The House of Mirrors & Other Holistico Things
I thought it unlikely we'd land in a place for our second week in San Miguel that we enjoyed as much as the paradise that was Casa Mandu.
But Casa de Los Espejos was such unique and substantially different experience, I think we'd have missed a part of the soul of San Miguel had we not found our way there.
Espejos is Mexican owned and operated, by a man whose grandmother was a healer and traditional Mexican herbalist. She is at the heart of everything Romulo Arbona has worked the past three years to create in his 4-room “holístico” bed and breakfast.
The inn itself is a traditional two-story Mexican home with large colorful rooms, a perfect reflection of all the colors that bring San Miguel to life.
This is not a U.S. style spa steeped in ayurvedic creams and green smoothies. Espejos' holistic approach comes in the form of organic ingredients used in simple, tasty traditional Mexican breakfasts, real cotton sheets (no small thing in this day of microfiber), natural bath soap that is glycerin rather than animal fat based -- better for the skin and better for the city’s rustic sewer system. It comes in the scent of air-dried sheets and towels, fresh cut flowers, fresh-squuezed orange juice, and organic, specially processed non-jitter inducing coffee.
I wasn't sure what mirrors had to do with healthy living or holistic healing (Case de los Espejos translates to House of Mirrors), so I looked up their symbolism. Mirrors represent spiritually, light, illumination, awareness and wisdom. They are, in essense, a spiritual symbol for truth. I believe the mirrors in Casa de los Espejos were indeed imbued with a needed kind of truth. Why? Because the truth is I'd been feeling felt rather down about signs of aging -- new wrinkles here and there. But whenever I caught sight of myself in one of the casa's mirrors, I suddenly felt beautiful, strong, perfect. And I really couldn’t help catching muself in the glass since there seemed to be large mirrors around every corner.
Romulo grows his own herbs, uses fruit from his garden when he can and offers guests homemade jams (one made of guavas, coconut and strawberries and the other based on the Jamaica flower) that he says are high in antioxidants and promote good digestion.
“Jams is our especialidad,” he told us. Our speciallty.
I have no idea if these claims are true. But I will say this, as is want to happen in Mexico, both Joe and I had a bit of digestive distress the week were at the Espejos. Usually a gut mite lasts several days. But ours seemed to get better awfully quick after eating those jams. The holistica in me 100 percent believes Romulo’s grandmother and thousands of others life-trained in medicinal herbs know what they are talking about. Also the Jamaica jam was a little gritty with a cranberry-like bite. In my experience with herbs for the childbearing years, that always mean “good for you.”
Beyond the jams, several days following breakfast I enjoyed a good long discussion with Romulo about diet and health and how cell phones are ruining us all and other topics which made me want to embrace his “holistica” approach and consider vegetarianism again (it’s a biannual thought for me).
Besides offering a really good rate for all this natural love’n, Romulo proved to be a hands-on host. On our first night, sewer gases unexpectedly eescaped into the air through the tub outlet in our first room. Romulo didn't send for staff to address this issue, he personally grabbed the apple cider vinegar and attacked the drain.
And then he upgraded our room from the ground floor Amethyst Room - which, by the way, was decorated in Amethyst colors as well as a having said stone on the hearth, a stone that according to the Greeks guards against drunkenness and instills a sober mind. We were moved upstairs to a two-story master suite whose name and rock I am sorry I don’t remember but I am sure positively impacted our health.
Our new suite included a lovely garden facing balcony for tea and a private top floor glass house where we could enjoy wine and cheese and stars at night and all the healing energy generated rising up from this awesome establishment.
Casa de los Espejos contracts with massage therapists and other healers for on-site sessions. I’m really really picky about massage therapy. I don’t recommend easily. But if you go to Casa de los Espejos, get the massage from Elsa. It was the bomb. Or maybe I should say the bloom in keeping with the casa’s holistic, healing spirit.
We were sorry not to get to try the authentic Mexican temazcal that Romulo has erected on the property. The temazcal sweat lodge dates back to the pre-Hispanic Indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica. Made of earth and heated by rocks, it was — and according to Romulo still is — used to purify the body, heal the sick, improve health, and birth babies (although to date, Romulo reports that no one has been born in his temazcal).
The experience of staying at Casa de los Espejos could not have been any more opposite from our time at Casa Mandu (although both houses date a century or more).
And yet each represented an important aspect of San Miguel de Allende. In Casa Mandu we felt the freedom and friendliness of the expatriate spirit here and the strong community it has built alongside the Mexican people. At Casa de los Espejos, we found ourselves surrounded with the incredible kindness, graciousness and openness of the Mexican people themselves. The staff in both places were incredibly cheerful and genuine.
From the first “Buenos dias” we received in the mornings, our days felt launched into kindness and community. Each “Hola!’ or “Buenos Dias” or “Buenos Tardes” or “Buenos Noches” directed as us (and just about every person on the street offered one of these greetings), felt sent from the heart. With a smile. With eye contact. I’ve never felt that sort of instant and warm welcome. The truth is I hardly know my neighbors and often we barrel by each other without so much as lifting our heads from our cell phones to make way for each other.
What I loved about Romulo (and also about our first host, Ruth) was an incredible enthusiasm for LIVING.
For Romulo and his staff a good life means living his passion for holistic eating and healing modalities. Even if some of his ideas felt a little far-fetched for us (and I could tell Joe was itching to whip out Google with one or two claims), Romulo was infectious. He was so eager to talk about his work and his future dreams and excited to point out every earth-medicine-based decor or comfort he’s integrated into his B & B (those sheets for example and aroma-infused mattresses).
The snobby gringo perfectionist in me might have pointed out that the plush blankets that covered the 100 percent cotton sheets on each bed were 100 percent polyester, but honestly, I didn’t have the heart.
I mean, technically, they weren’t touching skin, right?
Bottom line: I've been to been a lot of spas in my life; worn a lot of white robes; covered myself in healing mud. And spent a sad lot of money doing these things. Romulo's retreat felt so much more real, down-to-earth, and well, REAL. It felt livable. I have a feeling we'll be back.