The lovely thing about vacationing without the children – who I dearly miss! – is how leisurely the morning coffee hour becomes. Santa Fe’s elevation means that the nights have just a tiny touch of chill, and so each morning we wrap up in robes and sit on the balcony to sip steaming coffee and read the paper. Our room at the Inn on the Alameda is on the second floor, so we are among the treetops. Aspen and cottonwood rustle and sigh. The coffee is hot and good.
On our second day, after the morning’s relaxing start, we decide to drive a wide loop to Bandelier National Park and back. The pueblo style architecture is ubiquitous. Each building is a collection of geometric shapes with rounded corners, pole-ends lined up just below the roof. The pole-ends puzzle me until I figure out they are designed for draining rainwater off the flat roofs.
We follow the google maps route to the southern approach to Bandelier. We miss the final turn, and after turning around and taking another pass at it we realize why – because it is a rutted, dusty, unpaved road that is barely visible from the street. We give it a go, but about half a mile in the road becomes a little wee stream. I climb out of the car and hike through the desert scrub to assess the situation further down. The sand is firmly packed, I pick my way through tiny rivulets. There is low barbed wire on either side of the one-lane road, and I contemplate how we are in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. The air smells of pinon. Up ahead, the road is completely washed out. It has turned from a little bit of runoff to a full-on burbling stream. We turn the Chrysler around and go back.
We head to a local restaurant called Maria’s for lunch, where I have a most excellent margarita and a tostada with red chile. I am carded – I am carded everywhere here. Either Santa Fe has an underage drinking problem, or vacation agrees with me. We are seated in the bar, and while picking over the last bits of beans and rice on our plates, we are approached by a gregarious old guy who introduces himself as Sam Pick, a former mayor of Santa Fe. He is buying drinks for all of the young women in the bar – a bit of a lech, but his broad personality lets him get away with it. He is still a politician, even twenty years later. I can tell he tends to do more talking than listening, but we let him talk. He knows my husband’s extended family who lived out here for decades. We swap stories, and then he goes back to his beauties at the bar.
That afternoon we head to Hillside Park to see the Cross of the Martyr’s – and ya’ll know how I’m always thrilled to discover a superfluous apostrophe, so that made my day. After dutifully admiring the cross and the views of Santa Fe, we went home to relax a bit.
In the evening, we walk up to Canyon Road, which is home to a vast collection of art galleries and restaurants, and luckily is just a block from our hotel.
It happens to be Last Friday – all of the galleries are open and have mariachi bands, open bars. We sip sparkling water, gaze at art, meet the artists and compliment their work. By a long fence we stop and listen to a man play Spanish style guitar solos from a covered porch overlooking a garden.
At one point I lose myself in a wall-sized photo of aspens – it glows, it is infused with light, and I wish I had thousands of dollars to spare so that I could buy it and put it in my house. We meet the photographer, Laiyee Lee, and she tells us stories about a weekend of shooting in Yosemite.
For dinner we choose tapas at El Farol. We share roasted goat cheese, ham and spiced mustard, a wedge of harder cheese covered in oranges, a Parmesan encrusted artichoke, a lamb chop, mussels in a creamy sauce. I sip malbec and decide that Santa Fe is my spiritual home.
After a day of traipsing, we head home for a dip in the hot tub, and then at last tumble into bed, footsore, dusty, and very, very happy.