8/7 – Travel day – got to Albuquerque midday, got the rental car, and drove to Santa Fe, about an hour’s ride. Thank you, GPS – found Inn on the Alameda with no problems. Room was clean and tastefully decorated, with a little balcony. After unpacking, walked over to the Plaza area and nosed around. There was an art show going on, and immediately bought a Christmas ornament made out of a gourd with a tiny adobe house inside. Stopped in the French Creperie in La Fonda for a snack, where Madame recommended some restaurants for dinner. Later, after some window shopping, we ended up at the Blue Corn Café on a recommendation we had from a friend. Good, basic food. Walked back to the hotel and called it a night.
8/8 – Up at 7 for a morning walk, then took advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel, which was a decent spread. Walked over to the Loretto Chapel to see it and the famous staircase, then took the Loretto Trolley Tour of the city. It was an informative and pleasant tour, and gave us a basic knowledge of where everything was. After that, went to The Shed for lunch. Little bit of a wait, but no problem, as I struck up a conversation with a very nice lady from Chicago. After a lunch of chicken enchiladas (Christmas on the side) and some great guacamole, walked back to the hotel for a “siesta” (no sleeping, but a nice break reading in the cool a/c). It was pretty hot, even if it was a “dry heat”. Had tickets that evening for a concert at the Lensic (beautiful building). Concert was fantastic (youth jazz orchestra from Germany – go figure!). After the concert, walked over to the Plaza and had a late dinner at the Cantina balcony restaurant that faces the Plaza.
8/9 – Morning walk, looping through Canyon Road and back down East Alameda (me), and workout in hotel fitness center for DH. Breakfast at the Inn (hey, it’s free!). Hit the road (the High Road) for Taos. Made a few stops along the way (Santuario de Chimayó, Las Trampas, shop that sold weavings (beautiful, but very expensive), art gallery, and a few stops for picture-taking). Along the way, we did see one area decimated by a forest fire. Got to Taos and had lunch at Graham’s Grille. Excellent food – DH and I shared a thin pizza appetizer (might have been made with a flour tortilla) made with figs, goat cheese, bacon, and onion – yum! Then we both had soup and salad, all of which were wonderful. We did a little window shopping in town, and then headed out to Taos Pueblo. Took a guided tour of a few of the buildings and other spots – it was very interesting. The young lady that did the tour was very accommodating, answering all our questions. It was also very hot, so before long we decided to head back, via the Low Road (quicker, but not as interesting as the High). Stopped on the way back at Camel Rock and took a few cheesy tourist pictures. After stopping at the inn to refresh ourselves, we walked over to the Cowgirl BBQ for dinner. Noisy, but fun. Had the brisket, which was very tender. Stopped at the Cathedral on the way back to check out the gardens and labyrinth in front. Needed to make it an early night, as we were being picked up the next morning at 5:30 a.m. for a hot air balloon ride!
8/10 -- Up at 4:45 and downstairs at 5:25 – Johnny Lewis of Santa Fe Balloon Company and one crew member were at the curb, waiting for us. Drove out to the desert north of Española and met another chase crew member. We all drove a little farther to the takeoff site. The crew enlisted DH’s help in inflating the balloon; the process starts with using a high powered fan to do the initial inflating. Once the balloon was about ¾ inflated, the burner was ignited and the hot air inflated the rest. One of the crew members took pictures of us after we had gotten into the basket and also took a video of us taking off using my camera. We dropped back down to retrieve the camera and took off for real. The flight was about an hour over the desert and small canyons, during which Johnny gave us an education on balloon flight. DH and I both got to work the burner a few times. What a spectacular view of the sun rising over the desert and beaming through the clouds! Saw one jackrabbit and some bleached cattle bones. We landed fairly close to where we had picked up the crew member, and after everything was packed back up, had a lovely little spread of champagne, orange juice (mimosas!), and some snacks. They drove us back to the hotel afterwards. It was truly a great experience. Had a late breakfast in town that day, after which we drove up to Museum Hill and went to the Folk Art Museum – lots of interesting and colorful artifacts. Lunch was also late, but very good – went to Tomasita’s in the Railyard District. Back to the hotel for a few hours of downtime, then got ready to go to The Lodge at Santa Fe for the flamenco show. We were both disappointed in that, to tell the truth. The Lodge is worn around the edges – maintenance is definitely in order. As to the show, the dance itself was great, but we found the service to be lacking. They serve tapas and drinks before the show. The selection of wines was limited, and the tapas even more (2 choices). We ordered a meat and cheese plate, expecting to get some of the wonderful items we had experienced in Spain. What we got was a selection of meats and cheese (cheese being written here in the singular on purpose) from the local supermarket. Two pieces of provolone, a few pieces of boiled ham and maybe corned beef(?), a couple of sliced strawberries and some grapes. Very poor. I also had a woman next to me yelling “Olé!” in my right ear throughout the whole performance; I understand this is normal for such a show, but since the seats were so close together, it got annoying quickly. We ended up leaving at intermission, but I have to say it was our only disappointment of the trip.
