Mystication: Guide to San Miguel de Allende

When I sit down to write these travel diary posts I sometimes get a bit of writer's block. And the more I love a place the more that little block sets in. Mostly here's why: there's that thing people say - "instagram is the highlight reel" or a blog post only showcases the best moments of an experience and in some regards that is true. But I get that block because for me - when I'm traveling - my intention is to settle in, slow down, ground in, seek out a fresh perspective and pay attention to all of the little things. Those little things are the moments that don't typically make it into that reel. So when I finally write about a place I don't want to miss the bits that truly give a place it's soul. 

What does make it into the reel is the "working" part of my travels. I intentionally make time to create the images that I share - however the beautiful, mystical and often deeply life altering moments that happen in between are rarely photographed and therefore are simply committed to memory. That's what a mystical vacation, a mystication, is all about! When I begin to get overwhelmed about what to share I remind myself that my mission here is to inspire you to plan your own trip, to create your own mystical moments, and if I'm able to accomplish that then working through those little blocks is worth it!

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

San Miguel De Allende

We arrived into Mexico City, braved the central Mexico roads and arrived for our time in San Miguel. As our trip began Ben and I made the time each day to pull out the camera and snap, however, for 8 of any 10 hours that we would be out exploring on foot each day the camera was tucked away, or left behind at our townhouse in the city center ("centro").

When we prepared for our trip we didn't spend time looking at the "must do" lists - Ben lived in San Miguel as a child and much of what was important to him to explore was in his memory from so many year's past. For me, in a town like SMA getting out on foot and using my intuition as a guide is how I like to start things off - and for this trip we had almost 2 weeks - so there would be plenty of time for that.

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

The town’s reputation as an artistic bohemian hideaway is long gone, which tends to happen when a magazine like Travel & Leisure names a place the "World's Top City of 2017." I'm certainly not blaming T&L - when a place is this good it's bound to be discovered by expats and tourists alike. Despite the tourism that's become a prevalent part of the activities in SMA - there are incredible artists and intellectuals, from both Mexico and abroad, enjoying life in this gorgeous town.

At one time San Miguel was a traditional Mexican pueblo with day to day life centering around the family owned tiendas, as well as the fruit, gordita and taco stands. Families filled the central plaza after daily Mass. That's all still present today however San Miguel is now one of Mexico’s best-known cultural destinations so there's also art galleries, organic food shops and boutique hotels peppered throughout the city.

All of these things, btw - make it easy to visit, exceptionally safe and a place that I'd highly recommend as a female traveling solo or for a trip with your loved ones, friends or family. 

Where to Stay

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

AIRBNB APARTMENTS

Having an entire home or apartment to yourself is one of the best ways to enjoy a new city. Especially when the apartment is centrally located. I'd recommend choosing something close to the city center, so you can get out and easily explore each day. See the Airbnb listings here.

If you are a new user on Airbnb, you can get $20 off your first stay with this code.

BOUTIQUE HOTELS

There are tons of options in SMA, here's a few I'd recommend, and there's plenty more on Trip Advisor as well: 

Hacienda El SantuarioCasa de la NocheCasa Schuck Boutique Hotel

Where to Eat

Fruit Stands: try the "tunas" - the fruit inside the prickly pear cactus plant (we got ours at a stand outside the Benito Juarez Park, so good!)

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

Elote & Esquites Stands: these are located throughout the city, it's corn prepared several ways - dusted with cheese, chili, mayonnaise or just boiled and slightly charred.

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

The Markets: In the northeastern section of Centro, adjacent to the art market, is the city’s organic foods market: Ignacio Ramirez Mercado. Locals come to buy produce from local farmers as well as staples like freshly pressed tortillas. Toward the back you’ll find a collection of food stalls, we sampled the organic tamales and then stepped into the organic grocer for natural frozen yogurt that was simply amazing.

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

For Coffee: Café Catedral (for good, strong organic coffee - our local family friends recommended this place), La Sacristía Café (pictured here and my personal favorite for the delicious smoothies, and the gorgeous outdoor patio - we went several mornings for that and enjoyed their perfect Americanos). 

