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Published: June 10th 2008
Ever since we returned from visiting Mike's Grandparents (Ron and Dolores) in Arizona during February of 2005, we had casually discussed meeting them in New Mexico and staying in the Santa Fe area. I was extremely interested in visiting Santa Fe due to it's fascinating historical background and also because it's one of the oldest cities in the United States. Those closest to me know the huge history buff I am; it always intrigues me and I thoroughly enjoy learning as much as I possibly can about the world that occurred before my time! So, during January of 2008, we finally decided to go. We bought our plane tickets, reserved the condo in Santa Fe, and the planning began for a trip that would occur from Thursday, April 24th to Tuesday, April 29th.
Day 1 (Thursday, April 24th)
We had an early and direct flight to Albuquerque at 6:45 via Southwest Airlines. Luckily for us, the flight had several open seats, so we didn't have to sit next to anyone. It was an uneventful flight and we slept through most of it. We arrived in sunny and warm Albuquerque about 2.5 hours later and were greeted by Ron
The drive from Albuquerque
The beautiful rock formations we saw countless times along our drive from Albuquerque to SW Colorado.
and Dolores. We stopped for a quick bite to eat at the local Ihop, and off we went.
As we drove North of out the Albuquerque area, we immediately noticed how the highways and overpasses were painted a sandy orange brown color with turquoise strips. It was much more pleasant to look at than the typical ugly brown/gray freeways you see everywhere else. I thought it was an easy way to beautify an area, and wondered why more cities hadn’t thought of the same thing.
The scenery along the next 90 minutes of our drive was absolutely gorgeous with giant orange and red rock formations jutting out against the bright blue sky. I'm sure the scenery continued to impress, but Mike and I eventually fell asleep. We were exhausted from having woken up that morning at 4:30.
We woke up about two hours later, as Ron was stopping in the dusty city of Bloomfield to get gas. The wind way blowing like crazy, creating huge dust clouds. It was an interesting perspective to see a moderate sized city be able to function like normal in such a harsh environment. There wasn't much grass or any sort of
Four Corners Monument
The point where our feet touched 4 states at once.
other greenery; much different from what we are used to in the Emerald city.
We eventually made it to Four Corners, which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, but almost missed the turn as it wasn't well marked. The entry fee was $3 per person, which we all thought was ridiculous. Four Corners is the only place in the US where four states (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) meet at one point. To be totally honest, we weren't all that impressed. It's another one of those places that we can cross off our list having been there and touched four states at once with your feet. It's really not that interesting. If you ever happen to be in that part of the SW, you might as well stop by, but don't go out of your way to get there.
We left and began to drive into Colorado. Within a quick period of time, the landscape quickly changed from a dry and arid almost desert-like climate to a much greener mountain-like terrain. In the distance, we could see the mountains with beautiful white snow on the peaks.
We arrived in the city of Cortez, Colorado (http://www.cortezchamber.com/)
Scenic beauty in Cortez
We snapped a few pictures of this mountain near Cortez
and checked into our motel (Days Inn). The motel was fine, just simple and basic. However, most importantly, it was only about eight miles from our destination for the next day (Mesa Verde National Park).
Both Dolores and I were starving at this point, so we decided to find a place for dinner. I had read a few positive reviews about a Mexican eatery just down the road from our hotel called "Tequila's Mexican Restaurant". The interior of the restaurant had great ambiance. It was bright and colorful, with lots of Mexican and Southwestern art. The food was good, but not amazing; essentially, your typical Mexican place. I ordered a beef taco and cheese enchilada combo; the taco was very good but the enchilada was just okay. Mike's chicken fajitas were delicious, especially the grilled onions. We all left feeling much fuller than we needed to be.
We decided to drive further out of Cortez, and stopped to take a few scenic pictures and then drove back to the hotel to rest from our very long day of driving.
Day 2 (Friday, April 25th)
We woke early today around 6:30 in order to get a
Mesa Verde National Park
The colorful canyon walls of the park.
head start for Mesa Verde National Park (http://www.nps.gov/meve/). We had a decent sized continental breakfast at the motel and left around 7:30. It was absolutely freezing outside; around 30 degrees, which I hadn't been expecting since it was bright and sunny out.
