Thursday Doors: The Doors Of San Miguel de Allende

In the historic centre of San Miguel de Allende, there are an estimated two thousand doors. Many, many of them are made of hand hewn wood, painted.  They are all so different, and all so beautiful.  Behind those doors are about two thousand courtyards – so intriguing!!  I didn’t take a photo of each of them…. but here are a few:

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This is linked to Thursday Doors Norm 2.0

A Look at San Miguel de Allende

Earlier this month we escaped the last of the snow (yes indeed, there were still bits of snow around here, in the shadows, on May 1!!) and headed to Mexico on a long anticipated holiday.  Come along…. I’ll show you some of the sights of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico:

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This view of Hernandez Macias is a typical streetscape.  But to be fair, SMA is so picturesque, there is a photo at every step.

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A look over the roof-tops toward the city centre.

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Settled by the Spanish in the early 16th century, the name San Miguel refers to the founder, Father Juan de San Miguel.  I’ve heard that the parish church, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel,  is one of the most photographed churches in Mexico. One thing is for sure, you can see the spires from almost anywhere in town.

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Another pretty street.  All the streets in SMA are cobblestone, which can’t be easy on the cars…. or anyone in heels.

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A hacienda turned boutique hotel.

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A pedestrian space adjacent to the Plaza Allende, or el Jardin.

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Another cobblestoned street.  This one in the neighbourhood of San Antonio, which is where we stayed.  And here is a look at the bell towers of the church of San Antonio in the evening:

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San Miguel de Allende played a significant part in the struggle for Mexican Independence.  By the beginning of the 20th century, the town was waning and in danger of becoming a ghost town.  It was sort of “re-discovered” by foreign artists, who moved in and can be credited for it’s renaissance as an arts-based community and probably for it’s preservation. San Miguel was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.  Apparently, about 30 percent of the population is now ex-pat Canadian and Americans. They say, the clear, bright light attracts artists as well as the Baroque/Neoclassical colonial architecture.  But frankly, I think the perfect climate also has something to do with it.  And the food……

A Walk Around Boston in January

And this is good old Boston;
The home of the bean and the cod;
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots;
And the Cabots talk only to God
– John Collins Bossidy

Arriving at Logan Airport around 9am, we were happy to see no snow on the ground – clear, dry sidewalks are just the thing when planning a day of walking. Thanks to the incredible tunnels under the city (The Big Dig) the taxi ride from airport to our hotel near Fenway Park took a mere 13 minutes – we arrived in time for breakfast (!!) before bundling up (it was SO cold!) and starting out.

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On the Boston Commons, this cheeky little squirrel climbed up my leg and made a swipe at my phone!

Through the theatre and business districts, we made our way to the waterfront. After walking for about three hours, we were very cold – too cold to think about take photos, apparently. We hardly saw another soul along the Waterfront Walk – the very opposite of summertime, when throngs of tourists rule.

The bartender at the Union Oyster House correctly pointed out that although it might be chilly, 20F is better than 19F. (That -7C ish, but it was the wind chill that was doing us in!).

Even though we have passed by the restaurant many times before, today we stopped into the famous Union Oyster House for a beer, and oh yeah, a little calamari. Mmmm! That helped to warm us up!

20150115-185744-68264400.jpg The UOH lays claim to being the oldest restaurant in America, dating from 1826 (the building from 1704), and to being a favorite haunt of J.F. Kennedy. In January, the tourists were replaced by locals, and we loved listening to the lively banter between customers and the wait staff.

Nicely warmed up and with full bellies, we wandered out again and into the TD Centre in search of a Bruins jersey for my father who is a life long fan. Success! A birthday gift for his 75th. Perfect!

I ask you, what is a visit to Boston, without a ramble through Beacon Hill? A wasted visit, I’d say.

20150115-192156-69716730.jpg This neighborhood is just soooo charming – a credit to built heritage preservation.

Next, it was a wander through the Public Gardens. The stunning architecture of winter trees take centre stage, where green planting hold court in summer. And where …

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20150115-193255-70375196.jpg … We saw the sculpture dedicated to the 1941 children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey. The teacher in me loved that a kid’s book is honoured in this way :).

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Then back to Fenway, along Commonwealth Avenue. Strolling along this gracious avenue, a girl could be forgiven if she was reminded of the boulevards of Paris.

