After six months of upheaval, distributing our belongings to family and strangers, and enduring the stress that a drastic, life-altering decision inflicts on even the most solid marriage, we were ecstatic to finally arrive in the town where, unaccountably, we feel the most at home. San Miguel de Allende, at an altitude of 6500 ft. smack in the center of Mexico, is our refuge.
|The Parroquia – in the Heart of San Miguel de Allende|
We had held hands and jumped off the cliff of the known world into the void, having no clue about the ultimate outcome of our actions. Of course no one knows the future, but having a home base and predictable schedule can give the illusion that one has a certain amount of control over the outcome. We’ gave up that notion when the for sale sign went up on the house in March. Its sale in one day had eliminated any second thoughts we might have had, so all plunging ahead was our only choice.
We had worked out the nuts and bolts of our financial situation with our brilliant money guy, so we knew that as long as we observed the budget strategy we devised together, we would probably not end up on one of our daughters‘ doorsteps. There is a basic travel plan in place with certain commitments that anchor parts of it, but as of February 2013, we are plan-free. It’s breathtaking!
Here we were, at dusk, driving into the outskirts of San Miguel after a long cross-country trek and our dreaded ten hour drive from Laredo. When the terrain began to look familiar and landmarks started appearing, our exhaustion was replaced by slightly hysterical joy. We whooped and hollered, laughed a little wildly, high-fived and cranked up the IPod playing riotous Mexican rancho tunes as we saluted the well-intentioned but not well wrought heroic horseman that anchors the first roundabout in town.
|A view from the road.|
The ring road in San Miguel traces the top of a neighborhood cascading down into the town. This is typical of half of San Miguel – houses clinging to the sides of the hills to capitalize on the view. Fronting the road are tiny “everything” stores, as Tim and I have dubbed the family-owned tiendas. They are dark warrens crammed with bottled water, mops, snacks, sewing needles, motor oil, milk, a few limes, beer – a hodgepodge of things neighbors might need in a hurry. The road is punctuated with car and tire repair shops, nurseries, small brickyards, little Mexican houses and a few half-filled condominium complexes. The vista beyond the commercial activity stuns us every time we turn that corner, especially in the afternoon when the lake in the distance shimmers with late day sun and the tall cathedral glimmers like a pink monarch’s crown anchoring the city. This is the Parroquia, a gothic edifice in a country where such a thing does not belong. The same hues – pink, gold, terracotta, and mustard, glance off the domes of venerable churches dotting the city and the red tiles and rioting green rooftop gardens dripping bougainvillea down their railings tie the vista together.
The busy highway continues through more neighborhoods, another round-about with a slightly more appealing statute, over a new section of highway and a bridge, where daily construction changes in the route are marked with little pieces of string, a few faded orange cones and chunks of concrete strategically placed to indicate danger. It makes for a thrilling e-ticket ride, which is true in lots of places in Mexico.
Since Tim does most of the driving while I navigate, I have learned not to rattle him with a gasp or scream when a previously unseen bicyclist, dog, family, horse, cow or other creature suddenly appears in front of us on the highway, a truck ignores the light, sign, or orderly progression of traffic and comes roaring toward MY side of the car, or a Mexico City hot shot in a big SUV bolts out of his driveway and squeals away on a narrow San Miguel street right in front of us without glancing in our direction. I’ve noticed that many times we each sigh quietly and hesitate for just a moment before opening the doors when we arrive at our destination. I think we are offering an unspoken “thank you”, although we’ve never mentioned it to each other. In Mexico it’s a good idea to drive sober and in daylight whenever possible. Prayer and a clear conscience may work too.
|The Outdoor Living Room, Scene of the Plan-Hatching|
The road around San Miguel ends at an intersection that would make Mario Andretti cringe. We survived the exciting left turn and in a few minutes were being greeted by the guard at the private community where our friend Sally lives. Tim and I hatched our plan to change our lives and travel indefinitely while we were staying there last January. She invited us to return for a couple of weeks this summer while she attended a family event and we arranged our exit from the U.S. accordingly.
Dusk had just fallen as we pushed open the heavy Mexican doors and were engulfed by Sally’s menagerie. Gorgeous Webber, the golden retriever, led the charge with barks, pants, licks and furious tail-wagging. Curious cats came from all directions and four parrots let us know we were late in providing their afternoon snacks.The canaries (fourteen of them in five different cages placed through the house) joined in the welcoming serenade. Basically all hell broke loose.
We dragged the necessary items inside, attended to the animals, poured ourselves something nice and settled into our suite with its canopied bed, big bath and private terrace, all set to enjoy a couple of weeks of pure pleasure and a break from the pressures of the last six months. It was a great time and place to celebrate our new life and start to make concrete plans about the next couple of years. We kept the internet humming and both computers busy as we pursued transportation and lodging arrangements for next year.
We settled into our routine easily, which we seem to do pretty quickly anywhere we find ourselves. We made a grocery run right away so we’d have the essentials that make us feel at home – some good coffee, some wine, lunch makings, soup, pasta, some condiments that we particularly like, the basics. The fun part always comes later. In San Miguel the local Tuesday market provides the best fresh chicken and fish in the world and veggies and fruits right from the growers. Even the supermarket and especially the smaller markets, offer things that please and inspire us.
We’ll be in town until the end of September, moving several times to different wonderful houses we’ve arranged to occupy. We’re pursuing our writing, enjoying old and new friends and relishing the restaurants and activities San Miguel has in such abundance. Every day we marvel at how uncomplicated and pleasurable our lives are and although we deeply miss our family and friends, so far the leap into this vast new territory seems to have provided us with an invisible parachute that has prevented a hard landing.