Under the Spell of San Miguel

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The first time I heard of San Miguel de Allende in the mountains of central Mexico was about 12 years ago. I remember thinking “Sounds like a lovely place, but if I’m going to Mexico, there better be a beach involved.”

But over the last year or so I’d noticed its charming stone streets and colorful architecture pop up on my Instagram feed and in magazine articles. So, I decided that beach or no beach, it was time for a trip. Which is how four of my best girlfriends and I ended up spending five glorious days there in January.

San Miguel is magical. Its baroque architecture, dry climate, and rolling hills make it look like Spain or Tuscany. Its history as a haven for ex-pat artists means that it’s full of colorful shops and gorgeous galleries, as well as stylish restaurants, hip rooftop bars, and chic coffee shops. And mixed in with all of this is the rich culture of Mexico—and all of its famed tequila, guacomole, and tacos. For me, it was love at first sight.

I could write sonnets about San Miguel, but those wouldn’t really be helpful (or very good). So, instead, I’ve listed my top recommendations for your trip below. Because trust me, you want to go.

STAY

We stayed in this Airbnb. It was perfect. The centuries-old home was gorgeously restored and spacious with hidden courtyards, and a rooftop perfect for wine and cheese sunsets and sunrises full of church bells. We were a block away from our favorite breakfast spot (literally, they gave us hugs goodbye on our last morning) and two blocks away from the city’s center square.
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Rosewood San Miguel
Like all Rosewood hotels, this luxurious spot was beautiful. It’s on the edge of the historic part of town, but easily walkable to everything and close to its beautiful gardens. It’s a perfect spot if you want the amenities of a hotel. However, we took full advantage of it even not staying there. We spent an evening at its rooftop bar (a must), a morning shopping at a market in its courtyard (so fun), a day by its modern pool (another must), and an afternoon in its serene spa (duh).

DO

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Spa at the Rosewood
This might be the most reasonably priced luxury spa I’ve ever gone to. I had a blissful two-hour treatment that included a lavender scrub followed by a lavender oil massage. It was hands down the best massage I’ve ever gotten. And the whole thing cost  around $110. Amazing.

La Gruta
About half an hour outside San Miguel are these natural hot springs. Grab a taxi in town and have them take you by the Sanctuary of Atotonilco on the way. The historic church is a World Heritage Site and often called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico for the incredible murals across its ceilings. The springs are less than a mile away and well worth the trip. You could easily spend a day here relaxing in the sun and swimming in the various pools.

Shopping!
There are adorable shops on every corner in San Miguel. This Travel + Leisure article does a great job rounding up a few. My personal favorites were Mixta and Doce 18. Mixta is just a cool boutique. Doce 18 had me kind of losing it because it was so cool. They call it a “concept house.” The idea is that there are mini versions of shops and restaurants throughout its sophisticated space and bright courtyard. This feels like something you’d find in London or New York—not off a cobblestone side street in the middle of Mexico. There’s an art gallery, champagne bar, macaroon stand, clothing store, tequila tasting room, mac and cheese bar… it just keeps going. And every one of them is more Instagrammable than the last.
EAT & DRINK
We ate SO much great food. As shocking as this is, I had to narrow it down significantly to get to this list of my absolute favorites.
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You’ll likely have to wait in line just to get in the door of this charming coffee shop and brunch spot. It’s worth it. So worth it. Sit in the tree-filled stone courtyard. Order the lavender latte (and another one to go) and poached eggs. It’s like teleporting to a summer morning in the fields of Provence.

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Cumpanio
This elegant Italian bakery became our favorite spot to gather for cappuccino and fresh pastries most mornings. They had an almond brioche that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This is the kind of place where you’ll want to linger over lattes and long conversation.
El Manatial
It’s a hip favorite for the locals and fills up fast most nights. Known for its ginger margaritas and seafood tostadas, it’s a convivial little cantina where we literally ordered half the menu (food and drink) and still only paid like $12 each for dinner. The dream.

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La Posadita
This rooftop restaurant was the perfect place for a long lunch in the midday sun. It’s right next to the cathedral and offers impressive views from any seat. The guacamole was my favorite from the whole trip (and we tried A LOT) and the oversized icy  margaritas were made for those lazy kind of vacation afternoons.

