|| Dear Carl and Lorena:
We are looking seriously at coming to Mexico for a month next July. Would you have any suggestions re places to take Nancy and Hannah? ? We will probably spend between one and two of the four weeks in San Miguel de Allende. Keep in mind that Nancy has never been to Mexico, but has travelled a lot, and Hannah will be 10 and a half.
What do you know about the hostel in San Miguel (at Organos 34)? We've been looking around for a place to stay while we're there and it looks very reasonable (apparently, some private room are available). Do you know it? Would you stay there? We've checked into prices at the "modest" places and even the Quinta Loreto is something like $40 US a night.
I should mentioned that we have stayed at a number of International Hostels in the Pacific Northwest and, although they varied in quality, found them to be perfectly fine and VERY reasonably priced. Our philosophy is that you don't need a palace when all you're going to be doing is eating and sleeping there.
Any places or things you would advise to avoid? HOW has Mexico changed since I was last there in 1987?
Jim Jamieson, BC
[Carl's note: Jim is a professional writer and old friend. While living in San Miguel de Allende in the Seventies, Jim put in many hours of slave labor helping us edit and retype manuscripts for our first book on camping in Mexico.]
Carl replies: As for where to go, I'd say it is obvious that you'll want to stay in the higher elevations, to avoid the heat. San Miguel would be good, but my main complaint these days is the localized smog and air pollution caused by so much vehicle traffic in town. If it is raining, of course, the air will be cleaner.
San Miguel has many advantages, not the least of which is that you'd be visiting old haunts (most of which are gone, but it's still a charming place).
I haven't visited the hostel in SMA, but I recall reading something positive about it... in the "Atencion", one of the English language newspapers in SMA. I'd be surprised if it wasn't a reasonable place to stay.
In fact, it sounds like a good topic for an article, don't you think? Family hosteling.... give you something to do in your spare time, eh?
My next choice would be Patzcuaro-Morelia, both for scenery, air quality and Mexican ambiance.
I'd suggest Ajijic, where we are, but it might be too laid back -- Patzcuaro offers more close-by sidetrips, Indian markets, etc.
Our trip to Mexico is continuing to evolve and I'd like to run a couple of things by you. We realize we're stuck with the summer heat, but one option presented to us was Oaxaca -- which would give plenty of opportunity to experience Indian culture while in a cooler area.
We also wanted to go to the beach for a few days and handy to Oaxaca was the suggestion of Puerto Escondido. What are your thoughts on both places?
Also we were warned about Mexico City being very unsafe, even to take a cab? Is this gringo paranoia? I remember the last time I was in Mexico City (in 1987), it was no picnic but I certainly didn't feel worried about taking a cab. Have conditions there worsened that much since '87?
Carl replies: Don't worry about cabs and safety in the DF -- the problem is real, but overblown in the media. A friend lives downtown there and has never had any serious trouble. I take the usual precautions and have never felt threatened. For extra peace of mind, take cabs from sitios (cab stands) or have your hotel call one.
Puerto Escondido is good, but the road from Oaxaca to the coast is quite a rollercoaster. The trip takes several hours and is beautiful but slow. (You can fly, but I'm not sure about costs and quality of service.)
I haven't been there for many years myself, but the resort complex at Huatulco, to the south of PE, might be a better choice, or an alternate. The beaches are terrific and there aren't many tourists -- it is a Cancun like project that hasn't really taken off.
Oaxaca itself is quite interesting and offers a great deal to see, both locally and within an hour's sidetrip. I love it myself -- the plaza is perhaps the best in Mexico.
About Puerto Escondido -- This just in from Stan Gottlieb, a writer in Oaxaca: