After all our mountain flights, we really enjoyed relaxing for almost two full days in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a city with a clear Hispanic influence -a central plaza, old churches and a walk-able downtown -meaning you don’t need a car, rare in the US- which is maybe why we felt so comfortable there. Or maybe it was because of the energy vortices which are in the area, these “swirling centers of energy that bring feelings of peace, harmony, balance, and tranquility… believed to promote personal reflection, deep insight, and a clear mind or act as powerful centers of physical or emotional rejuvenation” (source: be my travel muse website). Or because of the visual harmony of all the buildings: pink stone and wooden beams.
even the parking garages are in line!
In Spanish colonial times, when Santa Fe was not part of the United States yet, it used to be an important trading center for fur and other new world luxuries that would be shipped to Europe. It is also in those times that its churches like the Mission de San Miguel (1610, oldest church in the US), the Shrine of our Lady Guadalupe (1770s) were built and that its official name became La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís.
Mission de San Miguel
The Virgin Guadalupe in front of her church
The magical stairs of the Loretto Chapel (architects don't understand how they can hold, the sisters of Loretto claim a miracle)
The cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi (1870s)
Saint Kateri, aka Lilly of the Mohawks
That was until the great railroads to the West were built and the American engineers decided it was not practical to stop there because of the terrain. Slowly the city became less strategical and less visited, so in order to revive it, the municipal government decided to leverage the cultural wealth of the area which had already attracted many artists and writers thanks to the rich , mostly Pueblo, indigenous culture and the pleasant climate, and to become a center for the arts. They also imposed a very strict building code with pink surfaces and dark wood that makes the city looks beautifully harmonious and also very Mexican, complete with red pepper decorations hanging from buildings and trees.
Even the license plates are arty!
And there is art at the State Capitol
We stayed at Casa Chamayo one block from the Plaza and right next to the Governors Palace, all 100 % Mexican also
The governor's Palace
Not only did we enjoy walking around the plaza, we also ventured into Canyon Road, a totally energizing street full of galleries and art, many of them housed in historic Pueblo style adobe homes. The galleries are much larger inside than they appear from the outside because the homes, some of which built by the Spanish settlers around 1610, have very many interconnected rooms, leaving lots of space for paintings and sculptures.
We saw works of “Metaphorical realist” Russian artist Vladimir Kush in the Longworth gallery (taking pictures was not allowed so I took the below picture from Kush’s website)
And we were fascinated by the wind sculptures by Lyman Whitaker at the Wilford Gallery
And of course I took a picture of a turtle (did I mention my turtle collection?)
Of course not everything was pink: we were sad we could not get tickets the Georgia O’Keeffe museum because of limited capacity due to Covid, luckily we saw some of her works in the Chicago art institute last September (from my post dated October 13th) and at least we now know that she is one of the most famous Santa Fe artists.
And with culture comes food of course: there are very many restaurants offering Mexican/new Mexican cuisine in pink adobe style buildings or more colonial style ones such as La Fonda where we dined on our last evening.
To sum up: we relaxed and refueled in Santa Fe, enjoying the art, the food and the Hispanic atmosphere. Maybe the vortex helped? Alex definitely felt it! As for me, I am not sure. I believe my rejuvenation was probably due more to the harmony of the city thanks to the building code. I always love cities that look coordinated as opposed to the more “eclectic” style places like Buenos Aires for example where there are many buildings that are individually beautiful but little unity. Or like some gated communities where everyone builds their dream house -which is great- but the end result is a visual potpourri. In any case: after our stay in Santa Fe, we were ready for our next phase of travel: canyons and rock formations of all kinds in Arizona and Utah.
And just to be clear: If you are in the area, I highly recommend Santa Fe, New Mexico. And do remember to reserve your ticket for the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in advance!