Written by: Carlos Dragonné
With special dedication to Jacqueline María Benitez
The road sometimes ends up being nothing like what we had anticipated. Many times the place we end up surpasses the place we were reaching for. Something like that happened to me as I planned a trip to Guanajuato. With almost immediate changes in my itinerary and a stop in Celaya to taste the extraordinary menu of the Casa Poniente Restaurant, I couldn’t resist the invitation from the owner and chef, Eduardo Osuna. Once back on the road, the destination changed from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende.
Having only traveled a few kilometers after leaving Celaya, it seemed that bad luck was following me, causing a defect in my truck and leaving me stranded on the highway to San Miguel. I almost never travel alone, but this trip was one of those few solo trips. Being alone, concern escalated immediately and I fortunately remembered that a great friend, Jacqueline Benítez, had recently told me about her visit to San Miguel to review adjustments in a hotel that she represents. I called her with a hope that came true just a few minutes later– Jacqueline came to my rescue with a mechanic and a firm decision that my destination would not be Guanajuato, but in stead, San Miguel de Allende. I went on the pretext that my truck was in good hands with her mechanic. Nonetheless, the real motivation was our need to reconnect after a long period of estrangement.
With the night already creeping over the state of Guanajuato, we arrived in San Miguel, a place that I had avoided for years due to various reasons. This trip did not to reinforce my reasons for staying away for so long, but rather showed me how wrong I was to believe that the growing presence of foreigners soured the destination. Let me explain…
The streets of San Miguel de Allende are full of history. There are traces of the traditions of families who, since colonial times, have built one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. It is a city that has subtly introduced modernity. Between the stone and quarry buildings that have existed for more than 500 years, they feed the curiosity and passion for strong roots and cultural fusion. Walking through the alleys of San Miguel is an adventure that you have to live by day. However, the night does not mean the end of the day, because the doors open to the Hotel Dos Casas (“Two Houses Hotel”). The doors open to a future of interactions that demonstrate that we are mere chess pieces played by superior players. And that automotive malfunction that brought me to San Miguel had simply been a move on the board that would challenge my preconceived ideas and leave us triumphant in tonight’s game.
The Two Houses Hotel has something unique and fundamental for us at Sabores de Mexico: unlike any place where we have stayed before, there are no barriers between those who run the hotel and the guests. Walking through the corridors and enjoying the beautiful architecture and design of the extraordinary Muro Rojo office is, in itself, a total pleasure It is a place that, with elegance and color, made the Two Houses Hotel an important destination for the national and international tourists. This space was once a family home, remodeled by Alberto Laposse, Gabor Goded and Giovanna Carrara. It perfectly combines the viceregal architectural style with the modernity of the needs of a Boutique Hotel.
The comfort of the suites is completely admirable. The simplest room uses colonial inspiration that is noticed in the style of the fireplace and the talavera tile tub. And the three floors of the beautiful Casa Suite have all the luxury that a sybarite traveler looks for. From the private terrace with a jacuzzi, there is an amazing view of San Miguel de Allende that reminds me why my friend insisted I spend time here. This view helped me overcome my fear of the city’s future and really discover the true paradise in the middle of a San Miguel de Allende that, with subtlety and elegance, reclaimed my long absence.
I awoke the next day to a magical moment when I discovered that my memories had been respected and honored by Two Houses Hotel. Conscious of the cultural importance of the space where food is prepared, the managers decided that it should also be the place where the guests enjoy the food. So there we sat, amongst the pots, the stove, the ingredients and the chef. We watched as our breakfast was prepared and served. And, of course, when tasting it, the flavors exploded in a different way, thanks to the personalized attention from the Chef who, with a smile, asked us to let him know all of our requests.
Walking through San Miguel de Allende, I am shocked and full of mixed feelings as I reflect upon clear message that this city has for me. I had stayed away from this destination because I was frustrated from observing such few national tourists here to enjoy the history of these streets that lived critical moments for the development of Mexico. But listening carefully and observing the state of the city, I discovered that San Miguel is not underestimated. On the contrary, it is fully valued in how its construction, its history and its flavors; every corner of this place receives an expression of awe, respect and enjoyment that nourishes and comforts those of us who deeply love Mexico. It is a fusion of so many cultures. Yes, it might seem frustrating to hear so many voices in so many different languages, but the reality is that, after touring the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, I stepped on the Temple of the Third Order and remained in a stupefied silence in front of the imposing facade of the Angela Peralta Theater. I can not deny that I saw it in a new light and understood why so many foreigners who arrive as tourists fall in love with San Miguel and end up being permanent residents. Afterall, it was distinguished as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
In the end, sitting on the beautiful terrace of Casa de los Olivos (“House of Olives”), between chatter and laughter, I understood why the chess pieces moved this way. San Miguel de Allende breathes friendship in all of its corners and is able to unite those lucky enough to be here in ways that other places do not, or worse, are not able to do. There, silently contemplating a sunset that will always remain in my memory, I discovered that I had to reach this Magical Town to rediscover a friendship. Like the colonial buildings of this place that, without saying anything, subtly demonstrate how paths can be unlike we imaged, but always receive us ready to be rediscovered. Without a doubt, they show us that the only unforgivable thing would be to maintain the distance of a place and a person who has always been there…