Sept. 8 – 12: Guernica to Castro Urdiales

Sept. 8: Guernica- 17 miles
Today we walk in rural countryside through forests and alongside flowing streams. It’s very hilly, but the sound of the rushing water is soothing and a stop at the the Zenarruza monastery provides a cool, peaceful place to rest.

We are heading towards what we think is the hotel, but once again, there is no signage. It’s been a long walk through the town and we’re hot, tired and very grateful to have arrived at Hotel Gernika. The classic hotel has an air of old world elegance and air conditioning! After showering, we enjoy a glass of wine in their beautiful solarium and wonder how we will be able to handle U.S. prices for a glass of wine, when we return, after paying anywhere from 1.60 to 3 euros here (exchange rate to U.S. dollar is almost equal).

Guernica is considered the spiritual center of the Basque Country and was the site of the aerial bombings of its civilians in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. In downtown Guernica, large black and white blowups of photos of the damaged city are front and center, serving as a reminder of the atrocities on that memorable day.

Sept. 9 – 10: Bilbao- 19 miles
From the city streets, we quickly find ourselves on an intense, narrow path through the woods. The ascents and descents are much more treacherous due to the slippery wet rocks and the mud. For miles, the smell of the eucalyptus trees is our only comfort and the only sound we can hear is our heavy breathing.

It wasn’t easy to find a mid price hotel in such a big city, so we splurge and stay at the Hotel Abando. Unlike all the other hotels to date, the staff hardly looks up when we arrive, is not very welcoming and is no help at all in finding us a laundromat. We are so happy to hear from our Danish friend, with an invitation to try a restaurant that has been recommended to him, we forget about our hotel experience. Our new mantra is “Es lo que es,”- it is what it is.

We spend most of our rest day at the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Gehry, its cutting edge design also reflects in its modern art exhibits. The main exhibit entitled “Motion- Autos, Art, Architecture” celebrates forty of the most distinctive cars in relation to beauty, rarity and technical progress. My favorite part of the exhibit is a vision of the future of cities presented by a number of universities from across the world.


Sept. 11: Santurzi – 12-1/2 miles
The bad news: today’s walk is along a river, industrial areas and rundown towns. The good news: it’s all flat! Not having to worry about every step you take gives us more time to a relax and think.

As we enter Santurzi, the juxtaposition of the two sides of the city is startling. The old neighborhoods we’re walking through transcend into a couple of blocks of modern condos and lovely mansions before our eyes.

The UHR Palacio de Orio is magnificent, but we’re disappointed the rooms are rather plain. We take some time to explore its nooks and crannies and imagine it in its heyday.

Sept. 12: Castro Urdiales- 18-1/2 miles
The city streets soon lead to a walking/bike path. There’s not much to see, but we’re grateful it’s flat…for now. We follow the yellow arrows (the official Camino way markings) past a very unusual site; cows grazing on a vertical pasture so steep that it appears they are hanging on with their hooves. This keeps us entertained until we arrive on a boardwalk that follows along the Atlantic Ocean, the crashing waves lulling us into a walking rhythm. Then, it’s up 120 stone steps and then we’re looking down at the ocean.

We follow a shortcut to the road. Luckily, there’s little traffic and a small shoulder we can walk on, single file. The gas station we stop at does not sell water, but a kind gentleman hears our plight and insists we take his cold bottle of water. They say the Camino provides and today we are blessed with more than one example.

We’re all set to walk the short distance to our hotel. Our app says only one and a half miles, but it also says it will take 43 minutes. What?! We’re done! We stop at a bar, order two beers and ask the bartender to please call a taxi, while we sit outside and wait. A few minutes later, she runs out to tell us a bus will be arriving in three minutes right down then block that can take us. With stealth like precision, we dump the water out of our water bottles, fill them with beer and run for the bus.

It takes me a minute or two to realize that all the passengers at the front of the bus are discussing where our hotel is and where we should get off. We are told to exit, thank everyone and are escorted by a woman passenger, who insists on walking us to our destination, after her long shift at as a waitress. We part company, but not after hugs all around.

