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Santa Fe and Taos: Art, Culture and the Great Outdoors

Author: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: September 2007

The next day started at 6 a.m. when I awoke to the sound of pouring rain. It continued unabated all the way through breakfast. We chatted a bit with Bob, one of the innkeepers (and a real cutie, if I may say so), and petted his dogs as we ate. On the menu: various cereals (some organic), organic milk, bread, yogurt and a nice selection of fresh fruit -- cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas, oranges, etc.

The rain was still pouring down when we got to Taos Pueblo, so we wandered around the muddy streets for a bit taking pictures from under our umbrellas. This pueblo was larger and prettier than the one we visited a few days before -- and its spectacular location in the shadow of Taos Mountain didn't hurt! We stopped to tour the lovely adobe church and wound up talking to a local named Lawrence, who was born and raised in the pueblo. He told us that the church was about 100 years old and was actually the youngest building in the pueblo. He and some other residents of the pueblo were currently working on installing new doors on the front of the church in time for their upcoming feast day on September 30.

The weather started to clear up and we even saw the sun for a bit as we poked around the rest of the pueblo. We spent a long time in one shop eyeing some really lovely Navajo pottery -- and I finally nabbed my first souvenir for myself, a vase that was brilliantly blue on top and had an intricate multicolored design on the base. We also checked out a few other galleries, which were all a bit more sophisticated than those at San Ildefonso -- which is both a good and a bad thing, I suppose.

We hit a weaving shop on the way out of town called Weaving Southwest. There were some pretty tapestries (very expensive) and unique yarns. Then we made a stop at the San Francisco de Asis church, just outside of downtown Taos -- it had a pretty adobe exterior, and was surrounded by yet more galleries.

The High Road to Santa Fe

Finally, we were on our way along the so-called "high road" between Taos and Santa Fe. Unfortunately the rain had returned, so the lovely scenery -- the road passes through Carson National Forest -- was all a bit sodden. The clouds and fog rolling over the mountains had their own sort of beauty, though.

The road took us through some very, very small towns before we reached Chimayo, which Mom was eager to see because of its weaving industry. First, however, we had lunch at the Rancho de Chimayo. To be honest, it was a total tourist trap. There are very few eateries in the area and this one is right down the road from a famous shrine (more on that later). The restaurant was packed with our fellow tourists chomping down on Southwestern staples like huevos rancheros and enchiladas. Mom and I both had the chicken fajita salad, which was tasty.

After lunch we proceeded to El Santuario de Chimayo, the aforementioned shrine. There's a little well in a chapel off the main sanctuary filled with "holy dirt" that's supposed to have miraculous healing properties. (Mom filled a bag with some to take home.) The place is apparently a major pilgrimage site -- think Lourdes on a smaller scale. I'm a bit of a skeptic about that sort of thing, but I couldn't help but be moved by some of the handmade shrines in the courtyard -- like a handwritten plea for a soldier to come home safely from Iraq, or a pair of child-size shoes affixed to a crucifix.

Afterward we stopped in several galleries in and around Chimayo before driving to Espanola, about ten miles west. Mom wanted to visit the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center to see some weavings and tapestries (she was a bit disappointed by the selection in Chimayo). The place was tricky to find but definitely worth it, at least for Mom; it's an education and community center, and she found very reasonable prices on yarn there.

And More Santa Fe!

Back in Santa Fe, we wandered up and down Canyon Road a bit in the drizzling rain. It was about 6 p.m., so everything was closed, but we were able to take pictures of colorful doorways and nifty sculptures. We grabbed a quick take-out dinner at our favorite spot, Wild Oats, and then checked back into the Super 8 for the night.

The next morning we went back to Canyon Road to explore a little more thoroughly. It's a seemingly endless street of one gorgeous gallery after another, each with exquisite works of art and charmingly colorful facades. Many also had sculpture gardens or flowerbeds. None of the art was in our price range, of course, but I basically treated each gallery like a museum and really enjoyed looking at the amazing stuff on display.

We left Canyon Road late in the morning and drove across town to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Parking was very difficult to find, but it was worth it to finally see her work up close and in person. Her colors truly seem to fly off the canvas. We also appreciated the little twelve-minute film about her life, which was captioned in nice big letters so that Mom, who has a hearing impairment, was able to follow it. The museum was a bit smaller than we expected, but we made up for lost time in the gift shop!

We ate lunch not far from the museum at the Cafe Paris, which was a bit overpriced but had a nice outdoor terrace. Mom and I both ordered quiche, which came with salad and potatoes.

Then we were off in search of an internet cafe where we could check in and print boarding passes for our Southwest flights the next day. We couldn't find one, but we were able to use the free internet access at the public library and print for only $0.10 a page.

We left Santa Fe around 3:00 and made our way back down the Turquoise Trail to Madrid again, where Mom wanted to visit a couple of weaving galleries. We spent at least an hour in town wandering from one gallery to the next.


We pulled into Albuquerque a little after 6:00 and made our way to the historic district. The main plaza there looks almost exactly like the ones in Santa Fe and Taos -- green in the center, surrounded by adobe buildings and gift shops, etc. When we arrived there was actually a little mariachi-style band playing for a small, mostly elderly/family crowd. We grabbed dinner right on the plaza at a place called Hacienda. I got a respectable taco salad and Mom had an excellent steak tampico.

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