I was enchanted. Within a couple of miles after I crossed under the Welcome to New Mexico sign, the fog lifted, the temperature rose 30 degrees and the wide-open landscape included rock formations and mountains in the distance. My drive to Santa Fe along I-40 was equal parts scenic and windy. The wind gushed to 60+ miles an hour, tumbleweed rolled across the lanes and I fought with the car to stay on the highway as did the many trucks in front of me. The view of Tucumcari Mountain, a flat top mesa, was beside me for miles on end. I noted that the mesa on the outskirts of Santa Fe was dotted with adobe homes that tried to blend into the land rather than stand out.
After settling in at my hotel, I walked to The Plaza, which is the center of the historic downtown and ate sizzling fajitas full of veggies at the Thunderbird Bar and Grill . The outdoor porch overlooked The Plaza and gave me a great vantage point from to watch the quiet comings and goings of Santa Fe. There were tourists, mostly older baby boomer couples, mulling about in the art galleries and jewelry shops, a few Native Americans selling their hand-made wares under the arches of the Palace of the Governors(the oldest public building still in use in the US) and the occasional homeless person who pleasantly begged to anyone they encountered in the area.
On the advice of my waiter, I went to see the miraculous staircase at the Loretto Chapel. The Sisters of Loretto had started a school in 1853 and by the 1870s it was large enough that a chapel was built with a choir loft. Unfortunately, there was no way for the sisters to access the loft(the priests used ladders) and the architects and carpenters in the area said that a staircase would take up too much space in the church. Story has it that an unknown carpenter came to the Sisters, built a spiral staircase and when it was time to pay him he had disappeared. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. The Legend is that St. Joseph, himself, built the staircase. The staircase is beautiful and its story draws visitors to the lovely Chapel.
New Mexico and Georgia O’Keefe go hand and hand. I explored the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. This museum educated me about O’Keefe as much as displayed her works. The docent presentation, short films and audio guide gave a greater understanding of the work, inspiration and life of O’Keefe. I walked away wanting to explore her homes north of Santa Fe and to see the mountain which inspired many of her paintings,PedernalThen, I like many before me, ambled through the galleries on Canyon Road gazing at the numerous outdoor sculptures. Minutes turned to hours as I perused the galleries and day dreamed about which items I might purchase and how I could display them. Although the temperature had dropped to below 40 degrees, the dry air and shining sun made it feel warmer and I idled away a lovely afternoon in Santa Fe.
I drove out of town north towards Taos, enjoying more of New Mexico’s gorgeous scenery. I stopped repeatedly to take photos. I look forward to returning, with time for biking, kayaking, hiking and just being in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.