San Miguel de Allende(the last part is pronounced Ah-YEN-day)
This is a magical city that is so very easy to love. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, the city has seen a revitalization of many historical buildings. When we were here last, in 2008, there were buildings in need of repair and sidewalks with typical gaping holes. Now, the sidewalks are all stone and cement, the streets completely repaired with river stone or concrete blocks. It was a walkable city before (as long as you kept looking down to avoid hazards). Now we can walk along with ease and keep our eyes trained on the wonderful vista.
We have been here now for eighteen days … the time has flown by more quickly than we expected. I started Level One Spanish on October 19 and have just completed my second week. My school, Warren Hardy Spanish School, offers one of the best programs for older learners. We attend three, three hour classes each week and, yes, we have homework. I seem to be spending 3-4 hours per day on homework. Pero, necesito estudiar mas cada dia (But, I need to study more every day.) Not bad for 18 hours of lessons. My teacher, Yadira, has been with the school almost 22 years and has the patience, humour and expert teaching skills that are so necessary for old brains … especially the humour!
Although I am learning a great deal, it was really funny the other night when I tried to order a rotisserie chicken. I got the words out perfectly and the woman immediately responded with “Si” … then she launched into a rapidfire explanation of when and how to pick it up … followed with questions like did we want it cut up … with onions. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. I calmly turned to Victor and said, “Over to you.” She smiled and clearly understood that I was trying out my Spanish. The very kind woman didn’t laugh.
We are located in the San Antonio area of San Miguel which is downhill from the main square, about a 20 minute walk. Unlike other cities in Mexico that name their main square the “zocolo.” The main square here is called “El Jardin” (the garden; pronounced “el har-DEEN”) because of the beautiful square full of trees, shrubs and flowers. If I say that I am going downtown, it’s either “el jardin” or “el centro.” The centre of the city is stunningly beautiful. In case you want to see a great video, in Spanish with English subtitles, I would recommend this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyvWPQou6Xk
In San Miguel de Allende there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of options for dining. Although we are doing most of our own cooking, it’s always a treat to head to a local restaurant and enjoy traditional Mexican food. One of our favourite places is Don Lupe Grill on Pila Seca. Their menu is basic and the food pretty good, but the owners are what make the place so special. Monica and Javier (sister and brother) are both fans of karaoke and Monica has a great voice. Of course, Victor, Jan and Dave got up there to sing a few songs too and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
On our second visit to Don Lupe, a woman entered packing a guitar (Yaremem Jacobi). She started singing what tourists would typically expect to hear like Besame Mucho and the like. She was ok … but as the night progressed and she realized that we knew some of the older songs, she got really passionate. Turns out that her father was a troubadour and taught her many of the very old Mexican folks songs that are rarely sung now. Yaremem launched into these songs with passion and her entire demeanour changed. Our enthusiastic responses really brought a smile to her face. She kept saying how wonderful it was to sing traditional music to an audience that appreciated it. At closing time (9pm) we were the only people left in the 20 seat restaurant, but she kept going. All of us, the staff included, loved what she was doing. Moments like this make our time here so amazing.
Victor, Jan and Dave also learned about the Shelter Theatre. Six years ago, some expats decided to purchase the theatre and offer movies, entertainment and more in the 60 theatre. On Tuesday nights it’s open mic … so you never know what kind of entertainment you’re going to get. The first time the trio went (I stayed home to study), they said it was pretty good and they could work up a few songs to perform the following week. And, so they did. Victor and Jan performed “O Sole Mio” with Jan playing a great mandolin; then they did a Brazilian Choro; and closed out their set with Dave’s “Dying Convict.” It was total fun and the audience sang along with the convict chorus with gusto.
The Shelter Theatre is not solely for expats (gringos) to perform and it was fabulous that four of the acts were local Mexicans. One, in particular, was an older man named Eduardo. He played a wonderful classical guitar in mostly a flamenco style. His rich baritone voice was smooth and evocative. We will likely go to the theatre again before we leave and I truly hope he’s going to be there again.
Tonight we are heading out for dinner to Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico) and then off to the Shelter Theatre to see Nathan Rivera and his band. We saw him at the open mic on Tuesday and his music is a combination of fun, exceptional talent, New Orleans Jazz and … well, fun! Best description would be Gypsy swing. You might want to check him out: www.nathanandjessie.com. Of course, Victor would love to get him to Vancouver Island … music festivals perhaps …..
After the show, we will head into El Jardin to see the beginning of the preparations for Dia de Los Muertos. This special celebration is a time for prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died. I will take oodles of pictures and promise to update the journal more promptly next time. We are having way toooo much fun with our very special travelling mates: Dave and Jan Renfroe. Couldn’t be with better people!!!