By Caitlin Kelly
It had been 20 years since my last visit — a 10-day trip with my husband Jose, then a very new boyfriend eager to show off his hometown. His late father was the minister of a small downtown Baptist church and he regaled me with happy memories of riding his bike down Johnson Street, where the Georgia O’Keefe Museum now houses her artwork in the shell of that original adobe building.
Santa Fe has a low, intimate building scale, since most buildings are made of brown adobe — curved, smooth, rounded forms made from a mixture of straw and earth, a visual uniformity unique to this small and ancient city.
Santa Fe is the state capital, founded in 1610, at 7,199 feet altitude, the oldest state capital, and the highest, in the U.S. — the 2012 census puts its population at 69,204.
It draws many tourists and celebrities; Game of Thrones author, and local, George R.R. Martin donated $1 million to create the arts center Meow Wolf.
On this visit, we stayed the first four days with one of Jose’s oldest friends, then at the Hilton, whose public spaces are filled with beautiful, large-scale original art, the city center a two or three block stroll away.
One weird caveat — the city has no taxis! There is a car service but $30 (!) is a fortune to travel a few blocks. I do not use Uber or Lyft and both are available.
Also, NB: the city’s altitude and strong sun mean plenty of water and sunscreen.
I love Mexican embroidery!
I love Santa Fe style — elegant bohemian — a look more difficult to find at home in New York, where the official color is black. There is a lot of tie-dye and embroidery and insane amounts of Native American jewelry on offer, but if you like ethnic textiles from places like India, Mexico, Laos and Guatemala, you will find a lot of choice.
The city attracts some very wealthy visitors and homeowners, so some prices are eye-watering, but there are more moderate offerings:
Passementrie is a treasure trove if you, like me, love textiles — cotton, silk, linen, in pillow covers, throws, scarves and clothing.
A selection of cowboy boots at Nathalie
Nathalie, on Canyon Road, has been in business since 1995, owned and run by its namesake, a former French Vogue editor, bien sur! A stylish mix of clothing, cowboy boots, antique and new home objects.
Spirit, downtown, is amazing, but spendy-y, as is Corsini, the men’s store next to it. But a great selection of floaty dresses, knitted leather handbags, basic T-shirts, wallets, jewelry. The men’s store has gorgeous cotton jeans in all those weathered Southwestern colors, $225 a pair.
Check out all the local food offerings to take home, from blue corn for pancakes to chile powder to posole.
Every day, local natives bring their handmade silver and copper jewelry for sale in front of the Palace of the Governors. Lots of choices! Many local stores also sell native jewelry, both current and vintage; Ortega’s has a huge selection.
If you’re interested in pottery and contemporary art, wander along Canyon Road, lined with galleries.
Collected Works is a fantastic 40-year-old indie bookstore with a cafe attached.
Act 2 is a consignment shop on Paseo de Peralta, with a wide selection of women’s clothes, shoes, accessories — including sizes large and extra-large. Not the Chanel-Gucci kind of store but lots of linen and cotton. I scored two handbags and a linen shirt.
Such great food!
A classic since 1983, ever popular, in the Railyard neighborhood. We ate there twice: lots of margaritas and Southwestern food like frito pie (ground meat and trimmings), chalupas, enchiladas and served in a former adobe home.
With only 50 seats, bright green wooden chairs and Mexican tiled walls, this cafe offers a long menu and delicious food, from breakfast on.
This was one of the best meals I’ve eaten anywhere, sort of Japanese tapas, with a huge choice of sake and wine. The dining room is beautiful and the deck offers fantastic views of the wooded canyon. We ate soba noodles, shrimp and oyster tempura, asparagus tempura, pork ribs and gyoza, plus a glass of red wine and one of sake; $105. This is the restaurant at Ten Thousand Waves, out of town, so you’ll need a car to get there.
This lovely restaurant on Canyon Road serves food all day and has an amazingly long list of teas, hot or iced. The quiet and intimate rooms are filled with black and white photos or you can sit outside under an umbrella in the shade.
Ten Thousand Waves is a must! This spa, lodging, restaurant combination has been in business since 1981, Japanese in design. Private hot tubs, massages and dinner available. A few caveats: the women’s locker room is cramped, with only 2 showers and one toilet, while the place is very busy. It’s also at the top of a steep hill and I saw no access for those with mobility issues. The massages were excellent as was the private hot tub.
A 90-minute drive north into rugged countryside. Much smaller and quieter than Santa Fe. Worth it! Population 5,668.
There are two reasons to make the drive, the gorgeous early Mission church, the Santuario de Chimayo (built 1813 to 1816) and the 50-year-old restaurant Rancho de Chimayo, with delicious food, shaded patios and very reasonable prices. Their sopaipillas are heavenly — and don’t forget to dip them in the pot of honey on the table; they come with almost every meal.
Where the atomic bomb was developed!
Santa Fe National Forest
A short drive from town, this thick forest of pine and aspen has picnic sites, campsites and hiking trails.
Gorgeous! I’m doing tbe next blog post about this National Park, a 57 mile drive northwest of Santa Fe.