Bienvenidos a San Miguel de Allende


Narrow cobblestone streets in shallow canyons of colorful Colonial buildings, unique architecture, and a heartbeat thumping with Miguelenos and expats – San Miguel de Allende is everything we expected and more.

We only arrived yesterday and are already smitten.

The trip down was uneventful until an over-zealous immigration officer busted Terri for poor penmanship. I am not making this up. Terri had made a date mistake on her immigration form, and had crossed out two numbers, and then written the correct numbers. Forget a south-of-the-border mañana attitude, this hombre was serious. He sent Terri back to complete a new form, which of course, put her at the end of the long queue we had just waited in.


We arrived in SMA late in the day, and were anxious to stretch our legs and do a bit of exploring. The apartment Terri found is excellent, and the location is perfect. But right outside our door is one of the things this area is known for – hills.

On our walk to the Jardin (main plaza), we were lashed by the perfect storm of exhaustion. In addition to the hills and weariness of a long travel day, our bodies reminded us about the rigors of a rapid change in altitude. As you may remember, we live on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean: elevation 0 feet. San Miguel, located in the Sierra Madre Mountains, is at 6500 feet. It’s not Everest, but it was enough to take the wind out of our sails, and pronto. At one point Terri was walking behind me, and I reminded her not to step on the anchor I was towing.

After a good night’s rest, today was much easier. We’re excited about the rest of our week here, and you”ll hear all about it.

Happy Trails,



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

72 thoughts

  1. Love the colors of the city and once you are rested, start tackling those hills! We feel the same way being in Florida at sea level. Once we get back out west, we will have some work to do before we start hiking any mountains. 🙂

    1. Living in the southeast has made me a hill wimp LuAnn. My calves are a bit tender this morning, but SMA is good prep for the other places we’re visiting. Have a great weekend. ~James

      1. My daughter, Lee Gentry and grandchild and her partner live in San Miguel de Allende….I am a good friend of Terri Lou Royse.

      2. Thanks for the comment Ellen, and for dropping by the blog. After being here a few days, I can see that SMA would be a fun place to live. It’s beautiful, interesting city, and has a nice small town feel. Say hello to Terri Lou for me. ~ James

  2. The colors of these houses are wonderful. I live on the top of a steep street like this. Good for you calf muscles. Not so good for the snow like we have been having lately. This is a very cheerful scene. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I absolutely love the rich colors here. Frequently, they’re colors that I wouldn’t put together, but they work in SMA. The wonderful golds and burgundys are my favorites. ~James

    1. I think this guy at immigration was on a power trip, and we had to bite our tongues. But our objective is to get in-country, and our motto is to be pleasant and keep our mouths shut. Then once through immigration, (quietly, between ourselves), we let him have it. ~ James

  3. oh yes! i live at zero as well, and when i go to quito, i often forget and do something silly like run up a flight of steps.. and for the next few days i have a complimentary buzz that slows me to a turtle’s pace. i laughed about dragging the anchor!

    it sounds lovely there! enjoy your visit! z


    1. It’s great to hear from a sealevel compatriot that can appreciate acclimation to altitude. And given your artwork and love of bright colors, you’d love SMA. I understand there’s also a big art community here as well. ~ James

  4. I’m always smitten with narrow cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. Can’t wait to hear about your adventure. By the way, your second image isn’t showing up for me. I wonder if anyone else has this problem?

    1. Thanks for the heads-up Cathy. We have a couple of things at work here. First is a sketchy and intermittent wifi connection, and we’re writing the post on an iPad. We see the photo just fine on our end, but we’ll check it out. ~ James

  5. Glad you have arrived safely. What I know about Terri she is a real trouble maker. 🙂 hope you adjust to the new elevation and get rested up for adventures ahead.

    1. Thanks Sue. As I said in another comment, living in the southeast has made me a altitude and hill wimp. My calves are killing me this AM. But a little ibuprofen and getting back on the trail will sort it all out. ~James

  6. Just love the colourful buildings – I can see this trip will have you putting the camera into overdrive, James.
    I guess Terri won’t make that mistake ever again.

    1. You’re right Vicki. SMA is a very photogenic place. Not only is it colorful, but the contrast of the rich colors make it even better. I charge my camera battery at the end of each day. ~ James

    1. We haven’t been to Puerto Rico Fabiola, but if it looks like SMA we’ll add it to our list. I just love the colorful Spanish Colonial architecture, and of course, the food. ~ James

  7. You guys are so brave! From your pics it seems totally beautiful down there! Can you breathe? haha I just found you guys, as I am getting the urge to fly south myself. Your adventure will surely breathe some life back into some of us as well! It looks amazing! I wish you guys flowers and fun every day! about 5 hours from the border… 🙂 p.s. try some lucious citrus drinks for the high altitudes!

    1. Thanks Cissy. One of the nice things about Mexico is that it’s an easy place to travel. The people are friendly and helpful, and have no problems with gringos. I’ve always loved Mexican food, so that’s a big plus as well. I’m sure you’d enjoy SMA, if you can make it down. ~ James

    1. Thanks Tricia. Kaleidoscope is exactly the right word. I think that SMA is the most colorful town we’ve ever visited. I’ve always enjoyed the bright colors in Latin America, but San Miguel has taken it to a new level. ~ James

  8. Enjoy Mexico. We are considering traveling down there this fall so I’ll be following along to see where you go. Guanajato nearby to SMA is pretty amazing if you get the chance (but you probably already know that.)

