Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Mexico Details

Delta runs regular non-stop flights between the Twin Cities and Albuquerque. It’s one of the few routes where I almost always score an upgrade and the Albuquerque airport is a pleasant little spot with actual workstations for laptops and free wi-fi.

New Mexico recently opened a commuter rail line between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the Rail Runner has a pretty limited schedule so I only got to watch it go by on this trip.

It looks like a nifty service, but – of course – the state is also adding capacity to the adjacent highway, so I wonder how long the train will actually remain in service.

We stayed at the Inn on the Alemda, which proved lovely and hospitable. We had a (gas) fireplace in our room and pleasant views over the city.


In Albuquerque:
  • Cervantes Restaurant and Lounge seems to be a New Mexico version of an old-fashioned night club – overdone tacky d├ęcor with Mexican specialties instead of steak and fried chicken, but the food is good (and very ample) and the service attentive. (And there wasn't an extra charge to split a plate.)
Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe:
  • The restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa is far from either city, but has lovely food and sweeping views. Our service at lunch was horribly, inexcusably slow, but my friend eats there regularly and it was the first time she has encountered poor service.

In Santa Fe:
  • The Tea House also serves yummy-looking food, but be aware that the kitchen closes early. It has a very pleasant, shady courtyard.
  • La Boca serves lovely tapas in a friendly little place. Although everything was really good, we HIGHLY recommend the grilled hanger steak with smoked sea salt caramel. I still have no idea what smoked sea salt caramel is, but I can assure you that it is absolutely delicious.
  • La Casa Sena has well-prepared food with a bit of a twist. (I had the daily special, which was delightful, but Susan was equally pleased with the almond-red chile crusted salmon from the regular menu – note that they are chefs, not English teachers or editors) There can’t be a more pleasant way to spend a lovely afternoon than dining in their gorgeous courtyard.

Shopping in Santa Fe

Yeah, we did some shopping. There are approximately 25,000 stores selling southwestern jewelry and another 5,000 selling contemporary non-native pieces. That is only a slight exaggeration. Unfortunately, few things here are inexpensive.

As noted in the blog, I bought a lovely contemporary non-native bracelet at Karen Melfi on Canyon Road.

Susan and I also handed over what seemed like fistfuls of money at a place called Soutwestconnection that has no web site. They seem to be primarily an outlet for the work of Calvin Begay. l The piece I bought is stunning, we had a blast shopping for it, and feel I paid a reasonable price for it. (Although I did pay enough to be able to bargain a truly exceptional price for Susan. . . unless she got that price on her own. She does have a talent for winning over everyone she meets and the sales staff here clearly fell under her spell.) As confirmation that we didn’t get completely ripped-off, Susan found similar, but far less spectacular pieces at higher prices at her favorite “wholesale to the public” gallery.

None-the-less, I’m quite sure this is a new, scaled-down version of the shop where I purchased another set of Calvin's years ago. Unlike our experience now, that was a high-pressure sale and I’ve always felt ripped-off. That negative association means I seldom wear that piece. I don't think that will be a problem this time.

Besides, there seems to be something about Calvin’s work that really speaks to me, since I'm repeatedly drawn to it.

We found a number of other interesting pieces in a variety of price ranges at other places, but some of the sales staff were pretty pushy. EVERYONE (including Southwestconnection) immediately offered about 30% off the marked price, which I found suspicious and kind of creepy.

We also managed to stumble into the courtyard at the Rainbow Man Gallery. This was one of the spots I remembered fondly from my last trip here but (since I couldn’t remember the name of the shop or where it was located) hadn’t expected to find again. Like last time, the courtyard is filled with folk art and paper flowers and makes for great photographs.

Museums and More in Santa Fe
While one easily could spend days just window shopping here, there are also a good number of historic sites and museums worth visiting.

Along with the Catholic church, New Mexico history has been strongly influenced by Native American culture and feisty white women. These other influences dominated the sites we visited, including the:
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a pretty small space and not all of it is always dedicated to her work. But what is there is amazing.
  • Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (housed in the historic building constructed under the direction of museum founder Mary Cabot Wheelwright and Navajo medicine man Hastiin Klah) is another smaller space, but usually filled with amazing work.

In Albuquerque
Old Town is cute and quaint and really tiny.