Castro Urdiales is a popular seaside resort on the Bay of Biscay. The Las Rocas Playa Hotel’s large windows frame the lovely white stucco, red tiled roofed homes that line the street to the beach, mostly second homes. The hotel’s tranquil ivory and beige color scheme reminds us that our walking for the day is almost done. Just a quick visit to the beach (with just enough time to get our legs wet), then we’re enjoying dinner in their dining room, looking out those big windows and wishing we could stay just a bit longer.
















Sept. 3 – 7: San Sebastián to Extebarria

Sept. 3-4: San Sebastián
It’s taken the usual 24 hours for me to get over the sudden panic that sets in when you don’t feel your jewelry on your hands or wrists, They’ve all been left home for safe keeping, along with nail polish and most of my makeup, It will take another day for me to settle into the “Camino me.”

San Sebastián is one of those cities blessed with a beach in its center, The Bay of Biscay, the lovely parks and the lively Old Town make it sparkle. The joy and exuberance of the locals overflows from the bars and restaurants into the streets, as families and friends gather, standing or sitting on steps, and children play quietly nearby. Nary a sweatsuit to be seen, there’s an air of sophistication in everyone’s dress, even down to the babies,

We choose to stay at the Hotel Distrito Oeste, since it’s closer to the Camino start and walking distance to the square. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it’s white, stark, minimalist style is relaxing. The staff is very friendly and accommodating, even taking the time to explain why the whole city is dressed in the colors of their favorite boat racing teams this weekend.

Sept. 5: Zarautz- 13.5 miles
One minute we are walking through a lovely neighborhood and all of a sudden we find ourselves on a single path in the woods going straight up! Every once in a while, the Bay of Biscay peeks out, but there’s only time for a quick glance, Our total focus is on navigating the ups and downs and the rocks and boulders. For what seems like hours, we are in a meditative state, only looking up to say “Buen Camino” (good walk) to other pilgrims as they pass by. Lunch is a much welcome respite and we enjoy dining with a pilgrim from Washington D.C.

Zarautz is a beach town and a surfing mecca in the Basque region. The Pension Tixki Polit is rather basic, but the staff overwhelms us when they agree to do our laundry, but will not accept payment. We settle on purchasing them cold Coca Colas and everyone is happy.

The hotel is located right on the Musika Plaza. Every town, regardless of size, has a plaza, which brings people together with food, drink and music. We are surprised the revelry has continued so late on a Monday night, until we’re told tomorrow is a holiday in celebration of the 500th anniversary of a famous voyage to the new world by an explorer of Basque origin.

Sept 6: Itziar- 12 miles
We breakfast with a young Danish man, who convinces us an app is better than the book we are relying on and kindly sets us up with a Camino travel app. We start the day on a walking path along the Atlantic Ocean, this time able to take in the incredible views and greet passersby with a smile and an “Hola” (hello/hi).

We head up, in and out of the woods, sometimes withj spectacular views of the ocean or verdant farmlands, whose squares of various colors of green beam in the sunlight. This is about the time I remember the saying we came up with on our last Camino- In Spain, what comes up must go up!

We share our joke with a couple from Ireland and find we are staying at the same hotel. With no sign outside, we cross our fingers and hope this first building at the beginning of town is our final destination. Turns out, it is the Hotel Kanala!

Again, though the rooms are rather plain, the lovely welcome we receive and the inviting bar and dining room make up for it. There’s nothing nearby, so we’re in for the night and dine with our new Irish friends.

We are surprised by the elegant meal, from the delicious amuse bouche we begin with to the end of the meal, where what looks like a small mint on a plate becomes a warm towel once the waiter pours a bit of hot water on it.

Sept. 7: Extebarria- 17 miles
The single path of moss covered rocks and the trees canopied above make it look like an enchanted forest. All day, it’s a gradual incline that just keeps inclining! The click of our hiking poles on the ground, an occasional rooster crow or a cow bell is all we hear.

When we ask a woman for directions to our hotel, she insists on walking us there, probably thinking these hot, tired peregrinos (pilgrims) need a break. We warmly thank her and come upon an incredible stone building in the countryside.