8/11 – Morning walk, Canyon road loop (me), and workout (DH). The free breakfast, at a wonderfully leisurely pace. Drove out to Bandelier and talked to the ranger at the entrance, who told us the trail choice was still limited, but recommended Tsankawi. So we backtracked to that. By the time we got on the trail, it was about 1 p.m. The day had started cloudy, which would have been good for the hike, temperature-wise, but cleared up; nice to look at, but very hot (think it must have been low 90’s). On the way up to the first ladder, we met a couple going the other way. The wife was in a state – “Don’t let them kid you, it’s strenuous! Don’t go without a hat, sunscreen, and water! It’s tough!” We decided to decide for ourselves; we were prepared, and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Glad we did! Lovely vistas and such interesting sights. We were glad of the interpretive map, too – it really helped to know what you were looking at, and we might have missed a few things if we didn’t have it. I admit that the hike was a challenge in the heat, but we took our time and made frequent stops. We still made it in under two hours, which the ranger told us was the norm. Drove back to Santa Fe, and went to Zia Diner for lunch/supper. Liked the food, but didn’t have much of an appetite (my diet would benefit from climbing mesas every day, apparently). Went back to the hotel, where they had moved us to a new room (king suite, with a wonderful kiva fireplace in the living room – nice!) After a lovely cool shower, we went out to a movie for the night’s entertainment. After a late night snack at the hotel, we called it a day.
8/12 – Morning walk (me) and hotel workout (DH). Another relaxing breakfast at the inn, but definitely more crowded with the start of the weekend and I assume looming Indian Market. August 12th is the feast day of St. Clare, Santa Clara Pueblo’s patron saint, so we took advantage of this to drive out to the pueblo to see the festivities. Interesting trip in, because most of the streets, that we could see, weren’t marked well, and most of them are unpaved. Found a parking lot, of sorts, and walked in. Came onto what seemed to be the main plaza and a ceremonial dance going on. I think, after some research, it must have been the Corn Dance? All the dancers holding evergreen branches, the girls and women in black dresses with colorful embroidery, shawls, and wooden headdresses decorated with paint and feathers. The men and boys shirtless, most of their torsos covered in mud, with fox pelts tucked into their pants, shaking gourd rattles and holding evergreens as well. Dancing, with groups of differently clad people, went on throughout the time we were there. It was another very hot day, and tough on the dancers, I’m sure, who ranged in age from small children to adults. All dances were accompanied by groups of men chanting and beating drums. There were many artisans selling pottery, jewelry, and foodstuffs, and all very congenial, willing to answer my questions and explain how they created their products. I bought a pair of sterling, lapis, and green turquoise earrings from one stall, and a clay Christmas ornament from another. We stopped to see one more dance, where we were rewarded by the sight of men dressed as the koshare (ceremonial clown). By now the heat had gotten to us, so we made our way back to Santa Fe, where we had lunch at Mucho Gusto. We split two dishes there – a green chile cheeseburger (had to sample the state sandwich, after all!) and chicken tacos – both yummy. Also had a scrumptious warm rice pudding with white chocolate sauce, and that was heavenly. After a rest break back at the inn, went shopping again near the Plaza and bought a few small things. Next was the sunset at La Fonda with a little liquid libation; got some great photos of both the sunset in the west and the moonrise in the east. Dinner at Rooftop Pizzeria, which was very good.
8/13 – Definitely needed the morning walk (me) and hotel fitness center workout (DH) after yesterday’s indulgences. After breakfast, set off for Rancho de las Golondrinas. They were having numerous demonstrations that day, so we saw wool carding, spinning, and weaving, herbal medicine, soap making from yucca roots, and more. Docents told us about the history of the buildings we saw, including the homes, chapel, school, and dye house. Walked around for a few hours, and didn’t get to all of it. We stopped in at the museum shop on the way out. Another hot day, so we decided to make our way back to Santa Fe and figure out where to have lunch. On the way, the storm clouds gathered, lightening flashed, and the downpour started before we got back. Went back to the hotel to wait it out, then decided to go back to Mucho Gusto when the rain let up. Another good meal, for sure. We then decided to walk back to the Plaza area, since I wanted to see if the art show was still on on the Cathedral grounds, and DH wanted to hit the 5:15 mass there. Not much to see, art-wise, because of the rain and the late time. Bought a book on Native American ceremonies to remember our Santa Clara experience (because you couldn’t take pictures in the pueblo), and had a little snack for our dinner. Called it an early night because we had to pack to leave the next day.
8/14 – Up early (don’t know why), before the alarm went off. Finished the packing, had the last free breakfast, and took off for Albuquerque. No real travel problems. Back to reality for us now, but loved our New Mexican experience!