Tequila maker’s tour of San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (CNN) — Bertha González Nieves is perfectly at ease in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
The co-founder and CEO of Casa Dragones, a high-end tequila that counts Oprah and Mexican super-chef Enrique Olvera as fans, is sitting in the dappled light of the courtyard of La Casa Dragones. It's a 17th-century stone building that once housed the stables of the Dragones, the rebels of San Miguel who masterminded the move to Mexican independence here more than two centuries ago.
González Nieves and her business partner, Bob Pittman, were so inspired by the rebels' courage and independent spirit that they not only named their company after the Dragones but also purchased the stables and turned them into a stunning tequila tasting room and four-bedroom house where visitors can enjoy private tastings.
With its elegant stone patio and open-air tasting room, there is no better place in this picturesque colonial destination to while away the afternoon learning about tequila and the history of the rebels with a glass of Casa Dragones Joven sipping tequila in your hand.
While the tequila is made in Jalisco, González Nieves calls San Miguel the spiritual home of Casa Dragones. Like everyone else who walks the city's cobblestone streets, she was seduced by the warm ochre facades, jaw-dropping sunsets and San Miguel's rich history and culture.
Nestled in Mexico's central highlands, San Miguel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos, or "magic towns," a designation given to notable destinations where history, culture and natural beauty mix. Here that means a marvelous 16th-century cathedral, a historic mural by Mexican artist Davíd Alfaro Siqueiros and the kind of light that attracts photographers and painters to San Miguel in droves.
If you ask González Nieves her absolute favorite thing about San Miguel, she'll say it's the people. "I've had the chance to meet extraordinary people that are thought leaders, creative masters, curious minds," she says. "It's really the people who live here that bring this town to life."
So naturally, her personal travel guide on how to enjoy San Miguel starts with an afternoon of people watching.
At the center of San Miguel sits El Jardín, a neatly landscaped minipark flanked by the pink spires of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. You'll find yourself passing through the square 10 times a day in route to restaurants, galleries and shops on nearby streets, but one of González Nieves' favorite things to do is plunk down on a bench here and take in the scene.
"You can sit there for an hour with a coffee and just look at the people, or walk around and listen to the mariachis singing on the corner," she says. "Every single weekend there's something that's being celebrated -- a procession for this, a celebration for that -- there's not one dull moment here."
During the Day of the Dead festival in the fall, El Jardín is covered with elaborate ofrendas, or altars, decorated with orange marigolds to honor the dead. You can get your face painted in the square or buy a flower crown to join in the festivities.