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Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar
This spot on top of The Rosewood more than lives up to its hype as the best bar in San Miguel. When we stepped off the elevator and walked around the corner into it, I literally stopped and said “Whoa.” It’s that impressive. The views are amazing, there’s live music most nights, and the creative mezcal and local tequila cocktails are the kind of things you’ll want to sip on for hours.

For a fancier experience–or a more romantic evening, if that’s your thing—this is your place. It’s a beautiful spot in a courtyard draped with twinkling white lights and centered around a fountain filled with fresh rose petals. The dishes and the wine list feel more European than Mexican—think buratta cheese, foie gras, and housemade pasta.

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I’ll stop now. But a few quick things to know before you go: San Miguel is at 6,500 feet and a desert climate. It gets very cold when the sun goes down. It’s about an hour and a half from the Leon Airport. The Bajio Go shuttle service was easy, friendly, and inexpensive. And finally, take me with you, please.

January’s Books

One of my New Year’s goals was to read one book per week this year. Sometimes I think about this WSJ article where Karl Rove talks about President George W. Bush reading 95 books one year. While he was BEING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Always makes me feel like I really need to step up my game.

Anyway, my plan is mini-reviews of each book at the end of each month. So, let’s do this:
The Wicked City
The Wicked City
Reading a Beatriz Williams book is the literary equivalent of a hot bath and a full glass of red wine. She weaves fun stories of primarily strong—and primarily wealthy—female characters throughout the 20th century. This one was all speakeasies, jazz music, and New York in the gilded age. Perfect indulgent book to curl up with on a cold winter weekend.
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The Perfect Horse
My friend who is an equestrian vet recommended this to me. She called it “a page-turner.” In retrospect, this would be like if I was recommending a book on dachshunds and cheese and called it a page-turner. Slightly biased. It is a fascinating story though that gives a unique angle on WWII. It focuses on the heroic efforts from a variety of sides of the war to protect some of the world’s top horses. It’s heartbreaking at times—as any war story—but it’s a remarkable tale.
The New Jim Crow
The New Jim Crow
You know how now you hear about things from the Civil Rights era and they seem so obviously wrong? Like, of course “separate but equal” was a farce. But at the time it was just accepted. This book feels like reading the future’s view on our current state. Like, of course mass incarceration of black men for minor drug arrests is completely insane. But for some reason we’re all just accepting it. This one is like getting a peek at how history will view our era—and it’s not pretty.
Slow Days Fast Company
Slow Days, Fast Company
I can’t stress enough how much I loved this book. It genuinely feels like stepping back in time to the 60s and 70s in Southern California. The writing is beautiful. The stories are fascinating. I didn’t want it to end. It’s a book with descriptions that make you feel like you can literally taste and feel the moments she’s describing. So good. (Fair warning: It was the 60s in California. If heavy drug use and unconventional sex offend you, don’t read this.)
The Kind Worth Killing
The Kind Worth Killing
I love stories with crazy, smart, manipulative women seeking revenge. Think Gone Girl. I was one hundred percent pulling for that brilliant psycho to get away with it. I should probably talk to a therapist about this. Anyway, this book has more than one of these type of characters. It’s a fun thriller full of juicy plot twists. I’m ready for the movie now.

Five Favorites

Just because it’s a dreary January day and we could all use some fun stuff. These are five simple, happy things I’m loving right now.

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A co-worker recently introduced me to Flow Magazine, which led me to this book by its editors. The idea is that it’s a book to be savored. Think of it like this: All the crazy media we get shoved down our throats all day is like the dry burger you grab at the drive-through at 2 pm on a Tuesday. This book is like the chef-prepared meal you linger over in a vineyard garden on a warm Saturday afternoon. It celebrates creativity, it’s full of inspiration, and it’s just really pretty.
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Between the bitter cold outside and the blasting heat inside, my skin is looking a little alligator-y. Which is why I love these masks. They’re super hydrating and feel amazing on my face, but they also smell like a bouquet. They’re also fun to put on and scare your dogs. Oddly, Anthropologie doesn’t include that in their promotional material for them.
Zara
By the time the holidays were over my house had started to permanently smell like apple cider at a Christmas tree farm. My holiday candle fetish may have gotten out of hand. But now I want my house to smell clean and fresh, but also cozy and warm. Enter this candle, which smells like a spring garden at dusk. I’m obsessed.
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I first saw Parker’s paintings at an art event in Charlotte last summer and fell hard fast. The NC artist bases each painting series around a piece of scripture, and I just think they’re so beautiful. I’d been stalking her for months on Instagram and finally purchased my first piece (above). It’s from her Heaven Meeting Earth series based on the glory of heaven dwelling among us. I love it.
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Winter Grain Bowls
I know this is really annoying-millennial of me, but I love some grain bowls. And right now, my favorite things to put in them are farro, roasted butternut squash, balsamic Brussels sprouts, beets, feta, crumbled walnuts, and greek yogurt. I make it all on a Sunday afternoon, and then spoon it in together for meals throughout the week. Easy peasy.

