Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What a Daydream! . . . or, My Favorite New Mexico Locations, vol 1.

A number of years ago, circa 2004, while Andrew and I still lived in the greater Boston area, and before Olivia was a twinkle in our eyes, I started watching the Travel Channel. There was a particular show that had caught my attention, and I was absolutely fascinated with it. It was called Great Hotels and was hosted by a charming Samantha Brown.

Now the reason I was so captured by this show was because Samantha would spend time in these fabulous destinations, many of which were places I, too, wanted to visit and explore. She would go off on all these adventures, and she always looked like she was having such a great time. Plus, she stayed in these beautiful, luxurious hotels that I more or less could only daydream about.

One of these locations was Santa Fe, NM. I had always wanted to go there. It is such an old, stately, artistic town, the capital of New Mexico, rich in its long history, distinctly Spanish, Native American, Mexican, American, and yet, a combination of all of these, the sum of which is uniquely Santa Fean. I longed to go there. And after seeing Samantha Brown's Santa Fe episode, it was definitely at the top of my "Places to Visit if We Ever Get a Chance" list.

First of all, I already loved New Mexico. As a young girl with family in El Paso, TX, I had spent a lot of time in southern New Mexico. El Paso, after all, wasn't too far away from the Land of Enchantment. We'd spend hours upon fun-filled hours on day-trips in southern New Mexico - at White Sands National Monument, just outside Alamogordo, and Mesilla, which is just outside Las Cruces. (I'll spend time talking about adventures to these places another day.) Plus, I have a fun memory of a long-weekend my grandparents, a cousin, and I had at the Inn of the  Mountain Gods in Mescalero, NM, just outside of Ruidoso (again, a topic for another day).
And then in 2006, Andrew and I found out we would be stationed in Alamogordo. I was SO excited. We'd be a little over an hour's drive to my grandparents' home in El Paso, as well as Las Cruces and Mesilla. Plus, we wouldn't be too far from Ruidoso and the Inn of the Mountain Gods.

To top it all off, I could envision a trip to Santa Fe!! Finally!

Of course, when it was time to move, Olivia was just a 4-month-old baby, and Andrew was deployed for 120+ days.

So any trip to Santa Fe would have to wait.

However, it dawned on me that since my mom was visiting us every month for about a week at at time (and spending time with my elderly grandparents in El Paso, too), that perhaps a trip to Santa Fe wouldn't be as far off in the future as I'd originally thought.

Andrew was due home in early October. My mom would be back to visit mid-October. Hmmm, I had the seeds of an adventure blooming in my mind.

I knew that Andrew would have a couple weeks off once he finally made it back to the states and FINALLY home to our new New Mexican home, one he had yet to see firsthand.

So I spoke to my mom, and found out that she and my dad would be in the area mid-October for a reunion of hers in El Paso. I told her my idea, and she agreed to give me a hand.

See, I'd come up with this plan: when Andrew got home, in-processed with his new unit in Alamogordo, and on leave for 2 weeks, my mom would care for Olivia in El Paso at my grandparents' house for a weekend while Andrew and I spent time exploring Santa Fe, staying at a luxurious hotel that Samantha Brown highlighted - basically having time to ourselves, reconnecting after his 4-month long deployment. Actually, it would end up being for a day, a night, and most of the next day, with us meeting back in Alamogordo, at our new house.

Here's what happened. My mom bundled up Olivia in a car seat, grabbed the bag of supplies I'd prepared, and headed the hour's drive south to El Paso, around the same time Andrew and I headed north for Santa Fe. It must've been around 11 AM.

It ended up taking us about 5 - 5.5 hours to get up there (and believe me, I was very impatient to get there). The ride was beautiful, stark, and before nearing Albuquerque, desolate.

A couple views of our drive north. The first photo is the view to the east:

This second photo is the view of the road as it heads west:

Maybe you can see the moon in this photo:

We finally arrived at our destination, and headed directly to our "great hotel," La Posada de Santa Fe, a beautiful resort within walking distance to Santa Fe's historic Plaza.

