Mexico: It’s All in the Details

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We’ve bid a fond Adios to Mexico and have returned to the US. In our time there, we visited three beautiful, Spanish Colonial cities in the Central Highlands: San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, and Guanajuato.

Each city showcased fine examples of Colonial architecture, in a surprising variety of styles. Additionally, the cities have their own distinct character and feel. In retrospect, we realize that these marked differences were one of the highlights of the trip. And like many other places we’ve visited – it’s all in the details.

San Miguel’s rainbow of colors and unique architectural accents made every street a photographer’s dream. And you never knew what you’d see when you looked up!

Morelia’s natural, masonry walls and intricately-carved stone buildings showed that Mother Nature can flash pretty petticoats as well, and wrought iron gates and benches added lacy accents.

Guanajuato’s inviting balconies made perfect, cozy nests to watch the world stroll by.

And the abundance of beautiful handicrafts and a church around every corner, made every street more interesting than the last.

We’ve never been punch-list travelers. Our philosophy has been that we see what we see, and it’s always about quality over quantity. Small details make cities unique, and for us, they’re one of the joys of travel. 

Hasta luego Mexico. It’s been great, and we’ll be back.

Happy Trails,
James and Terri


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

66 thoughts

    1. Hi Sheena, and thanks! Mexico really sets a high standard when it comes to delicious details. With your great eye for detail you would love to go “accessory shopping” there. 🙂 Terri

      1. Living in California my entire life, I have traveled to Mexico more than any other country. It is full of wonderful artisans and architecture, among other treasures. So glad you enjoyed your trip. I am gearing up for an almost month long trip to Dubai and India in May. Getting excited! ~ Sheena

      2. Sheena, that sounds like a great trip for a visit to two very different places. Your travel in Mexico will be good training for the heat you’ll encounter in both cities. I’ve been to Dubai a couple of times on business, so I didn’t get around much. But we spent a couple of weeks in India, and it was an eye-opening experience. It’s an assault on all five senses, and there’s nowhere like it in the world. Where will you be traveling in India? ~James

      3. I am dreading the heat we’ll encounter. This will be my second trip to India and I love it. I am going to Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Johdpur, Hyderabad, Udaipur and Kerala. This will be a scouting trip for my global shopping trips that I’ll be escorting. I’ll be seeing the major sites as well as getting in depth with artisans and local markets. I can’t wait to share the journey.

    1. Thanks Andrew, glad you enjoyed it. Have you made your decision between Cuba and Mexico? I envy you having the choice to go to Cuba – it’s a little trickier for Americans. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Thank you Darlene. The blessing of digital cameras is that we’re not burning up film with all our goof ups. Between the two of us we seem to snap a lot of photos – so much fun when you’re capturing details. 🙂 ~Terri

  1. I agree it’s the little things that make a place special. Many of my photos are are the tiny details, a door, a flower, lichen on a wall. These are the things that make me smile. Loved your pictures of the details you saw in Mexico.

    1. Thanks Marie. It sounds like we are of like minds when it come to details. In Guanajuato our apartment courtyard was filled with tiny, hidden details. The owner had placed little ornaments in the plants and trees – bells, Moravian Stars, and milagros. Each morning was like a scavenger hunt to see what new detail we could spot. 🙂 ~Terri

  2. Very cool photo essay. I like the half-pots on the wall and the random hand sticking out. I am always impressed with the detail of buildings in the old world (and I guess this sort of counts as old world.)

    1. Many thanks Jeff. I fell in love with those half pots too. Fortunately my backpack was too small to fit one in. And that great hand sticking out of the wall – it’s a downspout! There was a whole line of them. Gotta love an artistic, but practical, sense of humor! 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Loved your series on Mexico and these photos are great. How can you not smile when flowers and little whimsical surprises greet you on every corner? You’ve made me really miss Mexico – need to show my hubby these colonial towns. Thanks for a great tour!

    1. Thanks so much Lynda. We’d only visited Mexico once before and we’re so glad we decided to do the Colonial Highlands because we enjoyed everything about it – gorgeous architecture, delicious food, and welcoming people. Can’t ask for more than that. All the best, Terri

  4. I love the way you saw and described the details. Not too many travelers can see the details, especially if they travel in groups. Thanks for sharing. I love all the windows!

    1. Thanks Denise. You’re right, it certainly is easier to take the time to notice the details when you can determine the pace. We’ve never been group travelers, and over the years, we’ve have gotten accustomed to our “smell the roses” pace. ~James

  5. What a wonderful trip! You captured the essence beautifully! Thank you for showing us all that there is so much more to Mexico than what we hear in the news. I haven’t been tothere in about 28 years and when I went it was only to the border towns. I can wait until I can explore it further

    1. Thanks Laura. We hope that this series has convinced travelers (particularly Americans), that Mexico has more than beaches and margaritas. This trip really opened our eyes, and taught us so much about the country’s history and people. We’ll definitely be returning. ~James

  6. Welcome back from your time in Mexico. I really enjoyed the posts and the surprises you found along the way. I’m with Jeff on how fabulous the hand sticking out of the wall is. A downspout? How clever is that? I also love the door handle with the hand reaching out. One would have to smile every time it was used.

    1. Thanks Sue. These downspouts were all over the place (we even saw one with a cactus growing in it). This area doesn’t get much rain, but most of the houses have a flat roof, so drainage is critical. Also, it could go back to the days of adobe houses, where the last thing you wanted was water running down the walls. Are you still in London? ~James

      1. Just returned home from our whirlwind James. I was often seen standing about open mouthed taking it all in. Definitely needs more time for a more detailed visit. Again I really enjoyed your posts from Mexico. Perhaps more to come?