We drove East towards the park and finally arrived at the visitor center about 30 minutes later after having driven over about a million switchbacks. We were surprised to see the large amount of land that had been devastated by several forest fires over the last decade.
Mesa Verde National Park is full of some of the most significant Indian Pueblo ruins in the world. Our first priority was to sign up for a one-hour ranger-led tour of Cliff Palace, which is the Park's largest cliff dwelling. From the visitor center, it took about 20 minutes to drive to the location where the tour began. We parked our car and walked out to an amazing overlook of Cliff Palace, where the ranger was waiting. I was trying hard to focus on the ruins below us, but I was having a difficult time doing so in the 25-degree temperature that was combined with a nasty wind chill.
One of our first glimpses of the amazing ruins.
The ranger made a big deal that the one-hour tour involved strenuous hiking and having to climb and descend several ladders. She informed the tour participants that if anyone had hesitations, they should not partake in the tour. Dolores decided to stay back and wait for us because of her bad hip.
The walk to the cliff dwelling wasn't bad at all; some of the stairs were slightly steep, but other than that, it was no big deal. I would later realize she was referring to the last part of the tour.
As we rounded a corner and approached the Cliff House, I stood in complete awe of the amazing structure. It was much larger than I had ever expected and the setting was so dramatic...at that moment, it became difficult for me to comprehend how the Ancestral Puebloans had managed to build a small town up in the walls of the canyon
As we stood near the dwelling, the guide seemed to be providing a lot of information about the history of the structure, but I was too busy taking dozens of photos and being mesmerized by the sight to pay any attention to her
We eventually walked right up next to the dwellings, and were able to get a closer view of the amazing construction. As I continued to take more pictures, I also continued to notice how the freezing temperatures and brutal winds were drying out my skin like crazy. I hadn't dressed appropriately for the weather, and I was definitely feeling the repercussions.
At the end of the tour, we climbed several vertical ladders that were about eight to ten feet long in order to get up and out of the canyon. The rungs of the ladders were metal, which caused a very painful stinging sensation for my hands as I climbed the ladder. That pain mixed with the high altitude and thus lack of oxygen made me feel as though I was going to pass out as I reached the top.
We stayed at the park for a few more hours, stopping at all of the viewpoints and visiting the other sites. The temperature finally started to warm up, but only to 48 degrees! It was a chilly day at Mesa Verde!
We began the drive back to New Mexico, but first drove through the Southern
The menu from the utterly delicious eatery Cocina Linda in Durango, Colorado.
part of Colorado for a few hours. We stopped in the city of Durango, Colorado (http://www.durango.org/) for lunch. Durango is a charming town nestled in the Animas River Valley and surrounded by the San Juan Mountains. It's a town of outdoor activity; skiing in the winter, and fishing, kayaking, rafting, golfing, and much more during the rest of the year.
As Ron was buying gas, we noticed a small restaurant across the street from us in the parking lot of Albertsons grocery store. It was called Cocina Linda. It looked promising, so we decided to stop in and take a look. That was definitely an excellent decision; it was an authentic Mexican to-go eatery. I knew that when I saw that their tacos were made with cabbage and not lettuce that it was the real deal. Mike and I split two tacos, a burrito, and an amazing pork tamale. Simply delicious, and it brought me straight back to the street food we had eaten in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
As we drove through the rest of Colorado, I was very impressed by the natural beauty we saw. In some ways, it reminded me of the mountains in Washington, except
The drive from SW Colorado
We saw more of the colorful rocks on the drive back down to New Mexico.
that everything seemed more rugged here. I now have yet another area to add to my ever growing list of places to visit. Someday, we will have to spend much more time in the beautiful state of Colorado.
After lunch, we continued on our way down to New Mexico, stopping along the way a few times so that I could take some great landscape shots. We finally arrived in Santa Fe around 6 PM. We first drove to the condo I had reserved. We found it easily right off of the freeway. The condo looked exactly like the pictures on www.vrbo.com; cute and decorated in the Southwestern style. There were two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a kitchen, living room and an eating area. There was also a large deck off of the back of the condo.
We dropped off our stuff and then heated into town. We drove around the downtown area of Santa Fe for while, which was so beautiful because all of the buildings are required to be built in the adobe style. All of the buildings were similar because of the adobe, yet each was different and unique. I've never seen a city like this in
Our condo in Santa Fe
Our condo looked exactly as I had hoped-decorated in the Southwestern style!
all my life.
After getting a quick introduction to Santa Fe, we decided to stop for dinner at Diego's Cafe, which was recommended as a great eatery filled with locals. We had to wait about 20 minutes, but knew immediately that we had made a great decision. Several other customers who were also waiting raved to us about how good the food was, so we knew that we were in for a treat. The food WAS amazing. I had a three-enchilada combo with authentic (and SPICY) red chile sauce. Mike had chicken fajitas with the most amazing guacamole, and Ron and Dolores both had posole soup that was made with hominy beans. Instead of chips, the restaurant served sopaipillas, which are fried pieces of dough. They are traditionally served with honey, but I liked dipping mine in the yummy guacamole. We all had deep fried ice cream for desert.
Another great day, with lots of delicious food, amazing sites, and enjoyable company 😊
Day 3 (Saturday, April 26th)
Having gone to bed late the night before, we didn't leave the condo until around 10:00. Our plan for
today was to get all of the sightseeing completed in and around Santa Fe. We drove to a parking lot just outside of old town, and all four of us agreed to meet up about five hours later at 3:00 in the same lot.
Mike and I initially stopped by the romanesque St. Francis Cathedral (http://www.cbsfa.org/), but were unable to go inside as a wedding was taking place. As I snapped some pictures of the exterior we decided to come back later to look inside the interior of the church.
We then walked over to the Palace of the Governors (http://www.palaceofthegovernors.org/), which is the oldest public building in the US, built in 1610. The Palace of the Governors is located next to the main plaza in Santa Fe and was initially built for newly appointed governor of the Spanish territory. The palace changed hands several times over a 200 plus year time frame (Indian Pueblo revolt, Spanish reconquest, Mexican independence, and then American possession).
After buying our entrance ticket, we discovered that there would be a docent led tour about an hour later, so we left and went to the New Mexico Museum of Art (http://www.mfasantafe.org/). This
The Loretto Hotel
Another pretty adobe building
small museum contains various works of art from the region's best-known artists. Mike and I can become easily overwhelmed with art, but this museum had small descriptions listed next to each painting, which was helpful in understanding the art.
After about one hour, we left and quickly walked down to Sena Plaza (nothing major, just took a few pictures) and then walked back to the Palace of the Governors for our 12:00 tour. I was surprised to see the number of people that had arrived for the tour; there had to have been around 15 people. The docent was great and extremely informative; she really made the building come to life. Whenever we visit museums, we always try to take a guided tour is one is offered, as you tend to learn so much more from a tour guide than from walking around yourself.
After the hour-long tour, we decided to grab something quick to eat for lunch as we were both starving. The smells from the street food helped make our decision easier. We bought two pork tamales and one chicken fajita, which were both delicious. We sat down for a few minutes to eat in the
New Mexico Museum of Art
The courtyard of the New Mexico Museum of Art
After lunch, we walked to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum (www.okeeffemuseum.org/). Georgia is the most well known artist to have painted in the Southwest. We were actually quite disappointed with the museum as they charged a steep $8 admission and only about 50 of her 1100 works were actually displayed. We were in and out of the museum within 45 minutes.
Afterwards, we walked about 10 minutes through town to the San Miguel Mission. The church was originally constructed in 1625 for the Tlaxcalan Indians, who were the servants of the Spanish settlers. It's been modified and restored several times since then but was lucky enough to be spared from complete destruction in the late 1800's.