The cool place to be at night is along the historic Route 66 through the heart of town. The streets are lined with over the top architecture (from classics of the 1880's through Deco and on to mid-century Doo Wop and lots of neon. This is definitely where I will spend time (during the day and at night) next time I'm in town.

I’d Rather Look at (Odd) Houses

Previous Post: Heading South

Susan has promised our route to Nob Hill will take me by some strange houses.

She refuses to elaborate until she, rather abruptly, pulls over to the curb in a nice enough, but rather ordinary neighborhood.

It takes me a moment to realize what I am looking at, but she has made good on her promise. This is indeed a strange house.

The house next door is even more over-the-top.

Both houses are, apparently the work of Bart Prince, with the later home serving as his personal residence.

I wish we could go inside, but mostly I wish I could meet the man who designed this. Wow.

Next Post: Details

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heading South

Previous Post: The State House

We skirt along the edge of the storm, but the distant rains make for dramatic scenery.

The Statehouse

Previous Post: Wandering the Hillsides, Watching for Smoke

Although I know it is closed, I want to stop when we pass by the statehouse on our way out of town.

I have fond memories of this art-filled building, but the time is late, the doors are locked, and the weather has changed. A frigid wind howls around us, making it too miserable even for me to linger over the beautifully landscaped yard. (Even with the otherwise irresistible quince in bloom.)

Next Post: Heading South

Wandering the Hillsides, Watching for Smoke

Previous Post: Old Town Santa Fe

Although windy, it is a lovely day to be outside, so we head over to the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary for a late afternoon hike.

It is a beautiful spot, a peaceful oasis at the edge of the city with trails that twist along the hillside. All we need is make a quick stop in the restroom and we’ll be ready to hike.

As I’m washing my hands I notice a heavy throbbing, the rumbling sound of heavy equipment running somewhere very near. The sirens begin as I pull the door open.

A fire truck parked immediately outside rumbles noisily while another flies by along the main road, sirens wailing. A few people mill about, none seem anxious.

Maybe it isn’t a good time to hike here.

We question a couple of the folks hanging around (there aren’t many people here) and they assure us it should be safe to walk through the nature preserve as, at the speed the firefighters were moving, whatever fire there might be must be quite a ways away.

Although clouds are building in the distance, the sky above is crystal clear. There is no sign of smoke.

Susan decides it is safe we are off.

It is lovely out here, but I keep looking at every cloud searching for smoke, trying to sniff out of the gusty wind.

I can’t. But I can’t relax either.

Susan points out the remnants of the winter’s snow, the rushing creek far below, hidden trails snaking off into the trees.

I note the birds calling from their hiding places, the texture of the trees and rocks, the storm approaching far in the distance. This is a place of simple rugged beauty. . . but the wind is racing – a fire would move with amazing speed.

I can’t enjoy this place today.

Next Post: The Statehouse

Old Town Santa Fe

Previous Post: Lounging

Our plans for the morning include a visit to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, some follow-up jewelry shopping (we admired a few pieces last night and need to make some decisions), a little clothing shopping, and lunch in the courtyard at La Casa Sena.

We do all those things and more, but mostly we just wander from place to place trying to absorb as much as we can of this delightful place.

Like Lima, Peru, Santa Fe was laid out in accordance with the Laws of the Indies. Hence my confusion when, standing by the whimsical statue of Saint Francis outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, I look over and see, not the city square and the Palace of the Governors, but the New Mexico Museum of Art. What's that doing there!?

The museum must be urban in-fill. One of many changes in the city’s urban form over time.

Santa Fe is one of those odd places where the very thing that makes the place feel authentic is pure artifice. The Santa Fe architectural style that dominates today didn’t develop organically - it isn’t due to the preservation of vast swaths of historical buildings. Instead, it is the result of public policies in place since Spanish pueblo revival architecture became popular beginning around 1912. In the 1930’s the architectural palate was expanded to include the territorial style prevalent prior to statehood and today almost the entire city is built in these two complimentary styles. With a little art thrown in for good measure, this architectural harmony makes for very pleasant wandering.

Even more pleasant are the many courtyards tucked throughout the city.

Some are an oasis of calm and peace like the one that is home to La Casa Sena.

Others are exuberant and playful, like the small space where the Rainbow Man sells various oddities and big bouquets of paper flowers.

More time here would be a good thing!