San Miguel de Allende

A couple weeks ago I said goodbye to my family and boarded a plane with my friend Lisa to celebrate her 40th birthday with a vacation to Mexico. There were seven of us for seven nights in San Miguel de Allende.

I accepted the invitation last year when I was still working – which I used as a crutch for a while when I would start to feel guilty. As the trip approached I panicked. What are you doing?! Do you really think you can leave the country, the girls, and Jim for a whole week? Who do you think you are?

I had to get beyond this. I had to recognize that my family is perfectly capable of managing the day-to-day (with the help of my wonderful mom) for a week. It could be done. I recalled a similar feeling of pride that I had to shelve when I transferred responsibilities at work for my maternity leave. That feeling that, Nobody can do this job the way I do – something will falter – I’m ditching responsibilities that I care deeply about – I don’t want people to feel like I’m taking advantage of them and their time. 

Why is it that anytime we do something for ourselves, we feel like we have to justify it? I know I do it mostly for fear of judgment. I justify certain things for fear of being labeled the ultimate s word; selfish. The Monday before I left for this trip, Elizabeth Gilbert brilliantly posted about this very topic. She wrote that after 10 years, she is done answering questions about the word selfish. In her post she referenced how, “In the Mandarin language, there are two words for “selfish” — and how one word means “to be greedy or hoarding”, and how the other word means “to do something good for yoursellf” — and how not everything we do that is good for ourselves is necessarily greedy or hoarding.” It was spot-on and exactly what I needed to read at the 11th hour before leaving town.

It took me a while, but I finally checked my guilt — and it was nowhere near my luggage. And although this trip was an incredible opportunity for me to reflect and restore, the ultimate truth of the matter is, this trip was about Lisa. This trip was for my friend and to celebrate her. So we traveled to her most treasured, favorite place on earth – the place that made her squeal in the car with excitement as we made our way into centro.

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San Miguel de Allende is difficult to describe … a colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands, is known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals… but even the most descriptive travel website nor I can adequately describe the experience of being there.

We stayed in a five bedroom house in the heart of downtown. It’s hard to tell from the doors and walls that line the cobblestone streets – but they open up to another world.

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Our first day was spent at Cuna de Tierra winery where we indulged in a lavish, locally sourced (everything was grown within a 100 mile radius!) five course meal paired with their lovely wine, including a tempranillo I really should have brought home with me. The pavlova-esque dessert was so good, I rudely grabbed the last scraps off of Lisa’s plate as they were clearing the table. Everything tastes better on vacation, but this… this was next-level.

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The second day we took a cooking class with the ever kind and talented, Paco Cárdenas. We spent the morning touring the markets, picking up fresh produce, and being introduced to the local vendors. From the pollo (chicken) shop to the little old lady on the corner selling her tortillas, to the woman who hand embroidered the hankies we used to nestle tortillas in their baskets, this was a Mexican culinary immersion experience. We then enjoyed an afternoon of cooking and drinking with an amazing view.

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As we blended the ingredients to make our salsa, Paco reminded us of his grandmother’s advice, “A salsa needs to be spicy ok? It’s not soup.”

***

An excerpt from my journal: “This town forces people awake – in every sense. With vibrant colors, distinctive tastes, emphatic celebrations, and impressive weather patterns – my tired eyes came here to rest but San Miguel had other plans.”

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I’m so grateful not only for the trip, and her friendship, but for the gift of perspective that traveling (and Canadians!) give you. On the way home, Lisa asked what I was going to write about and I told her I wasn’t sure. You always tend to bring home more in your suitcase than you left home with.

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The last couple days of our trip, we experienced a major lightening storm. The flashes of light were unpredictable. The harder I tried to chase them through the sky, the longer they took to strike in the periphery – until it struck the lightening rod of the very building we stood on top of.

Bright and loud, that storm passed as quickly as it rolled in, leaving small puddles that would soon be evaporated and little other traces of its being there. But if you look closely, you see, the trees stand a bit taller, the air smells cleaner, and the well is again full. Kind of like the experience of traveling; here and gone, home and replenished.

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Happy birthday, Lisa. xo

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