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I think Bob Goff is pretty great. Love Does is one of my favorite books. And I loved this talk he recently gave in Atlanta.

Most recently, I came across his Instagram. In general, Instagram is a place where I spend too much time feeling envious of things like perfect families and Louis Vuitton bags. Goff’s quotes and photos are a breath of fresh, inspiring air. Do yourself a favor and follow him.

Bedroom Before & After

Excuse me while I turn this into an interior design blog for a few days. I’ve been making some switches in the old casa lately and I’m pretty pleased with my handiwork if I do say so myself. So, I thought I’d share because in my next life I want to be an interior designer, but for now I just obsessively buy decor magazines.

First up, my bedroom. This is a “before” photo of my room. It’s actually from like six years ago when Cottage Style magazine featured it in an issue. (I pulled it off Pinterest. Hence the P in the corner.)

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I loved my bedroom, but I wanted some changes. The bed was too small for both me and two dogs. And the same two dogs destroyed the room’s white carpet. (Are you seeing a trend in who rules my life?)

I also wanted to update the colors. I opted for more muted tones, trying to create the most soothing environment I could in a room full of canine snoring. This is the result:

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So, some info. I brought the curtains all the way up to the ceiling, which makes the room feel taller. I painted the walls Sherwin William’s Sea Salt, which is less jarring in this space than bright white. I put in hardwood floors… because dogs. I switched out the knobs on the bedside tables to a hammered gold knob from Zara Home (Zara Home is my favorite store ever—the curtains and grey and white pillow are also from there).

That’s basically it. Personally, I love it. The room feels open and fresh. And I stretched out my legs and didn’t kick one dog last night. Success.

 

 

Hibernating

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For Christmas, I gave myself a king-sized bed. (Or, I guess I just bought a bed in December, but it feels much more self-care-y to say I gave it to myself.) Anyway, why, you may ask, would one person need a king-sized bed:

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Now, after much moving around, assembling, and purchasing of soft blankets the bed is being installed this weekend. Just in time for hibernation season. It’s supposed to be 14 degrees in Charlotte tomorrow morning and I have about 8 billion writing projects to finish up. So, I plan to spend the weekend with my laptop under blankets—with the occasional venture out for very important things like hot chocolate.

Happy Friday!

2018

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We all know, of course, that January 1 is a somewhat subjective marker in life timelines. But this year, I needed a marker.

The end of December felt like the last few miles driving on a nondescript interstate before you reach your exit. I was ready for a fresh stretch of road. And sure, Monday morning didn’t look any different than Sunday night. But it felt different. 2018 is still new and full of possibility. There are no uncomfortable conversations yet in 2018. No late nights—or early mornings—worrying. No tears yet.

On New Year’s Eve we went around the table, sharing our resolutions. Undoubtably fueled by my cold glass of champagne, I announced that I’m going to read 52 books, run a marathon, and write another book.

I love this part of the new year—really believing all of this is possible.

I’ve been reading a lot of a self-help-ish kind of books and articles lately, and one thing has stuck out as being mentioned in almost all of them: Our thoughts are often self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, if I believe that 2018 is a year of opportunity, a year for growth and learning, a year that will bring happiness and joy, a year for which I should be grateful and excited, a year in which I’ll read 52 books, run a marathon, and write another book, then there’s a good chance that’s exactly what 2018 will be.

So, that’s what I believe. I believe this will be my favorite year yet.