When I first created Faithfully Irreverent, I considered making travel one of my main topics/categories. With the realities of COVID, I hardly wanted to make others wistful for the travel that they were not doing. As the pandemic has dragged on, I find myself fantasizing about one place in particular.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you’ve ever been to the Albuquerque airport and rented a car, the shuttle bus will gather you and boom a welcome message, “Welcome to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!” The message will repeat itself every time the doors of the bus reopen guaranteeing one’s annoyance at The Land Enchantment long before you leave the airport.
Here’s the thing…I don’t know a motto of any state that is more apt. There is something truly enchanting about the state. Part of it is the grandeur of the vistas and red rock formations endemic to the American Southwest. Duh, there is a reason Georgia O’Keeffe painted there. Part of the state’s mystique is its integrated blend of Hispanic, Anglo and Native American cultures. To be clear, I am not suggesting there isn’t historic or current conflict among these populations but there seems to be an overall respect for the diversity within the state. I have fond memories of Taos, Las Cruces and Chaco Canyon. That being said, I am going to focus on Santa Fe simply because it is the area that I know the best and have been to half a dozen times.
Top Places to Visit (in no particular order):
If you appreciate art, I recommend…
- Located off the Santa Fe Plaza (main center of historic Santa Fe), The New Mexico Museum of Art offers a revolving door of amazing exhibits and provides an excellent overview of the art of the American Southwest.
- Museum Hill which includes the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Santa Fe Botanic Garden.
- Santa Fe is such a mecca for artists that you can basically throw a rock and hit a private gallery. If you want to find many galleries concentrated in one area, try Canyon Road.
If you enjoy history, I recommend…
- Bandelier National Monument is the site where migrating wildlife brought nomadic hunter-gatherers. By 1150 CE, Ancestral Pueblo people began to build more permanent settlements by cutting into rock crevices. I am not sure that this is still true but they used to allow visitors some access via ladders into the settlements. Besides the history, Bandelier is one of the most beautiful places to take a snowy winter walk.
- Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis sits on the end of the Santa Fe Plaza. Built 1889-1886 in a French Romanesque Revival style, the basilica first seems incongruent with the rest of the adobe architecture in the plaza. That being said, it is a beautiful Church and it is definitely worth attending mass there.
- The relatively new New Mexico History Museum focuses on colonial and post-colonial history of the state. It seeks to “offer a welcoming place for exploration of multifaceted views on history, dialog that bridges social and cultural divides, and reflection on the conditions needed for a more resilient, just, and sustainable future.”
- Located about 25 miles (and almost an hour on bad roads) north of Santa Fe, is a cluster of plazas called Chimayó. Named in Tewa for a local monument, the soil of Chimayó is said to hold healing powers. The local shrine and chapel, El Santuario de Chimayó, is a pilgrimage site visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year seeking Christ’s healing. You are encouraged to cross yourself with the sacred soil while there. As you leave, make sure to eat at Rancho de Chimayó which has been owned by the Jaramillo family for generations. This warm, friendly restaurant helped put New Mexican cuisine on the international stage.
If you are a foodie, I recommend…
- Any first day in Santa Fe should include eating at the Blue Corn Café. Blue corn enchiladas. Green Chili Cheeseburger. Sopapillas with honey. Handcrafted margaritas and beer. How are you not hungry yet??!?!
- One doesn’t necessarily correlate trains and food but The Santa Fe Railyard is an entertainment, dining and shopping hub for the city. Besides some excellent food stalls available all the time, a real draw is the Saturday morning farmer’s market. With over 150 vendors, this market rivals some of the best markets in the country.
- The Cowgirl Café is kitschy and fabulous all at once. It’s basically BBQ and other calorie-laden, American comfort foods. However, times have changed because they also have a vegan menu listed online.
- Café Pasqual’s focuses on seasonal organic ingredients and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also sell yummy baked goods and local, handmaid gift items.
- To round off your personal Santa Fe Food Tour, you need to check out Kakawa (aka cacao). This unique chocolatier offers eight different flavors of drinking chocolate daily.
So, I would love to hear from my readers. What are your post-COVID travel fantasies these days?