Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the Heart of Santa Fe

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

It was chilly and still quite windy when we started the second day of our trip which meant the Sandia Peak Gondola Ride was out of the question, again! So we headed to the Plaza. The Plaza is the center of Santa Fe. It is where you will see the Palace of the Governors, which is the oldest public building in the United States. Native Americans artists sit under the portal of this landmark and sell handcrafted authentic artwork and jewelry. The other three sides house unique galleries, shops, and restaurants of Santa Fe.

We accepted a great parking place on W San Francisco Street which just happened to be directly across the street from the French Pastry Shop and Creperie. A perfect manifestation of food and an excellent way to start the day. We entered the very busy little shop to find an absolutely charming restaurant.

It is a self-seating establishment and there was one open table just waiting for us to get there! The menu with prices for everything is displayed on a huge chalkboard on the wall behind the cash register. We ordered tea and coffee as the waitress handed us the menu (sans prices).... But what the menu did say was NO CREDIT CARDS! Really good to know ahead of time....especially if you have recently visited Pojoaque!

A quick trip to the ATM in the lobby of the La Fonda hotel (attached at the rear) and we were back in the breakfast business! I couldn't decide between the quiche and the crepes, so asked the waitress what she would recommend...."we are known for our crepes" was her reply, so crepes it was....I had the Ratatouille (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, green-pepper) and my friend had the banana with whipped creme.

Have to say it was not what I expected...the portion was large and plain...I guess I expected small and elaborately decorated....but it was tasty and I would definitely eat there again. The shop was very crowded with a line out the door, so I did feel a little rushed to get out of there and let someone else experience the joy of crepes....

It was delightful to hear French being spoken in the dining room and it was definitely a lively way to start the day!

I enjoyed the movie "The Staircase" so I was hoping to see the Loretto Chapel while we were in town...There was a church at the end of the street so we walked in that direction...What we found was The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis.

According to santafe.org, Saint Francis Cathedral was built between 1869 and 1886 and designed in the French Romanesque Revival style. Although its design contrasts the surrounding adobe buildings, the cathedral remains one of Santa Fe's most celebrated landmarks. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI officially elevated the church to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Another beautiful accident! We got directions to the Loretto Chapel and went in search of the miraculous staircase.....

Around the corner and down the street, vendors were setting up in the courtyard of the Chapel....We had a nice conversation about Pistachio Nuts with a man selling small bags of them in several flavors....As this was the second or third time we encountered Pistachios being proclaimed "local", we just had to ask.....And we found out that the pistachios really come from Alamogordo.... but apparently close enough to be "local"!

The Loretto Chapel is a privately owned museum now....It offers a self-guided tour of the very small, but beautiful chapel with an audio recording of the events of the the miraculous staircase on a loop....It was crowded, but I enjoy the sacred space of the church and felt at peace even in the commotion of people coming and going.

Legend says that when the chapel was completed, there were no stairs up to the choir loft....Apparently, a ladder was typically used, but for modesty reasons this was not acceptable for the nuns. So the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man came to the Chapel looking for work. In no time at all the circular staircase was completed, without nails or center support structure and made completely with hand tools. He left without payment or explanation....The staircase has been the object of much speculation through the centuries...Don't you just love miracles!

We left the chapel and walked around the block to the plaza....on the north end is The Palace of the Governors. We read the bronze plaques and learned that this is the oldest public or governmental building in the United States. Santa Fe is also the oldest
European city west of the Mississippi.

Another fun fact I came across on this trip is that Santa Fe is the highest(in elevation) capital in the United States...I would have guessed Denver, being the "mile high city" and all, but Santa Fe has an elevation of 7260 feet...

In an out of several galleries made the trip to the Plaza feel complete and we were off to find the finest chocolatiers in the territory!
to be continued...

Does Anyone Know the Way to Santa Fe

Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed. ~Joseph Addison

We left Gorge Bridge feeling very satisfied with our choice to go down a two lane road, through miles of sagebrush to be awed by the power of a relatively small river, with nothing but time to work its magic.

Landscape is a great conversation starter and our conversation of the Rio Grande River meandered as much as the river itself, from its origin to the times past we have encountered it on other travels, and how it changes as it winds its way down to Mexico.

We took a left a couple miles west of the bridge and paralleled the river for a while....The wind was very gusty but the sage is tough and it hardly noticed as we or the wind passed by.