The Hotel Antsotegi was a 600 year old foundry, now renovated into a country inn. The massive stone walls, wooden beams and rustic furniture make you want to stay and relax there a while, but we had to be content with the festive dinner we shared with our new friends from Ireland and Denmark, who all happened to be staying there, too. Who knows if we’ll ever see each other again, but tonight, we’re a Camino family.

Walking the Walk, Again…

Photo Walking the WalkA favorite keepsake, a sign that shows the distance from Georgetown, Texas to Santiago, Spain- 4772 miles.

For thousands of years, pilgrims have traveled the ancient paths to the cathedral in Santiago, Spain, where the remains of St. James lay to rest. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela – St. James under a field of stars – evokes physical, spiritual and mystical qualities. 

Inspired by the 2011 movie “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, we walked the Camino Frances, the most popular route that begins in France, in 2016 and 2018. 

Funny how, back in 2016, we didn’t understand why so many “crazy pilgrims” kept returning year after year. Now, here we are setting out to walk the Camino del Norte, along the northern coast. 

Where else could you find such simplicity, a peaceful rhythm to each day, the camaraderie of strangers and be given the opportunity to pray with your feet? 

A Curly World

Photo Curly World

Whether wild or demure, never underestimate the power of a curl. Little is known about this type of hair, that I, along with approximately only 15% of the Caucasian population seem to have been born with. As I get to know them more personally, those little ringlets are always surprising me when I least expect it, going about their merry way, with no clue they are a constant metaphor for life. 

While straight hair is lighter, due to its individual strands, curly hair moves as one unit and gets less tangled. When this force fiercely bands together, the coils and twists always get their way. I have finally realized when I want to part my hair on the right side and those stubborn spirals decide to undercut me and make it a left part day, it’s a subtle reminder to just go with the flow. 

But, this wasn’t always the case. During my entire teen years, with songs by the Beach Boys playing nonstop in my head and dreams of having long, straight hair like the girls they sang about, I persistently waged war against my hair. Curl Free, to straighten my hair, led to ironing it- luckily, I remembered to use a towel between my hair and the iron. I finally realized it was time to throw in that towel when setting my wet hair in juice cans overnight resulted in the words “Tropicana” to be imprinted across my dry hair. 

Securing those untamed locks in a bun professionally steered me through my business years. It was an outspoken hairdresser that finally convinced me to cut my hair short. With nothing more than a photo from Playboy magazine, he was able to counter my objection of not wanting to look like a boy. 

I naively thought I had won the battle. This outwardly well-groomed appearance helped to create the no nonsense persona I always wanted. But, just because the curls were chopped off, doesn’t mean they, and the personality traits that accompany them, weren’t still there. So, who was I? Was I the straight as an arrow me, that meant business, or the curly fun-loving and outgoing me?

COVID kept us all from haircuts and as my curls began to reappear, I somehow felt comfortable to welcome them back, not that I had much choice. This time though, it seemed these old friends were popping up at a time when I had decided that maybe the methodical Linda could coexist with my alter ego, Lola. 

According to Glamour magazine, curls are one of the biggest beauty trends for 2022. “Expect to see curls everywhere!” they reported. Whether wavy, curly or kinky, the three types of curly hair are known to be easier to care for. Flowing freely, they are smugly aware that, as their numbers increase, curly heads could single handedly transform the hair care industry, with blow dryers, hot rollers and curling irons going the way of the bubble hair dryers and bobby pins. There’s a curly hair movement out there and it won’t stop until it makes waves.

 Author’s Note:

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Senior Living: Not For the Faint of Heart

Photo JC Birthday

She’s double booked herself again. Tomorrow’s day trip was her idea, so she shouldn’t miss it, but her hair appointment got rescheduled for the same day. She promised The Knockouts – her boxing partners – she wouldn’t skip a class, but now water aerobics is at the same time.

When you’re 92 years young with a busy schedule, it’s hard to fit everything into a day – especially when Happy Hours start at 4 p.m.! My mom is a wonder and a force to be reckoned with. Moving into a new senior residence has given her even more pep and vitality, something we didn’t even think was possible.