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(If it wasn’t so cold, that is! Did I mention that it was cold?)
The architecture lining both sides of the avenue is very French. I adore walking through neighborhoods at dusk, basking in the welcoming glow from lit windows, inventing narritives. my head was constantly on a swivel.

From here it was back to our own cozy (warm) hotel room and a glass of chianti.

In spite of occasionally complaining of the cold (our faces were absolutely ruddy when we returned to the room), I recommend visiting Boston in January. Winter offers a completely different perspective on this city. I loved it. After all, I am Canadian – I really should be more comfortable in the cold.

Sweet September

Adieu September! Parting is such sweet sorrow. Or something like that.

September is the traditional harvest month – a time of bounty and a time to reap the results of lots of hard work. This September has been particularly generous to me.

My kids were satisfactorily settled into university, some much-needed house maintenance was finished, the garden ripened, and the grapes grew sweet – all under a glorious September sun. And I got to travel!! My role as Side-Kick Traveller has been kicked into overdrive for the past few weeks taking me to Boston, Toronto and Ottawa.

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Three whole days in Boston!  I attended (at this ripe old age) my very first professional baseball game. In Fenway Park!! Sweet Caroline!! I was serenaded in the middle of the Back Bay Fens Victory Garden by a young man who was perched high up on a branch of an ancient willow tree. It was an amazing and unexpected moment. From there, I stumbled upon the Historic South End – an exquisite neighbourhood of stately Georgian architecture and graceful tree-lined streets framed with boutique shops and cafés. Another huge highlight was a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Mueum….a very special kind of museum. Trying to view this unique museum from Mrs Gardner’s perspective has given me a whole new way of looking things. It was profoundly moving.
Toronto, where our hotel happen to be right across the street from the home of the Canadian Opera Company. And it just so happened that I was able to wander across at lunch time to enjoy a free concert by the incredible Micheal Shand Trio. (You should check him out. Jazz, baby!!) The light filled venue, with its floor to ceiling glass walls overlooking a very alive University Avenue (just teeming with pedestrians and vehicles) so perfectly suited the music that the result was pure magic! How lucky I am to have found this!

And Ottawa! Oh lovely Ottawa! It’s a bit like revisiting an old friend – paying homage to  perennial favourite spots like the National Gallery of Canada, Parliament Hill, Ikea (!), and our favourite restaurant. But exploring new territory is the theme and that’s what we did.

Following the recreational trail which runs along the Ottawa River, we walked in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings, across the locks of the Rideau Canal, through Major’s Hill Park, across the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau, Quebec and stopped by the Museum of Civilization to reflect on the power of the river’s current and enjoy the view of the skyline. Cue the sound of Canadian Geese.  We carried on westward along the riverbank to Victoria Island where we crossed back to Ottawa via Pont du Portage, where we made another happy discovery…the Mill Street Brewpub. Then back along the trail to where we started behind the Supreme Court of Canada building…just a hop, skip and a jump back to the hotel. The walk took a little over an hour, at a brisk pace. What a way to see this quintesential Canadian place!  I loved this walk so much, I did it each of the three days we were there.

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In addition to these working trips, we took a short holiday to Prince Edward Island where we rented bicycles and took a spin on the Confederation Trail. (See my earlier post to find out how that turned out!). We followed up by spending a weekend with a couple of friends exploring  some of our own local trails. It feels so good, so empowering, so freeing (if a little tender in spots) to be back on our bikes!! Sunshine, picnics, friends and kilometres of trails…..bliss! I see much more of this sort of thing in my future.

That’s not all! After 10 years of tending our little vineyard on the North Atlantic Coast, we welcomed a local winemaker to see if we are on the right track or not. It felt like taking a major final exam. The result? A passing grade with honours, thank you very much! And an invite to join the local wine growers association. Now if I can just keep the grapes safe from the deer, raccoons and birds for the next couple of weeks until the harvest……

What a month it has been!! Every single day has been extraordinary! On top of it all, we managed, somehow, to paint the exterior trim of our house (a huge relief – it really needed it), a little bit of teaching (September tends not to be super busy for substitutes), and we celebrated our youngest son’s 19th birthday.

So, thank you September! I know that the memories made with you will last and the opportunities given this month will make way for new adventures.

Now, into the garden to harvest and get ready for winter.