Let me tell you, it was even MORE beautiful in person. We were greeted promptly, and were checked in, our car parked for us, and our luggage taken directly to our room for us. As we walked down the outdoor path to our room, there was this awesome scent lingering all around us, sage, crisp, clean high-altitude mountain air, apple-wood-burning fires. And since it was October already, there was a bit of chilliness in the air, but that somehow added to the magic. 

When we got to our room, I was amazed. The ceiling had these exposed log ceilings, very New Mexican in feel. There was a kiva fireplace and a stack of wood available so we could have a crackling fire to relax by when we returned to our room for the night. I couldn't wait to sit by that fire! And the king bed looked so comfortable and inviting, with down pillows, a down blanket, and in the closet, warm bathrobes.

We then made reservations at La Posada's restaurant, Fuego. Since it was nearly 5, and our reservations weren't for another couple hours, we decided to walk to the Plaza to have a look around. 

On our way off the property, we stopped in the gift store to pick up a map. As we chatted with the lady behind the counter about "must see" locations (Loretto Chapel, Palace of the Governors), we ended up chatting about how Andrew and I were in the military. She thanked us for our service (which I greatly appreciated), and we went about talking about Santa Fe before Andrew and I headed out on our pre-dinner walking adventure. 

We headed down to the Plaza, seeing the Palace of the Governors and planning to head there the next day to browse through the portico, where Native Americans' sold their hand-made jewelry and art (it was after hours, so no one was there). 
Then we headed to the Loretto Chapel, to see the famous, miraculous spiral staircase. It was fantastic, beautiful - an experience I will remember, and I hope to return. 

Outer view of the Loretto Chapel:

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha statue:

Outer view of the Loretto Chapel (with Andrew posing nearby):

The famed spiral staircase:

Another view:

Another interior view:

After leaving the Chapel near closing time, we walked around a little more, soaking in the city, enjoying our time together, and looking forward to dinner. 

Here's some of the scenery:

Anyway, when we got back to our room to freshen up for dinner, we received a call from the manager. Apparently, the friendly woman at the gift shop had spoken to him about us as we headed out on our walk.

He wanted to thank us for our military service and was calling to ask if he could send a bottle of wine to our room, curious if we preferred red or white, and a fresh fruit plate. I was floored with this level of customer service! I thanked him and said that we were heading off to their restaurant, Fuego soon so we wouldn't be in the room to receive it. He said he'd leave the bottle and fruit in our room for when we returned from dinner.

I regret to say that I can't remember the name of the wine, but when we opened it and drank it at home later, it was absolutely delicious!

So after freshening up and putting on sweaters (it was chilly in October in high altitude Santa Fe!), we headed to the Staab House bar for drinks while waiting for our table at the restaurant. Now a couple fun pieces of info on the Staab House: first, they have excellent margaritas and tequilas, if you're a fan of these types of adult beverages. Second, the Staab House, (once owned and occupied by Abraham and Julia Staab and their children) is supposedly haunted by Julia! Apparently, she loved her house so much, she couldn't bear to leave! ;)

And dinner at Fuego? Outstanding! Yes, it was very pricey, but was it ever delicious! Especially the Mexican hot chocolate we had to top off our meal!

After returning back to our room and getting the crackling fire started, we relaxed and chatted by the warm fire, and upon climbing into bed, fell asleep promptly and slept soundly.

The next morning, everything went by in a blur - heading to the Palace of the Governors to browse (and buy some turquoise/silver earrings, a lapis/silver ring, a silver/turquoise book mark, and a Navajo doll for myself), grabbing some lunch and rushing back home to Alamogordo.

See, my mom called and said she, my dad, and most importantly, Olivia, would be back at our house in Alamogordo by a certain time (maybe around 4? I can't remember now), and we were still nearly 5.5 hours away. So off we rushed, because I wanted to beat them home, unload the car, change, rehydrate and wait for them.

Well, that didn't quite happen. They beat us home by about 45 minutes. Ah, well.

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful, memorable trip, our less-than-24-hour journey to Santa Fe.

And I can't wait to go back.

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