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Zit?cuaro to San Miguel de Allende
MORNING: Mornings are exceptionally golden along these roads, so head out early past Uruapan toward mysterious San Juan Par?cutin, a town buried by lava when a local volcano erupted in 1943. Explore the ruins from the sleepy mountain town of Angahuan (25 minutes from Uruapan), where a 30-minute trail leads to a colonial church steeple that protrudes through hardened lava. Back in the village, Veronica Amado, who prepared her homemade dishes for the UNESCO folks in Paris when Mexico nominated its cuisine for World Heritage status, serves lunch in her tidy house, overseen by a somewhat crazy (and thankfully penned) bull. (+52-452-452-8121).
AFTERNOON: Head two hours north to San Miguel de Allende via Mex-15 and Mex-51. San Miguel is said to have the same natural light as Florence, Italy, which explains why so many painters, writers, and artists have made it their home. A stroll to the Instituto Allende (Ancha de San Antonio 20, +52-415-152-0190), established in 1951, is a good way to get a sense of the town. Find a wrought iron bench under one of the many purple-blossomed jacaranda trees and admire the campus, once a luxurious country estate. The institute's Galer?a La P?rgola showcases excellent exhibits of modern Mexican art.
An evening on the town's bustling z?calo, El Jardin, is a must. It's hard not to be mesmerized by the magnificent La Parroquia church's Gothic pink granite steeple. Position yourself at Restaurant del Jardin (Portal Allende 2, +52-415-152-5006), which sits in the shadow of La Parroquia. Sip on micheladas (beer, lime, pepper) and dig into chilaquiles and tacos.
SLEEP: Gay-owned Las Terrazas San Miguel (Santo Domingo 3, +52-415-152-5028) is run by American expats and made up of four tastefully furnished casitas. The Casa de Sierra Nevada (Hospico 42, +52-415-152-7040) is run by the Orient-Express Hotels and was built as an archbishop's residence in 1580.
San Miguel de Allende to Mexico City
MORNING: San Miguel is filled with boutiques selling high-quality, low-priced artisanal foods, silver, glass, leather, wood-wares, and metalwork. La Casa del Vidrio (Correo 11, +52-415-152-0102) is a treasure trove of beautiful hand-blown glass, while Piel Canela (Cuna de Allende 11, +52-415-152-1801) is a tidy leather boutique selling goods under $20, which they'll monogram for free.
AFTERNOON: Start with a cooking class or a market tour at Saz?n (Correo 22, +52-415-154-7671) with gay chef Paco, who also owns the adorable and successful El Petit Four patisserie (Mesones 99, +52-415-154-4010). Paco will show you the secrets to successful salsa and fill you in on the town's gay and foodie gossip. Continue back to Mexico City, which should take you about two hours. If time permits, stop in Quer?taro for a quick bite or to pick up some of its celebrated opals.
Part One | Part Two