Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest capital city in the United States. It is located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, part of the southern Rocky Mountains. The city lies on the edge of the 320,000 acre Santa Fe National Forest, which features endless opportunities for hiking, skiing, fishing, mountain biking, river rafting, horseback riding, hunting and camping. There are over 200 art galleries and twelve museums in Santa Fe.
My wife and I reached the enchanting Inn of the Five Graces in the early evening, in time for the nightly guest social featuring fresh fruit, imported cheeses and several interesting wines. We went upstairs to unpack and were delighted with our accommodations. Our suite featured a king-sized bed, two TVs, full kitchen, loads of closet space, comfortable sitting area and a large bathroom. Upon closer scrutiny of our antique wooden headboard, I realized that the carvings and figures were straight out of the Kama Sutra. That was a travel first. Shortly after getting into our room, chips, salsa and margaritas were delivered. The fully stocked refrigerator was filled with complimentary goodies including cheeses, pate, health bars, chocolate treats, juices, water and soda (the inventory is checked and supplemented daily). We enjoyed a quiet and restful evening.
Our agenda the next day included three items: time to explore the Inn of the Five Graces, a visit to the historic Santa Fe Plaza and a cooking class at the Santa Fe Cooking School. We started our day in the quiet courtyard, enjoying the Inn’s continental breakfast of baked breads, muffins, platters of fresh fruit, yogurt, hot coffee and tea and chilled crystal carafes of juices. The Inn of the Five Graces is an intimate and charming place, located within easy walking distance of the Plaza and Canyon Road. There are twenty-two guest suites, spectacularly decorated, each with hidden nooks and crannies. The grounds are lush. This is a very romantic and private getaway and nice touches abound. The name itself suggests homage to sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
The Inn of the Five Graces
After breakfast, we walked a few blocks to the Santa Fe Plaza. Each day a lottery is held and 80 lucky vendors, out of 4000 registered, lay out their blankets and display their wares in front of the Palace of the Governors in the Plaza. The art and jewelry is authentic and all the pieces are one of a kind. The sellers are proud of their artwork and eager to discuss every item. Restaurants, shops and galleries line the perimeter of the Plaza and each charming side street features more wondrous discoveries.
On the Plaza
In the late morning, we strolled one block from the Plaza to the Santa Fe Cooking School. Sessions are offered several times a week and include traditional New Mexican, Native American, Mexican, Spanish, vegetarian and contemporary Southwestern cuisine. We chose the Native American class. We watched, took careful notes and enjoyed the running commentary as the chef prepared a meal for the attendees: spicy corn soup, stuffed quail with squawberry sauce, squash fry with sunflower seeds and a pinon chocolate torte with prickly pear sauce. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Santa Fe. After class, there was time to browse in the gift shop for spices, sauces, cookbooks and kitchen gear.
Dessert at the Santa Fe School of Cooking
The next day, we drove to the Bandelier National Monument, one of the premier Native American archeological sites. This area was first settled during the late 1100s by the Anasazi. We hiked the Tsankawi Trail, led by a San Ildefonso Pueblo tribal leader who delighted us with stories and reminiscences, as he pointed out ancient petroglyphs and pictographs along the way. The area we hiked is a spiritual place, invoking primordial stirrings of time and space; one feels a strong connection to the earth and sky. The trail loop is only 1.5 miles, but plan on spending at least two hours because the hike involves some climbing, including a 12 foot ladder and some narrow spots. It is well worth the effort. The views are spectacular.
Views from the Tsankawi Trail at Bandelier National Monument
Later that afternoon, we found time to visit the New Mexico State Capitol, where they have a permanent public display of contemporary New Mexican artists, featuring outdoor sculpture, basket and textile weaving, and handcrafted furniture, along with contemporary masterworks in oil and watercolor. We discovered two wonderful galleries on our walk back to the Inn of the Five Graces. The Rainbow Gate is a clay studio and gallery. They offer beautifully decorated, hand painted ceramic plates, cups, pitchers, bowls, teapots and vases. The store is alive with vibrant colors and interesting shapes.
Rainbow Gate Clay Studio and Gallery
Our next find was the Pena Gallery. Amado Peña is recognized as an Artisan of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. At the studio, we fell in love with a painting, “One Went East” by H. Marie Hall. Although of Cherokee descent, her influences are from the Hopi, Navajo and Zuni cultures.
We couldn’t leave Santa Fe without visiting world famous Canyon Road. When we asked for directions and how long the walk was, the response was, “A ten minute walk can take two weeks.” We were about to learn what that meant. Santa Fe is the second largest art market in the USA, trailing only New York City. There are over 100 art galleries and studios, along with restaurants and unique shops lining both sides of this ¾ mile long stretch of road. From crafts to textiles, watercolors, oils and sculptures, all forms of art are found along this amazing street. Truly, you could see how it would take two weeks to look at everything. Given the incredible panoply of art on Canyon Road, it is rightfully referred to as the “Art and Soul of Santa Fe.”
Where to Eat in Santa Fe
Santa Fe has an extraordinary range of restaurants worth visiting. It is a foodie’s delight. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill is a short walk from the Plaza. I instantly fell in love with this place and it wasn’t just for the food. The owner, Bob Weil, like me, is from St. Louis and we discovered that we went to the same schools in Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. It was amazing that our paths would cross in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This cozy, inexpensive and family friendly spot specializes in fresh and healthy food. Their menu, best described as an eclectic blend of California, Nuevo Mexican and Southwest flavors, includes vegetarian dishes, burritos, salads, fajitas, fish and lamb. My favorite was the chicken, marinated overnight in a secret chile rub and roasted over an open flame rotisserie using a self-basting process. There is also a terrific salsa bar. Log on to www.bumblebeesbajagrill.com or call 1-505-820-2862 for locations and information.
Maria’s is known world-wide for one thing: margaritas. They make over 100 different types. However, there is much more to Maria’s. The dinner menu contains over thirty items, including fajitas, steaks, soups and salads, and traditional New Mexican dinners. It’s been around since 1952, is moderately priced, and is a favorite of locals and their families. Don’t miss their Kalua fudge pie. Log on to www.marias-santafe.com or
Mucho Gusto is a real family affair. Chef and owner Alex Castro is helped by his sons, George and Alex, Jr. This unpretentious, moderately priced restaurant features authentic Mexican food including soups, salads, and main dishes that are lovingly prepared and well presented in this bright, cheery local hangout. The margarita pie is sensational. They can be reached at 1-505-955-8402.
315 is an award winning restaurant, blending a French Provençal style with attention to Southwestern tastes. The chef is also the owner and that makes for an inspired menu and close attention to the food and presentation. 315 has an outstanding wine list and, from time to time, offers wine tastings and special prix-fixe dinners. Their website is www.315santafe.com and phone number is 1-505-986-9190. Make reservations.
ChocolateSmith is a very dangerous place for chocolaholics. They create one of a kind, original handmade specialties in dark chocolate, made with organic ingredients and often with local flavors such as cactus, chili, ancho and pinon. My favorite is their unique chocolate for backpackers and travelers. The founding partners came up with the idea of “waterproof chocolate.” First they prepare a pate of bittersweet ganache that is formed and hand dipped in multi-colored wax. To eat the chocolate, just slice a wedge, peel the outer layer and you’re ready to enjoy; not only waterproof, but it won’t melt. You won’t be disappointed with an excursion to ChocolateSmith. Their pates are sensational, but also try their various flavored bark and hand dipped confections. They are generous with samples. Ask about wine pairings and chocolate for a real education. Hint: it’s a great spot to pick up gifts for your friends and family. Call 1-888-473-2111 or go online to www.choclatesmith.com.
ChocolateSmith’s “Waterproof Chocolate”
Santa Fe Travel Information and Websites
Many thanks to the following websites and organizations for the information provided in the story:
Order the Visitors Guide published by the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau. Log on to www.santafe.org
It’s a splurge for most budgets, but the Inn of the Five Graces is one of my all time favorites. The service, ambience and attention to detail is flawless. For reservations and/or information, log on to www.fivegraces.com or call 1-505-992-0957.
The Santa Fe School of Cooking features some of the best chefs in Santa Fe. It is entertaining, educational and the meal is great. Call 1-800-982-4688 or 1-505-983-4511 or look at their website, www.santafeschoolofcooking.com.
The Pena Studio and Gallery is located off the Plaza. Toll free at 1-888-220-7362 or 1-505-820-2286 and online at www.penagallery.com.
Rainbow Gate Clay Studio Gallery is a fanciful, one of a kind, make-you-smile sort of place. Go online at www.rainbowgate.com or call 1-505-983-8892.
Information regarding the Canyon Road Galleries can be found online at www.canyonroadarts.com. Ask for their Wingspread Guide, which includes a map that contains all of the businesses along the “Art and Soul of Santa Fe.”
Located less than 15 miles outside of Santa Fe, the Tsankawi Trail in Bandelier National Monument is administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Reminder: wear appropriate shoes, bring water and sunscreen and remember that you are at 6,000 feet elevation. Find more information online at www.wnpa.org.
The Post Office has a wonderful product for travelers who shop (and you WILL buy something, somewhere in Santa Fe). It is a flat rate box that allows you to “shop and ship.” Mail purchases back home; the cost is only $8.10 for any weight. The box measures 12 x 3.5 x 13.5 and, believe me, it can be stuffed with a lot. It’s a great value.
Over the years, I’ve used “Plane Quiet,” a noise canceling product from Pro Travel Gear. Recently, they introduced “Solitude,” a newer technology. The headset, weighing about 8 ounces, effectively blocks ambient noise and has ergonomically designed, comfortable ear cups. It provides me with a cocoon of quiet when I fly. I highly recommend the product. To view “Solitude” and their entire product line, including a wide variety of travel supplies, electronics and children’s travel accessories, go to their website at www.ProTravelGear.com.
Solitude Noise Cancelling Headphones
Enjoy the journey….