By LAURENCE ILLIF / The Dallas Morning News
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico – For years, everyone I know has been raving about this place. Home to a large Texan, American and Canadian retirement community, it really has not been a big hit for me – until now.
I have nothing against hearing English in the downtown plaza or paying American prices in a Mexican town.
I just couldn't see what was so special, compared to, say, Dolores Hidalgo (home of Mexican Independence) down the road.
So after more than a decade of mostly avoiding San Miguel, I went back and was truly surprised.
What I have to say may not go down well with many of the lovely foreigners I hung out with recently in San Miguel. They do tremendous charity work and have labored to keep the artsy pueblo atmosphere.
But San Miguel is becoming kind of hip, and I like it (sorry, friends).
On weekends, it fills with visitors from nearby León, Guanajuato, or as far away as Mexico City. Cool bars and restaurants have proliferated, along with DJs playing modern music.
I love a good mariachi band playing on the plaza, but Tapas y Tinis isn't a bad place to spend a Saturday night, with its ample bar, 90-cent beer, Spanish dishes and live rock music in English and Spanish.
Mama Mia has great international food, a lively bar and dancing.
The crowd is younger and hipper than I remember, and more people are out at night looking for different options.
Maybe it's sacrilegious, but the teenagers and twenty- and thirtysomethings seemed to be having a good time lounging around with their laptop computers.
There are even gay-friendly hotels and bars in one of Mexico's most conservative Roman Catholic areas.
The old charm and the small craft stores are all still here, and they seem to exist harmoniously with the new clubs and cantinas that have sprung up.
The traffic can be annoying, but that's true almost everywhere tourists go.
There are more bed-and-breakfast hotels with different flavors for different tastes and cheaper, funkier ones for the budget traveler. I would gladly spend a weekend here the next chance I get.
If you miss the old San Miguel, check out Malinalco. I'll take them both, based on my mood come any Friday afternoon.