It was Sunday morning as we ventured out beyond San Miguel de Allende to the countryside. Our goal was to visit the Galeria Atotonilco for it’s end of the month open house, held the last weekend of almost every month. And it was spectacular!! A vision of color assaulted us as we entered and we didn’t know which way to look. There are so many fabulous pieces of folk art from all over Mexico, Guatemala and other countries. We definitely saw what love and attention Mayer Schacter and his wife Susan Page have put into the gallery. We have friends in Berkeley, CA where they are from and when Beany found out we were moving to San Miguel she told us to make sure we stopped by, see the Galeria and meet Susan and Mayer. They are absolutely a delightful and energetic couple and we are so glad that we are able to start a new friendship.
The Galeria Atotonilco is a must see when in San Miguel de Allende. A visit is by appointment only (11am-3pm Mon-Sat, closed Sunday) or you can go for their monthly open house. Watch for the notice in the Attencion newspaper for it. Don’t worry about thinking you are imposing on them and do not feel like you will be pressured to buy. They have marvelous pieces which would be wonderful to have, but showing people the Galeria and exposing them to the wonderful craftsmanship of the artists is what they love to do. Feel free to ask Mayer about the history of the pieces and you can get a master class on the the artists, their communities and the process. He is a wealth of knowledge and talking to him makes the Galeria even more special. Galeria Atotonilco and a visit with the wonderful couple who own it make it to the top of our list for excursions from San Miguel de Allende and we can’t recommend it enough.
I could wax on about the quality and variety of the artwork, but I will let the photos speak for themselves.
On another note, Susan Page is the Director of the San Miguel International Writer’s Conference. It was started in 2006 with just 26 participants. Now thousands show up every year from all over the world for an entire week of seminars, keynote speakers, expert panels and master classes and the writer’s who are featured are truly world class. The Conference takes place every February. We were very much looking forward to attending the 2019 conference for some of the events opened to the general public, but our 2 month trip to the Yucatan at that time will prevent us from doing so. We will definitely make it a point to visit in future years. If you are a writer, interested in becoming one or just interested in books and want an unforgettable experience check it out.
Just past the entrance to Galeria Atotonilco on the same road is the Nirvana Restaurant and Retreat, a beautiful place to enjoy a lovely lunch after touring the Galeria. It has a wonderful grassy setting that is so relaxing we stayed awhile and we really enjoyed our time there and look forward to visiting again. I had a lovely entree of Fish Tacos which was too big for me to eat by myself. Glenn’s was a nice Salmon dish with a mango salsa. Our bill for a beer, sangria and 2 glasses of red wine, 2 agua minerales and 2 entrees including tip was $40.
Our last stop was the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, said by many to be the Sistine Chapel of Mexico. That is a lofty goal for a church and I personally didn’t think it fit the bill for this one, but it was a nice little venture if you are in the area and the church frescoes are very nice. I might not make a separate trip out to see it but this combination trip of Galeria, Nirvana and Sanctuary worked well. The town is very small and the main street consisted of little stalls with typical souvenirs. You should try to use a restroom before visiting it as I found one hard to find and the one I did find left a lot to be desired. We walked from Nirvana which was about 20 minutes away. It was difficult for us to find transport back to San Miguel as most people seem to come by taxi and have them wait or day trip van and we were unable to find an empty taxi for our return.
Our transportation each direction was by Pegasso Bus leaving and returning to the San Miguel de Allende Central Bus Terminal. The total cost round trip for both of us was less than $4. You may want to sit behind the driver and watch out when being dropped off on the way. Look for the signs for Escondido Place and Hot Springs on the left. Our driver didn’t look at the manifest and kept going past the stop (it is supposed to be Cortijo but there is nothing there, better to see if you can be dropped off at Escondido) and we had to walk back along the highway with no shoulder to walk on. We eventually found a path off to the right which was better and it took us to La Gruta, the hot springs that we are hoping to visit separately. From there it was a pretty easy 20 minute walk to the Galeria and Nirvana. There are signs to follow. There is a small bus stop along the highway that is easy to spot to wait at for the bus to come for the ride home, just flag it to have it stop. It can be full so you may have to stand but the ride is not too long. We love taking ETN buses as they are so comfortable and Primera Plus is our second choice. But for this trip it was Pegasso and we found the bus a bit stifling as there was not a lot of legroom and it was very dark inside with only a few spotlights. Still, it was cheap and it got us to where we wanted to go so it was fine. It seems to run once an hour, take the bus towards Dolores Hidalgo.
All in all this was a really wonderful days excursion and we highly recommend it. See some lovely artwork, eat some wonderful food and have a nice days’ saunter between the locations. What more can you ask for?