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...

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