I was a little surprised to find that there wasn't coffee on every corner, but loved these places mentioned above and went back daily (and I was a bit bothered to find a Starbucks smack in the middle of the city directly across from Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the neo-gothic pink church in the center of the square).  

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner: We tried all sorts of local places for tacos, flautas, pozole, gorditas and more. A notable favorite: La Pozoleria - we get the chicken flautas and the pozole of course. Café Del Viajero had the most incredible mole and guacamole - we decided to dine here after peaking in the window as the chef (pictured below) prepped for service. There was no way we could turn her down. Our breakfast spot of choice was Mi Bistro 300, this place was directly across from our townhouse and every dish on the menu was super fresh (including the homemade breads!) and perfect. 

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

For Drinks: Oso Azul - we stopped in on two separate occasions for Micheladas Classico and they were refreshing and delicious. I'd also recommend spending an evening watching the sunset from any one of the number of rooftop bars, many of the boutique hotels have them and they're open to the public  

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

Other Can't Miss Places

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

The Markets: Instituto Allende is worth a visit just to take in the beauty of the building and the murals; there's an artist market open on some days as well, and we were glad to catch it and do some shopping for crystals, essential oils and incense. In the rear of the building is one of the best views of the city. There's also a cafe and an art gallery in the back courtyard with work from famous artists. Direct up the street there's additional markets, craft fairs, flower stands and more. 

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We
San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

The Landmarks: The Public Library - home to tons of books, more murals and a beautiful courtyard and cafe. We spent an afternoon reading about Mayan culture and history.

San Miguel Travel Diary | Oui We

El Mirador - the scenic overlook at the top of the city

Benito Juarez Park - the park was full of palms, butterflies and a botanical garden

There's multiple day trips to be found just outside of the city: Cañada de la Virgen is an Otomi archaeological site that has been recently excavated - tours are offered by Albert Coffee, an Archaeologist from Louisiana (so I have to meet him next time!). There's also several hot springs locations worth checking into. 


To Help You Prepare:

  • San Miguel de Allende is located on the sun-drenched central highlands, about 150 miles north of Mexico City. The weather is usually dry and sunny year-round, however, at 6,000+ feet, the temperature swings significantly from the morning to midday and again in the evenings. We were warned in advance to apply sunscreen and wear hats before even stepping out for morning coffee, and we did as told.

  •  Credit cards are widely accepted, but have pesos on hand for local shopping, street food and arts and crafts markets. If you go to the Tuesday Market - "Tianguis de los Martes" bring pesos - the market is massive, packed with locals and an incredible experience - go early to avoid the crowds.

  • There is no Uber, however taxis are super convenient - hail a cab just like you do in New York. Tell the driver where you're intending to go and they'll agree or sometimes not depending on the area they're working in - if they don't want to take you somewhere it's not about safety, they may just not be going that direction. When you're dropped off ask what the price is - it's all cheap so it'll be less than a few dollars. 

  • How to get there: we rented a car, and I trusted that Ben could handle it. He was very comfortable driving, the driving rules are pretty much this: keep your eyes open and go for it. Everyone is merging and moving at the same - controlled chaos. Be certain you have enough cash for tolls, we had a very unfortunate experience on the way back to the airport in which we were just barely short of cash, had heard we could use our credit card and were literally turned around after sitting in toll traffic for over an hour. We weren't given any information about where to find an ATM so we drove another 45 minutes until we found one. We heard that buses are super easy as an alternative option. From the airport you can book any of the bus companies. These buses supposedly make the 4-5 hour trip easy and run about $25ish dollars each way.

  • In regards to water cleanliness, street food safety, and traveler's diarrhea (I think this is the first time I've ever written about diarrhea, ha): there's plenty of stories about how you get it and what to do to avoid it. We were instructed not to drink the water and to use bottled water even for brushing our teeth and washing our faces. We avoided ice cubes in drinks too. We didn't stay in a boutique hotel (we stayed in a friend's vacation home) so perhaps the standards are different depending on your accommodations. We ate street food almost daily and followed these general rules: choose food stands with one person cooking and another handling money (germs often live on money), choose busy stands serving women and children - the busier the better to ensure the food hasn't been sitting out in the hot sun... also my guess is that if a child's stomach can handle something surely mine can too... don't eat fruits and veggies that are rinsed in tap water... we heard that more people get sick choosing things like salads than going for the local fare, and despite following the rules, we still had a few days of uneasy stomachs.


