Though most of us can’t physically travel right now, there’s still a wonderful world out there for us to explore together. Traveling In Quarantine spotlights people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities… and in the process expand our Traveling IQ.
Traveling In Quarantine: Gustavo in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Gustavo Rivas-Solis is the General Director of ENroute Communications, a public relations agency focused on travel.
Gustavo is also greatly to blame for my being a travel writer.
I met Gustavo in 2010 in Puerto Vallarta, on my first ever press trip. And I was hooked… on both travel writing and Gustavo. He will show you the most culturally significant spots all day and still escort you to the stripper bar at night. Now that’s PR gold!
He’s also a mensch who organized a COVID-relief fundraiser to feed families near his hometown in Guatemala.
With razor-sharp focus that can cut through a tequila haze, he has developed award-winning campaigns to position Puerto Vallarta as the LGBTQ resort hotspot of Mexico.
Among his other clients in Mexico are the Yucatan State (through which I traveled last summer) and perennial “World’s Best” lists topper, San Miguel de Allende.
Traveling In Quarantine interviews Gustavo Rivas-Solis and together we explore San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
IQ: How did you get involved in travel?
Gustavo: Just one of those life moments. I was offered a PR position representing the Mexico Tourism Board on a temporary basis right after graduating. I did not know anything about tourism, as for Mexico … I knew Acapulco from Spring Break and las telenovelas. But a good friend of mine told me the job sounded so interesting to her because of all the benefits tourism has for a country. I was a socialist so that thought made me accept the position.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was raised in the sunny city of Bay Shore on Long Island, NY and returned to the island about 7 years ago when I got married. I am originally from Guatemala.
Describe your featured destination, San Miguel de Allende:
San Miguel de Allende is magical and romantic. The city is meticulously put together and just adorable. I fell in love with it from the moment I stepped foot there on a fam trip many moons ago.
I love the colonial architecture, the food, the shopping, the arts, but above all the colors! Every color in the crayon box was used in every street in this place and they make no apologies for it; the antique grand doors, the folklore of the mercado, even the blown glass cups, you’d think someone manicured the place.
What makes San Miguel de Allende unique?
The entire hippie-chicness of it: think Frida Kahlo and her flowers, if it were a destination.
What makes San Miguel de Allende a place for LGBTQ travelers?
Maybe it’s because of the huge artistic community and the amount of eccentrics in the city but SMA always felt gay-friendly to me. There are no outright gay clubs and there is no gay pride parade but if you go out, you will see same-sex couples holding hands as they walk the center or have coffee in one of the restaurants. I have never visited a destination with as much gay art as in San Miguel. AMEX knows when I have been there, no question.
San Miguel evening and nights are nostalgic. People walk around the main square greeting and chatting or just cruising. Dinners are long and the wine and tequila flow.
I always feel comfortable and safe when walking with my partner or gaying it out with friends.
What are three spots that you love in San Miguel and why?
The Jardin, or the central plaza is a must. Surrounded by some of the city’s most important buildings, including the iconic La Parroquia (a pink church), everyone in town ends up here at some point or another. Great for people watching.
Toyan Vineyard is in San Miguel de Allende’s wine region. This winery welcomes its guests with Lord of the Ring-type towers–a surreal environment with circular gardens and a wine tasting cave 45-feet below the ground and guarded by 24 stone monk sculptures. Their wines are organic so even your gluten-free friends can enjoy.
The thermal waters of la Gruta are a pretty special place to visit. National Geographic put the entrance to this place’s pool on its cover. It was around the time that the city became a UNESCO Heritage site and was first named “Best City in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler. La Gruta was nothing but a cave then. Today you can make a visit into a day trip as it has a spa and a restaurant.
What are three LGBTQ highlights in San Miguel?
El Petit Four café! So many delicious sweets using the finest and most fresh ingredients. Everything is baked in small quantities, several times a day to ensure freshness and flavor. Gay-owned, the small venue is so comforting.
The Brooklane, gay-owned boutique hotel, may be the only one in the city. This is a luxurious location that I was not really expecting but my husband loves it and makes it a point to stay there for at least a night or two. The restaurant is a must, I never want to leave the table. All is fresh, all is delish, que rico!
Tour the installations at Casa de Las Ranas. This is another day trip, as it is located in the small village of La Cieneguita, about 20 minutes from San Miguel de Allende. The compound is dedicated to the “Outlanders of the world, those who have chosen to explore the paths less trodden.” This place looks like a Piñata and Flamingo had a baby, and I wanted to hire a U-Haul to take it all home. In the words of Anado, Casa de Las Ranas is “an irreverent gumbo of the creative, joyful, sacred, profane, dangerous, and adorned.”
If Coronavirus is magically cured overnight where will you choose to celebrate?
New York City! I want to be on the 230 Fifth Rooftop and drink the entire cocktail list; I want to eat in the Meatpacking District! And I want to party at Monsters! Please, I am desperate! I have not seen my friends in years!
If you could choose anywhere in the world to Quarantine, where would it be and why?
I have tickets to go home to Guatemala in August so I can see my mama. Aside from that, I would love to be in a beach club sipping on a rosé.
Start planning your trip to San Miguel de Allende on their tourism website.
Follow the Traveling IQ (In Quarantine) series, highlighting people and places through which we can escape our sequestered realities