Paradox Refined

The artistic colonial enclave of San Miguel de Allende—and the Casa Liza Bed and Breakfast—offers a window into the Mexico of the past, present, and future.
By Amanda Beisel
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Nestled 7,000 feet above sea level in the Guanajuato region of central Mexico and within easy striking distance of Mexico City, the town of San Miguel de Allende serves as both a child of the past and a beacon of the future. It executes a strikingly beautiful and cosmopolitan atmosphere, yet remains charmingly rustic and serene. An escape for writers and artists, the city successfully recaptures the revolutionary spirit of its eponym, General Ignacio Allende, an iconic hero in the national fight for independence.

Signs of rebirth are everywhere. One of the most wired cities in Mexico, San Miguel is not so much a place to get away but to reconnect. Mesones, a major thoroughfare running through the heart of the city, operates as the epicenter of this transformation. At the far end is the beautifully renovated Teatro Angela Peralta, neoclassical in design and inaugurated in 1873 by its namesake, a world-famous opera singer. Continuing east, a plethora of galleries have recently sprung up, highlighting young regional artists with a fresh take on international design. One gallery in particular, the Galeria Aspen, rivals many of its New York counterparts in style and offering, showcasing a handful of artists from around the world, including Capelo, one of Guanajuato's own. Mesones spills into the town center where locals and expats congregate to wile away the afternoon discussing visiting artists, the weather (a local obsession), or the sky-rocketing cost of real estate.

The central Jardin is renowned for its breathtaking gothic cathedral, manicured bell époque-like gardens, and languishing mariachis. It also serves as the hub of San Miguel's nightlife. Vacationers and more permanent foreign nationals mix with cosmopolitan weekend revelers from Mexico City, merrily spilling onto the many outdoor cafes, margaritas in hand. Activities center around La Azotea's sleek, modernist rooftop terrace and the more jubilant Mamma Mia's, which showcases local bands (of the non-mariachi variety) late into the night. Another noteworthy spot is the rooftop terrace at El Campanano, which offers a two-for-one margarita happy hour and what may be the best guacamole in town.

But nowhere evinces San Miguel's spirit of vivre la resisitance more than the Casa Liza hotel. Nestled in a romantically overgrown garden of citrus trees in the vibrant and distinguished Chorro neighborhood, Casa Liza has long served as a temporary home, and sometimes family, to first-time visitors and regulars alike. Although owner Lisa Kisber no longer resides here, the Casa retains her definitive stamp, and her legendary familial spirit is carried on by the inn's warm and welcoming staff. More than a bed and breakfast, the assortment of luxury suites and casitas are hidden throughout the grounds, guaranteeing privacy and creating a retreat from the bustling passages on the other side of the garden walls. In the evenings serenity turns to celebration as the tequila is passed and both guests and hosts spontaneously erupt in song and dance. In true Mexican fashion, the revelry often lasts late into the night. Luckily, Casa Liza offers one of the heartiest breakfasts around—made to order and delivered right to your room.

Published: 8 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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