As noted in the previous entry, I’ve been to Santa Fe (and back). And the Santa Fe gallery is starting to fill up. Fun to peruse the pics.
What follows are some thoughts on Santa Fe.
- It wasn’t what I expected. While I really went into Santa Fe with no expections per se, I guess I had a feeling that the town would have spectacular scenery (it doesn’t) and the town would have an authentic flavor to it (it doesn’t). It’s almost like a faux town, a reconstruction (in the last 20 or so years) of what the town should look like.
- This is not to say I was disappointed – after the initial WTF?, there was much to enjoy: Great food, great art (galleries galore…) and it’s a great base camp for day trips. (More on restaurants and travel to follow).
- The trumpeted in-town tourist attractions are shit: St. Francis (brand new inside; but nice exterior); Loretto Chapel and the famous staircase…yeah, got a picture of it. Big whoop. Santa Fe is not a historic town in terms of what’s there now as other towns (Charleston, SC; New Orleans, LA) are. Not a ding; just reality.
- Would I go back? I dunno. I’d love to do some more shooting around there, but maybe stay in Taos instead, to catch a different experience and be more in the mountains (I think Taos is higher than Santa Fe, but I could well be wrong).
- This is not – like New Orleans – a party town. Virtually no live music, and the bars were – for the most part – pretty pedestrian. Somewhat surprising.
- Very laid back Santa Fe is, as are its residents. And friendly. No snarky/bitchy waitresses, crazy drivers such as sometimes appear to be the norm in big cities. Civility rules.
- Slower pace: I was able to (easily) run in the middle of a downtown street to take pics. In Chicago, I’d be dodging or road kill.
What is there to do in Santa Fe? Well – to me – there is not much of anything beyond shopping (think turquoise, Indian pottery and other arts) and eating. I like eating, but not shopping, so it’s a wash there. The city does have the outside opera house (which I did not attend) and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (small, kinda oddball but recommended).
The rest of the interest in Santa Fe – to me – are the places near the town: The day trips.
So, in no particular order or grouping, here are some of the places I was glad to have seen in the Santa Fe area.
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu
To me, this was the highlight of the trip. While Ghost Ranch is embedded in my mind with Georgia O’Keeffe (which is the reason we checked it out), the scenery there is spectacular from the point of view of one who likes rocks and so on.
It was a beautiful day when we drove out there, big puffy clouds in the sky but full sun and a nice breeze to keep the 80-degree temps at bay. We did the easiest(!) hike, up Chimney Rocks. Three miles, going up 600 feet – and you’re starting at approximately 6500 ft – not what a Midwesterner is used to. You arrive on top of the mesa opposite the Chimney Rocks, and the view – the whole way up – is breathtaking. Soft rock, hard rock, red rock, yellow rock, white rock, layered rock, rounded rock….get the gist?
The odd thing – to me – was the lack of wildlife. I saw some crows and some ants, and that’s it. No other birds, no lizards (but it was noonish when we climbed; high sun, we are Midwestern idiots). Just different from the deciduous forest conditioning I’ve had.
And it was nice to see the formations Georgia O’Keeffe saw. I’m not a painter, but I would see the rock formations and see a painting. An incredible experience, about 50 miles north of Santa Fe.
We did the ranch on a whim, and there was no charge, no crowds. That works.
Bandelier National Monument
A huge chunk of real estate roughly 30 miles west of Santa Fe, Bandelier is most noted for a huge sweep of cliff where exist dozens (hundreds?) of former Indian cliff dwellings.
It’s an impressive experience, one that I had not run across before. Both cliff dwellings (in massive, pourous sandstone cliffs) and village remnants. The area is also rich in Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine, and it would have been fun to hike a billion miles into the wilderness, but, hey, reality happens. Recommended, but not highly.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu Home
There is no picture for this, as photography is not permitted on the tour. Nor is recording, sketching, purses, backpacks…
Yeah, they are kinda anal about this. And very much a “Look but don’t touch/go there” tour. Understandable, but limiting.
Was worth visiting – for me, as I’m an O’Keeffe fan and know about the New Mexican photographers etc. mentioned during the tour. For most folks, I don’t recommend this tour beyond a “hey, we did the O’Keeffe tour!” boast.
I was surprised at how spartan the house was, and how close to the highway (but back in the 1940s the highway was a dirt road…)
It was a nice slice of life, and gave some insight to O’Keeffe: She live there 30/40 years yet it is still spartan (plywood kitchen and dining room tables) and looks locked into the 1950s style wise. Interesting.
Located up 84 about 40/50 miles north of Santa Fe. I think the tour (about 30-40 minutes) is $25 per person and requires well-in-advance payment. You’ve been warned.
Georgia O’Keeffe Musuem
Picture stolen from the museum site, as no photography allowed inside (I get that…)
Not too extensive, and the one part that I really enjoyed – the photographs of O’Keeffe – were too few. I recommend the Art Institute of Chicago, which boasts a rich selection of O’Keeffe paintings and Stieglitz’s photos. Why Chicago? Because that’s where O’Keeffe went to art school, at the Art Institute. I know a woman who was a classmate of O’Keeffe, and she remarked, “No one understood what Georgia was doing…”. It just wasn’t traditional. Interesting. And telling.
Downtown Santa Fe, takes about a half-hour to coast through, $8 or so per person
Eats: Coyote Cafe
A trio of restaurants, including the indoor Coyote Cafe, an upscale, high-ticket restaurant that is – to me – a little overpriced but worth the experience. (Meal, no soup or salad, two glasses of wine ~$60.)
I had a great meal there (I had lamb, which were like lamb medallions, let’s say, cooked perfectly for me [medium rare] ). Service was good, but we were early and we were the first customers for the evening, so it’s hard to judge.
Bottom line: Expect to drop at least $75/per person (including tip etc). Expect good service, very nice presentation – but not huge servings, and a pleasant (but not overly impressive) environment. This is a place to eat slowly, enjoy the wine, food and company. High-ticket, but I’d eat there again.
Eats: Cafe Pasqual
A small cafe at the corner of Water and Gaspar, Pasqual’s serves up incredible breakfasts for more like lunch prices, but I’ve no complaint.
This is a cafe that hustles. Yet the service is solid, informal and the food rocks. Different stuff to choose from, a lot homemade or organic. Look at the picture. You’re looking at – among other things – feta cheese, red chile sauce, bananas (bananas!? Yep, worked), peas, cilantro, black beans and eggs. I want more!!!
Small place; big impact. We at breakfast there both days we had breakfast in Santa Fe.
Eats: Dinner for Two
Out of the action area of downtown Santa Fe, Dinner for Two caught our eye because it was right across the street from our hotel (Hilton) and had an interesting hook: Two person dinner – including wine, appetizer and choice of entre is flat fee for (duh!) party of two.
White tablecloths; great service. Wine sucked (my bad; I should have upgraded), but we got (excellent!!!!!) soup, salad, appetizer, wine and entre (veal for each of us) for about $30/per person, with tip. We were too full for desert.
Interesting restaurant that one should check out, just to scope out the menu to see if there is any interest. Very romantic after dusk, as well. West Alameda and San Francisco.