It's almost impossible to peel away from Santa Fe. The sights and colors here connect me to the earth with every breath I take. There is a level of spirituality that is piqued here, as if the soul transcends to new heights and intentions by the way of the land. One can't help but feel closer to God here. The stunning landscapes are a constant reminder of the universe's ominous power and how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Yet I was constantly propelled to ponder on my own big purpose in this realm and how to progress it into a more meaningful one.
At 7,500 feet high this capital in "The Land of Enchantment" will literally take your breath away. For some, this shortness of breath will be due to the height of the city and for others the shallow breathing and fastening heartbeats will arise from the overwhelming beauty that awaits at every turn. Luckily, none of us got struck with altitude sickness. I attribute this avoidance to driving over, allowing our bodies to slowly acclimate to the increasing altitudes.
On a daily basis we were mesmerized by art galleries, outdoor sculptures, chili peppers, adobe homes, friendly faces and a consistent perfectly blue sky, all surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Calling Santa Fe picturesque would be a disservice. Enchanting is totally acceptable.
Santa Fe Plaza
The Plaza, known as the heart of the city, is a National Historic Landmark in downtown Santa Fe. The Plaza, as it did four hundred years ago, hosts Spanish and Native American markets with artisans showcasing their handmade crafts. Unlike other cities, like NYC, where there is often a divide between Latinos and Whites, Santa Fe authentically embeds Spanish and Native American cultures and traditions into its' every being from architecture to food and everything in between. The embracing of the cultures is part of what gives this city so much flavor and beauty. You can get lost strolling around for hours in The Plaza's many stores, restaurants, and galleries.
The Rainbow Man
While The Plaza has an infinite variety of note worthy galleries and shops that are strikingly beautiful, The Rainbow Man's store especially caught my eye. From the moment I entered this space, my mind wandered into imaginative desires of redecorating our home back in New York City. Everything is thoughtfully laid out from start to finish. The large, colorful courtyard is the highlight of the space. We spent quite some time out there admiring the selection. I couldn't resist buying something to ship back home but unfortunately the shipping was outrageously priced and the salesperson made it a point to mention that they don't cover any damage in transition. Bummer. This was the first place on our entire road trip that made me want to actually buy something and spend money on materialistic goods.
For our accommodations, we rented Hacienda Rose through the Two Casitas rental agency. We couldn't be happier in this bright, well-stocked, stone throw away from Canyon Road, adobe home. Every day I noticed a new detail that added to the charm and comfort of this beautiful home. No corner was overlooked with authentic Santa Fe touches. Our middle child loved having his own, private casita a few steps away from the main house. During these two weeks he lived like a little bachelor with his own bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and even a private courtyard. As a middle child he rarely gets privacy so this was the ultimate experience for him. We were absolutely in love with the neighborhood and have had serious discussions about relocating here. There is a bit more research to do about what daily life is like here for locals, and still a lot to experience on our road trip, but Santa Fe has us contemplating a completely new life filled with nature, art, amazing food, gorgeous adobe homes, interesting people and an overall slower and more simplistic lifestyle.
Santa Fe has the highest concentration of artists and Ph.D.'s. Almost 40% of its' economy is derived from culture and the arts. These statistics are obvious as you walk down Canyon Road, a small stretch jam packed with galleries that showcase talent for all to admire along sidewalks and outdoor patios. You'll never get bored roaming this road. We walked it as a family, I walked it with my children, I walked it with my daughter, I walked it with my son, I walked it alone. Each walk brought a new discovery and a higher level of creative inspiration.
The interior spaces of the galleries are beyond captivating. They are filled with vibrant collections of mostly local artists and are staffed by the warmest and most informative art collectors who were not thrown off by three young kids entering their space. In fact, they welcomed our children and engaged them with conversation and insights. Below are shots from GiacobbeFritz, Santa Klim, and Winterowd Fine Art, some of my favorite galleries on Canyon Road.
Santa Fe Railyard
Every Tuesday and Saturday morning the Santa Fe Railyard transforms into a farmers market with farmers showcasing their harvests. Rows of tables are filled with produce, baked goods and fresh flowers in this developing neighborhood that will soon be filled with shops and restaurants. There is a small movie theater in place and a great coffee shop, Sky Coffee, that is also up and running. This neighborhood will soon be one of Santa Fe's trendiest zip codes.
10,000 feet high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains lies the Aspen Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. Just once a year, in autumn, the Aspen Tree turns the brightest yellows and golds lighting up the mountains and never ending vistas. There are many trails here, some as long as eleven miles. We hiked for three miles and enjoyed breathtaking views, small creeks, and lookout points with Santa Fe in our field of vision, just 20 minutes away and 2,500 feet below us.
Bandelier National Monument
This national park does a wonderful job preserving hundreds of acres of land where the Pueblo people lived 600 years ago. Tucked into the Frijoles Canyons are several trails available for all levels. We opted for the 1.5 mile Pueblo Trail and added on the additional half mile to the Alcove Trail, totaling four miles. We mostly loved the engaging and interactive nature of this park. Visitors are able to climb ladders into "cavates", small hole like shelters dug into the side of the mountains, to get a small glimpse of what daily life was life for the Native Americans who called this area home. A highlight was ascending 140 feet via four sets of extremely steep ladders that ultimately lead to "The Alcove", once used as a ceremonial hall. I was especially proud of myself for conquering my fear of heights as I climbed these tall ladders. This hike is not only extremely educational but we found it to be thoroughly exhilarating as well.
