TRAVEL Q&A

Finding a Muse in Mexico

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Q. I've heard that San Miguel de Allende in Mexico is an incredible place to visit, especially for art lovers. Is that right? How would you suggest a woman traveling alone get there from Mexico City?

Mari Pascarella,Syracuse, N.Y.

AWhat do you call places that, no matter how much travelers hear about them, still manage to remain unknown among the broader traveling public? Teflon towns? Whatever, San Miguel appears poised to lose its nonstick coating for good, and not because it's a beautiful mountain town four hours north of Mexico City. It's always been that. Not because of its quaint cobblestone streets and colonial houses, which have been in evidence since at least the days of the GI Bill. No, what's finally putting San Miguel on the big board is a predicament shared by folks many, many miles farther north: the increasing inability of Americans to reinvent themselves in their own country.

"People are deciding that they want a much higher standard of living than they're getting in the States," says Klaudia Oliver, who runs a Web guide called Portal San Miguel ( http://www.portalsanmiguel.com). "And so they're moving here. They're intelligent, cosmopolitan people who enjoy art of all kinds. . . . There are lots of galleries, literary societies, sculpture, jewelry making, poetry, dance." To get there, Oliver recommends taking a Viajes San Miguel bus from the Mexico City airport to the town of Queretaro and then a one-hour shuttle to the place she calls Shangri-La ($140 round trip, http://www.viajessanmiguel.com).

But back to the main issue. Whence this artistic profusion in the middle of nowhere? "One breathes differently here; one feels differently here," Oliver says.

In other words, fresh inspiration leads to fresh inspiration, which leads to "people coming here to write that book you've never written or paint that picture you've never painted."

That's all well and good, but what about that circus I've never circused? "I have a friend who took up trapezing at 49 years old and is now flying through the sky," Oliver says. "It's a little bit 'Cocoon'-ish here."

My wife and I are traveling to Amsterdam next spring and will be there during Queen's Day on April 30. Are there any special events we should try to attend?

Paul Sanchez, Arlington

From the confident tone of your question, it sounds as if you've already made hotel reservations, which is a very good thing, as Queen Beatrix doesn't take kindly to those who haven't booked accommodations six months in advance. And if you're wondering why the world's third-most-democratic country (thus spake the Economist in 2006) would set aside a day to venerate its monarch, consider first the date, which, perhaps by decree, tends to be unfailingly springlike and gorgeous. (You'll actually be celebrating the birthday of an ex-queen -- Juliana -- as Beatrix's, on Jan. 31, isn't exactly revelry-ready.)

But no matter. April 30 and the night before are simply excuses for the Dutch to party in the streets, hold millions of yard sales and indulge their passion for wearing orange. What starts as an eBay with costumes somehow morphs into bands, parties and something more suggestive of raving than royalty.

Expect concerts all over town, the largest held at the city's grand greenspace, Vondelpark (which happens to be convenient to Holland's three most important museums), and colorful celebrants packing canal boats everywhere you look. Long live the queen! Information: http://www.visitamsterdam.nl.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity