New Mexico is officially known as the “Land of Enchantment.” My wife and I were to discover that this description is not an exaggeration. We were inspired and educated by the history, culture, art, architecture and the people, past and present. Taos was first settled around 900 AD by ancestors of the Taos Indians. Two of its present villages, Pueblos Taos and Picuris, were inhabited by the Pueblo Indians one hundred years later.
Rio Grande River at the Pueblo
In the mid 14th century, the first European explorers, the Conquistadors of Coronado’s expedition, found their way to Taos while searching for gold. During the next 400 years, the region was a crossroads of activity. Spaniards, Plains Indians and Mexicans passed through, settled, traded and eventually were driven out by the western expansion of American settlers. In the 1800s, mountain men headquartered there and by mid-century Kit Carson moved to Taos. After the Mexican-American War, the U.S. took possession of the area which also included Arizona and part of Colorado and it became the Territory of New Mexico. In 1912, New Mexico earned its statehood status. Shortly thereafter, Mabel Dodge Luhan, the first of many patrons of the arts in Taos, urged artists, writers and intelligentsia to settle there. Those who joined her make up an impressive “Who’s Who?” of 20th century artists. The mind boggling array included Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe, Thornton Wilder, Thomas Wolfe and Nicholas Fechin. They began an art colony tradition that remains alive and flourishing today.
The home and studio of the Russian artist émigré, Nicholas Fechin, was built between 1927-1933 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also home to the Taos Art Museum, featuring over 300 various works of art by 50 Taos artists. The house and studio also contain Fechin’s art, including ornately decorated doors, doorways and cabinets that he carved.
Fechin House Museum
The Taos Chamber of Commerce had created an itinerary for us (a definite perk for a travel writer) that included stops at theTaos Pueblo, St Francis of Assisi Church, the Martinez Hacienda, the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Kit Carson Museum and, of course, the Historic Taos Plaza. Over our three day stay, we also visited the Taos Art Museum, Fechin House, Kit Carson Park, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, plus several local art studios and galleries. Fortunately, we were there during the Spring Arts Festival and were able to attend receptions at the Kilborn Gallery and the Taos Gallery Association.
On our departure day, we traveled via the spectacular 70 mile “High Road” to Santa Fe. We stopped at the historic town of Chimayo to sightsee and shop. The villagers are famous for their weaving and production of Chimayo red chili. It is estimated that 300,000 pilgrims flock there each year to pray at El Santurio de Chimayo, a healing shrine which was built
between l8l4 and l8l6.
Rio Grande Gorge
Pick up a copy of The Historic Taos Self Guided Walking Tour, put on your walking shoes and wander through the Historic District and Taos Plaza. There are over 65 galleries, shops and restaurants. Make certain to visit the Millicent Rogers Museum, Mabel Dodge Luhan House and one of my favorite places to buy art, the Stephen Kilborn Gallery. Drive to the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, 1200 feet long and 660 feet above the Rio Grande. When you are finished enjoying the view, shop at the roadside stands for authentic Indian/Southwestern art and jewelry. Bargaining is acceptable. Then head to Arroyo Seco and visit the Fidget Gallery, an enticing spot to buy unusual and fanciful items. The Taos Pueblo is a must. Made entirely of adobe, the structure is actually individual homes built side-by-side and in layers, with common walls but no connecting doorways. Approximately 150 Native American Pueblos live there full time. Pottery, crafts and silver jewelry are made by local artisans and sold at the curio shops within the Pueblo.
Where to Eat and Drink in Taos
For lunch or dinner try Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery. It is an award winning restaurant and the oldest operating brew house in New Mexico. Order either the buffalo burger or Wanda’s Green Chile Stew. Make certain to have a rainbow (flight/sampler) of their beers. Drop into the Kachina Lodge for a nightcap and listen to the Singin’ Cowboy, Alan Fremont. It’s a hoot. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on the Plaza features an unusual array of hand dipped chocolates. Although part of a chain, the store adds local flavor with its use of chilies and pinon in their chocolates, fudges and brittles.
A Rainbow of Beer
Thanks to the following organizations and websites for the background provided for this story:
The Fechin Inn offers comfortable rooms with an expansive great room/lobby area, including an ever blazing fireplace. A generous breakfast buffet is included in the reasonable rates. Sit in the spa under the stars and don’t miss a visit to the artist’s home on the grounds. It is an easy walk to Taos Plaza. Call 1-505-751-1000 or go online to www.fechin-inn.com.
The Taos County Chamber of Commerce can be reached at 1-800-732-TAOS (8267) or online at www.taoschamber.com. For a free vacation guide and the Self Guided Walking Tour of 20 Historic Taos Landmarks, call 1-888-953-8277 or log on to www.taosguide4.com. Information concerning all the galleries and events in Taos can be found at www.taosgalleryassoc.com. For a map of the area, go to www.taosnews.com.
The Museum Association of Taos was formed in 1996, linking the Taos Art Museum & Fechin House, Blumenschein Home & Museum, Millicent Rogers Museum, Harwood Museum of Art and La Hacienda de los Martinez. Log on to www.taosmusems.org.
The Millicent Rogers Museum of Northern New Mexico has one of the foremost collections of Southwestern art in the world. This fascinating collection includes Native American jewelry, ceramics, painting, textiles, weaving, sculpture and Kachina dolls, all displayed in an historic adobe house. Call 1-505-758-2462 for their schedule or log on to www.millicentrogers.org.
For over one thousand years, the Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited. It is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. See www.taospueblo.com.
Fidget in Arroyo Seco is a unique gallery featuring hand painted pillows, linens, wall hangings and framed artwork by Alison Traister. Just seven miles from the Plaza, it’s worth a special trip. Call 1-505-776-1900 or go online to see samples of their “functional and non-functional” art. www.fidgetgallery.com
The Stephen Kilborn Gallery features oils, watercolors and pottery by the artist. Kilborn’s studio, 17 miles out of town, is also open daily and one can see how his pottery is created, decorated and fired. Call Kilborn Galleries at 1-800-853-2433 or log on to www.stephenkilborn.com.
Kilborn’s 2005 Award Winning Celebration of the Arts “Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Mountain”
Southwest Airlines offers low fare service into Albuquerque. Southwest’s website is very user friendly (as is the airline). Sign up online for “Ding,” www.southwest.com, and you will receive daily money saving specials throughout their route system. Taos is approximately 150 miles northeast of Albuquerque and is an easy drive.
Race Quiet is designed for auto racing fans. The headset, actually ear buds, provides 42 decibels of noise reduction, allowing race car enthusiasts at the track to protect their hearing. The patented noise reduction technology features high quality audio reproduction. It is compatible with most portable electronic devices including iPods, is convenient to carry, wear and pack and can be utilized at any noisy sports venue. I use mine regularly to listen to my CD player on trips and on walks. For further information contact www.racequiet.com.
Finally, read any of Tony Hillerman’s mysteries to get a flavor of Native American cultural and mystical life in New Mexico.
Enjoy the journey….