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Trip Report Santa Fe, NM trip report (from April)

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Saturday, April 2, 2011
John left for Boston on Wednesday to work. Of course at noon on Saturday, 3 hour before his 3:00 flight he was driving a German visitor down Newbury Street looking for the Apple Store. I arrived for my 4:40 flight while John was still in Malden at Betty’s packing. I swung by and picked him up and dropped him at the airport a bit before 2:00.
I parked the car and returned to the airport with the hopes of getting on John’s flight. The desk person told me that there was no possible way, since I had a different routing through DC and his routing was through Denver. Plus we were flying with miles and there were no mileage plus seats left on his flight and the flight was oversold”. I begged, pleaded and offered to pay the change fee. I asked for a supervisor. Nothing worked. I started to use “The Secret” – I convinced myself that I was going to get on the flight, I just kept saying it over and over again in my head. Within minutes, the woman said “Wait a minute, they just changed to a larger plane, now there are seats available, including a mileage plus seat, I can get you on standby, but there are plenty of seats”. “The Secret” works again!! It was 40 minutes to flight time. Luckily I only had carry-on luggage. I flew through security (no one was in line).

We headed to the gate (after I found John in the bar enjoying a beer and chatting with some folks who were Sugarloaf employees). I happened to notice that my connecting boarding pass listed the passenger as John Little and not me. I approached the agent and it took a few minutes, but they were able to straighten it out (ironically there were two Linda Little’s on the flight, one was an employee. By the time that was finished, we were the last to board the plane. As we boarded, we noticed that the emergency exit row with extra leg room was empty, so we took those seats. No one noticed, so we enjoyed the long flight in extra comfy seats.

We connected through Denver and arrived in ABQ at 7:30. We headed to Thrifty Rental car counter (a short bus ride from the airport) and were off after spending 10 minutes listening to the rental car agent trying to “upsell”- “Only $15 extra dollars a day and it’s a new car, yadda, yadda, yadda”. No thanks – the cute little car we got (a Ford Focus) was just fine!

We headed to the Airport Sheridan that I had prebooked through Priceline for $35 ($46 with tax). It was a nice hotel. Clean, large rooms with two queen beds. After checking in, we just headed to the bar for a bite to eat. Eat was late and we were tired. I had shrimp cocktail and John had a chicken burrito. The food was pretty good and the bartender pleasant – she gave us a few travel ideas/stops for the next day.

John fell asleep instantly, but I continued reading our neighbor Lisa’s new book “I Love You More”, John bought it at Logan for $26 (but he won’t pay an extra $1 at lunch for the salad he wants??). Anyway, the character “John Little” makes a cameo appearance on page 218.

Sunday, April 3, 2011
We rose early and headed to breakfast at Frontier, 2400 Central SE - (I had printed out directions, so we found it easily) – I got “HUEVOS LITE”, one egg, beans & green sauce on corn tortilla with flour tortilla and John had “NO.6 HUEVOS RANCHEROS”, two eggs, beans & red sauce on corn tortillas served with flour tortilla. There had been mixed reviews on various message boards. The place was large and was a bit of a dive (but that is what I liked about it), I thought the food was fabulous - total $14.26 before tip. I will preface that by saying that I live in northern New Hampshire and we can’t get any Mexican/Southwestern food unless we drive 3 hours to Boston.

After breakfast, we headed off to Santa Fe via The Turquoise trail, where first drove to the top of Sandia Crest. The views were great, but it was way too cold to stay outside very long. We headed back down and stopped at cute coffee shop in Cedar Crest called Coffee at Dawn for some caffeine – I wish I wasn’t on a diet, because they looked to have fabulous stuff! We browsed a few galleries where I bought some turquoise earrings and a Xmas ornament, stopped in Madrid (pronounced mad – rid – not like the place in Spain) which is “famous” for the movie Wild Hogs, here we browsed a number of galleries before continuing on to Santa Fe. We made one last stop to photograph some buffalo but it was quick, because although it was fairly warn, there were crazy blowing winds and dust to the point that you couldn’t open your eyes.

We arrived in Santa Fe at about 1:00 and checked in at Madeline Inn, where we had reserved a casita a few blocks away. The Inn is adorable and the staff very nice. A woman who was originally from Boston, showed us the spa and breakfast room (since the casita wouldn’t be available for 15 minutes or so). We snacked on peanuts and M&M’s and homemade cookies (large jars always out for guests).

We found the casita easily. It is small but quaint. There is a good size bathroom and a small kitchen and sitting area with TV and fireplace on the first floor. The upstairs bedroom was large and had a very comfy king size bed. The casita was exactly as pictured on the website.

By this time we were starving, so we headed off to find La Choza, 905 Alarid. The street was not on my map, but I knew it was near the Railyard, so we headed there (a 5 minute drive). We were unsuccessful in locating the restaurant and were starting to get cranky. We finally stopped at a real estate office and asked directions. We were only a few blocks off. We arrived, and – closed Sunday’s – bummer. So we returned (now very cranky) to the Second Street Brewery – the food was good, I got mussels and John had enchiladas. The bartender put the Red Sox on for John. We also enjoyed a beer. I liked that they had small, medium and large pours. I had a medium (10 oz) and then a small (4 oz), it was pretty good – total $32.94 including 20% tip.