I certainly can't wait to go back again. San Miguel is truly a dream and as always, I'm happy to answer any other questions you all might have! Feel free to leave a comment below or DM me on instagram! Btw! If you need a capsule wardrobe for your next holiday or simply want to see more from my San Miguel trip - check this post here!

Wanderfully yours,

Andi

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Mexican Holiday: 10 Days of Outfits

Travel ignites me in every single way. Exploring new cultures and meeting people keeping their traditions alive is so, so special. We just returned from almost 3 weeks in Mexico and San Miguel de Allende has become a new favorite destination. We had a little connection before going - Ben lived there for a while as a little one so he couldn't wait to show me around the places he loved as a child.

Oui We Style in San Miguel

 After writing Wanderful I started getting more packing and travel capsule wardrobe questions than ever before. I wrote this post on packing for 10 days in Paris quite a while back and not much has changed when it comes to a few things: 1 - I still can get 10+ days of clothing into one roller bag 2 - my toiletries are still minimal, my must haves: multi-use oils, sunscreen, lip tint and mascara and 3 - I'm traveling with gear (laptop, cameras, a tripod, etc) so all of that has to fit somewhere. Besides that, packing for 10+ days in Mexico was quite different in every other way!

What I've noticed that I'm doing very differently when it comes to packing now is this: I've learned that keeping my outfit selections along one particularly color theme allows for lots of mixing and matching and also means there's way less time spent on getting dressed and way MORE time spent on exploring. I've also started focusing more on luxe looking dresses and tops - dresses make things super easy of course, and a few gorgeous tops can be mixed with lots of different bottoms - and I've always loved a good pattern mix!

Oui We Style in San Miguel

You'll notice in the outfits below that there's really only a few pairs of shoes featured: I live in my birkenstocks, a good pair of white sneakers and 1-2 additional sandals is really all I need in Mexico. I actually never pack heels anymore - and in San Miguel de Allende the hills and streets are cobblestone and heels would have been totally useless. 

I've also become a girl that travels with hats (hats tie outfits together and protect my skin from the sun, and that's important to me!), and when traveling I simple pack them in a tote bag and just carry them on the plane. Easy. 

Below are my favorite outfits of the trip, and you'll see how I mixed and matched so many pieces in the photos at the end! I'll be back with the full travel diary to SMA soon, are any of you going?! Send me a note on instagram and I'll share all my favorites with you!


My go to day time look: a top with a deep v, layers of crystals and charms, an oversized sun hat (I love the string tied under the chin - you can drape it over your shoulders when you're indoors - it looks surprisingly chic and effortless that way!) and a fanny pack for all my valuables. (For each outfit you can scroll through and shop via the images directly below!). The belt was a last minute purchase, so inexpensive and I think it really makes the outfit!

Oui We Style in San Miguel

For days that lead to long winding evenings: I mentioned packing luxe tops, I love big sleeves and florals and tops that tie too, this skirt is from my friend's shop in New Orleans and it was perfect for a night of dancing!

Oui We Style in San Miguel

So, the heat index is pushing 90? Yes, it's been a hot summer everywhere - and days in Mexico are no exception! A breezy cotton dress looks elegant but still feels super comfy. Mine is a thrift find, however, there's a super adorable version linked below. 

San Miguel Style - Oui We Girl

For the days you'd prefer to sunbathe... on one particular afternoon we took to the rooftop and enjoyed the luxury of having an apartment with a view. I spent the whole day in my bikini - and honestly, I layered the bandeau top on several other days under my tie front crop tops!

Oui We Style in San Miguel

For trips to the market: we spent lots of time visiting the markets in Mexico, for those visits, I pulled on an oversized sweater (the mornings were cool!), some cut-off denim shorts and I was ready to go!

