Travel Writing from My Chair

I read many blogs of those who are busy traveling. ( and, to name two.  Places I have not had the privilege to explore, and places I have.

My husband and I have not traveled since 2018 on a fun trip. The few years prior was driving or flying back and forth to Illinois to deal with aging parents and squeeze time in-between to spend with other family members. I believe I was still recuperating from those years and allowed 2019 to pass with no concern, then Covid struck, and so did additional health issues for us. Since then, we have played it safe and kept the term Staycation as active as possible. I don’t fret over this because we spent our entire marriage coming and going all over, local and abroad. We did not believe in waiting for retirement. Let me share San Miguel de Allende.

Have you ever heard rain fall on the moss in San Miguel?  This small colonial city evokes the strongest of emotions in sensory perception; the senses of aging, timelessness, roughhewn stones covered in moss, and rattled vines. The cobbled smooth stones curve and wind up and down that form narrow streets and if on a sidewalk, one has to step in the street when meeting another.  

I think of my first of many trips to San Miguel de Allende with my husband, Allen, and the friends who introduced us to this undeniable jewel. This city is located in the far eastern part of Guanajuato, Mexico a part of the Bajío region, and lies 170 mi northwest from Mexico City, and 60 mi southeast from the state capital Guanajuato.

We stay at a lovely old hacienda called Casa Carmen located a block from the main Jardin, the heartbeat. I will jump directly to the food served by their charming three cooks. Breakfast and lunch were part of the package and rated right along with the high-end of go-to dining in the city. Our first taste of Chiles en Nogada captured the flair of the region on a plate. We requested this dish every time thereafter on our visits.   

The handmade plates held poblano chilies stuffed with ground meat, golden raisins and smothered in a white walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds—green, white, and red.  A Christmas dish favorite in certain parts of Mexico. This lunch was on a mild sunny day in mid-July, close to Allen’s and my anniversary. I have since made this dish at home on special occasions thanks to their willingness to share this splendid recipe and how quickly I have become a fan of pomegranates. These cheery sultry red seeds can dress up any room and how ingeniously they can be used…(fresh strawberries, raspberries, squeezed oranges, tequila, splash of triple sec, pureed with ice, and sprinkled with pomegranates) …now come on here!

One day we hopped on a Segunda Clase (second-rate bus) to take a long day trip to Guanajuato. We knew we had to sacrifice lunch at Casa Carmen and whined about it at breakfast. The three kind women cooks surprised us with a lunch of fried chicken, ham sandwiches, plantains, grapes, and bolillos in paper bags for us to take. (Details of these rides will come in another story). Once off the bus, we walked to the city’s largest market, Mercado Hidalgo which is two stories tall. We found a table outside the market with a bright red umbrella and bought cold cans of Modelo Especial. The vendor snapped open the tab, sprinkled salt on the rim, and squeezed fresh lime juice all over and in the beer. Wow! That first swig was an eye-opener.   

While eating, we noticed a handful of young boys eyeballing us. They kept inching closer and began to point at our meal. We gladly wrapped all the untouched and gave to the small boys. Their eyes lit up like small night fires, and they grappled over the brown sacks and contents. We then roamed through the market, found items to put in our big woven Bolsa bags, and grabbed another cold Modelo for the bus ride back to Casa Carmen.

Every minute of the day was full of the thrill for discoveries, enjoying the delight of a warm culture, taste bud virgins to new types of food, and the gravity that pulled us back year after year. My home is sprinkled with these trips and gave me endless inspiration. I can’t wait to share more and a trip to Delores Hildago when we ended up hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere to find the Talavera pottery factory.  Buenos Dias!

watercolor by Sally Showalter