      2. Grist for the ol’ bloggin’ mill Sue. One of the things I enjoy is taking interesting photos and coming up with a thread to link them. We still have lots of pix from Mexico that will definitely surface eventually. ~James

    1. Thanks Bronwyn. I’ve always thought of the details as the lipstick and nail polish of a place. They go beyond function, and reflect the character of the people. And interestingly, having a blog has also made us more observant when we travel. It’s fun to see something new and come up with a new angle on a city. ~James

  7. I love it guys, and guess what, Leslie and I are already considering buying a house in San Miguel, we love it so much. It feels like home here, and it means we’ve put on hold our plans to return early to Korea. So calm, so pretty and so peaceful…and that’s just me. No really, San Miguel is a special place, and your posts really brought it to life for us before we arrived.

    1. You guys don’t waste any time Steve. You’ve really hit the ground running in SMA. Actually, that’s very exciting and I hope it works out. I’m not sure what I expected, but SMA was a great surprise. I had heard that it was a cool place, but was an expat hangout. After being there, we certainly saw more expats than normal, but the city seems to have absorbed them just fine. It is a special place and would be a great place to have a home. And given the local real estate market, even if you wanted to move around a bit, I’m sure you could rent your place. Best of luck. ~James

  8. Well done, well done you two. You have never produced a post I haven’t liked. This time you have given me some new places in Mexico to explore. So, what’s next? Just teasing, but I’ll bet you already have somewhere in mind. –Curt

    1. Thanks for the kind words Curt, and funny you should mention future plans, because we always have a couple of travel ideas on the boil. In the case of Mexico, we’re considering the Yucatan and maybe Vera Cruz in the winter. And in the short term, we have our annual spring-fling camping trip planned to take advantage of the glorious weather. And I’m certain that you would enjoy all of the cities that we visited on this trip. They are all very different, and very cool in their own way. ~James

  9. Love all the colors, and you really do great with details. You sometimes find things like waterspouts and things coming out of the ground that I would have missed. I feel as if I’ve been to Mexico right along with you — these posts have been wonderful!

    1. Thanks Rusha. We had a wonderful trip, and definitely plan to return to explore other parts of the country. I’ve always had an interest in Mesoamerican antiquities, so a trip to the Yucatan may be in our future. ~James

    1. Thanks Pam. This door knocker was huge (must have been 12 in. tall), and who knows how much it weighed. I can’t imagine the boom that it made when someone knocked, but you would definitely know someone was at the door. ~James

  10. I second the sentiment from IAMSHEGLOBAL! I love the hand knocker, so delicate yet whimsical. And I need some additional details on the arm/hand in the Morelia photos… why? Or for what reason do they have the hand sticking out- is it a drain spout from a roof?
    Intriguing to say the least. What a great adventure you two have had! Welcome back, but not for long we suspect! 😉

    1. Thanks Jonelle, and your water spout guess is right on. As I said to another curious commenter: These downspouts were all over the place (we even saw one with a cactus growing in it). This area doesn’t get much rain, but most of the houses have flat roofs, so drainage is critical. Also, it could go back to the days of adobe houses, where the last thing you wanted was water running down the walls. Strangely enough, I have quite a collection of unusual downspout photos, and you’ve reminded me that they would make an interesting (maybe weird) post. ~James

  11. Beautiful pictures! it reminds me so much of Cuba! Another blogger I follow lives in San Miguel. Harold’s Lens. Do you know his blog? Where exactly are the highlands? How do you get there? I’ve only been to the beach resort towns like Mazatlan, Acapulco, Puerta Vallarta, and Cozumel. Would love to see these kinds of cities as they are more up my alley. Is it safe as well? I know parts of Mexico especially near the border has become very dangerous.

    1. Thanks Nicole. The highlands we visited were immediately NW of Mexico City. Re: Safety, Morelia is in Michoacan State, which has some drug problems but they are in the far west of the state (120 Miles from Morelia). We felt perfectly safe everywhere we traveled and had no problems. The US press plays the crime up to get attention. Like everywhere else in the world, Mexico has places that aren’t safe, but we checked all the areas we visited, and we did fine. There are direct flights in and out of Leon, which is great because you can avoid Mexico City (if you want to). We loved all three cities we visited. See this area, it really is wonderful. ~James

      1. Thanks James! I would love to visit this area. I will have to keep it in the back burner. I’m glad I read your post series on Mexico because I never knew these cities existed!

  12. As always your photographs stimulate the imagination and make me want to be there to experience the color and beauty you capture for us readers. We did not get to see enough of Mexico while we were there last year. We will have to go back one day. In the meantime, thank you for helping dispel the myth that Mexico is a dangerous place. As I remind my friends, there are places in the U.S. that are every bit as scary and violent as the places we hear about in Mexico thanks to the overzealous, sensationalist media. I always enjoyed how the people of Mexico greet perfect strangers on the street out of courtesy. – Mike

    1. Thanks Mike. We really, really enjoyed our trip to Mexico, and are planning on returning. And I totally agree with you on the US media. We’re never cavalier about security, but common sense and a bit of research is all that’s needed. And as you can attest from your pickpocket episode, no matter where you travel, you can be unlucky. But we felt perfectly safe everywhere we went in Mexico, and the people were very friendly and helpful. ~James

  13. Such a wonderful series and so beautifully captured! You’re absolutely spot on, Mexico is all in the details- even looking down a side street or a glimpse in to a courtyard provides a rich world in which to get lost. You have a fantastic eye for the details, a beautiful rich post! Bravo! Love it!

    1. Thanks very much. We really enjoyed our visit to Mexico. Each of the three cities provided a different experience and feel. We have the luxury of traveling at a slow pace, which provides time to see things we might otherwise miss. ~James

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