According to the International Council on Active Aging, in 2020 the number of people age 60 years and over passed the 1 billion mark for the first time ever. That relates to one in every seven people with a higher average disposable income and more time to enjoy life than previous generations.

Seniors are trending as the fastest growing demographic and sparking excitement as marketers rush to cater to this lucrative untapped market. There was a time when old age meant declining into inactivity. Now, these new customers don’t let age hold them back. Young at heart and in good physical health, their zest for life leads them to look for challenging experiences and embrace life to the fullest.

Mom recently returned from a trip to New York, St. Pete Beach and Disneyworld with my sister. October is already on the calendar for a family trip to Puerto Rico. Now, she’s focused on 2023 travel plans. She’s been in contact with a younger friend, while also helping a new friend train to be free of her walker. My guess is she’s grooming her to be her next cruise partner.

Every year on her birthday, we convince her to wear her birthday outfit: white dress, silver jewelry and, of course, silver birthday crown. She’s always said “When you’ve got it, flaunt it” and now is definitely no time to stop!

As the population matures around us, seniors bring with them a newfound determination to practice Carpe Diem – Latin for “seize the day.” They’ve demonstrated that older is now synonymous with wiser, optimism can benefit you as a lifestyle choice, and seizing the day can be accomplished with style, grace and swagger.

Author’s Note:
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Pencil Me In?

Photo Pencil Me In

I have the uncanny ability to tell you what I was doing on any given day, beginning as far back as 1969. This has less to do with my psychic abilities and more to do with the small month-at-a-glance calendars distributed for free each year by Hallmark. For years, appointments along with noteworthy occasions were documented neatly in those small squares. Once Hallmark no longer cooperated with my calendar dependency, I graduated to a Filofax, the epitome of personal organization.

Recently, one of our neighbors announced, after a vacation to New Mexico, they planned to relocate there. They quickly sold their home, car, RV, truck and most of their furniture to other neighbors and were on their way, mentioning they planned to “pencil things in” as they went along.

That stopped me in my tracks! You see, in all of my calendars nothing seems to appear in pencil. I am strictly a pen/permanent marker girl. If you pencil things in, you are, in fact, winging it and have the ability to change or even erase your plans. I seem to have been born without the “play it by ear” or “off the cuff” gene. Which brought me to thinking about the yellow stick that started it all: the pencil.

When Hyman Lipman invented the pencil with the built-in eraser in 1895, writers everywhere were eternally grateful, no longer having to carry around a stale baguette under their arm. Before Hyman’s invention, the baguette was known to be the most effective way to erase ink off a page.

The best graphite came from China. In order to promote the fact their pencils carried the best quality lead, Chinese pencil manufacturers started painting their pencils yellow, the color associated with royalty.

Pencils have made their mark on history. In 1800s England, stealing a pencil meant banishment to the penal colony for seven years. Once graphite was found to be the perfect coating for cannonballs, it became a precious commodity on the black market. Mining workers were forced to strip before heading home and consumers were hoodwinked into purchases of wooden sticks painted yellow with black tips. During World War II, rotary pencil sharpeners were banned in England and people were encouraged to use a knife, thought to be a less wasteful way to sharpen.

Famous authors have drawn on the simple pencil for inspiration. In a 1935 article in Esquire magazine, Ernest Hemingway acknowledged the pencil as a means of constantly and easily refining his work. Working in his father’s pencil factory as a young man, Henry David Thoreau was responsible for introducing the measurement for the hardness of pencil lead. Having calculated levels from numbers one to four, the number two pencil became the standard in the U.S..

A single pencil has enough graphite to draw a line 35 miles long or write 45,000 words. Even though I have since moved on to a calendar on my iPhone, perhaps I should try to sharpen my skills, introduce the pencil to my writing world and not worry about being so precise. Write or wrong, it may be pointless, but it’s worth a try.

