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.


Dinning

In Albuquerque:
  • Cervantes Restaurant and Lounge seems to be a New Mexico version of an old-fashioned night club – overdone tacky décor 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.

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