • The number of expats we’ve encountered in the city has taken some getting used to. We’ve gone to restaurants where the entire clientele is expat, or walked down streets in Centro and seen and heard nothing but English. We pretty much hear nothing but English in the condo complex where we’re staying as well. After living and traveling overseas, the number of non-locals in the area has frankly been a bit hard to take at times and disconcerting as well, but full-time expats have offered lots of good advice and information, so there has been that side of it as well.
This is the road down from our apartment complex down to the main road. Walking on these has been such a discouraging way to begin any outing, or end one as well.
  • The cobblestones have driven me nuts and have kept both of us from walking as much as we had hoped. The stone roads can be beautiful and charming to look at, but an absolute terror to walk on or across and very uncomfortable. The cobblestones are in many places just rounded stones set into the roadbed with space between them – often it’s like walking on small rocks to cross a river bed. Some streets are worse than others but all have been difficult for me as I’m constantly afraid the next step I take is the one that’s going to send me tumbling. Thankfully there are sidewalks to use much of the time, but there’s no escaping the stones.
  • The cost of living has been the biggest draw for us and what would bring us back to live here. We knew things would cost less, but after living with Hawaii’s high prices for a few years the prices in San Miguel de Allende (one of the more expensive places in Mexico!) have been nothing less than a dream. The availability of goods, both food and otherwise, has also been a wonderful surprise. Anything we need or want can be found here and at low prices. Shops filled with affordable handmade Mexican goods have also been a delight and it’s been hard not to buy everything.
  • We never really gave SMA’s cultural offerings or expat activities a chance. We knew there were many things we could have attended or gotten involved with, but we just were not motivated to mingle with other expats, at least not on this visit.

All in all, we’ve enjoyed our time in San Miguel de Allende, and are glad we came. We were able to save quite a bit of money during our stay which will make a difference going forward and we’ve enjoyed the apartment we rented except for its lack of water pressure – taking a shower or washing dishes has been difficult and time consuming at times. The Mexican people we have interacted with have all been friendly, helpful, and kind, and I’m thankful for their efforts to understand my horrible Spanish and correct me when necessary. Our takeaway is that while we haven’t fallen in love with San Miguel de Allende we have fallen in love with Mexico and could see ourselves potentially living somewhere else here. Life in Mexico might require a bit more effort, whether that’s walking over cobblestones or up hills, remembering to wash and disinfect fruits and vegetables before eating, making sure there’s bottled water available for drinking and teeth brushing, etc. but overall the quality of life is very good. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back, even if just to visit again.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on San Miguel de Allende

  1. The flowers alone would win me. The stones do look treacherous. Imagine turning an ankle! Could you post a picture with a dollar bill or a ruler to give the scale of these stones?

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    1. Linda – I think the biggest stone is no more than 6” in diameter. They are painful to walk on.

      The flowers here are gorgeous, and the climate allows for many of them to bloom year-round.

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  2. Look at those gorgeous flowers! I remember when you used to look for different hibiscus flowers in Kawaii. It seems so long time ago…anyway, beautiful pictures!

    As I was watching the women’s Tour de France today, I thought of how unpleasant and quite dangerous cobblestones can be when racing on a bike. As you say, charming to look at but not fun to walk on, especially when wet.

    Mexico seems like a good place to spend a few months a year, enjoy warmer weather and lively culture, eat delicious food, and replenish the wallet. Living there full time, I’m not so sure. Everyone talks about how many Americans move to Mexico but I don’t hear much about how many move back after a few years. Have you ever heard anything about the reverse movement? I am just curious.

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    1. There are definitely some who come to Mexico, buy a house and then after a year decide it’s not for them, but many people do come and stay and enjoy the lifestyle here. I imagine it may be similar to Hawaii where most who move there stay for less than two years. We know we would be unhappy in San Miguel de Allende but could see ourselves living in a city on the coast where we could be near the ocean. It would be more our style but with the same low cost of living. Fun to think about for now, but it’s on to Tennessee for us!