Author’s Note:
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Charleston, South Carolina: A City With Good Taste- November 2022

Photo Charleston Plantation                                                    Boone Hall Plantation

You won’t find any skyscrapers in Charleston. The cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages and pastel colored antebellum homes are a testament to the city’s rigorous preservation and strict architectural guidelines. 

Humbled by its air of aristocracy and elegance, I couldn’t help but think of the element of human suffering that lurks in the city’s shadows. The city was the key port responsible for the sale and transport of enslaved African Americans to all the major cities in the U.S. Rather than shying away from its history, Charleston strives to tell the real stories of its past by honoring it and educating us. 

Stay

Our Airbnb was just a couple of blocks from King Street; the perfect location. It was a lovely, two story home and each bedroom had its own bathroom. I loved the cozy patio on the second floor and all the amenities the owner so thoughtfully left for us.

Savor

This is one of the few cities I’ve visited where making Open Table reservations one – two weeks ahead didn’t ensure our first restaurant choice. I’m not sure if COVID was to blame or if restaurants are always this crowded, but I suggest planning way ahead – especially if you’re a group, like we were. The six of us like to share entrees, so we experience the menu. Since we were in oyster country, our appetizer was a foregone conclusion.

We were introduced to our first taste of South Carolina’s low country cuisine at Delaney’s Oyster House. Seafood based and served mostly with rice, it’s similar to New Orleans’ creole style cooking. Dining in the historic home, we had a view of the palm trees swaying on the outdoor patio as we feasted on crab and rice, swordfish and fried oysters. By the time we dined at Poogan’s Porch, a restored Victorian home, we were well versed in the cuisine and headed right for the shrimp and grits, scallops and fried chicken.

Never ones to pass up French restaurants, we were not disappointed with the mussels and frites at the cozy Bistronomy. At 39 Rye de Jean, housed in a lovely building circa the 1800s, we enjoyed the scallops, pork chops and lamb shank, and chuckled at the sign above the bar that read “Ooh La La.”

We were impressed when one of the members of the Hyman family stopped by our table to greet us. Hyman’s Seafood, the big, rollicking family owned restaurant has been perfecting itself since 1890. We were greeted with tastes of warm hushpuppies while we waited outside for our table (no reservations are accepted). Brian has been cajoling anyone that walks by into tasting their specialty for years. The combination of the warm, cornmeal based golden fritters and his warm smile and big personality, made it hard to say no. While we waited for our (award winning) she crab soup and fried seafood, served with more hushpuppies, we took turns reading aloud the small cards left on the table. Each with its own positive saying, you are invited to choose your favorite and then turn it in at the gift shop for a free magnet with that same saying. You can guess where we headed right after lunch. At first, we were surprised to see six large, old fashioned working sinks in the middle of the shop, but then realized how clever that was. They were placed there to wash your hands with their famous salt scrub and give it a try before you made a purchase. 

The message on the menu read “Lard Have Mercy!” That set the tone for Sunday Brunch at Big Bad Breakfast. After ordering The Jack Benny (a crispy fried hash cake, two poached eggs, sliced ham, wilted spinach, hollandaise and ham powder), it was hard to choose a side, since it seemed as if most of the menu was already on my plate! My choice of the broiled, sugar coated bruleed grapefruit was a good one. Having raised breakfast to an art form, no reservations are accepted, but if there is a wait, it’ll be worth it. 

This is not your ordinary de-sanctified church turned bar/restaurant. Look up to the ceiling at Church and Union and you’ll notice rows of white cursive writing on the black ceiling. Artist, John Morris was commissioned to paint the inspirational messages from “The Wayward Seaman,” the 2500-year old manuscript that discusses the art of war. Penned by Chinese General, Sun Tzu in the fifth century, it provided motivational guidance and strategic thinking that proved applicable in all situations. One of my favorite quotes was “Move swift as the wind and closely formed as the wood.” Working 12 hours each evening, it took Morris six months to complete all 13 chapters. 

Sightsee

Walking to the wharf via historic King Street, it was refreshing to see local and regional shops outnumber national chains. Eclectic, yet exuding sophistication, we were taken with the area’s vibe. Across from waterfront park, you couldn’t help but stop in front of each mansion along the street to relish its splendor and wonder about its past.

