San Miguel de Allende is a pretty town full of retired Americans (the US kind). Consequently the streets around the central garden square are full of shops selling objets d’art, floppy hats and real estate. There is evena golf resort just outside town. Despite all of this, it is a pleasant place to visit although I did wonder if the resident Mexicans are being priced out of their own town: a house in the historic centre only US$600,000 to you guv.
The town was founded in the 16th century to protect the Royal Inland Road and became wealthy and baroqueified in the 18th century.
It is mostly low rise with many buildings painted ochre red and egg yolk yellow. Under the blue sky, hot sun and with immaculately trimmed trees (as is the case with so many Mexican garden squares) the central square is a very charming place to pass the time. That certainly seemed to be what the ex-pat retirees were doing, before presumably ambling off to one of the many agreeable cafes and restaurants.
I arrived in the early afternoon and was planning to look around for a hotel. Any plans of prudent economy went out of the window however when I looked into the plant hung, balconied courtyard of the very first one I passed. It tempted me in and I found myself staying in a 4* hotel, quite possibly for the first time in my life. Mind you, it did only cost about £37 a night.
The hotel was also right in the centre, next to the parish church with a gloriously ornate 19th century tower slapped on the front.
Having managed to see most of the old town on the afternoon I arrived, I had the whole of the next day to visit the other part of this world heritage site, at Atotonilco, 14km north. The nice English speaking man in the tourist office was clearly mistaken when he told me the bus went once an hour – it turned out to be every two hours, so thank goodness for my time eating Kindle.
The 18th century Jesuit church at Atotonilco is a plain white building from the outside but once you get inside you see why UNESCO describe it as “one of the finest examples of Baroque art and architecture in the New Spain”. The interior is covered with fabulous wall paintings, mostly showing the story of the life of Jesus.
My devil fascination led me to lots of examples of demons sitting on people’s shoulders as they do bad things. I assume this one shows Judas’s kiss of betrayal:
I considered building the parish church for this site’s Lego model but decided it might be beyond the resource of my little kit, so have gone for the Atotonilco sanctuary instead.
In Lego, unobscured by trees:
By the way, if you would like to see more of the church paintings there as always lots of photos in my Flickr stream.