Tuesday – Fly out of Pittsburgh International Airport to Dallas.
From Dallas, transfer to a flight to Albuquerque. Despite its incredible popularity as a tourist destination, Santa Fe stubbornly refuses to build its own airport, and so fly to Albuquerque you must. The scenic desert drive from Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe is just 70 miles, which with a highway speed limit of 75 means you can make it in under an hour. My relatives and I checked into the Inn of the Governors on historic Alameda Drive which has the advantage of being only two blocks away from Loretto Chapel, three blocks from Santa Fe Plaza, and directly across the street from the River. The Governors Inn also has a lovely outdoor heated pool, complimentary breakfast buffet, complimentary Tea and Sherry hour everyday at 4 p.m., and its in house saloon Del Charro won seven awards in 2015 Santa Fe Reporter’s Best Of Publication including 1st Place for Best Cocktails, Best Happy Hour, and Best Local Bar. We all have dinner at Del Charro that night as well as eating lunch there regularly and I can attest that their margaritas are indeed wonderful – all the more so if you enjoy them on the outside patio by Del Charro’s giant wood burning fireplace, a welcome amenity considering how chilly it can get in the Sangre de Cristos after dark.
We mostly engage in sight seeing, checking out the beautiful, world famous, Loretto Chapel and its unusual helix-shaped ‘miracle’ staircase. The outside grounds are equally impressive with flower beds, and local artworks commemorating saints. We frequent street peddlers and other shops all over the plaza area, shopping at the Five and Dime and oohing and aaahing at the many spectacular local art galleries. For lunch at Del Charro, I order my first “Frito Pie,”a local dish made with green chili, cheese, and frito chips. It was delicious but quite spicy compared to my usual diet and I had to wash it down with one tall glass of lemonade, followed by two glasses of ice water. That afternoon I frequent a local bookstore, and the whole family pays homage to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum with its collection of 140 of O’Keeffe’s oil paintings and nearly 700 drawings. An evening thunderstorm makes us decide to eat at Del Charro again instead of venturing out. After all, Del Charro makes excellent burgers and quesadillas as well as margaritas.
Ancient ruins in Bandelier National Monument, remnants of an old civilization.
We drive 40 miles to Bandelier National Monument, which is currently celebrating its 100th Anniversary! We arrive at the White Rock Visitors center in Atomic City, and then take the shuttle bus into Frijoles Canyon itself. By chance we arrive on the day they’re holding an official ceremony celebrating a new stamp where cake is being served. At Bandelier ,we hike the 1.2 mile Main Loop trail through Bandelier’s legendary Pueblo Indian Archeological sites. The ladders along the trail allow you to climb into cavates which are small human carved alcoves and the Loop takes you past the Big Kiva and Long House. Most of the ruins at Bandelier date back to 1150 to 1600 CE and the total area encompasses a great variety of habitats and eco-zones. In the afternoon, more window shopping in downtown Santa Fe and we have dinner at the Blue Corn Café where I sample the Santa Fe version of Shepherd’s Pie; hearty and delicious.
In the morning we drive to Museum Hill to visit the Museum of International Folk Art where they currently have an exhibit on the Morris Miniature Circus. In the afternoon, we pay pilgrimage to St. John’s University (our party includes an alumnus), and the younger among us were entranced by the campus’s koi pond where the fish may sometimes let you touch them. Afterward some of us head back to the inn to catch a nap and others visit Canyon Road for its top notch galleries and shops. That night we dine at the Pink Adobe in their outdoor courtyard area.
Today we’re flying out in the afternoon, but I make a point of doing a last visit to the Plaza and to the French Bakery I found in the area, before checking out of the hotel. My bags are considerably heavier this time around, because of all the souvenirs and shopping I’ve managed to cram into the last few days.
Photos from Bigstock Photos
Opening photo: Entrance to the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 23, 2010. The chapel is a Catholic Church now used as a museum.