Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Land of Enchantment

As I promised, a review of the state that calls itself the "Land of Enchantment"...

May/June 2010 - State # 31 - New Mexico
We have been looking forward to this trip for many years.  Guy's reason, he spent summers here as a youth on his father's ranch.  My reason, I wanted to see the place I had heard about for so long.

This was to be Guy's best ever "used to be" tour.

Guy at the Flying S Ranch
Abiquiu, New Mexico

More on the ranch and monastery(?) later.  Of course, we flew Delta into Albuquerque. Since it's only an hour and a half drive to Santa Fe, we decided to have lunch in their historic downtown.  We happened upon a delightful burrito place called Cecilia's Cafe.  We heartily recommend this place when you visit...(so does Guy Fieri - featured on his Food Network show - "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.")

Cecilia's Cafe on 6th Street
We love finding the places where "locals" like to eat when we travel.  We each had a delicious burrito...
(I had to switch with Guy; mine was too spicy.) 

Cecilia warms herself by the wood stove
Cecilia Baca

And Cecilia Baca came and sat with us and explained the "10 Pound Burrito Challenge!"   Apparently, she makes a 10 pound burrito that sells for $40 and if you can eat the whole thing, it is FREE.  And many have tried, but only one fireman has managed to complete the task.  (The fire station is across the street, which came in handy.)  You see, the Champion Fireman deposited the 10 pound burrito in the middle of the street on his way home.  There are pictures of the pump truck washing down the street!  And you thought we only dined in 4 star restaurants...

We strongly recommend this hotel for your visit to Santa Fe.  The INN OF THE ANASAZI  has a great location, literally steps from the Plaza and across from the Palace of the Governors.  Anasazi means "ancient ones" and this hotel's design evokes the feeling of a Navajo cliff dwelling.  Our room was spacious and had a kiva (fireplace) and most importantly...a humidifier!  (Because of the extremely dry air it is set for you each night with turndown service.)  The hotel restaurant serves a good breakfast and has charming sidewalk dining.

After checking in to our hotel, we walked the Plaza on a lovely, mild evening and formed our first impression of Santa Fe(brace yourself)...SO MUCH RETAIL!  Guy said, "There is not one square inch of space where someone's not trying to sell you something."  (Remember, we met while working in Macy's.)  Even the Cathedral had a gift shop!

As you've probably guessed, we got used to the overwhelming retail (especially the silver & turquoise jewelry) and enjoyed every moment of our stay in New Mexico.  I was amazed at America's oldest capital city (celebrating it's 400th anniversary - I have the poster) filled with religious icons.  Many of Santa Fe's longtime residents are devout Catholics.  The dominant building on the Plaza is the...

St. Francis Cathedral

A simply beautiful French Romanesque structure...we never went inside the actual Cathedral because each time (5) we stopped by there was a Mass being held.  In the vestibule there are soundproof glass windows, so you are able to see the grandeur.  The front doors feature 16 carved panels memorializing the 38 Franciscan friars martyred during New Mexico's early years.

In the Cathedral garden

And a few blocks away stood the Loretto Chapel with it's remarkable spiral staircase.  This structure is steeped in legend.  The builders did not leave room for the stairs leading to the choir loft. 

The Sisters of Loretto made a novena (9-day prayer) for a solution to St. Joseph.  On the 10th day, a mysterious carpenter appeared astride a donkey and offered to build a staircase.  Armed with a hammer, a saw and a T-square, he constructed a work of genius by soaking slats of wood in water to curve them and then held them together with wooden pegs.  Then he disappeared without collecting his fee! 
(I'm picturing Sidney Portier for some reason.)

The Loretto Chapel was built in 1878.  Though the chapel is no longer consecrated for worship, it is still an amazing site in Santa Fe.

The banister and handrail were installed in the 20th century, thanks to OSHA regulations.  Even so, it is still astounding to see!

So far we've talked retail and churches; the other main attractions in Santa Fe are museums and art galleries.

Now, I don't have photos of the art galleries (strictly prohibited) but just let me say this..."anything and everything qualifies as ART in this southwestern town."  While many shops boast (in our opinion) lovely works of art, a large number of places are filled with junk (made overseas) that is called art.  And ironically, these galleries were owned by transplants to New Mexico(Mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia!)  This was not the case for the Native American artisans.  These native New Mexicans have high standards for the true art they offer for sale:

We have standards on our travels for purchasing "souvenirs" and the first one is - the treasure must be from the state we are currently standing in.  And much to my delight we were able to buy our works of art tax-free because the Native American artists only sell their pieces through this foundation.  (Maybe the next time you see me I'll be wearing one of my "souvenirs!")

Koshari Turtle Doll

Now this is our work of art from New Mexico.  The Koshari is the Hopi Clown always painted with black and white stripes.  This one was crafted by a Choctaw named Randall Chitto.  The Turtle (Keeper of Stories - see the turtle children climbing on him) is sacred to the Choctaw people and so is the art of pottery.  (The little suede bag around his neck holds the pieces of clay remaining when the artist completed the work!)  And he holds blue corn reflecting the favored dish in their land.

And so ends my first post about New Mexico.  Next time...Guy's favorite thing to do while on vacation -


No comments:

Post a Comment