From here, we walked to Loretto Chapel (http://www.lorettochapel.com/), which was modeled after one of our favorite churches in the world, Sainte Chappelle in Paris (and probably the most beautiful church ever, in our opinion). Loretto Chapel was built from 1873 to 1878 for the first nuns who came to New Mexico. There are several windows of beautiful stained glass. The church is most famous for it's wooden spiral staircase, which makes two 360-degree turns without any central support system. It
The famous spiral staircase
was built by a traveling carpenter whose identity was never revealed. There were tons of people photographing the staircase, causing the church to feel very crowded.
From Loretto Chapel, we walked back to St. Francis Cathedral, whose interior was finally open. The interior of the church reminded us of the many churches we have seen in Europe. The building of the church began in 1869 by a French priest named Jean Baptiste Lamy (thus the reason for the European influence/architecture).
After leaving St. Francis, we met back up with Ron and Dolores and headed south out of central Santa Fe to the Museum Hill area to visit the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. The museum houses one of the world's most extensive collections of Spanish Colonial art in a beautiful adobe building. We spent about 30 minutes at the museum, as it wasn't as large as I had expected. We did have fun trying on some Spanish Colonial costumes they had available for visitors of the museum to try.
After leaving the museum, we drove back into town and up through Canyon Road (http://www.canyonroadarts.com/), which is a long street lined with upscale art galleries. It was full
of tourists, but the area was very charming and had lots of things to see and do.
Ron then wanted to drive out of town a bit to a restaurant he had seen on the food network called Bobcat Bite (http://bobcatbite.com/). It's located on the outskirts of town and is a small place known for its hamburgers. It was only around 4:30 PM, but the place was packed and had people waiting outside. They all raved to us about how good the food was. We weren't planning on staying for dinner, but I was starving so I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich to go, which was probably the best I have ever eaten.
For dinner, we decided to eat at a place called Bumble Bee's Baja Grill (http://www.bumblebeesbajagrill.com/), which serves Baja Mexican cuisine. The set-up/concept of the restaurant is similar to restaurants such as Qdoba and Chipotle. The food is prepared fresh and is as close as you are going to get to authentic Mexican. Mike, Ron, and Dolores all ordered burritos (which were HUGE) and I had the chicken quesadillas. Bumble Bee's had a chip and salsa bar, where you could help yourself to as many chips
Bandelir National Monument
The canyon walls at Bandelir
and salsa as you wanted, which we definitely took advantage of.
We left and got back to the condo around 6 PM and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Day 4 (Sunday, April 27th)
This morning started off interesting. The fire alarm in the condo randomly began going off, and continued to do so eight or nine times in a 20-minute period. We couldn't seem to figure out what in the heck was making it go off; we hadn't burned anything while cooking breakfast and we definitely didn't see smoke anywhere! The worst part though was that it was only 8:00 in the morning and we knew the neighbors were probably rudely awakened by the loud noise! Ron eventually turned the breaker off to shut it up, as the alarm was hardwired into the electrical system. We called the owners and they later came over and fixed whatever was wrong with it.
Our main goal for the day was to visit Bandelir National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/band/). Bandelir is the remains of an ancestral Pueblo settlement that was occupied from the 12th to 16th century. The park has several trails and it's best visited in
View from a cavate
Ruins of the village of Tyuonyi below
the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the mass number of tourists it receives each day. We arrived right as the parked was opening, and the temperature was still cold outside (around 40 degrees).
We started on the Main Loop Trail and walked past the large kiva (underground structure) and the ruins of the village of Tyuonyi, which was at least two stories high with about 400 rooms and would have housed about 100 people. We then crossed the canyon floor and followed the trail up into the South facing cliffs to see dozens of cavates (small human-carved alcoves). I took a ton of photos in this area; I couldn't stop clicking my camera. It was so much fun to climb the ladders up into the cavates.
We then continued on the trail through a forested area and eventually came to the Alcove House, which is several hundred feet above the canyon floor and can only be reached by climbing four wooden ladders and many stone stairs. Not being a huge fan of heights, I wasn't exactly looking forward to climbing the ladders, but figured it couldn't be that bad. I saw people climbing the ladders above
me, so I thought, "if they can all do it, then so can I!” Boy, was I wrong. As we began climbing the ladders, I knew immediately that this wasn't the best idea. I felt as though I was going to slip on the rungs of the ladder and fall off, so Mike got behind me to help encourage and push me along (mentally). We made it up into the cave in about ten minutes. The cave was huge and contained it's own kiva, which we walked down into. The views from this cave were gorgeous, but I couldn't imagine how the Indians who lived here had to climb those ladders EVERY day in order to get home.
As difficult and scary as climbing up the ladders was, I knew that going down them would be ten times as bad for me. I waited and waited until no one else was around to begin the descent, as I knew I would be moving extremely slow down the ladders. Mike went down first, and I followed right behind. I started shaking immediately and my palms were so incredibly sweaty, but I made sure to hang onto the rungs of the
ladders for dear life. Mike had to REALLY encourage me and slowly but surely, I made it down each ladder (thanks Mike!). My arms were so sore and weak after each ladder from hanging on so tightly that Mike had to massage them in order for me to start on the next ladder.
Prior to this experience, I had said that zip lining was the scariest thing I have ever done; well, that has now been surpassed by climbing down those ladders. I think the reason why it bothered me so much was the fact that I felt completely out of control and I had complete responsibility for my own safety, instead of a harness, or some sort of other protection. I felt so happy to finally reach the ground, but more than that, I was glad that I had climbed up into the cave. Had I not faced my fears, I would have been sorely disappointed with myself and would have missed out on an amazing experience. This is yet another one of the many reasons I love traveling; it pushes you out of your comfort zone and tends to make you do things you wouldn't normally because
of fear. You begin to realize that you are capable of so much more than what you give yourself credit for. It's an awesome feeling! 😊
After leaving Bandelir, we drove over to the city of Chimayo, which is best known for it's Santuario de Chimayo (http://www.archdiocesesantafe.org/AboutASF/Chimayo.html), built in 1816. The dirt within the church walls is said to have special healing powers and people walk away with small bags of dirt from the floor of the church everyday. Ron and Dolores had previously eaten at a restaurant in Chimayo called Rancho de Chimayo (http://www.ranchodechimayo.com/), which is a hotel and restaurant combination. . We ate lunch here, which was excellent (as it always seems to be in New Mexico). I had chicken flautas, Mike had a chicken faijta salad, and Ron and Dolores each had a stuffed sopaipilla, which they said was delicious. Mike and Dolores both ordered red wine sangria, which was tasty, but also dangerous.
After eating, we left and drove out to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/rio_puerco/kasha_katuwe_tent_rocks.html), which I had read about in one of my guidebooks. The area is filled with white jagged cliffs and cone-shaped tent rocks that were formed millions of
years ago from volcanic eruptions. We walked on a 1.2-mile trail through the park, and I was in complete awe the entire time, totally blown away by the setting. I have never seen such formations in all my life and yet once again, I was unable to stop myself from clicking away on the camera. We arrived just as the sun was setting, so the rock formations were lit up beautifully. It was truly a spectacular sight and quite honestly, one of the coolest things I have ever seen due to its uniqueness. I would definitely drive more than out of my way to see this place again. One of the biggest highlights of this trip, and it was completely unexpected!
We left the park about an hour later, and drove back into town to get something to eat. We had seen a crepe place in Santa Fe two days earlier (called The French Pastry Shop and Creperie) but didn't buy anything because the eatery did not accept credit cards and we had no cash on us at the time. We weren't sure what time the place was open until, but of course, when we arrived they were closed
(our luck!). I was very disappointed because I had been craving the cherry crepe I had seen on the menu all day long! We decided be would go back the next day and try again.
Instead, we opted to try an Italian place called Il Piatto. The guidebook described it as an "unpretentious, inexpensive place". We walked in, and boy was their description inaccurate. The restaurant was definitely pretentious and the cheapest dinner entree was around $20, most in the $30 range, not what most would consider "inexpensive". Don't get me wrong; Mike and I both like to consider ourselves foodies, and we are willing to spend a good sum of money when the quality of the food is deserving of recognition. However, the place shouldn't be classified as inexpensive. When the waiter took our drink order, we both stated we wanted water, and he asked if we wanted still or sparkling, and we stated "still" as in "tap water". He then brought out a glass bottle of water from Italy; we should have clarified and explained that tap water would have been sufficient, but we figured it would only cost a few dollars, so no big deal. I
ordered the pumpkin ravioli and Mike had crab fettuccine with prosciutto. Both were delicious, and a welcome change from the New Mexican food we had been shoving down our throats for the last few days. The portions though were quite small. We decided to spring for desert once we saw that a gelato sundae was on the menu. Much to our disappointment, the gelato we were very much looking forward to was actually regular vanilla ice cream. Whoever decided to put it on the menu must not have ever had the real stuff from Italy; otherwise, they would have been ashamed of themselves. Those of you whom have eaten gelato know what I am talking about; it's one of life's most enjoyable experiences! Our bill ended up coming to around $60; remember that bottle of water imported from Italy? It cost $8 freaking dollars! Totally insane! We left feeling ripped off and only halfway full.
Day 5 (Monday, April 28th)
Today was "Taos Day". Our first stop was the Taos Pueblo (http://www.taospueblo.com/) which was first built around sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D. and has been continuously inhabited ever since. It is one of the largest
Pueblo structures in the United States and is a great example of traditional adobe construction. The entrance fee is $10 per person plus a $5 fee to be allowed to take photos within the walls of the pueblo. I didn't mind paying the photo fee as I knew there would be lots of great photo opportunities and I also knew that the money was going towards a good cause (the tribal members of the reservation).
As we walked into the walls of the pueblo, I felt as if we were walking back into time. The village was divided in half by the Red Willow Creek and adobe structures were on either side, with a huge open dirt field in the middle. Many members of the tribe were selling crafts or food items out of their house and there were many friendly dogs walking around everywhere.
We looked around for a bit and then decided to join one of the 30 minute walking tours. A member of the Taos tribe leads visitors on tours throughout the day. Our guide provided and explained much of the tribe's history at the pueblo, including how life drastically changed when the Mexicans and
San Geronimo Chapel
The church within the walls of Taos Pueblo
Americans took turns controlling the land. We were both very glad to have visited the pueblo and humbled by the Indians who still live as their ancestors did within the walls of the pueblo without running water or electricity.
We left the pueblo and Ron and wanted to take us a few miles out of town to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. This is the second highest suspension bridge in the United States and was built back in 1965. It's about 500 feet across and is 650 feet above the river. I definitely felt the vertigo as we walked across, but the views were amazing. As cars drove across the bridge, we could feel the viewpoint we were standing on shake quite a bit, which was rather concerning.
Near the parking area, there were several people selling Indian jewelry, drums, etc. One of the men had his dog with him, which was a beautiful wolf. She was extremely soft and we all made sure to pet her! There was also a man that was attempting to sing some classic American rock songs but I think we all agreed our ears would have been happier not hearing him; his
voice was absolutely horrendous!
We drove back into town and decided to get lunch at a place called "Guadalajara Grill". The interior of the restaurant sort of looks like a cafeteria, but you go to the counter, order your food, they prepare it fresh and then bring it to your table. We knew the food would be amazing when we saw it filled with locals eating lunch. The food was, once again, delicious (I know I sound like a broken record, but it's true!). The best part of the meal though was the chips and guacamole. They tasted exactly like the thick and crispy chips we had in Mexico several months before. I ate WAY too much and left feeling a tad uncomfortable.
After lunch, we headed into downtown Taos. Our first stop was the Governor Bent Museum (http://www.laplaza.org/art/museums_bent.php3). Charles Bent was named the first governor of New Mexico back in 1846. However, he was scalped and killed in his home in Taos in 1847 during the Taos Revolt by the local Indians, who were not happy (understandably so) with his arrival and the force of United States rule. His former home is now a tiny museum filled
with some of his belongings, but mostly random antiques. If you are crunched for time while in Taos, I wouldn't recommend a visit here; it really not that impressive.
We then walked to the Kit Carson Home and Museum (http://www.kitcarsonhome.com/kc/), which was slightly more interesting than the Governor Bent Museum. The house was built in 1825 and houses a few of Kit Carson's personal belongings. The place was definitely haunted; some of the rooms were freezing cold and I felt uncomfortable being in there by myself.
We finally made our way through Taos Plaza, and then walked back to the car. Overall, we were a little disappointed with the downtown area of Taos. It has a few interesting buildings, but just cannot compare architecturally or visually to Santa Fe. It's got some great history going for itself, but other than that, it was just okay. All four of us remarked on how the city felt somewhat depressing as there were very few people walking around and the place almost seemed like a ghost town with many empty shops.
A short drive out of town, we drove to a place called the Martinez Hacienda (http://www.taosmuseums.org/hac_martinez.php). It's an old
adobe structure that was used by the locals as a refuge during the Comanche and Apache raids during the late 18th century. Unfortunately, it was closed when we stopped by.
Next, we drove to the Church of San Francisco de Asis. It's located in the Francis Plaza of Rancho de Taos and was built in the mid 18th century and later opened in 1815. Although we were unable to go inside of the church (doors were locked) the exterior of the building was gorgeous and you could tell the adobe was well maintained.
After taking several pictures of the church, we left and drove back into Santa Fe. Our plan for the night was to meet up with Mike Denton and his wife Sue, who had just moved to the Albuquerque area. Mike had worked with Mike for many years at Costco and we made plans to get together for dinner at a place called the Blue Corn Cafe (http://www.bluecorncafe.com/).
Prior to dinner, we made another attempt to stop by the The French Pastry Shop and Creperie again, but alas, we discovered it was once again closed 😞 This time, I made sure to look at the
operating house (6:30 AM to 5:00 PM) and we decided we would try one final last time in the morning.
So, off we walked to the Blue Corn Cafe. We arrived about 30 minutes early at 7:00 (due to our crepe dilemma), but Mike and Sue ended up being late, and didn't show up until 8:00. The Blue Corn Cafe is also a brewery, so Mike ordered a stout, which he said was great. I ordered limeade to drink, which was delicious. Mike had the chicken fajitas (big surprise!) and I ordered the chicken chimichanga, which was only okay. We actually weren't overly impressed with the food as we had been with all of the other places we ate at. On any other day, we probably would have said that the food was good, but it couldn't quite compare with all of the other amazing restaurants.
On the other hand, we very much enjoyed talking with Mike and Sue about our trip and the places we had visited and about what they had been up to since moving to New Mexico. Of course, Mike and Mike shared and exchanged lots of "Costco talk". Mike and Sue insisted on
Petroglyph National Monument
A "real one" or "fake one"?
paying for dinner, which was a very nice treat. I didn't clean my plate for once, so it was a nice reprieve to leave a restaurant not feeling as though I would explode!
Day 6 (Tuesday, April 29th)
Mike and I hurried to get ready on our last morning in Santa Fe so that we could FINALLY make it to The French Pastry Shop and Creperie after several failed attempts. Mike waited in the car while I ran in and ordered the crepes. He requested a banana and Nutella crepe (his favorite) and I ordered the cherry crepe, both of which were delicious and definitely worth the wait!
We drove back to the condo, packed up all of our stuff, and then left to head south to Albuquerque. Our first item on the to do list was the Sandia Peak Tramway (http://www.sandiapeak.com/), which is one of the world's longest tramways. The ride is 2.7 miles long and takes about 18 minutes. We were both really excited to ride it, but the excitement quickly faded when we pulled up to the entrance and were informed that the tramway was only open on Tuesdays from 5 PM
to 8 PM. We were there at about 11:00, and we had to be at the airport six hours later, so no tram ride for us 😞
From there, we drove over to the Petroglyph National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/petr/index.htm). Petroglyph has several walking trails that lead to various rock etchings from AD 1300. The first trail we walked along was at Rinconada Canyon, which was a complete waste of time. For the 30 plus minutes we spent in the hot sun, we saw maybe five petroglyphs on the rocks. It was really difficult to distinguish between the "real ones" and those that people had more recently etched on.