Just when we were about to turn around and go back to Hwy 64, we saw a sign for Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs....It was only a few more miles so we continued on down the tiny little lane that paralleled the Rio Grande.

Turning, left again onto Hwy 285, it wasn't long before we were in the more mountainous terrain that we had expected to find. Having never been to Ojo Caliente, we didn't know quite what to expect. We followed the sign down a tiny lane into a large, busy parking lot.

So this is Ojo....Wow, this place is an oasis, for sure! The buildings were beautiful, the landscaping was really inspiring and the water.... well, the water was HOT!

We arrived around 2:30in the afternoon and found the menu of services offered...My friend was not too keen on "public bathing" so we rented the private spa...We were assigned the hour from 4-5 PM. In the meantime, we wandered around the grounds which are absolutely beautiful and checked out the different waters available.

They have soda, lithium, iron and arsenic if I remember correctly....The private spa was small, but very nice. It backs up against a mountain of dirt and is open air. It had a small kiva and a couple of chairs with some desert plants along the edging. It was a very nice place to relax...

I absolutely adore water....Floating is the closest thing to becoming nothing that I have found...Blending in completely with all that is....everything is nothing and nothing is everything...Pure bliss!

Okay, if you can't tell, Ojo was wonderful. I will definitely go back....

If you have forgotten, we started the morning with the intention of going to Santa Fe...so 9 hours later we pushed on....we knew we would get there, eventually....or not....That's the great thing about these trips...they evolve and take on a life of their own.

We just enjoy the journey, taking whatever turn moves us, stopping wherever it feels right and staying for however long it takes to get the urge to move on...

We saw a sign for Espanola and knew we were headed in the right direction...What was it that we would see there? Don't know, but maybe someday we'll take a trip there!

We got caught up in traffic and before we knew it we were in Pojoaque (Po Wa' Kay). We saw a sign for the Cities of Gold Casino with an offer to win $500....Okay! We registered for the card and went through the motions to get our chance at $500. Well, we won $5 each and then felt obligated to give it back... by playing one of the many slot machines that was beckoning to us....

Word of warning....Slot machines are addictive....all the colors, sights, and sounds are there for a reason!

Hunger forced us to move on...I was hoping for something indigenous and exquisite, but because it was dark and getting late we drove on in to Santa Fe where we were familiar with a few restaurants.... Unfortunately, they didn't stay open for us...so dinner [(?)it was 11PM] was at Village Inn....

In the hotel lobby, I found several interesting brochures....Tomorrow would come soon enough and the adventure would continue!
to be continued

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On the Way to Santa Fe

“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt

Recently, we decided to get off the highway and in so doing, turned a 3 hour drive into a 10 hour adventure. Our intended destination was Santa Fe, New Mexico, but we got off Interstate 25 at Walsenberg, Colorado and went west on Hwy 160.

It was a blustery March day. The wind was rocking the car as we drove, and occasional gusts made it feel like we might take flight, but the sun was shining and we were on an adventure.

Up and over La Veta Pass, we dropped down into the San Luis Valley.

At this point in the trip we had a discussion as to whether we should go south at Ft Garland or wait until we reached Alamosa. We stopped for a short break in Ft Garland where we saw a sign for Taos and took a left.

We were in the middle of sagebrush heaven....Is it blue or white sage? Is purple sage another variety or is it called purple because when it blooms the prairie looks purple? Would it be possible for the troubled sage grouse of Northwestern Colorado to make a home in this vast expanse of sage?

Continuing down the road we came to a small village called San Luis. This town is the oldest in Colorado, having been established in April 1851. It is one of those "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of places, but now I have been there!

Taos was a bustling place at noon. We saw more hitchhikers in one town than I have seen in 20 years. After a quick look-see, we backtracked through town taking a left onto Hwy 64 following a sign to the Rio Grande Gorge. We drove a few miles across the flatest prairie you can imagine, wondering the whole time how a gorge would emerge when there wasn't even a hill in sight and then, there it was...Gorge Bridge, which won an award for the most beautiful long span steel bridge in 1966.

Vendors of various descriptions were lined up in the pullout taking up most of the parking area with folding tables displaying their wares....jewelery, pistachio nuts, pottery, and a big sign for eucalyptus oil.

We didn't have to walk far to see the gorge....Wow, it was a looooong way down there. Standing on the bridge was quite an experience when a semi-truck whizzed past us. The vibration was intense. what a wonderful experience...I love finding odd things just where you would never expect them!!!

to be continued....