Okay…I am feeling a bit stumped as to how I can write about my first visit to Santa Fe and have it not go on for thousands of words. After all, it was my first visit and, as I am known for, I went with friends who grew up in that area, aka, recent locals. Ah, and of course I can’t leave out that I stayed a night and a couple of days with my dear friend Val who also grew up there and is living there again full-time! Oh boy…talk about the local hook-up. Well, here we go…come along with me please, as I count the ways I love Santa Fe.
To begin, Santa Fe is a great destination for reaching via road-trip and that is how I arrived in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. The ride down was with my dear friends Manda Morris and her younger brother Chris. He was in from Costa Rica to attend a special family event with Manda and other family members in Taos. So we hit up on Taos for a few nights (which I’ll write about soon as well, so check back in for that post) and from there we continued on to magical Santa Fe. Traveling with the Morris siblings was great! Not only are they a hoot and a guaranteed time of laughter, but they pointed out all along the way places that hold dear childhood memories for them and gorgeous views of the Rio Grande Gorge. We took the scenic back-road route from Taos to Santa Fe, which was composed of that dry, desert terrain, dotted with sand pines, shrubs, and rolling hills and towering mountains. About half-way there, we stopped at the small village of Chimayo to buy chiles and rubs (which was quite the sales experience with a local vendor) and to visit the famous sanctuario there that is known for the power of healing. It was remarkable to see the array of art all around and captured in every detail of even the old, historic architecture. From windows to benches, everything was paid attention to in precious detail, as if it were a piece of art. Thus transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and appreciated for years to come.
In Santa Fe we enjoyed great places to eat such as La Choza, which is the sister restaurant to an older restaurant called The Shed. One is in the center and frequented more by tourists, whereas the location that we had dinner at is in a random neighborhood on the outskirts of the center and the place where the locals tend to go. It was delicious! In the five days I was in Santa Fe and Taos, I filled up on my share of New Mexican food, with everything from enchiladas to tamales to huevos rancheros for breakfast. Mmmm…it makes me hungry again just writing about it! My friend Val showed me places that are well-known in Santa Fe, like Evangelo’s Cocktail Lounge which is run by a local guy whose father was in World War II. You can tell from the decor that they honor the sacrifices made by so many of our service men, both past and present.
Then she took me to a fantastically unique and fun spot called Kakawa Chocolate House. That’s right! You read that correctly…the word chocolate is in there. This adorable little cafe-style shop specializes in the tradition of authentic and historic drinking chocolates. Have you ever seen the movie “Chocolat“? If you haven’t, you need to…go do it right now, once you finish reading this. Well, this place reminded me of that movie. We enjoyed drinking a chocolate elixir that was made with almond milk, rose oil, and some other amazingly delicious and exotic ingredients that I cannot remember now. It was intoxicating and so preciously good for the soul and the body. The people working behind the counter were great fun and kind, helping me learn about what I was drinking. To top off the sweetness, I bought one of their amazing baked goods…a gluten-free brownie that was dark chocolate, rose, almonds…Val described it best…it was a chocolate brownie on crack! We nursed that brownie for the next couple of mornings with coffee…talk about a wonderful way to wake up and start the day.
I walked all over Santa Fe and loved the bright vibrancy of the decor and architecture. Throughout the world, this town is famous for its art and some of the most beautiful art I found it to display is that of nature. Everywhere I went, there were flowers overflowing…from baskets and pots onto benches and wrapping around trees and light posts, the flowers and ivy made itself right at home with human civilization. That is what is so inspiring and neat about this desert area of the US…even the homes are designed and built to blend into the land and nature, to not change or alter it, but to collaborate and live with nature.
My last morning in Santa Fe, I enjoyed a leisurely morning strolling. The town-center was serenely quiet and the morning air was cool and crisp, feeling so refreshing to be outside in. Everywhere I went, the new-day light of the sun cast everything in a pristine shine and glow…I look back now and see that Santa Fe was giving me a loving send-off, while at the same time enticing me to return one day. Well I have to say…Santa Fe must know me, because after several cups of coffee and with a starving stomach, I came across the European-style French cafe, Chez Mamou. If there’s any way to entice me to stay in a place, it’s to appeal to my love of Europe and European sensibilities. As soon as I walked into the lovely shop that shares space with an exquisite jewelry gallery, I heard a robust lovely voice from the back calling out to me, “bonjour!”. I was at home. Enjoying a delectably fresh omelette and more coffee, I got to meet and talk with one of the owners who told me that they opened only last fall. They really won me over, though, when at the end of my breakfast, they brought over to me a special treat, compliments of the chef. It was a freshly made strawberry macaroon, complete with endearing hearts of home-made strawberry jam. The ensemble on the plate seemed to smile up at me, as you can see in the photo. Ah…the French…and now the French in Santa Fe.
To give my heartfelt gratitude back to Santa Fe and in hopes of returning soon one day for another visit, I spent my last moments walking the labyrinth. This ancient, meditative practice, come alive in art-form, is located in front of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, which is the landmark of the town-center of Santa Fe. A couple of days earlier, I had the serendipitous fortune of witnessing a mass procession, or procession of a saint, that the Catholic Church was conducting there. I am not Catholic, but I appreciate the traditions of different cultures and expressions of faith found all throughout the world. On this last morning in this enchanting desert town, I centered my thoughts on myself and my life, past, present and future, as I enjoyed purposefully and meditatively walking the labyrinth. I like to believe that it enabled me to depart with me some of that Santa Fe magic that I have experienced first-hand now. I found this powerful part of the world, so willing to give to all who open their hearts to experience it through all their senses. My words of advice to leave you with are, experience Santa Fe through the locals.
***I want to give a special thanks to Billie Frank, a Santa Fe native, who after I originally posted this on Facebook, contacted me to kindly let me know of corrections: I had originally referred to the sanctuario in Chimayo as a cathedral and La Choza was referred to incorrectly in regards to its relationship to it’s older restaurant, The Shed. Billie, thanks for the great corrections! I always welcome it and am grateful that you appreciated my writing and the story.
To enjoy more images of my time in Santa Fe, visit my online album: How I Love Santa Fe