Leaving Gallup as soon as we were able, we headed east across New Mexico to Santa Fe, passing by Albuquerque, a drive of about 200 miles.
We didn’t know much about Santa Fe and our initial plan was to arrive at lunchtime, have a quick look around, and then move on to another destination for the evening.
After the previous day’s (night’s) long drive, and we may have both had rubber arms and didn’t need much convincing, but as we drove into Santa Fe in the early afternoon, Jane and I said to each other at the same time “if Santa Fe is a nice place, why don’t we stop here tonight”
And what a lovely place it turned out to be. Although only 75,000 people, it is the capital of New Mexico. Almost all the buildings are flat-roofed and rendered in an earthy brown, which we found out is called “Adobe” style. Apparently, this is now built into the local building code with a height limit of 2 stories.
It is also a thriving artist community, and our first stop Canyon Road, which purportedly has over 100 galleries. We only managed to scratch the surface, visiting one end of the street. A number of the galleries had both fine art inside and sculpture in their garden. A favourite was two elephants, standing about 6 feet tall, dancing a jig on their hind legs (modestly priced at $125,000). You could easily spend a week wandering up and down this strip, although the wallet might not survive …
After a couple of blissful hours with delights at every turn, we found a hotel in the centre of town called La Fonda. Built in the early 1900’s, it is a part of the “Historic Hotels of America) group, with Mexican influenced interior design – ceramic tiles, colourful painting – vibrant yet tasteful.
With the day running out, we explored the shops around the town’s central plaza. Lining one side of the plaza were Indians selling handmade curios and jewelry, some quite twee but a lot quite beautiful. Jane found a local selling handmade jewelry which fell into the latter category, and decided to support the local industry.
Returning to the hotel, we spotted the hotel bar and thought it would be rude not to sample a margarita (or two). Sitting up at the bar, we got chatting to the affable barman, who told us a bit about the city. Intriguingly, he told us that Santa Fe celebrated its 400 year anniversary in 2011, the same year as New Mexico celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
He also advised that a) Santa Fe is the 3rd most visited tourist destination in North America, b) the ski fields half an hour away had the best snow in the US this year and c) his 4 bedroom house had recently been valued at $295,000. He also told us a bunch of other stuff, but my memory of that is a bit foggy …
After a couple of margaritas, we wobbled into the hotel restaurant, set in the middle of the hotel, in what was originally an outdoor plaza. A mix of traditional and Mexican fare, we ordered guacamole as a shared starter. A waiter brought out a tray and prepared it beside our table in what seemed like 30 seconds.
He gave us a choice of which of the half dozen ingredients to add to the fresh avocado, and not being a knowledgeable preparer of guacamole, I told him to add the lot. Not sure if that was the appropriate directive, but the result was as good as guacamole gets (or was that the margarita speaking?!?!)
Main course was a chicken enchilada, proper restaurant style, washed down with a lovely bottle of Californian red. I’ll get shot by some people for saying this, but it left Pepe’s in Brisbane for dead.
In case you can’t guess, I fell into bed and slept pretty soundly that night …
A good day all around … hic …