Just over an hour drive from the city, lies a heavenly oasis smack in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The water is strikingly green with the most gorgeous backdrop of mountains and canyons surrounding the lake. We spent a solid forty-five minutes here just admiring this beautiful gift nature left for us to enjoy.
Hyde Memorial State Park
I was so proud of our kiddos for completing this four mile hike loaded with 855 feet of ascension. The Borrego-Bear Wallow-Winsor Triangle Trail is definitely not for beginners but the rewards are plentiful for all that are willing to push through. The terrain is a constant change of gorgeous scenery and hiking challenges with Little Tesuque Creek hugging along the paths and several narrow trails which will suddenly remind you of how high you are climbing.
Dale Ball Trails
The trails around Santa Fe never get repetitive, each offering a unique terrain and vantage point. We opted for the three mile trail enjoying the clay dirt shuffling beneath our feet while surrounded by cacti and stunning views of Santa Fe and the endless mountains in its' horizons. I was surprised to see signs that black bears live in the area. Those who know me know that bears are one of my biggest fears and that I stay away from anywhere they may roam. Oddly, I felt unaffected knowing they were lurking somewhere nearby. The soothing ways of Santa Fe worked its magic once again.
Something about the crisp morning air and natural surroundings of Santa Fe got me up and active again. Each morning I took a 3.5 mile walk soaking in the attractive sights around me. I often got lost as I took many detours following the roads that called to me. Thank goodness for GPS!
Following my walks I'd head over to The Tea House for a caffeine fix and some solitude by a nearby stream. This is a great, local café with a cute patio, great service and extensive menu. It's also a wonderful spot to take the kids for a treat and some one-on-one bonding time. Their Italian iced chocolate drink is to die for and the chocolate chip cookies are as large as your face, perfect for sharing! Other perks of this local favorite are the galleries you pass leading you to the host stand. There is always an artist, with his guitar, painting away blissfully right next door.
The food scene in Santa Fe is unbelievable. In our neighborhood alone there are dozens of well reviewed restaurants, many of which are run by award winning chefs. Every type of cuisine is available in this city but the typical Santa Fe cuisine is Mexican inspired and doused with chili peppers - just the way I love it!
This restaurant was recently voted as second best in Sant Fe. Boasting a spacious patio in the converted 350 year old adobe house, this is a great spot for authentic Santa Fe cuisine.
I am not quite sure how it took us a week to discover this bakery but once we did, we were hooked. The boulangerie is straight out of France with every patisserie you could ever dream of. Their lattes are perfect and their baked goods are heavenly. The French speaking staff adds to the charm and authenticity of this neighborhood favorite. I began each morning with a flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pain au chocolat and a creamy latte. Oh how I will miss this place.
El Farol is a delicious tapas restaurant on Canyon Road serving a variety of dishes with a Spanish twist. We opted for cheese croquettes, grilled artichoke, cauliflower bites, brussel sprouts, patatas bravas, vegetable paella and a grilled chicken dish. We devoured each and every bite, ordering some of the dishes for a second round. They have plenty of heaters for patio diners. The service is impeccable. The owner even stopped by to thank us for dining at his establishment.
Zagat considers Gabriel's as one of the best restaurants in America. From the moment we made the drive over, we knew something special was awaiting. This delectable, authentic Southwestern restaurant is a twenty minute drive from Santa Fe and took us through the most beautiful mountain views along the way that definitely piqued our appetites. The drive is a highlight in itself. Then we took our first bite, and the oohing and aahing began. Our son kept asking for a second visit here.
I added this establishment to our list as soon as I read that they serve the second best burrito in the country (who holds title for number one?). This busy restaurant has a great outdoor space and a wonderful menu selection. Of course, I ordered their infamous green chili burrito and can vouch that it is worthy of its' grand title. Stuffed with pinto beans and grilled onions and drenched in homemade green chili sauce, this monster sized burrito has earned it's accolades.
Santa Fe is truly a city that has everything you can ever ask for. It's population of roughly 85,000 people is a diverse one which mostly celebrates a lifestyle that is rich in culture and diversity, love of the outdoors, appreciation of a slower pace and a love for natural aesthetics that are woven into daily life. The age demographics tend to lean towards the older, post-retiree group with fewer families than other cities. Surprisingly, Santa Fe is also considered one of the most dangerous cities in the USA and noted as safer than only 6% of other US cities. I spoke to locals about this and they confirmed that while there is a lot of crime, it does not exist in the main hub or nearby beautiful "burbs" in the mountainous outskirts. It is hard to believe that somewhere outside this utopic haven exists a crime-ridden world. Our second time here and I have fallen even more deeply and madly in love with this special place in our magical country. Something tells me that we will be here again. See you later Santa Fe.