When in Charleston, a plantation tour is a must! Named the No. 1 plantation in Charleston by USA Today, we chose Boone Hall Plantation, not the closest, but well worth the Uber ride. Built in 1681 by Englishman Major John Boone, the 738-acre estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still a working farm.

Our tickets included an entire day of events and tours. Boone Hall is the only Charleston plantation to present a distinctive presentation titled “The Gullah Culture,” in which descendants of the Gullah people present the history of their slave culture through stories, song and dance. A tour of the mansion built in 1936 provided us with some background into the life of a plantation owner. A 40-minute tour of the grounds on a motorized tractor helped us appreciate the vastness of the property and its farm. The self-guided tour of the nine original slave cabins dating back to 1790 – 1810, were an emotional glimpse into the aspects of daily life.  

Still eager to discover more about this amazing city, we booked a walking tour through Walks of Charleston. Not only did our tour guide, Amy Tankersley, have a wonderful sense of humor, she had a way of making every detail interesting. Who else would take it upon themselves to actually construct a diorama in order to explain the original city’s walls?! I particularly loved the alleys we visited; narrow public streets that widened to all of a sudden surprise you with glances of interesting homes and beautiful gardens. We would never have found these hidden gems on our own or gained so much insight into Charleston. 

In only a few short days, Charleston had succeeded in winning us over us with its southern charm, reminding us “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

Photo Charleston Alley

                                            Another “secret” public street

Something Old, Something New Mexico- October 2021

Photo Santa Fe 1

Albuquerque

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.

Santa Fe

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. 

Photo Santa Fe 2

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. 

Taos

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.

Photo Santa Fe 3

Ask…and You Just May Receive

Photo Never Hurts to AskI I I can hear it now; the collective gasp from the Millennial population that live in JC’s* swanky building if they ever found out that JC has not had a rent increase since she moved there in 2016!

How, why, you ask? It involves just a five-word mantra that anyone can adopt:” It never hurts to ask!” Sure, you’re putting yourself “out there,” each time you take a chance and ask for something, but think of it as gambling with nothing to lose.

First, let’s concentrate on your demeanor and take a lesson from JC’s playbook. You need to dress for success. Looking your best will boost your confidence. Take a minute to take a deep breath and rationalize that your request is a fair and equitable one.

With a smile on your face and with your head tilted ever so slightly to either the left or right, look directly into the person’s eyes and ask your question. Then- and this is most important- do not say a word. At this point, silence is golden and is a game changer. It will seem like hours and you will want to blurt out a long explanation, but that minute or two will usually turn the awkward silence into a win for you.

This can also be adapted to phone conversations. Dress for success is still applicable. PJs just don’t give you the same performance level. Try standing up and smiling when you begin to speak and remember to stop talking.

Mr. Wiz,*a shining example of poise and self-assurance, has been preaching this refrain to me since we met. I’ve watched aghast as he negotiated a discount in a department store on a high-ticket item (I didn’t know that was even possible) and with a brief explanation, offered, what I thought to be, an insultingly low bid on our dream condo which was immediately accepted.

Shy at first, I began my training slowly:

  • In the grocery store, I asked if I could switch to an available brand of soup and still receive the sale price; it worked!

  • Now with a spring in my step, I walked into Dunkin’ Donuts and said since the gift card I had purchased for my boss had not been validated, I embarrassingly had to retrieve it and return to the store. The least they could do was treat Mr. Wiz and me to a complimentary breakfast. Five minutes later, we were enjoying their ham, egg and cheese sandwiches.

  • It was time to conquer the ultimate challenge. After some yoga deep breathing, I gathered myself together and called my credit card company. The concierge that had booked our high-speed train tickets had neglected to email the tickets to me at our hotel. We had no choice, but to go to the train station and pick them up, resulting in us missing out on a whole day of sightseeing. I felt we were justified to receive the expensive European train tickets at no charge; they agreed.

Practice makes perfect. With a little fortitude and a lot of moxie, you can change the course of your life, one simple question at a time. It never hurts to ask!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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