Gabe Serrato-Buelna's San Miguel de Allende
Gabe Serrato-Buelna lives to travel and travels to live. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone all over the world for work and pleasure,” he says. “But the place that has stolen my heart is San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.” Serrato-Buelna, founder of the Laguna Beach-based PR firm Serrato + Co., represents actors, athletes and corporations trying to forge global brands. It’s a high-octane job with a fun vibe. Still, his favorite vibe is the creative one he finds in San Miguel, a longtime haven for artists, photographers and writers. Founded in the 16th century, the central Mexico city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. - He spoke with Rosemary McClure.
Why San Miguel de Allende?
The first time I visited San Miguel de Allende I was in my early 20s and I can still recall the magical feeling I got when I saw La Parroquia, the city’s magnificent 17th-century neo-Gothic church. Add to that the cobblestone streets, Spanish tile rooftops and brightly colored orange, red and yellow Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, and you can understand why San Miguel was named one of the top cities in the world by Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2014.
Don’t miss the local library’s House and Garden Tour that takes place on Sundays; tickets are available from Biblioteca de San Miguel Allende A.C in the central district. If you’ve ever wanted to see how Americans are living in San Miguel, this is the ticket into some amazing private homes.
Time is right
The best time to visit is any time you can get away for at least three to four nights. Travel magazines will tell you February and March, but the mild year-round climate makes San Miguel feel like paradise any time. Personally, I’m a fan of springtime because there are many festivals; but there are festivals and holidays throughout the year. My favorite hotel is La Morada, just a few steps away from El Jardin, the central square. The 16th-century hotel was recently remodeled around a central courtyard and is lovely.
The city center is full of wonderful colonial architecture and historical highlights with important art centers and artisanal shops within a short walking distance. However, one of my favorite experiences is taking a cooking class at Sazon in the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada with friends. We shop with a local chef at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez to gather the fresh produce. It’s an experience of a lifetime.
The city is full of excellent shopping opportunities, including original artwork in contemporary galleries, well-crafted leather goods, linen shirts, home goods and linen dresses in higher-end stores. My favorite shopping area is La Fabrica La Aurora, which is housed in an old textile factory. You will discover everything from working artist studios to contemporary art galleries and Mexican and Spanish colonial antiques in this cutting-edge design center.
San Miguel is known for its amazing rooftop bars. My favorite? Rosewood Hotel’s Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar, especially at sunset. The views of La Parroquia are spectacular and the tamarindo margaritas and ceviche are great. Also try La Noche Piano Bar, known as the Frank Sinatra Bar, where the music is good and you’ll likely meet new friends.
Being a self-proclaimed foodie, my favorite restaurant in town is The Restaurant. Owned and run by Los Angeles native chef Donnie Masterton, this amazing establishment was the location of “Top Chef’s” finale in 2015. It takes fresh and organic farm-to-table fine dining to a whole other level. For a nice breakfast and amazing Mexican sweet bread, check out Cumpanio with its stunning modern decor.