Guidebook field review: Moon San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and the Bajio
Occasional vagablogging contributor Kristin Van Tassel sends us this guidebook review from Mexico:
Last October Moon published the travel handbook Moon San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and the Bajio, written by Julie Doherty Meade. In February I traveled to Central Mexico for the first time, and Meade’s book was of great help to me.
What I most appreciated about the handbook was its substantive section on the city of Guanajuato, a city I had not heard of prior to reading the book. I’d journeyed to Mexico to attend a writing conference in San Miguel de Allende. But Meade’s book persuaded me to visit Guanajuato as well, and I liked it so much that if I were to go to Central Mexico again, which I hope to do, I would focus my visit on that city. Meade describes Guanajuato as “almost mythical in its beauty,” as though “plucked from a fairy tale,” and this is no exaggeration. But also, the concrete, practical nature of Meade’s book directed me to a number of great places and resources. For example, the city has a wonderful museum dedicated to artistic representations of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (Museo Iconográfico del Quijote). I stayed at Casa Mexicana, a hotel close to the city center which is also affiliated with an intensive Spanish language school, Escuela Mexicana. The hotel was bright, cheerful, and reasonably priced, as Meade promised, and the staff members were warm and helpful, which was reassuring during my first few days in the country. I enjoyed my 90-minute visit at the language school so much that I hope to return with my children as well as a group of college students. Furthermore, Meade’s description of the city’s geography was useful in navigating its winding, potentially disorienting streets.
I also used Meade’s recommendations to choose accommodations in San Miguel de Allende. After checking out several options once I was in the city, all of them described in Meade’s book, I settled on Parador San Sebastián de Aparicio. It was a lovely place to stay – my room was back away from the street and very quiet, and there was a gorgeous courtyard at the entrance – for only a little over $30 a night. I also followed Meade’s guidebook in order to find walking tours of the city and a shuttle service back to the airport. The historical information Meade offered was engaging – and I was glad to know something about both Guanajuato and San Miguel upon my arrival.
My primary suggestion for the handbook would be that it include a larger Spanish language section at the end. I speak almost no Spanish, and in Guanajuato, in particular, I had difficulty knowing how to gather certain kinds of basic information – such as finding a bank that would change U.S. cash (the bank Meade recommended did not do so, and the Tourist Office was not open any of the days I was there), getting my hands on a map of the city, or figuring out how the Spanish keyboard worked at the internet café. Additionally, knowing how to ask someone to repeat a price or phrase very slowly would have been incredibly useful to me.
But otherwise, I highly recommend Moon’s handbook. The dog-eared state of my copy attests to its usefulness.