Santa Fe, New Mexico
Drive south on I-25 about seven hours from Lyons and you arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “A City Different,” “Aspen’s sister,” “O’Keeffe Country,” the highest US capitol city at over 7200 feet, and Spanish for “holy faith.” Thirty-two years ago my husband and I visited the city for a company business conference. More recently, we traveled there to help our middle son and his family settle into a house. Santa Fe has definitely changed!
Hired by an Albuquerque company, our son and family chose to live in this small city (just under 70,000 residents) instead of Albuquerque. He travels to his office via the new Rail Runner commuter train, completed to Santa Fe in 2008. He rides his bike about a mile to the train depot, works uninterrupted for the hour and a half trip, and then rides his bike to the office. A day pass for the four zones he crosses costs $8 and a monthly pass runs $95. Free shuttles at each end take passengers to other locations, including the Albuquerque airport.
Tuesdays and Saturdays find the outdoor area near the depot filled with a farmer’s market. A building houses other items like clothing, toys, local author book signings, and a bakery.
Santa Fe retains its colonial Spanish roots by requiring historic districts, especially around the plaza, to adopt the Spanish Pueblo Revival look. Streets radiate from the plaza. The Palace of Governors, the oldest continuously occupied building in the United States, lines the northern side of the plaza. Native American vendors spread their jewelry, pottery, and woven wares on blankets in the shade of the building’s overhang.
Down the street, about a half block, the plaza’s eastern side hosts the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, so named by Pope Benedict in 2005. Built originally in 1869, the church has undergone many restorations, but, unlike its surroundings, it still reflects the original Romanesque Revival style. During the 1986 remodel, large bronze doors were added, which contain ten panels depicting events during the history of the Santa Fe church. Inside, behind the altar, hangs a screen with pictures of North and South American saints arranged around a three dimensional replica of St. Francis of Assisi.
Many of the area homes reflect the Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style architecture, with flat roofs and exposed beam-ends. Newer buildings on the outskirts of the city’s core consist of more modern glass and metal structures amid adobe or “faux-dobe” stucco buildings.
The plaza hosts summer music events, an Indian market, and a Spanish market. Museums located throughout the city include the Georgia O’Keeffe, Institute of American Indian Arts, Palace of Governors, International Folk Art, and many more. Be sure to visit the Loretto Chapel, a block from the plaza, with its spectacular spiral staircase. Many of these sights are within easy walking distance of the plaza.
Santa Fe shops around the plaza offer a multitude of western clothing options, but be ready with a checkbook or credit card because prices match Aspen’s. Hunt for bargains on side street shops and a trading post on the plaza. Take time to enjoy a leisurely lunch at any of the good restaurants. Other locations in Santa Fe offer all kinds of southwestern décor, from garden items to pillows, rugs, and furniture. A mile along Canyon Road houses art galleries, one after another.
If you visit the city in the summer, allow time for an opera performance situated seven miles north of town. Opera buffs come from all over the world for opening night, a formal gala. Attend in casual dress for other performances.
Our short visit failed to provide time for many of the Santa Fe attractions. I look forward to a return visit that might also include a trip fifty miles north to Taos, an artist/skiing community.