One of the things that makes travel fun for us is the opportunity to become a temporary local. We love the adventure and discovery that travel provides, but we equally enjoy the luxury of being “homebodies” abroad. Occasionally we do stay at hotels or B&Bs, but our preference is to rent a house or apartment from a local. For us, vacation rentals offer more bang for your buck, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity for cultural immersion.

Blue skies, warm sun, colorful Spanish colonial buildings, friendly locals, cobble stone streets, birds chirping. This describes our charmed life in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s hard to complain, and why would you? We came here (for the 3rd time) looking to settle down for a bit, after a year of moving from country to country every month or so. We weren’t ready to give up on travel, but we wanted to give our son a chance to make some friends and establish some routines.

Rancho Xotolar (show-toe-lar) is an authentic, family-owned, working ranch just 18 kilometers from the center of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This 1250-acre ranch is set amid pristine rolling pastures and dramatic canyons – all adjacent to the newly opened pre-Columbian archaeological site of Cañada de la Virgen. The Morín family has lived and farmed Rancho Xotolar for six generations and now welcomes guests to experience ranch life that is untouched by modernization.

Taking a cooking class in San Miguel de Allende is not only a great way to learn a little about Mexican culture and cuisine, it’s also a lot of fun. You’re often introduced to new flavors and ingredients that you aren’t familiar with and shown new methods or techniques that you can’t wait to put into practice in your own kitchen. You can look forward to meeting some locals and other travelers, sharing a meal, and perhaps making some new friends. Best of all, you get to take the recipes and your new found knowledge back home with you. What could be a more perfect souvenir?

Founded in 1542, the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage site within Mexico’s hilly central highlands, about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City. Known for the beauty of its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant art scene, cobblestoned streets, and eternal spring-like weather, it’s hard not to fall in love with this charming and picturesque city. Many do. In their November 2013 issue, Condé Nast Traveler named San Miguel #1 in their Reader’s Choice Awards for Top 25 Cities in the World.

Situated 14 km outside of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, you’ll find the sleepy hamlet of Atotonilco (ah-toe-toe-NEAL-co). As you enter the town, you’ll be greeted by a statue of Miguel Hidalgo and an unremarkable whitewashed church. The simple exterior of the church, known as El Santuario de Atotonilco (Sanctuary of Atotonilco), belies the unexpected Baroque gem found within.

I came across a brief article today on the Past Horizons website noting that archaeologists at the site of Tehuacan in Puebla, Mexico believe they’ve identified a mid-fourteenth century shrine to the Aztec god Mictlantecuhtli (pron. Mict-lan-te-cuht-li) or ‘Lord of the Land of the Dead’.

Just last night I wrote a post about hosting my first Dia de los Muertos celebration, so I’d already been thinking about Mexico’s deeply rooted views that life and death are fundamentally interconnected.