Oui We Style in San Miguel

Here's some additional images, and some mixing and matching too. The full capsule wardrobe is below too so you can shop to create your own holiday style! I hope this helps when you're packing for your own holiday travels! Be back soon with the complete SMA guide!

Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Girl San Miguel de Allende
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel
Oui We Style in San Miguel

Wanderfully yours,

Andi


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Wanderful Guide to Memphis: Home of Blues, Soul and Rock 'N' Roll

This post is shared in partnership with Memphis Travel

 Sun Studio, Memphis Tennessee

Sun Studio, Memphis Tennessee

In the past few years I’ve fallen pretty hard for the state of Tennessee. I moved to Nashville officially two summers ago, wrote the entire first draft of my book Wanderful in Tennessee and of course included Tennessee as the starting point in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway road trip in the book! I've spent many days exploring the State Parks, vintage shops and music venues all along the way and if I'm honest, those are three of the things that really pushed me over the edge when making a decision to move here. 

One place I hadn’t spent much time was Memphis. Until now. What was I waiting for?! Memphis is way more than just a stopover city en route to bigger destinations - it’s deserving of a weekend of your time, and more if you can make it happen (and I seriously suggest you do!). It’s a destination with sharp contrasts of the old and new. It’s famous for its historical and cultural contributions to the South - it's the mama city of soul and the blues - aaand rock ‘n roll wouldn't be what it is without the studios and artists hailing from Memphis.

There's a deep history in regards to the Civil Rights Movement too, and it's worth a visit just to experience the National Civil Rights Museum. Travelers can spend hours hopping from one museum, studio tour and historic location to another, stopping to sample the best BBQ America has to offer along the way. I can't wait to share my favorites of the trip with you below! And you better bet, we're starting with a playlist. 

Memphis Playlist Vibes:

“Big River” Jonny Cash, “Graceland” Paul Simon, "Blue Moon" Elvis Presley, “Back to Memphis” The Band, "Walking In Memphis" Marc Cohn, “Love and Happiness” Al Green, “Midnight Train to Memphis” Chris Stapleton, "Workin' Woman Blues" Valerie June and anything from Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids of course! (There are sooo many more amazing choices, but this should get you started!)

The Trolly Memphis / Oui We

Where to Stay:

There are lots of fantastic options from hotels to super cute Airbnbs too. On this particular trip we stayed at the Hotel Napoleon, an adorable boutique hotel situated downtown, near Beale Street, amongst the trolly stops and a few blocks from the Mississippi River. Other hotels that I’ll certainly be back for: The Peabody and the Guest House at Graceland (because, confessing now - we didn't visit Graceland on this trip, I know - the sacrilege! but I'll certainly be back to devote an entire weekend to just that!)

 

The Arcade in Memphis / Oui We

Where to Eat

There was a moment about ½ way through the weekend that I was certain I couldn’t eat another bite, because all the food was that good and authentic. Well that moment occurred just before trying Memphis’ famous BBQ and then I was like "okay, keep bringing it on!". My recommendation: take it slow and sample as much as you can! Here were my personal favorites:

Breakfast at the Arcade

Breakfast at the Arcade
Elvis booth at the Arcade / Oui We

We sat in Elvis’ booth, yes, there are locals that will fully confirm that this booth was truly his. When I was traveling and writing Wanderful I’d often pick a character that had a history in the place I was visiting - I’d imagine what they would be wearing, listening to, eating, etc. The character was sometimes a literary one and sometimes a real life person too — like Jackie Kennedy, for example when road tripping through Maine! On this trip to Memphis Elvis was my guy. Can you imagine the conversations had at this table... and the amount of deep fried French toast consumed?!

The Food Trucks at the Levitt Shell

There are some things that can make you feel 16 again ... nights that never end, when you’re on top of the world, with the music too loud, sneaking sips of beer from the grown ups. Nights like the one we had at the Levitt Shell gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling. Don't just go to the Shell for the food trucks, but when you do go don't skip the Frito Pie!  

