[spotlight series. ibrahim loeks]
[new mexico soundtrack. take me to church]
New Mexico, it was hard not to be seduced by you. You weren’t named the Land of Enchantment for nothing. Your magical desert vistas, expansive sky and stunning light, the sweet smell of sage and burning pinon, your crisp mountain air, ravishing wilderness, river gorges, and breathtaking rocky mountains. Full of wild splendor, you are. And Santa Fe, the City Different, yes you are different, but wonderfully so. We love your spiritual energy. A creative and eccentric melting pot. Thank you for casting your spell on us. We will be back.
We were lucky to spend Thanksgiving in Santa Fe with a lovely local family, who shared with us the love of the town they call home. A friendly and somewhat eccentric place, Santa Fe proudly celebrates its cultural heritage, paying homage to its Native American and Spanish roots. People here embrace diversity. They are open. They are colorful. They are kind. Colorful strings of chili hang from the flat-topped adobe buildings – an endless sea of brown and turquoise – and locals hang in the Plaza, where rows and rows of jewelry sellers display their silver and turquoise handiwork. You’ll be impressed by the vast array of historic churches, the hundreds of galleries and museums, and you will be awed by the spectacular sunsets that fall over the Sangre de Cristos mountain backdrop. Over Thanksgiving we were also fortunate enough to be a part of a house blessing ceremony with 10 visiting Buddhist monks. Anything can (and will) happen in Santa Fe! The City Different. Not only that, but get ready to breath a bit heavier – you will be over 7000 feet above sea level here.
These were some of our favorite finds:
Ikonic. This was our favorite. In a location slightly out of town, Ikonic roast their own beans and do a damn good latte. They have a great little food offering as well. They even offer live music some days, and we were excited to stumble across a group of cowboys from a local bluegrass band playing one Sunday when we stopped by.
Ohori’s: a Santa Fe favorite since 1984, Ohori's has a few locations and does a great brew. We tried their coffee for the first time at Ten Thousand Waves (see below), and then hunted down one of their city locations wanting more.
Start your day by drinking tea and eating oatmeal* at the Teahouse on Canyon Road. We had been recommended this dish from about five different friends in Santa Barbara, and it did not disappoint. *Gluten-free oats, buckwheat groats & forbidden rice, served with maple cream (yes! Maple cream) & whipped cream + strawberries or bananas. YUM.
For lunch, try the quinoa burger at Café Pasqual’s(which we once heard described as the “Chez Panisse” of Santa Fe). Breakfast here is also good (order the huevos rancheros – obviously). The smoked trout hash is also worth trying.
If you’re watching your pennies, the best cheap and cheerful lunch will be some fajitas, tacos or burritos from the El Molero fajita truck on the Plaza (at the corner of East San Francisco Street and Lincoln Avenue).
A little out of town, try the Tesuque Village Market – a pub/produce market – for decent Mexican grub. Our local friends introduced us to the “Frito Pie” – corn chips, ground beef, chicken, pinto beans or texas chili topped with cheese, red or green chile. Not the healthiest thing you will ever eat, but tasty!
Maria’s: supposedly Robert Redford’s favorite spot when visiting Santa Fe, locals love this as well. Come here for authentic New Mexican cooking and tequila (over 300 varieties on offer). Eat blue corn enchiladas and drink super-strong margaritas. What more could you want!
For dinner, we love The Shed. This Spanish/Mexican spot is a definite favorite, so you will likely have to wait awhile for a table. It might appear touristy, but don’t let that deter you. The margaritas are good and strong, and the blue corn burrito and green chile dishes make it worth the wait.
Our most hilarious and random night however was spent at the Compound – a pretty stiff and fancy restaurant just off Canyon Road. It’s all about the bar though. This was the first “conversation pit” bar of its kind. Where the restaurant is quite formal, the small bar seats only 12 people and is loud, rowdy and fun. Make sure you make a reservation in advance (Friday nights are best). The advice to sit at the bar was given to us by the lovely restaurant manager when we called to make our reservation. She assured us that the bar was a “great place to meet interesting people and since its so small and intimate, you really get a chance to engage in some wonderful conversation”. This could not have been more true. We ended up meeting and hanging out with some very colorful and entertaining locals, where the night carried on to the Cowgirl for cocktails and tequila shots.
Margaritas at the Cowgirl: this New Mexico-meets-Texas BBQ joint is a Santa Fe institution. We had a very fun night here involving far too many margaritas and tequila shots. Come here for the BBQ brisket, the margaritas, and the live music.
You can really get into vintage mode here, with all the great little vintage shops scattered around town. Our favorite store of all though, was Shiprock Santa Fe. Come here for awesome Navajo blankets, native American weavings, homewares, vintage and new clothes.
Visit the Saturday Farmer's Market in the Railyard District, renowned for being one of the best in the country. The Railyard District is home not only to the farmers market, but also some great galleries exhibiting work of emerging artists as well.
Ten thousand waves: be at one with the clouds and the pinon trees, and soak all your troubles away in the Japanese onsen-style outdoor tubs tucked into the ponderosa forest here at this luxury mountain retreat. Be pampered. We had an incredible facial here. Hidden in the hills, this is the perfect hideaway. Make sure you save time after your treatment for coffee (they serve Ohori) and lunch at Izanami, the deliciously authentic onsite Japanese restaurant.
