When my sister and her husband moved from South Salem to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I felt a pang of envy.
By Cathy Donovan
When my sister and her husband moved from South Salem to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I felt a pang of envy. New Mexico has been a favorite destination of mine. This summer, I decided to take a trip back there. It was everything I remembered and more.
Santa Fe is at 7,200 feet above sea level, so the air is thin and crystal clear. The palette is both deep and rich: ochre, turquoise, and umber. The city is rustic yet sophisticated. At its center is the historic Plaza, where tourists flock to shop, dine, and hunt for bargains among the bright cloths set up by Native Americans displaying handmade silver and turquoise jewelry. Many narrow streets emanate from the Plaza with more shops showcasing the creative wares of this artistic city.
There is also another side of Santa Fe, one that I was fortunate enough to see courtesy of my sister and her husband, both painters. They took me off the Plaza, on an insider tour of Santa Fe and surrounding towns.
First stop was the Railyard, about a half-mile from the Plaza off Guadeloupe Street. We went on a Tuesday to the farmer’s market with open air stalls selling organic vegetables and local favorites like cinnamon pinion flatbread, made with nuts from the native pinion tree. Street musicians added to the festive atmosphere. The Railyard is a developing neighborhood with galleries, shops, and a large fine art film theatre to come. It’s hip and bustling and a fun spot for families.
Dining in Santa Fe runs the gamut from fine upscale restaurants to hole-in-the- wall neighborhood joints. One of the latter is the Tune Up Café. With funky décor and fabulous food, it doesn’t disappoint. Their salmon taco was one of the best I’ve had. For breakfast, indulge at Café Pasqual, a hip eatery right on Don Gaspar Street. They serve fine gourmet organic dinners in the evening, but the breakfasts are worth the wait on weekends. Try the griddled polenta with chorizo, or a short stack of whole-wheat pancakes, covered with fresh berries, all organic. The Vinaigrette on Don Cuberto Alley is also worth noting; entrée salads are ample and delicious, with interesting names like All Kale Caesar, the Beet Goes On, and the Nutty Pear-Fessor. Fresh, healthy, filling, and a hint of whimsy.
We traveled 45 minutes north to the charming small town of Abiquiú, where we toured the Ghost Ranch, home of one of New Mexico’s most famous residents, Georgia O’Keeffe. We left for the tour from the adobe Abiquiu Inn, which boasts lovely views. O’Keeffe’s house is worth the trip. It is a glimpse into the life of an inspired painter, as much at one with the landscape as with her canvases. Her home, like her work, is remote and stark, with a peaceful aura surrounding it.
O’Keeffe referred to Santa Fe as having a “veil of Catholicism” draped over it. We visited Chimayo, home to El Santuario de Chimayo, a Roman Catholic Church. Often called the Lourdes of the West, I was struck by its primitive beauty and many shrines depicting the miracles that occurred there. I went into the small room off the main altar, where devout followers scooped up handfuls of the sacred dirt and rubbed it on their hearts, faces, and hands. I admit I did it too, rubbing it on my knee!
Back in my hotel, the spare and quiet Hotel St. Francis on Don Gaspar just steps from the plaza, I was struck by its wonderful place and its beauty. Santa Fe is like a necklace, with many unusual and beautiful beads.
If you are looking for something different, a place that will enchant and stay with you long after you leave, Santa Fe — same planet, different world — may be it.