Food Truck Frito Pie at the Levitt Shell

Other places we loved:

Otherlands Coffee Bar and Cafe Keough for breakfast and Second Line for dinner!

The Shelby General Store / Memphis / Oui We

Want to Play Outside?

You know I do! On our itinerary the first stop on our second day was to meet Doug at Shelby Forest General Store. Do not skip this stop, I repeat do not skip this stop! We were given three little pieces of information before arriving: 1 - your phone will lose service 2 - Doug will point you in the right direction of a good spot to hike in the forest and then 3 - Doug will serve up cheeseburgers after your hike. When I read this on the itinerary I was super intrigued. After the visit, well I could truly write an entire post about the visit to Doug’s store (and believe me I will).

Mississippi River Oui We

This afternoon looked like this: sharing stories (and fried bologna sandwiches) with Doug, trailing a family of butterflies on a hike through the hardwood forest and then soaking up some sunshine on the bank of the Mississippi. It was a constant reminder that life offers up so much sweetness when you really look for it.

Butterfly in Shelby Forest / Oui We
Lunch at Shelby Forest General Store / Oui We

I have to add - both Al Green and Justin Timberlake used to hang out at the General Store. JT even mentioned it on the Grammys some years back. It’s not the reason to visit, but there’s a little buzz around the store that surely those guys felt the second they first sat on the porch soaking it all in.

For My Music Lovers

Truly isn’t the music half the reason people make the pilgrimage to Memphis? Okay so we didn't visit Graceland but what we DID do is not to be missed. My favorite was the tour of Sun Studio. "Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine” said Elvis Presley and he should know! He was one of the biggest stars of Sun Studio. The history and spirit in this building can be felt just approaching that guitar in the sky and the neon lights in the windows.

Sun Studio Tour / Oui We

We also took in a Blind Boys of Alabama show at the Levitt Shell. Here's a little more about the Levitt Shell: It's an open air amphitheatre in Overton Park located in the heart of Midtown Memphis. The Shell was built in 1939 by the City of Memphis and the depression era Works Progress Act. 27 band Shells were built across the country during this time and the Levitt Shell is one of only a handful that remain standing. It's also worth noting - on July 30, 1954 Elvis took the Shell stage for what some historians call the “first ever rock ‘n’ roll show.” Okay - see? Don't miss it.   

The Levitt Shell Memphis / Oui We

There’s also record shops and bars with killer live music to add to your list: The Cove and Bar DKDC plus Shangri La Records and Goner Records for you vinyl lovers.

Other Can't Miss Places

Old Dominick Distillery

Old Dominick: We ended our weekend at an event at Old Dominick Distillery as they launched a new line of small batch spirits, straight from the lab of their head distiller, Alex Castle. She's a serious badass too and one of the only female distillers at this level in the country. There's a long family history in the distillery and it's worth a visit for a tour and a tasting! After the event the team from Old Dominick took us out for a night at Earnestine & Hazels and between the juke box and the ghost stories I'm so glad we spent our last evening here.

The Crystal Shrine Grotto at Memorial Park Cemetery: This is one of those you have to see it to believe it. Thousands and thousands of crystals line the walls, floors and ceilings of the absolutely stunning monument. 

Crystal Shrine Grotto Memphis / Oui We
Crystal Shrine Grotto Memphis Oui We

Crosstown Concourse: This one is for your history buffs and art aficionados too. It's a mixed use center with so much history. This building was The Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog order plant and retail store and opened in 1927. The building has undergone a massive renovation, however the story of it's origin is told throughout. The preservation of the building is incredible. The gallery space in the building is massive, and there's tons of restaurant and shopping options too!

Crosstown Arts Memphis / Oui We

I"m so incredibly grateful for trips like this one. Memphis doesn't just attract tourists, it truly draws in people looking for a soul connection to a place. Whether you're worshipping at the shrine of Johnny Cash or Elvis or meeting the spirit of Dr. King at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel there's so many ways to spend time here. Of course, as always, if you go be sure to tag me over on instagram! I love following along on your Wanderful adventures too!

Wanderfully yours,

Andi

big thanks to Lauren for taking the photos on this adventure!


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