New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque, spreads itself out in two distinct areas: a modern downtown and the historic Old Town, made up of adobe buildings dating back to 1706.
Old Town is where we wanted to be, so we chose the Hotel Albuquerque, just a short walk away. The hotel lobby, with its tile floors, white adobe walls, rustic chandeliers and tooled leather furniture made up for the plainly decorated rooms.
Shops and galleries specializing in Native America lined Old Town’s Plaza. Winding paths, placitas (small plazas) and gardens softened the tourist feel. The Sawmill Market, the 25.000 square foot artisanal food hall/market sits alongside lofts, artist studios and retail space in the Historic Sawmill District.
Dinner at El Patio was worth the drive. The old hacienda with its lush gardens and famous tree lined patio is home to their famous sopaipillas (English translation- sofa pillows); deep fried pastry eaten with honey as a bread. Serving Northern New Mexican food for the last 40 years, the large dining room at Tomasita’s had a loud, cheerful vibe and was the perfect place to share some of its lunch specialties.
The highlight of our Albuquerque visit was our stay at the Hotel Parq Central on our return to Albuquerque the last night of our trip. Though not as centrally located as the Hotel Albuquerque, the hotel provides shuttle service to the airport and within a three-mile radius of the hotel.
Listed on the National Historic Register, the hotel was once the home of the hospital for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad employees. Painstakingly renovated back to its 1926 splendor, every space exuded art deco elegance. I made it a point to luxuriate on a chaise lounge in the sun filled conservatory after our gourmet continental breakfast (included). We toasted to our last day in New Mexico while rocking in custom made rockers in the lovely manicured garden with a central fountain. Having visited their rooftop bar, The Apothecary, for a daytime view of the mountains, we just had to have a nightcap and a glimpse of the city view.
Nestled in the rugged foothills of the Sangre Christo Mountains, travelers have long been attracted to Santa Fe for its mystical energy and health focus. Not sure I completely understood, I was told by friends to “allow the environment to introduce itself by exploring its space.”
Explore we did and I began to recognize and appreciate the peaceful vibe. Even though the streets were crowded, there was this ever-present feeling of tranquility. Everyone seemed laid back and there no loud sounds trying to grab your attention.
Since a few of us were traveling together, an Airbnb was the perfect choice. It’s fun to breakfast and cocktail together each day, while still having your own space. A bottle of wine was there to greet us when we entered Casa Nona’s Two Casitas and we were immediately charmed by the Southwestern style furniture, heated floors and Kiva fireplace.
Thanks to the audio tour, included in the ticket price (don’t forget your earbuds!), the Georgia O’Keefe Museum came alive and helped us to understand this iconic modernist artist. This quote of hers seemed to sum it all up – “I found I could say things with flowers and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way…things I had no words for.”
A visit to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return was a must. Described as “a mind bending, interactive, immersive, explorable art experience,” it’s 70 rooms featured hands on art. Picture 100 artists given carte blanche to create their innermost psychedelic dreams in a cavernous space. As we entered through, what looked like a home, we quickly realized the only way to continue was either opening the refrigerator and walking through it or opening the clothes dryer door and sliding down it. Part jungle gym, part haunted house and part children’s museum, we all were enthralled with the level of creativity and downright outlandishness and realized the best way back to reality was via their bar. While the adventurous one in our group opted for a neon colored cocktail topped with cotton candy, the rest of us were content with a cold beer.
We all agreed that dinner at Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretta stood out as outstanding. We’re not sure what impressed us most: the adobe architecture, the famed Angus beef filet, the Heritage Duroc pork, or the purple potatoes.
At $1300 per night, The Bishops Lodge is a soulful retreat on 317 secluded acres that border the Santa Fe National Forest and is the winner of the National Geographic Legacy Award. We brunched at their restaurant, Skyfire, which allowed us to tour the grounds, get a feel for the pueblo style resort/ranch’s ambiance and have a taste of their excellent roasted shrimp and grits with smoked pork belly.
On the other end of the spectrum, when we read that Dolina Bakery & Cafe, a small rather non-descript looking restaurant serving Eastern European food, was named one of the top restaurants, we had no choice but to give it a try. The chicken and waffles left us wondering how we could fit in another visit before we even left.
Shopping the historic Santa Fe Plaza, we stopped in every shop and gallery until we each found just the right souvenir to bring home as a reminder of this very special city.
Though a few extra miles drive, we chose to take the High Road, the 56-mile scenic winding road through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Passing desert, mountains, forests and tiny pueblos, our first stop was El Santuario in Chimayo. Known as the “Lourdes of America,” three hundred thousand people make the pilgrimage here each year to dig up some of the sacred dirt, which, much like the water at Lourdes, is said to grant miracles.
The Greater World Earthship Biotecture Community peaked our curiosity and we had to see it for ourselves. Back in the 1970s, architect Mike Reynolds purchased a sprawling 600-acre mesa and began creating homes that were entirely off the grid. Utilizing solar and wind power, these “earthships” were intentionally constructed out of recycled, reused and reclaimed materials. Rather than appearing to be space or hippy like dwellings, the homes had a surprisingly stylish look to them and a video of their interiors was rather impressive. Our only regret was that we realized too late we could have booked an overnight stay in one; next time!
Rather than book one of the resorts that offer a body-mind-spirit experience, due to our short visit, we opted to stay in town at the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos. Once again, a charming Southwest lobby gave way to non-descript rooms.
In the lovely little plaza and historic district, we chatted with an artist and purchased one of her watercolors of Chimayo. At the historic Taos Inn, we enjoyed Happy Hour and live music at Doc Martens, AKA “Taos’ living room,” and wondered why we hadn’t arrived in New Mexico sooner.