      The cobblestones here are my nemesis (and one of the reasons why I would be unhappy here). They really are discouraging for someone like me who typically enjoys walking.

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  3. It looks like such a pretty and colorful place. Those cobblestones are scary though. It sounds like San Miguel de Allende is one of those places that’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there, and that’s ok, but at least you checked it out and now you know. At the very least, it’s an inexpensive place to go on vacation. What other areas in Mexico are you considering?

    I guess it would feel strange to be in another country and be around so many expats. You probably don’t even feel like you’re in another country! Other than when you go shopping with those prices being so much lower, LOL.

    Thanks for posting about your time there and your impressions. It’s probably not a place I would ever go to, but it was fun to learn about a place I had never heard of until now. I’m looking forward to your Nashville experience! I’m getting ready to go to Montreal on a business trip later this week–my first time on a place since before COVID. I’m a bit nervous, but I’m traveling with co-workers so it should be ok, I hope! Your travels have made me feel a bit better about it. It’s just sad because I used to enjoy travel and now I’m afraid of it. Hopefully this trip will go well and I can ‘get back in the saddle’.

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    1. San Miguel de Allende has been an interesting stay for us. We had days where we loved it here, but mostly just days where we only liked it (and a couple of days, if I’m being honest, of feeling like we’d had enough). Brett and I are both glad we came, that we know this is not the spot for us but that someplace else in Mexico could be. The expat situation here has felt very weird to us. I don’t know if SMA is Expat Central, but it sure has felt like it at times.

      I know how you feel about travel. We’re moving in that direction, and honestly looking forward to being a bit more settled. I am dreading our flight on Tuesday and all it entails. The days of being excited about destination hopping are over because so far the actual travel part of traveling has been unpleasant for the most part. We still want to go places, but not like we did before. Think positively though – you’ll have a great time. I’d love to see Montreal again some day.

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  4. There was an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times recently titled “The new generation of smug American expats in Mexico needs to face the truth”. As with so many other places, the locals feel that Americans moving there are trying to gentrify it and how “Americans are pricing them out of their homes and not bothering to learn local mores and traditions.” This must sound familiar to you having lived in Hawaii. I thought it was interesting and then I read your most recent post about how many expats there are in SMA. The low cost of living might be tempting to some but Mexico never had any appeal to me. I’ve visited several times and its just not my cup of tea. Haven’t been back in years.

    Good luck with your move to Nashville. Unfortunately its been very hot and muggy there but I’m sure you already know that. The good news is it cools down in late September/October and the music scene is wonderful with lots of free entertainment. Plus you’ll be with your family and that means so much! Safe travels!

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    1. Interesting to read your take, and I agree with most of it. Americans are swooping in and buying up houses, raising the prices here, and so forth. The comparison to Hawaii is a valid one. I don’t speak enough Spanish though to know how the Mexicans feel about it, whether the business the expats bring is a good thing, or whether we’re all nothing but a big pain. San Miguel is a draw for tourists from all over Mexico though as well, so it’s not just foreigners driving up prices here. We sure stick out like a sore thumb here at times though.

      That being said, we have enjoyed our time in Mexico and could imagine moving back, although not to SMA. We’d probably encounter expats no matter where we went though, although I doubt anything to the extent that exists here, especially during the winter season (we’ve been here during the slow season and found it overwhelming at times so I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like in the winter). I think if we decided to move here one of the things I’d carefully look for is the percentage of expats in any location.

      We’re looking forward to getting to Nashville and settling in for a while. We’re going to actually be living south of the city though (location chosen so our granddaughter could attend a public school where many other consulate children go), but I’m sure we’ll be up in Nashville plenty. Our son was born toward the end of September while we were living in Memphis, and the heat was almost unbearable – I’m not expecting anything to cool down until October. Fall in Memphis was delightful though and I’m sure it will be in Nashville as well.

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