American Southwest 2007 - New Mexico

Friday, June 8

Driving toward Santa Fe, we decided to try the "Turquoise Trail", a side trip through some small towns known as artists' communities. We left the main highway and found ourselves on an unpaved county road flanked by ranchland, ten long, rough miles. [Steve: Truly a bone jarring ride, even at very slow speeds. And no cell service, so if we got stuck, we would have been out there for hours.] Eventually we emerge onto highway 14 and found our way to Madrid (pronounced MADrid by the locals) where we stopped for some gift shopping.

At Santa Fe, we checked into the El Dorado Hotel and then walked to the Plaza for lunch and sightseeing. The Plaza is surrounded on three sides by shops and on the fourth by the Palace of the Governors, which is now a museum. Around the edge of the Plaza and along the sidewalk in front of the palace, local artists and craftspeople set up tables or blankets from which they sell their wares. [Steve: Some of these people and their families have been doing this for years. We met one woman who had won the local art fair for over 20 years, only to lose one year to her daughter. She was proud, but still pissed.] Everyone who sells in this area has to be certified by the local government, so buyers can be assured that everything is authentic. This is a place to find plenty of turquoise and silver jewelry, as well as some pottery and other artworks or handicrafts. About a block from the Plaza is the Cathedral, built in 1869. Its stone architecture is a refreshing change from the ubiquitous Santa Fe style which is imposed on all contemporary buildings.

We learned that on certain nights, admission to several of the museums is free; this was one of those nights. We chose the Palace of the Governors, where we viewed a number of historical exhibits. Afterwards, we had dinner at The Old Room, the restaurant in our hotel. The El Dorado and its restaurant are often touted as the best in town (clearly they view themselves this way), and they are good, but for the price one could certainly do better. It's the kind of place that is expensive to begin with and then charges extra for every little thing. The service was not really first class (our room was not cleaned or made up, even though we spent two nights there). Although the food and service at the restaurant were good, the place we found our second night was much better.

Saturday, June 9

I was still sad about not having my digital camera, so we started the day by going to the local Best Buy and purchasing a camera. For unknown reasons, I had the idea that it would cost about $180 to get my previous camera fixed. The camera I bought cost $180. It didn't have as many features as the old camera, but it met my immediate needs, which included using the same kind of picture cards as the old camera. (I would later find out that my guess was right. When I got home, it cost me $180 to have the old camera repaired.)

We had to make another decision. Our original plan had been to drive as far as Denver or Boulder. But by now we could see that by covering such huge distances we simply wouldn't have enough time to see everything we wanted. So we agreed to forget the Rocky Mountains and spend another day in Santa Fe.

We spent most of the morning walking in the Canyon Drive area, a section of town that is filled with galleries and workshops. Then we drove a few miles out of town to the Shidoni sculpture garden. This is a huge outdoor gallery displaying large, bronze sculptures. On Saturdays, visitors can watch the bronze being poured in the foundry.

Back in town we looked in on more shops and galleries and visited the old Loretto Chapel with its famous "miraculous" staircase, a structure with no visible means of support [Steve: insert your own “brother in-law” joke here]. It began to rain in the afternoon, so instead of walking out for dinner, we drove to a very nice restaurant, La Casa Sena.

Sunday, June 10

We drove to Bandelier National Monument, a scenic, archaeological area known for its remains of ancient pueblos. The area was pleasant, with a small creek running through it and plenty of shade trees. Here we could get close to the ruins and, in some cases, climb inside them. This required negotiating some steep, narrow pathways and a few crude ladders. It was not too difficult, and was quite interesting. A longer hike to another site would have required climbing 140 feet up the cliff using ladders; we decided not to go there.

[Steve: Signs of civilization: graffiti inside the caves. What is it with some people?]

Santa Fe

This "shortcut" on the way to Santa Fe looked a lot better on the map.

On the way to Santa Fe, we stopped and shopped at Madrid (locals pronounce it
with the emphasis on the first syllable), a town on the "Turquoise Trail".

In Santa Fe, the streets leading to the plaza in the center of town are lined with shops.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assissi was built in 1869. Archbishop Lamy,
who inspired Willa Cather's novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, is buried here.

In front of the cathedral is a statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the
first Native American to be beatified in the Catholic church.

Civic art projects have encouraged student murals.

For decades, strict regulations in Santa Fe have required that
buildings conform to the "Santa Fe style" with its rounded edges and
limited color choices. The Inn and Spa at Loretto typifies this look.

The landmark Scottish Rite Temple, constructed in the early 20th
century, would never make it past today's building inspectors.

The Santa Fe River trickles through town.

Outside of town, we visited the Shidoni sculpture garden.

Bandelier National Park

Ancient Pueblo people lived in this area for several hundred years. The remains of many of their buildings can be visited.

This section was reminiscent of some of the ruins we had seen at Ostia Antica, outside Rome.

The foundations and some of the lower wall sections remain, but, like the Roman ruins, they have lost their roofs.

From the cliff, we can see the layout of the village.

Some inhabitants built multi-storied homes by using hand-carved caves that were reached with ladders.

Ladders placed by the park service allow tourists to peek inside.

The ground-level portion was built of stone.

This nearby, year-round stream made this a good place to live.


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