**Edited to add a bit that I had written before and inadvertently left off, added at the top.***
The next day – what day is it? Saturday? – dawns bright and fair, another bluebird morning for your intrepid travelers. After our third blissful morning of coffee and bathrobes on our (private) balcony, we walk to the square once again, which overnight has been overtaken by rows upon rows of artisans’ booths – we have lucked out to be present for the once-yearly Spanish market. We weave our way through the crowds, trying to pick out souvenirs for our kids. The influence of Catholicism is strong – every third booth is a woodcarver’s collection of crosses, or medieval style portraits of a halo’d Mary, the bleeding heart of Jesus. I select a turquoise ring (probably not real turquoise, but I like it) – the Professor chooses a beautiful hand-painted tile that we will hang somewhere in our new house.
Seeing nothing for the boys, we use the intrepid iPhone to search out a nearby toystore, and we purchase a couple of Santa Fe t-shirts for them. I really, REALLY want to buy them little wee cowboy boots, but alas, the price is too high for something that my little weeds will so swiftly grow out of. After collecting these very important souvenirs for our very important little dudes, we pack up our room and depart for the holy Catholic sanctuary of Chimayo (El Santuario de Chimayo). We have been to the Chimayo sanctuary before – almost exactly five years ago, in July of 2007, during the last child-free extended vacation we took before this one, I do believe. I took no pictures in 2012, so these photos are five years old.
The adobe church dates to the 1800s, and is a site of pilgrimage for many Catholics. A large number of people come to Chimayo for healing, and every nook of it is covered in pictures, testimonials, old rosaries, tiny baby shoes. Inside the main sanctuary are large folk-art carvings and drawings – very rough, child-like. There is a pit of dirt located in a small, low-ceilinged room (el pocito) to the left of the altar – I believe a holy cross once stood in the hole? The holy, healing dirt is collected daily – people stand in long lines to scoop a few tablespoons into a plastic sandwich bag. Some carry it away as a novelty, some eat it, some bathe in it, some carry it off home to a sick relative. It is refilled by Santuario employees at least once a day, using dirt scraped from nearby hillsides.
A bit up the hill from this church is a children’s chapel. The pictures here are even rougher-drawn, but charming, and carvings hang from the ceiling. The child’s prayer room is powerful. Rows upon rows of baby shoes, pictures, funeral notices and birth announcements, even a white onesie hung upon the wall. There are some stories of healing, and some sadder stories, and at several points in the room are signs requesting that visitors pray for the subjects of these missives. I pray.
On our way out, we walk past the priest in charge of this little church – he cannot be more than five feet tall, and he is very old. We wander through the sculpture garden on our way to the car, and then drive to the nearby Rancho de Chimayo restaurant, where I continue my love affair with red chile and margaritas, and also enjoy the complimentary hot sopapilla with honey that seems to be standard dessert for Santa Fe – kind of like fortune cookies after Chinese food.
After our satisfying lunch, we drive to our resort, formerly owned and run by my husband’s family. This is part of why we chose Santa Fe for our bar vacation – he wanted to revisit his family’s old ranch, and I wanted to see this place I’d heard of for almost a decade. (Also – family discount! During our stay there we got some special treatment for being family – although the place was long ago bought out, they recognize our name. Many of the current employees worked there under my husband’s family, and were excited to meet him and talk about the old days.)
The place was formerly a dude ranch, but has been turned into – as one employee put it – California-style luxury. In other words, we had a kiva fireplace in the corner of our room, daily turndown service (including a jug of water and glasses on the bedside table), radiant heating in the bathroom floor, new age music piped in at the pool . . . It was tres fancy.
After settling in and enjoying our first of many complimentary splits of champagne (I recommend going to an old family resort full of employees nostalgic for the old days – they will spoil you!), we headed downtown to dinner at the Railyard, a reclaimed and yuppie-fabulous section of Santa Fe where The Professor’s cousin has a restaurant. I forewent chile this time and had pizza. The husband had a green chile Philly. The cousin wasn’t there, but we still got an unasked-for family discount, and I began to realize that I will never want to vacation anywhere else, because (a) I love Santa Fe and (b) The Professor has generous, discount-giving family everywhere.
That night, we fall asleep with the doors wide open – nary a bug in sight. I wake with a start a few hours later, and thinking of snakes, shut the door, poke the fire to assure it is out, and then roll back under the covers and fall back into delicious slumber.