The second place we stopped at in the Park was Boca Negra Canyon, which had many more petroglyphs than the previous place did. In five minutes, I probably saw at least 15, and they were pointed out via markers along the trail, making them much easier to identify.
From the park, we drove to Albuquerque Old Town. We parked the car, and began walking towards the Plaza, but first stopped at a Christmas store, while Ron and Dolores went into a bead store. I of course, bought a few silver
New Mexican Cuisine
Delicious chicken sopaipilla from Little Anitas New Mexican Cafe in Albuquerque
ornaments to add to my ever-growing collection.
At this point, we were beginning to feel hungry so Ron recommended a great place called Little Anitas New Mexican Cafe, which Ron and Dolores had eaten at previously. Mike and Ron both ordered a Navajo taco, while I had a chicken sopaipilla; I can't remember what Dolores ordered. The food was tasty and the lemonade we drank was also delicious.
After eating, we walked to the Plaza and stopped in at the beautiful San Felipe de Neri church (http://www.sanfelipedeneri.org/). It was built in 1706 and was probably the church I liked best out of all that we saw during our trip.
We strolled through the Plaza and then walked about 10 minutes thru town to reach the Turquoise Museum (http://www.turquoisemuseum.com/), located just outside of old town on a rather busy street. The small museum was actually quite interesting and had countless numbers of turquoise samples from all over the world. I was amazed to learn that turquoise has a huge range of color variations from dark green to light blue.
We left the museum and walked back thru old town and then found the car. By this point,
it was roasting out; close to 90 degrees. 80 degrees is perfect for me, but anything above that begins to feel uncomfortable and is not so much fun. We didn't have anything else on our list to do, and couldn't think of anything else we needed or wanted to see, so Ron and Dolores drove us to the airport and dropped us off.
After we got our boarding passes, I went back outside for about 30 minutes in an attempt to soak up as much sun as I possibly could. I knew it would be several weeks before I would feel that much warmth again! Our flight took off right on time, and arrived early back in rainy Seattle. No complaints here regarding Southwest Airlines!
All in all, we had a wonderful time on our six-day trip to Southwest Colorado and New Mexico. With the exception of the Sandia Peak Tramway and the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, we managed to see everything I had planned on doing, plus much more! New Mexico (and the Southwestern U.S. in general) is geographically stunning, and at times feels so astoundingly different from the landscape here in the Northwest that it seems
as though you must be in another country. To add to that, the New Mexican cuisine is so different from any other type of food you can find in the U.S.; this by itself would make a visit to this region worth it! I think we both agree that this was one of the best trips we've ever taken in terms of eating.
The culture here in the Southwest is also something very special; the local Indian tribes are very focused on their history, traditions and customs, and I respect them immensely for having such a strong desire to maintain their cultural identities. Then, of course, there is also the Hispanic population, which has had a tremendous and significant impact on all aspects of life in the Southwest, especially the food and architecture.
What made this trip even more special to us was the fact that we were able to enjoy it with Mike's grandparents, both of whom are very important to Mike and I. I love the fact that they too have a huge desire to continue traveling (and have done so extensively in the U.S.). They seem to truly understand our wanderlust, and the huge priority
The Plaza in Old Town Albuquerque
it has become in our lives. They too are the "go, go, go" travelers, and never tire of seeing new things or places. This was our second trip with them, and I'm sure we will have many more in the future. In fact, I've already got some ideas; the Southern half of Arizona, the SW portion of Utah (Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks), the Southern half of New Mexico (Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Monument, etc). My list of places to see is never ending and will probably always remain that way because there is to too much in this great big world to see!
I've added some additional pictures from the trip on the next two pages:
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