I think the first thing North Americans might notice when walking the streets of the historic district of San Miguel de Allende (referred to locally as SMA) is the complete lack of street signs. I don't mean street names - like many countries around the world, the names of the streets are displayed on the walls of the buildings on the corners, along with single or double arrows indicating one or two-way traffic.

I mean there are no Stop signs, no Yield signs, no traffic lights, not even a policía directing traffic.


Beautiful views, but note that other than the street name and direction of traffic, no Stop or Yield signs.

In spite of that, in the weeks we have been here we've yet to see a fender bender, or even a close call. Part of that may be the cobblestone streets do not lend themselves to high speeds, but still - remarkable displays of calm driving.

Even more unusual, drivers actually stop for pedestrians! Cars, taxis, motorcycles buses, it doesn't matter. If you start to cross a street, or even look like you want to cross the street, all traffic stops to allow you.

Again, remarkable.

Once you get out of the Centro area, you do find traffic lights, overhanging signs, modern shops, even a Costco and Sam's Club. But the Centro region is wonderfully preserved as much as any town can be in the 21st century.

The next thing you may notice is that the streets are all clean. A common sight is the morning is people out sweeping down the sidewalk and street in front of their home or business, even washing it down with buckets of soapy water. We have very rarely seen litter of some kind in the street when out for walks, but if we do, when we return on our way home, it has invariably disappeared.

Just a few of the clean streets and parks of SMA

Trash is only put out in the street on collection days, and only in bags. This is a big improvement over what we saw in Panama this winter, where Panama City has serious trash collection problems, and even Playa Coronado had a lot of litter in the streets and overflowing trash cans.

Something I find fascinating about the town, is that as you walk the streets you pass interesting but not always impressive buildings and doors. But then one of the doors opens up, and suddenly you are looking into a lush inner courtyard, or a beautifully tiled area around a stone fountain.

Just a few of the wonders hidden behind old doors.

Of course like any other Spanish Colonial town, it is also all about the churches.

Although we prefer shopping at the local Mercado for fresh fruits and vegetables, and frequenting the small abarrotes for other grocery Items, we have made our way out to the modern chain stores, City Market and La Comer.

Inside City MarketOutside La Comer

Both are a comfortable walk (less than two miles) from where we are staying in Centro, and the taxi back with our bags is less than $5. City Market tends to be more upscale and pricey, while la Comer is similar to a Super WalMart. You can find anything from groceries to automobile tires to motorcycles to clothing to electronics to - well, everything!

So far we've found this to be a very safe and pleasant place to spend a month of our slow travel. More on San Miguel de Allende will be posted in the following weeks, so stay tuned!

Follow the story of Jim and Rita, who sold their home to travel for the next few years here in this blog, and on the podcast "Travels With Jim and Rita", available on all major podcast platforms.