Book in a massage with our dear friend and bodywork specialist, Ibrahim Loeks. This experience will be life changing. Trust us.
Cruise along Canyon Road (a little touristy/predictable) but you will find a tonne of galleries and stores. Take a tea break at the Teahouse (see above).
Check out the Monroe Gallery downtown. This black and white photo gallery was our favorite of the lot.
Get lost in a bevy of museums. We especially liked theMuseum of International Folk Art, and the O’Keefe Museum. Even more so, we would have loved to visit artist Georgia O’Keefe’s home and studio in Abiquiu. In 1949, O’Keefe moved from New York City to New Mexico, whose stunning vistas and stark landscapes had inspired her work since the late 20s, and its her home and studio which is now open to the public. A beautiful insight into the life she led in Abiquiu. “I have lived on a razors edge. So what if I fall off – I’d rather be doing something I really anted to do. I'd walk it again. (Georgia O’Keefe). Unfortunately the O’Keefe home and studio closes for winter however, so it was already shut for the season when we visited.
Check out contemporary art space, SITE, a nonprofit which opened in 1995 and was modeled after a European kunsthalle. The space, curated by Irene Hofmann, is renowned for bold and collaborative shows.
Hike through the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (one of the highlights of our trip). Just over an hour from Santa Fe, this awesome national park has a three-mile trail that winds you along a desert track through slot canyons and crazy cone-shaped rock formations, up to the top of the canyon with wide, sweeping views from the mesa overlooking the Jemez mountains and Rio Grande River Valley.
Taos, only an hour and a half north of Santa Fe, is an easy (and essential) overnight trip. If you have time, take the High Road. You will drive through spectacularly differing landscapes – low hills and plains, deep gorges, vertical cliffs, mountains, and valleys. The wide expanse of the Taos landscape is truly breathtaking.
We sadly struggled to find a good coffee while in Taos…but we certainly had one of our most memorable meals at the Love Apple (see below).
Before dinner, hit up Doc Martin's, the bar at the Taos Inn. Order (strong) margaritas and sit by the fire, where you can hang out and listen to the nightly live music. It’s a cosy local spot.
Book dinner (reservations essential) at The Love Apple, a super cosy and friendly spot that is housed in an 1800s chapel just outside of town. This is local and seasonal home cooking at its finest. We also enjoyed a memorable Pinot Noir (Erath) from Oregon. Cash only.
There are a few cute stores dotted along the main street of Taos, but our favorite of all was Logan Wannamaker Pottery. Moving from Colorado to Taos in 2006, Wannamaker came with a purpose - to create a ceramics community. His beautiful work is on display and available for sale in this lovely gallery space.
Only 10 minutes from Taos is the Taos Pueblo. It may seem a bit touristy (which it kind of is), but it is worth a quick runaround (it does cost $17 to get in though). A maze of sand-colored adobe buildings that have been inhabited for over 1000 years. The Sangre de Cristos mountains in the backdrop make it especially scenic and wonderful.
On your way out of town, drive seven miles north (enroute to your earthship – see below) to cross over the Rio Grande Gorge. Park your car and walk over the gorge bridge to marvel at the amazing grandeur of the mighty waterway 565 feet below. Drive on to find your desert earthship…
In our minds, there is only one place to stay on any trip to Taos, and that is completely off-grid in something known as an earthship. Designed by Michael Reynolds, these fully sustainable homes use local resources such as the sun and are made entirely from natural and recycled materials. Walls are lined with old tires, bottles, and tin cans mixed with concrete. With thermal/solar heating and cooling, the earthships also produce their own electricity using a prepackaged photovoltaic/wind power system. This energy is stored in batteries and supplied to all the electrical outlets. Earthships use and reuse all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells. Toilets flush with greywater that doesn’t smell. And water from the sky (rain and snow melt) is harvested/caught and used four times. In addition to all of that, the earthships are filled with plants that hold hundreds of gallons of water from sinks and the shower and are a great place for raising some of the fresh produce people would expect to find during winter. Earthships can be built in any part of the world, in any climate and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production. A perfect example of self-sufficient, green living. There are a number of earthships listed to rent on Airbnb. We stayed in thisone, and had an awesome experience. Angela was a super helpful and passionate host.
On the drive back to Santa Fe, take the route over the Chama River.
Stop at Ojo Caliente to visit the natural mineral hot springs. Soak in the natural spa, book a treatment or take the short and lovely hike through the surrounding mountains (about 30mins round trip). The restaurant here is quite good as well.
Alternatively, drive back via the spiritual stomping ground of Santuario de Chimayó, a small Roman Catholic shrine and National Historic Landmark that attracts over 300,000 visitors each year. People travel far and wide to visit the site of el pocito, a small pit of soil believed to have curative powers.
And for next time…we are for sure going to hit up these places that we ran out of time to see on this visit:
+ White Sands National monument
+ Bandelier National monument
+ Ghost Ranch
+ And skiing.
So much to do here, so little time. The Land of Enchantment is truly that. We can’t wait to return.