Fueling up on female energy……….
Do you ever just need a little recharge of your personal battery? Just a bit of time in a new place with some great girlfriends? There is nothing quite like spending a few days with great women who are supportive, interesting , accomplished in their own rights, and just plain FUN! I highly recommend it, and it’s cheaper than therapy. So gather your gal pals and plan a retreat, it’s good for the soul. In this post I’ll share a few tips to help your travel planning if Santa Fe is a potential destination for you and your posse. (Normally, that is not a word I would choose, but it’s the Southwest we are going to after all, so in the spirit of fun, I thought it fit)
Our gang of nine descended upon Santa Fe, New Mexico under a brilliant, blue sky in early July to check out the art galleries, shops, spectacular Native American arts & crafts, music scene, and of course the restaurants. All of which are in great abundance in this sleepy little southwestern Mecca for Art.
Being that our accommodations were within walking distance of most of what we wanted to see near the Historic Plaza, we opted for a shuttle service from the airport in lieu of a rental car. Santa Fe Valet was waiting for us when we arrived. Our driver grabbed our copious amounts of luggage, and whisked us away to the Hacienda De La Pena, which would be our home for the next 5 days.
Crunching along gravel roads, whose surface material no doubt comes from the majestic mountains surrounding us, we saw no sidewalks or mailboxes to disturb the quiet rural feel. Residential landscapes, designed with indigenous plants, added to the sense that this was a place where nature, and the simple beauty of it, is revered.
A nod to the past….
De La Pena, that magical historic hacienda, dates back to the early 1800’s and was occupied by the Pena family for 80 years. In the early 1920’s the family sold it to Frank Applegate, a preservationist, writer and sculptor. Applegate lead a movement among fellow artists and architects of the time, to cultivate an architectural style marrying the Spanish Colonial and Pueblo Indian building traditions. A facinating and forward thinking man, he was also a leader in the establishment of the museum system in the State of New Mexico.
This beautiful hacienda preserves the Spanish Pueblo style both inside and out. We felt honored to have the opportunity to stay in this home with such a rich past. I have always been a huge fan of older homes, especially historic ones, so I immediately fell in love with this place. It’s easy to see how it grew and evolved throughout its 200 plus year old lifespan. Starting out as a little four room, one story adobe, it grew into this meandering 2 story Spanish Pueblo historic estate. Somehow, along the way, never losing its natural authentic charm and grace. Stories have it that it even comes with a few ghosts that still reside within its walls.
Appreciating this area first hand, I found great respect for Santa Fe’s leaders, both present and past, who developed a very thoughtful plan for future building, and for the preservation of gems like this. This active preservation of the architecture, heritage and cultural traditions of this little town are seen everywhere. The nod to the past and the Spanish Pueblo traditions amplifies the charm and peaceful nature of the place. That peacefulness was prevasive wherever we went.
Arriving late in the afternoon, we wanted a easy transition into the weekend and a little time to catch up with each other and get to know the few new to our group. Since we were all sharing the costs for this weekend 9 ways it was an easy decision when someone suggested having a catered meal brought to the hacienda that first night. This allowed us sometime to relax, unwind and plan out the next few days.
Opting for dinner in……
Enter Sancho Soeiro from Dish N’ Spoon. (Chef8Sancho@gmail.com) Sancho has an interesting background having grown up in the restaurant business, and lived all over the country. He’s now on his own running a private chef catering business. Pre-arranged before our arrival in town, Sancho arrived at the hacienda at the designated time with a full traditional New Mexico meal in hand, ready to heat and eat! Our meal was comprised of Calabacitas (a tasty mix almost like a southwestern succotash), Green Chili Enchilada Casserole, Posole, Black Beans, and for dessert, Chili Creme Brûlée. Chilis have evolved into the the quintessential ingredient shaping the cultural food traditions of New Mexico. When dining out, you are often asked “green or red”, as to the color of your chili preference. If you’d like a bit of both, order “Christmas”. I found that so charming!
The redeveloped Railyard area is worth a bit of time to explore as well, so after dinner we headed off to check it out. Live concerts are held in the open park at it’s center with a number of casual dining options overlooking the park. The night we visited we were treated to a fantastic free concert by blues artist Ian Moore. Just a sample of the great musical entertainment offered in Santa Fe. The area has an ever growning number of charming shops and boutiques for those loving the shopping experience.
Art Galleries Abound….
Saying Santa Fe is a Mecca for the arts is really a gross understatement. Presenting nearly 200 galleries, museums and art dealers, there is something to captivate the attention of everyone. Take a moment to peruse the Santa Fe Gallery Association site, it’s a wonderful guide to help you sort through the many options to find what is right for your persoanl artistic tastes. Awed by the sheer numbers of art galleries, we were further stunned by the exceptional quality of the art within them. Walking along the streets, it was almost as though we were wandering through one huge museum encased within this quaint little town.
Days are hot and dry in the summer, but pleasantly cool at night and early morning. So early the next morning we decided to take to advantage of this and set off to explore this very walkable town. Canyon Road, known for it’s prolific galleries was just 2 long blocks from our hacienda. An art lovers dream, this is the place to meander from gallery to gallery chatting with the staff, and sometimes the artist whose work you are drooling over. A great spot for a cool rest and bite to eat is the The Tea House.http://teahousesantafe.com/ Located in a shady peaceful courtyard off Canyon Rd. Excellent food and friendly service, portions are easily shared for two!
The center of the historic town is graced with a charming Plaza, reminicient of our own hometown of Sonoma CA. A bit longer to walk to than Canyon Rd, about 2.5 miles from the Hacienda, its an easy and very lovely walk. Uber is very popular in Santa Fe and getting a lift is a piece of cake, for those who just don’t feel like the longer stroll.
The Palace of Governors, with its shady colonial colonade, lines one side of the Plaza. Early every morning Native American artisans line up for a lottery spot to spread out their beautiful work on blankets and sell to the visitors to the Plaza. Loving silver jewelry as I do, I was hard pressed to make a decision on what to purchase. The workmanship and artistry was so beautiful. I always try to purchase directly from an artist when possible, knowing they will benefit from the lack of a middle man. It was so enjoyable to see the work of the contemporary artisans using the classic turquoise, corral and silver in such new and interesting ways, juxtaposed with the gorgeous traditional and vintage pieces I have loved my whole life.
Head over to La Fonda Hotel right on the Plaza for an afternoon drink at their Bell Tower Bar overlooking the Plaza. It really is a Bell Tower.
End Part 1…….
To read Part II click here…..