san miguel de allende, mx
San Miguel is a city of bright colors, especially in the local market, where
you can buy everything from Oaxacan silver to colorful pottery and
Tucked away below the outdoor pool and brightly colored mural of Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende is the peaceful, serene, and blissful Spa Matilda. This is the ideal place to unwind after meandering the narrow 100-year-old cobblestone streets and looking up to centuries-old Baroque and Neoclassical-style architecture and houses in shades of terra cotta, dusty rose, and yellow in this magnificent city—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like other tourists, I spent my time wandering the colorful streets, strolling through Le Jardin where Mariachi bands competed for tips and couples took salsa lessons, dining in some of Mexico’s best restaurants, and watching the endless parades honoring the saints, which occur on an almost daily basis. Included in those parades are 15-foot-tall puppets called mojigangas, so tall the puppeteer’s face peeks through a small hole at navel level.
San Miguel de Allende is a city of sounds: noisy parades with drums and firecrackers (set off to call parishioners to church and ward off evil spirits). Every 15 minutes is the clang-clang of church bells chiming from more than a dozen churches. San Miguel is a city of bright colors, especially in the local market, where you can buy everything from Oaxacan silver to colorful pottery and hand-woven shawls. The ideal place to escape the busy streets is Hotel Matilda, voted by Condé Nast Traveler as the #1 hotel in Mexico. Here, the rooms are light-filled and spacious. Mine had a private balcony almost bigger than my New York City apartment. I also loved the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Moxi, where the menu was presented in a soft leather envelope and you can dine on everything from fresh sea bass to suckling pig. I ate al fresco in the candlelit courtyard facing the outdoor pool with its massive brightly colored wall mural.
By my second day in San Miguel, I was exhausted from so much walking. It was time for a visit to Spa Matilda, a place where the rituals are inspired by the five points of wellness: energy, focus, recovery, radiance, and decompression. The spa offers personalized yoga or meditation classes for only one or two people, but I was there to relax and recover. From the moment I entered the serene spa oasis and breathed in the aromatic scents of essential oils, I could feel my body let go. I chose the spa’s two-hour New Cycle, a body treatment whose ingredients change seasonally. Samantha, my therapist, led me into a spacious softly lit massage room and began with a purifying ritual using copal which, she explained, was to clean my energy. Since ancient times, copal has been considered sacred to the Mexican people. As she waved the incense down my body from head to foot, she whispered the name of each body part. With my mediocre Spanish, I was delighted each time she said a word I knew: pierna (leg), codo (elbow).
She then led me to the massage table and performed a copal body scrub. I never choose body scrubs because they always hurt my sensitive skin. Not this one—it was actually soothing. Then, she helped me into the steam room where I breathed in chamomile, sage, rosemary, and lemongrass. But could this really be a steam room? I was lying on a couch draped with towels as the shower above poured hot water over me. I don’t think there’s another spa in the world that encourages you to wet so many towels in a steam room. Eventually, I rinsed off and was led to the massage bed where Samantha wrapped my body in a copal and herb body mask.
By the time I’d gone back to the shower and rinsed off the mask (all the wet towels had been replaced with dry towels), my skin felt like silk. And then it was time for the New Start treatment. I’d considered the Hamman Ritual because the spa’s Hamman, like the shower, had a soft couch covered in towels, not a hot tiled surface as normal Hammans have. I’d also considered the Recover treatment because it included a soothing bath in the most stunning aromatherapy bathtub I’ve ever seen. But I really needed a deep tissue massage after the long plane ride, the car ride to Hotel Matilda, and a full day of walking up and down the hilly cobblestone streets. All the tension from my tired aching muscles disappeared and I fell into a deep sleep.
I didn’t wake up until Samantha gently roused me and led me to a private Zen garden, helping me step on the stone path, beneath which was a koi pond. I sat in the plushy armchair sipping hot tea, mesmerized at the giant leafy trees above me, looking for the bird whose sound I heard.
After a while, Samantha returned and led me back to the massage room for a Revitalizing Facial that would reactivate healthy cells and nourish my skin. She cleansed my skin with a tonic and green tea serum followed by a collagen massage and mask, which she called “essential shock” to revitalize my skin. She used Natura Bisse from Barcelona to moisturize and eliminate my expression lines (they don’t call them wrinkles in this spa), and a special eye and lip moisturizer. Again, I nodded off into a trance.
Four hours went by from the time I started my initial treatment to when Samantha led me back to the koi pond. I sat and listened to the leaves gently rustling through the trees. Every now and then I heard church bells chime in the distance, but I didn’t know what hour it was. And I didn’t care. hotelmatilda.com