    1. Jeff, our next stop is Morelia, and then Guanaguanto. We also had read great things about Guanajuato, and we’re looking forward to our stay there. On this trip we decided to keep it relaxed, and avoid Mexico City. And FYI, Delta now has a direct flight into Leon from Atlanta so we could skip a stop in Mex City – sweet. ~ James

      1. Many years ago I traveled across Mexico by bus and when I got to Mexico City, I walked out of the train station, walked right back in and bought a ticket to Guanajuato. I want to go back and experience it, but at the time it seemed too overwhelming. So, I know what you mean.

        United now has a direct flight from Houston to Leon also so going to MEX isn’t a must anymore.

  9. Guys, how very random. Leslie and I have decided to cut our Paris adventure a little short and instead go to live in…San Miguel de Allende. We decided yesterday and then guess what, you posted from there. Looks like we’re going to miss you though, unless you’re staying for a month? If not, I’ll be sure to dodge that anchor you’ve obviously left in the street.

    1. That’s amazing Steve, and yes very random. I’m sure that you and Leslie will enjoy it here. The historic center is beautiful, and has a relaxed vibe. SMA also has a beautiful mountain setting, and the area around the city has loads of interesting sights. And you probably aready know that it was numero uno on Conde Naste’s top 25 cities in el mundo. So a few other folks think it’s cool as well. Living here would be great fun. We’ll be gone before you get here, but given our coincidences, I’m sure we’ll bump into each somewhere on the trail. ~ James

    1. Thanks Tricia. It’s Sunday morning here; my coffee is warm and delicious, all the windows are open, the doves are cooing outside, and life is good. San Miguel isn’t that far from CT you know. ~ James

    1. Bronwyn San Miguel is the most colorful city we’ve ever visited. The houses, churches, and artwork – all are rich, vibrant colors. And when it comes to immigration, I learned long ago that the objective is to get in-country. I say hello, smile, hand over my papers, and keep my mouth shut. I’ve been pulled out of line before, and it isn’t fun. ~ James

  10. Aaaw!! This post brought me such good memories. I came here to do an exchange program while I was studying at Illinois Institute of Technology. I also visited other cities around and with Guanajuato this was one of the most colorful. Loved the architecture and the food. Did you try the arepas?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Virginia. We fell in love with Spanish Colonial architecture in Peru, and it’s great to be able to see it again. We’re going to Guanajuato and Morelia as well, so we’ll have a steady diet of nice architecture. We haven’t had arepas, but will be on the lookout. I love Latin American cornmeal based food, so they sound great. Thanks for the tip. ~ James

  11. Ah James, hills are good. Come visit Peggy and I in our mountain retreat in Oregon sometime and we’ll give you practice. 🙂 Between you and Terry and Alison and Don, Peggy and I are getting lots of new ideas for Mexico. Thanks. –Curt

    1. Actually Curt, it’s getting a bit easier, and the anchor has gotten lighter. FYI when we lived in Oregon we lived in Newport … at 0 feet! If you guys haven’t been to this area you should check it out. It’s a bit unusual with all the gringos around, but the total Mexican feel shines through. The historic centro is small and a great place to wander, and the architecture is wonderful. ~ James

  12. People never think about the change in elevation. By the time you get used to it, it will be time to go home. Just think though, a little slower walk gives you more time to take in all the beauty and color!

    1. You’re spot on Laura. We’re big into architectural details, and stopping to look for them makes a great excuse to catch my breath. In Peru we flew from Lima (sea level) to Cusco (11,000ft), and buddy there was no ignoring that change in altitude. ~James

    1. After a few days, the hills are less of an issue Jo. And honestly, the hills are a big part of the charm of San Miguel. I just have to work harder to prevent these Mexican grandmothers from walking around me as I’m trudging up the street. ~ James

  13. Beautiful!! San Miguel de Allende sounds a bit like a Mexican San Francisco, what with the lung-busting hills and colorful architecture! (Although… from what you report, San Franciscans are much more laidback re: penmanship. Glad you made it in!)

    1. I hadn’t thought about it Miranda, but the SF comparison isn’t that far off. The expats here are mostly US and Canadian retirees, and are free spirits. The town is artsy, loaded with spas and yoga classes, and lots of long, casual lunches. Luckily, the town has absorbed the expat influence well and maintained its unique Mexican flavor. ~ James

  14. Terri’s just lucky with that immigration form. She could’ve been sent a number of places rather than just to the back of the line!! Same thing happened to Bert in China, and he understood NOT a word of Chinese!!! Happy travels!

    1. We’ve had a few hiccups at immigration Rusha, so every time we make it through easily, we do a little victory dance. I got pulled out of line at LAX returning from China and was detained for an hour. It was a passport mixup, but was not fun. They won’t tell you anything as to why they’re holding you. It was pretty scary actually. ~ James

      1. That’s what happened to Bert. He had no idea why he was detained, nor any communication skills to find out!!! It is scary!!!

  15. I can’t believe I missed all your Mexico posts! I was having problems with my WP emailed posts and then I was in Cuba. I still am not sure why I didn’t see this series as I LOVE it!!! When did you go to Mexico and how long were you there? This is a part of Mexico I’d love to see! How did you get around? Tour or by rental car?

    1. Thanks Nicole. This is a wonderful part of Mexico, and it’s so easy and fun to visit. Our entire trip far exceeded our expectations. We traveled between cities on buses (see comment on Morelia post). The people are friendly, the food is great, and the weather was perfect for the month we were there. In addition to San Miguel, Morelia, and Guanajuato, I’d add Oaxaca to your itinerary. It’s southeast of Mexico City, but it’s a special place as well. ~James

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