Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hidden Beauty

What do you think of when you think of an alley? For me, being a city girl, the word alley conjures an image of a dark narrow passageway between two tall, dirty cement or brick walls. Pieces of old posters, their corners curled and brown, hang on the wall or perhaps on a telephone pole. If you look up you can see metal fire escapes silhouetted against what little sky is visible. There may be a window or two lower down, but they are likely broken and covered with old newspaper or boarded up. There is almost always at least one dumpster and a distinct smell of urine. There is a street light on one of the telephone poles, but of course, it is broken. Garbage litters the passageway and rats scurry in and out of the shadows. Sometimes there is a short stairwell leading down to a small cement square with a drain in the corner. The drain is clogged with leaves and garbage and water trickles under a basement door. To me, this is a typical alley in most cities.

Not so here in San Miguel de Allende. As I drove, very carefully, down narrow Callejón Blanco, White Alley, on my way to Spanish class on Friday, it occurred to me that many of the alleys here are really beautiful. In this one there is a tunnel formed by multicoloured bougainvillea creating interesting shadows in the brightly sunlit alley. Very few, if any, of the buildings here are above two stories so the alleyways, although narrow, are very bright. The buildings on either side are painted in warm rich tones of yellow, amber and deep rose almost as colourful as the bougainvillea.

Callejón Blanco

Not all of the alleys here are as picturesque as Callejón Blanco, but there are many that are really lovely. If you follow the street Real de Salida de Querétaro, it will take you to some of the highest points in San Miguel. Part of the way up there is a viewpoint called El Mirador, and a number of tourist shops where you can buy art and crafts. The view is spectacular from up there but one of the things I like most about this area is a number of really interesting alleys.


This pretty alley in the picture above runs off Real de Salida de Querétaro and has a view of the whole city.

I am going a little off track here, but at this point I am reminded of a tale I was told while visiting Guanajuato City. We had gone to see the Callejón del Beso, The Alley of the Kiss, and were told a tale of love and tragedy about a young couple in the 1800s, Doña Carmen y Don Luis. ( I have since read some conflicting stories that say the couple were Ana and Carlos ) Carmen and Luis were in love but Carmen’s father disapproved, as he planned to have her marry a wealthy titled man in Spain, to improve his own status.

Carmen and her family lived in a house on a very narrow alley and her bedroom, on the top floor, had a balcony. This balcony was (and still is) only 69 centimeters from the  balcony on the house across the alley. Don Luis discovered this and managed to get access to this balcony for their secret trysts. Unfortunately  Doña Carmen’s father caught them, and in a fit of rage, stabbed her in the chest. Luis held Carmen’s hand as she died and kissed it one last time.

Now folks line up at the alley entrance as it is supposed to bring years of good luck if lovers kiss on the third step of the alley, which is painted red.

El Callejón del Beso

Callejón near El Mirador

It’s hard to believe that this cool, quiet, green spot is just steps off the Real de Salida de Querétaro, one of the busiest streets in San Miguel. Here an alley is a quiet refuge off a busy street, not the dark scary place that I remember. This difference, like so many others, is one of the things that makes my life so pleasant here.


  1. Lovely, not what the word "alley" usually brings to mind.

    1. True, they are not all like that, but I have yet to see a dark nasty alley like I used to see in big cities. It's just one of those little differences that I really love here.

  2. Lovely photos. It's true, houses cannot be higher then two stories in San Miguel. The way they get around it sometimes, is to build the first story into the side of the mountain and then add to more stories. Like my house!

    1. Hey, if it works, great! Your house doesn't restrict anyone's view but you have a great one, and all that room. I envy you being able to sit and look out over the canyon in the botanical gardens!

  3. Lovely photos! It makes my heart yearn to be there!

    1. Thanks Cheryl. This is such a beautiful town that it's easy to take nice pictures.