Serenity Now at Casa GGG

Article and Photos by Beth Carson

Basalt pillars line the courtyard, the pool a glowing green like a backlit jade, cream curtains drape the dark columns, jewel toned, Moroccan chandeliers sway slightly in the evening breeze. And we are only in the foyer.

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Casa GGG is ideally situated in a quiet neighbourhood, a short walk from the centre of town. Enter the iron gate and wooden door, and the plain facade reveals a design so sumptuous it’s near perfection. There are 2 places in San Miguel de Allende. One is inside thick walls in sanctuary of Casa GGG, and other is the rest of the town, which is a beauty. Upon arrival, Juan, the caretaker, was there to greet us and give us a tour so we could decide which of the 4 suites would be our home for the next 5 days. Each opened doorway had us gasping like delighted 3 year olds, pointing out the personal touches the lounging chairs, the reading nooks, the fireplaces. We chose Gustos, one of the 2 upstairs suites which was perfect for us.

The bedroom was small like a cozy nest, but it came with a nearly equal size bathroom with walk-in shower, jetted tub, double vanity, and outdoor shower, as well as a walk-in closet. The outdoor balcony was a treat, the walls partially covered in trumpet flowers. We were also indulged with a sitting room with enormous leather couch, minibar, and satellite TV. Every room in our suite had a fireplace- except the outdoor balcony, even the bathroom. Sumptuous. The first day we didn’t leave the villa until dinner. We had prearranged with the maids to cook breakfast and to have guacamole and salsa, so the only thing that drove us from our self-contained bliss was hunger- and the fact that we were in one of Mexico’s heritage cities. San Miguel de Allende is a haven for expat retirees and visitors seeking a European cultural feel without a transatlantic flight. People dress up a bit here, we saw more than one man with a sweater draped over a button down shirt.

Some women wear skirts and heels, unthinkable to me who had to watch every step in this hilly, cobblestoned city. While no one will stare if you default to jeans and a T-shirt, we are a world away from Cancun and its party atmosphere. This is a civilization discovered in 1542 and tenderly developed into a town of distinction, known for the arts. People live well here. On an afternoon stroll through Juarez Park, we happened upon a well-organized group of happy children doing calisthenics – not an eye roll or iPod in sight. Just a few hundred yards away, our ears led us to a band practicing just off the path amid the foliage- their pride was evident and well-deserved.

Blue Hour.

Our favorite time of day was dusk as it settled at the main square. The cathedral visually changes temperature rapidly as the Blue Hour, a favorite of photographers, dawned. The building changes before your eyes as the sky grows darker and the lights on the building glow like a candle. Sitting on one of the benches in the town square, watching children riding bikes, strangers strike up conversations. We chatted with different people each evening, locals and expats. The Blue Hour is magic in San Miguel de Allende.

Once night had fallen, the decision was ours- where to dine? We gravitated towards rooftop restaurants and bars that served tapas.

Rooftop Restaurant.

Our first night, we wandered into La Azotea, situated between the 2 lit up landmarks, the Cathedral and the Convent. If you sit towards the back of the bar, you’ll have a view of both. It’s also quieter back there- which may or may not be to your liking. The bluesy tunes of Michael Buble, Sade, and instrumentals put the well-heeled patrons in a confident, relaxed mood. It felt a bit like a far more welcoming version of the “cool kids” table at high school. The next night, we met new friends at the 5 Star Rosewood

Hotel.

The 7 of us had a lounging area with cushioned seats and 2 tables to ourselves, laughing and talking through the Blue Hour and into the night. Flaming towers were available in case we found the night cold, but instead, we found it the perfect temperature. We had a magnificent, if distant view of the mountain backdrop, with the cathedral and convent in the foreground. Another evening, on the advice of new friends, Michael and Alejandro from Seattle, we tried MX. While the food we tried- a shared plate of sizzling rib-eye and veggies, was delicious, they also catered to a more adventurous palette, with rabbit, goat, and rolls made with ground grasshoppers. The lounging bed draped with fabric and a plethora of pillows and cushioned seating areas made for an evening that could easily go well past the Blue Hour.

Returning Home.

Back at Casa GGG, it’s possible to see the influence of light as it plays on San Miguel de Allende and how the use of light inside the house has a similar, evocative feeling. Like a confident set designer– highlighting art here, a beautiful, hand carved sink there, Moroccan-inspired chandeliers casting a pleasing glow, it takes the house to the next level. It’s hard to imagine a way to improve upon it. “We built it from the ground up, the only thing on the lot was grass and an 8 foot high wall. Our vision was 16th century contemporary” shares Laurie.

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Indeed.

Each suite is large enough that it could be a very luxurious accommodation in a bed and breakfast. However, the house is only rented in its entirety- from 1 person up to 8. While it was an extravagance being here on our own, a 10 year honeymoon of sorts, I can see where a large group would feel that there was plenty of space both to gather and to retreat. The breeze wafted through our room each evening, a deliciously cool feeling in February. The sound system, with XM Satellite Radio, can be played throughout the whole house, or adjusted in each room individually. Our days settled into a relaxed pattern. The lovely staff would start cooking breakfast when they heard us moving around, usually about 10 AM. Donning one of the waffle robes and descending the tile stairs, greeted by three smiling ladies and a beautifully set table. I felt very much the relaxed lady of leisure. Afternoons were spent strolling the city, enchanted by colonial architectural and locals with an easy way about them, feeling connected with the inner workings of everyday life.

Trash Talk.

San Miguel de Allende is a thoughtful city. In the side of each building, there is a low alcove covered by an iron grate.

Real estate on the sidewalks is a precious and narrow commodity, so this keeps the streets clear of bins. The arrival of the trash men is heralded by a man ringing a triangle, letting you know you have a few last moments to gather a bag before the truck gets there. Knowing that the trash men (boys, in some cases) work hard, Lisa and Laurie show care by putting useful things in the trash, as nothing is wasted here. Laurie will also go to great lengths to protect the young men- even wrapping and taping the occasional broken glass, so they won’t be cut. Lisa is in charge of the day to day workings of the villa, and will likely be the one who answers your email. Communication is fast and easy.

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Regrets?

My only caveat about staying at Casa GGG? I’m now spoiled for staying anywhere else. 

Spring Edition 2014

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