It took a margarita, a little Mexican music and one night at a rooftop bar for Canadian news anchor Leslie Roberts to fall for San Miguel de Allende.
Now holidays will find Roberts abandoning his anchor chair at Global News in Toronto for the colonial town – and top Condé Nast Traveler pick – three hours north of Mexico City. Roberts says there’s an eclectic mix of expats in his neighbourhood – figure skater Toller Cranston and Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money, Martha Stewart’s best friend has a hotel nearby – and everyone mingles with a local population of all stripes.
“It’s not your drop-in, party, get-out town. It’s artistic. There’s a writers’ conference every year. [Margaret] Atwood was there, Yann Martel was there. They have music festivals. They have a film festival. Danny Boyle from Slum Dog Millionaire came. There’s no fast-food restaurants within the town. It’s a cultural mecca, as much as it is a hideaway from the busy life. You go to Florida to retire, to San Miguel to live.”
Here, the long-time broadcaster plays tour guide.
Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar
“At the Rosewood Hotel, this bar is the ideal introduction to this town. It’s not a cheap hotel, but you don’t have to stay there. You can go and experience it and have dinner and drinks. There’s often live Mexican music. And it offers the most spectacular view of the town.” Nemesio Diez 11, rosewoodhotels.com
Sazon cooking school
“This is run through one of the hotels. It starts off with a local Mexican chef. He takes you to the open-air market that goes on for blocks. He’ll show you which part of the fruit market and the vegetable market is local farmers. You get to taste. You get to smell. As you’re doing this, they’re grilling hot peppers. Then he takes you back to the kitchen and through a typical meal. It’s peeling the hot peppers, making the sauces, everything a Mexican family would make. You bond very quickly because you’re drinking margaritas and beer and making food.” Hospicio 35, casadesierranevada.com
“Horseback riding wasn’t for me. My neighbours said you have to do this. So we went with them. You’re going through canyons. You get to gallop through rivers. You get to climb incredible hills. The beauty is … I can’t describe how stunning the light is. It’s raw. After the ride, you get to go back and have lunch that the wives have prepared. It’s all families, all these generations doing it. It’s old school. You’ve got grandfathers and their grandsons leading you, telling stories, taking you through the land.” xotolarranch.com
“Johnny Carson’s band leader was Doc Severinsen. He was known for being quite the trumpeter. He retired there. He planned on moving to Tuscany, but when he went to perform at one of the festivals, he and his wife decided this was Tuscany without the prices. He plays at this little local club, where they ask you for $14 cover, which you can put toward your meal. Here he is in his 80s. He’s put together what’s called the San Miguel Five, which are the best local musicians. They perform there. He will go to Carnegie Hall with these guys or he’ll do it here in San Miguel several times throughout the year. When he’s not there, they will have local singers and musicians.” Hernandez Macias 83, vcandfriends.com.mx
“Steps from the main town square is this little restaurant. It offers the best stuffed peppers that I’ve ever eaten. I was married to a Mexican-Canadian girl, so I’ve eaten my share of stuffed peppers. It’s inexpensive and traditional at the same time. You can go to San Miguel and live on a couple bucks a day if you do it right, or you can spend hundreds of dollars if you go to a fancy restaurant. This is my favourite go-to for dinner.” Correo 23
This interview has been edited and condensed.