2 In Drinks/ Travel/ Uncategorized

One of the Coolest (and Cheapest) Vacations You Will Ever Take

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This blog post was written by our friend Tracy who we have traveled with several times. 

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

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If you are planning a fun girls’ trip or a long weekend away with your husband, then I have a little hidden gem for you! Two of my college friends and I were so excited to have a quick getaway with just girls. We kicked around several ideas, and finally one of my friends, Laura M (both of my lovely traveling companions are named Laura) suggested the charming town of San Miguel de Allende , Mexico . She had been there a few times, and said it was such a cool place. Excited about trying out a new place, we said” Let’s do it”! This turned out to be one of the most fun trips that I’ve ever been on, and it ended up being extremely budget friendly, which was an unexpected surprise.

Where  is San Miguel de Allende?

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SMDA is a city located in central Mexico , about 3 hours from Mexico city . NOTE: This is not a beach town! It is in the mountains! After the Mexican War of Independence, the city almost became a ghost town. Luckily foreign artists discovered the beautiful Baroque and neoclassical structures and began to settle in this area. It became very attractive to artists from around the world, and they restored the city. The town is now a mix of artists, tourists, retirees (many Americans) and farmers. It’s a town built around a square with a beautiful church (reminiscent of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona ) in the center. The weather is very similar to Napa Valley: Warm and sunny during the day and cool at night throughout the year. ( You know, pretty much perfect!)

How do I get there?

It’s a quick 2 hour flight from Houston to Leon , Mexico . Once you get there, you take a 1.5 hour shuttle ride into SMDA

Where do I stay?

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There are many beautiful boutique hotels, but we opted to use VRBO and got an amazing 2 bedroom house. The houses are primarily townhouses. Ours was 3 stories, with a rooftop patio. One of my favorite parts of this town is pretty much every house and restaurant has a rooftop patio! Inside our house, the staircases were pretty much the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen, which is quite common! The set leading to our patio was so steep that there were rings going up the wall that you had to grab to keep from falling! One thing to keep in mind is that because of the mild weather, they do not typically have heat in homes. It was unseasonably cold when we were there, and we had to layer to stay warm while sleeping.

What do I do in SMDA?

Markets: One of the great things about SMDA is that like Europe , you walk everywhere. We were lucky enough to be right next to the entrance to one of the markets. We shopped in the Artisan market almost everyday! They had so many beautiful and unique handmade items and paintings. They were not the stereotypical markets that you’re used to in Cancun or border towns. Most things were actually made by the people selling them. We were able to bargain with them a little, but things are so inexpensive there, you have to really think about the amount you’re bargaining over, and what that small amount might mean to the person selling it!

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Bars: Every afternoon we hit up one of the local bars or restaurants for an afternoon cocktail on a rooftop bar. Two great ones were Pueblo Viejo and Cielo where we discovered our new favorite drink (one which I will for sure replicate when it gets warm) the Sangria Preparada, which is basically half Vodka/lemonade half Sangria. It’s both beautiful and delicious!

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Our favorite place was the gorgeous luxury hotel, the Rosewood. Their bar was absolutely stunning and had the most amazing views of the city. You could also stay here, but it was a little out of our budget.

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What we missed but will do next time:

Walking tour of the city and churches, Botanical Gardens and wineries. You have to make appointments with the wineries ahead of time. So we will definitely do that next time!

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Where do I eat?

The food is DELICIOUS and SO CHEAP! I think our most expensive meal the whole trip was $40 for 3 people including food and drinks!!! And these were great places!

For breakfast: Chilaquiles are a must! Lavender was one of our favorite spots. They have amazing coffee, fresh juice (Laura M is a green juice nut) and hot chocolate (Laura V is a hot chocolate nut)

For dinner: Mamma Mia had great Italian food (our one and only non-Mexican food meal). Los Milagros and Pueblo Viejo both had delicious Mexican food. We typically had big breakfasts, skipped lunch, then had early dinners.

What was our favorite things?

Hands down, the best part of the trip, and one of our favorite experiences EVER, was our cooking class with Paco Cardenas!

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Paco is a local chef and owner of the fantastic bakery Petit Four, who also does cooking lessons. We met with him the day before the class and talked about what we liked/didn’t like so that he could plan the menu. He was so accommodating for our different tastes: Laura M is a vegetarian, Laura V is allergic to shrimp, and I hate beans! So, he really worked with us. The next day we met at 11 am by the market. Paco had adorable bags for us with clip boards to take notes, forks to taste, a bottle of water and even a personalized key chain made in the market for each of us. Paco led us through the market, explaining different foods and processes to us. We got to try a lot of different types of meat and produce from local farmers that Paco knew, and we even tried crickets (did not like these)! After a really fun and informative trip through the market, Paco drove us to his house. All I can say is WOW! His house was up the hill with an amazing view of the city. His outdoor kitchen was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was a gourmet, restaurant-style kitchen, but on his back patio.

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While we drank Mexican beer, Paco taught us how to make ceviche, tamales, cilantro soup, chiles rellenos, homemade corn tortillas and FIVE kinds of salsa! We learned so much, and had so much fun doing it.


Paco is as wonderful a cook as he is a charming gentleman! He was so hospitable and such a patient teacher with his amateur cooks. The day was topped off with dinner in his beautiful garden, where we got to eat everything we cooked.

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We also left with all of the recipes to make at home. AMAZING experience. You can book your classes for your trip at elpetitfour.com.

I cannot say enough good things about this wonderful city. The people are just the nicest we’ve ever met, the food is delicious, the architecture is gorgeous, it’s close to home, and the kicker, it’s inexpensive!!!! (Side note: The most expensive part of the trip was the flight there…about $400 from Houston, Texas)

So my question to you is: Who’s ready to plan their trip to San Miguel de Allende???

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  • Reply
    Lucy Rojas
    February 17, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I agree about Paco being the best part of the trip! He made my 40th birthday trip fabulous!

  • Reply
    Susan Parish Schwab
    February 17, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    So glad you enjoyed your visit to one of my favorite places.
    Paco’s cooking classes are a must. The tour of the market place alone is worth the price especially if your stay is going to be a bit longer. Getting to know the market vendors and shops was invaluable when I vacationed for a month last year. Add to that cooking and dining alfresco in such a gorgeous place..what more could you want?
    Incredible new restaurants popping up almost daily, cool green parks, the beautiful Jardin and Parroquia….and the colors! Can you tell I love San Miguel and the surrounding areas?

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