Santa Fe combines a relaxed pace with 17th century colonial Spanish-infused architecture, iconic artwork, fantastic food and phenomenal weather. If you could bottle its essence, it would be a blend of relentlessly blue skies and low-slung tawny adobe structures, artisanal turquoise silver jewellery and the spicy aroma of roasting chillis. Uncapping the bottle on six of the best, what’s not to love about New Mexico’s capital city?
GEORGIA ON MY MIND
Attracted to Santa Fe’s stark desert light and invigorating air, painter Georgia O’Keeffe was inspired to capture its mystical vistas in her atmospheric landscapes which created the romantic notion of shadow and form. Opened in 1997 near the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum showcases her interpretation of American Modernism through her abstracts of the natural world, iconic desert landscapes and large-scale flower paintings that depict blooms at their voluptuous moment of beauty. The Museum’s cache of 2,000 works are rotated regularly along with black and white photographs by Ansell Adams and O’Keeffe’s long-time errant husband Albert Steiglitz. www.okeeffemuseum.org There are also limited tours of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio at Abiquiu, a sublimely minimalist house that provided both a haven and inspiration to the artist.
For four centuries, Santa Fe’s Plaza was the center for small-town gatherings. Today, it’s still the city’s beating heart and home to a multitude of art and community festivals throughout summer. A lush leafy oasis for people watching, it’s also home to the New Mexico Museum of Art, one of 10 major museums and 200 galleries throughout Santa Fe. It’s also where Native American vendors set-up their daily market under the shaded front portal of the colonnaded Palace of the Governors. Built in 1610, it was the town’s original capitol building..
THE HEAT IS ON!
They may spell it ‘chile’ around these parts but there’s no missing Santa Fe’s hot chillis which garland café walls and feature on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Quite literally the spice of New Mexican life, this is jalapeno heaven with shops selling their best chilli preserves. From breakfast burritos to modern South-western staples including buttermilk corn cakes with Chipotle shrimp, just pull up a chair at the many Santa Fe eateries and wait for the ‘burn’ as the taste buds get a workout! Take the stairs at Santa Fe Arcade to the exuberant Marble Brewery Tap Room and funky rooftop Cantina Coyote café where girls drink Margueritas, a brigade of cooks load plates to towering proportions and flames leap from the grill as beans are piled onto gleamingly golden tortilla chips. For something quieter, duck into prettily shady courtyards and dine at cafes like Tabla de los Santos surrounded by fragrant blooms and a lilting Spanish guitar or check out the local music scene at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market.
Populated by tawny walls that glow like ginger cake by day, burnish chilli-red at sunset, the adobe buildings of Santa Fe imbue visitors with an immediate sense of place. Historic Canyon Road, the town’s most stylish street, is lined with upmarket adobe galleries that specialize in original, antique Indian art, hand-tooled cowboy boots, custom-made silverware and turquoise jewellery. On the corner of the Barrio de Analco Historic District at the junction of East De Vargas St and Old Santa Fe Trail, the adobe walls of San Miguel Church, America’s oldest religious structure built by Mexican Tlaxcalan Indians around 1610, is a fine introduction to house #215 that lays claim to being America’s oldest abode. Dated c1646, its straw and mud brick walls, low wooden door and dirt floor bagged with straw and mud are an insight into the way things were.
For an insight into the way they continue to be, travel about 100kms north of Santa Fe on Highway 285 (originally the fabled Route 66) to Taos Pueblo, awarded First Living World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1992. A small historical artists’ community live here creating native crafts, beadwork, silver jewellery and turquoise in multi-storied adobe studios and gift shops, some which have been home to the Taos Pueblo Indians for over a thousand years. An historic landmark that’s one of North America’s oldest continuously inhabited communities, it welcomes visitors throughout most of the year. Lying at the heart of a vast plain, Taos is an oasis bordered by majestic peaks on three sides. Blue paint on doors and window frames guards against Mal Ojo, Bad Eye or unfriendly energies. There’s no unfriendly energy coming from the artists and shop owners selling hand-loomed cashmere and organic chocolates; silver jewellery and sweet home-made fruit pies. Buy a Museum Combination Ticket www.TaosMuseums.org and visit five unique Taos museums including the fabulous art patron and designer Millicent Rogers Museum nearby.
MORE THAN A HOTEL
If you’re spending a few days in fascinating Santa Fe, why not stay in a hotel that’s imbued with local history whether it’s the vintage charm of the El Rey Inn www.elreyinnsantafe.com or the elegantly designed Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe www.hotelchimayo.com Looking for classic Santa Fe style? Then book into La Fonda on the Plaza for a trip back in time www.lafondasantafe.com or if planning to travel from Spring 2019, go for the luxuriously revamped (not to mention romantic) Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa that has inserted itself seamlessly into the fabric of Santa Fe’s design sensibilities www.bishopslodge.com
Tourism Information: www.santafe.org
There are a number of museum and cultural passes available including a 4-day pass into 4 Santa Fe museums for USD20 to a New Mexico Culture Pass for USD30. Go to www.santafe.org for more or purchase from a designated museum on arrival.
Mobile and Online Guide to the best of Santa Fe : www.santafeselection.com
Getting There: Santa Fe is a 60 minute drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico’s gateway airport.
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