We returned to the casita. John had a headache (he has trouble adjusting to the altitude) and it was much too windy out to walk around anyway. We took short naps, then had massages in the couples room at the Nirvana Spa (which is part of Madeline Inn). Total cost with tip was $296.83, John got a sports massage and I had a regular. My massage was one of the best, if not the best I ever had in my life. John liked his as well (although he was a bit of a baby when the woman placed a hot towel on his back).

From there we headed out walking toward the plaza, John didn’t let us take showers. Most of the shops were already closed, so we stopped at the Ore House for a drink. We sat inside, because it was a bit nippy with the winds, but a number of people were sitting out there. There was a band playing on the deck. I got a margarita and John had a beer.

We headed off to dinner (still no shower) at Ristra, we sat at the very cool bar, the whole place was very cute. We had red wine, I had a pear salad with toasted pepitas and ricotta cheese, John had a spinach salad and we split tuna tartare – OMG – the food was fabulous. It was really one of the best salads I have had in my life! The tuna was pretty amazing as well. The service was quick – total before tip $54.65.

We headed back to the casita, John watched TV for a bit (and made a number of visits to
the bathroom), I continued reading and am almost finished with Lisa’s book. We both slept soundly (me with ear plugs of course).

Monday, April 4, 2011
We rose early. I finished Lisa’s book, John made coffee (there were coffee beans and a grinder in the casita), then we headed to inn for breakfast at 8:00. We had yogurt/fruit/granola and very yummy blue corn waffles. John was a bit cranky (he still had a headache from the altitude sickness), so we sat alone instead of socializing with the other guests.

We tried to walk downtown, it was really freezing cold (about 30) and it was a ghost town, nothing was open, so we stopped for coffee until 9:30 when shops opened. We browsed a bit in the plaza shops and then headed to the Georgia O’Keefe museum. There was an interesting 12 minute presentation, then we rented the audio device as we walked through the exhibit ($26 total for admission and audio device for 2 of us). She was a pretty amazing woman. We had hoped to have lunch there, but….closed Monday…so we decided to try La Choza again.

John was still not feeling great

We grabbed the free shuttle to the railyard and then walked along the paved path to La Choza. We were seated at 11:30, just in time as by noon there wasn’t a spot left in the place. The restaurant is cute – very colorful. We sat at the bar, I ordered fish tacos and John had blue tacos with green chili sauce – it came with a basket of bread that was similar to fried dough. The fish taco really truly was a great food experience. I could have eaten a whole other serving and gone back there every day for the rest of my life. It was really that good.

We walked back to the railyard where the free shuttle was waiting, and got the same bus driver. She was very sweet – she pointed out landmarks, offered to call to see if place open for us, etc.

We tried to look thru shops but it was just too cold, I did check out the Santa Fe cooking school (great shop – although I got both of their books online used for $20 including shipping) and we did buy a second Xmas ornament (a really chili pepper painted like Santa Claus) and then since it was chilly and John wasn’t feeling well, we headed back to hotel for naps.

After a short nap, we headed to The Loretto Chapel to see the mysterious staircase.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.

The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the television movie titled "The Staircase."
It was noticeably warmer (4:30PM). We window shopped a bit and fell in love with a $3,700 lamp at a store across the street from the Chapel, luckily we didn’t buy it – it was beautiful, but we can’t be spending crazy money now that I am retired!!

We hadn’t planned on going to La Boca (72 West Marcy Street), but we came across it by accident and the restaurant was fairly empty. They were offering a 3-5 happy hour – half price tapas and reduced price drinks. I can see that during peak hours this might not be a great dining experience, the tables are very close together, we sat at the bar – the service and food were really great. We had toasted bread with three spread choices - red pepper almond, goat cheese with spinach raisins and capers & a curry hummus. Next was bruschetta with mushrooms and a fried egg, truffle oil and regginito cheese. We tried Moroccan shrimp with avocado mojo. Then a fig salad with blue cheese. Everything was sooooo good!!!! We each had a drink – total before tip $64.91.
We were stuffed! So we decided against a fancy dinner. John was still feeling lousy – headache and many trips to the bathroom.

So we instead decided to check out the Japanese spa 10,000 Waves, there were 91 steps (47 calories from parking) to the spa, John almost didn’t make it to the bathroom. We didn’t have reservations (or bathing suits), but there was a deluxe private room available – we booked 60 minutes. It was fabulous – a large rectangular tub complete with a small waterfall, a very toasty sauna, Japanese showers & toilet, a regular shower and a “cooling area” with a bed to lie on – We were on sort of an outside porch, so we could feel the fresh air and see the mountains (a bit obstructed by the trees). John headed straight for the bed and spent most of the hour relaxing there while I enjoyed the tub.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Our 3rd anniversary. We had another fabulous breakfast, the special was Roasted Poblano Chiles with Quinoa and Chipotle Cream Sauce. Yummy!! This morning we actually sat with some other guests, John was feeling much better and was ready to socialize. It was a group of 4 from Long Island. We had a nice chat, mostly about genealogy and then headed off.

Our first stop was Tent Rocks (less than an hour drive, easy to find) and a short 2 mile loop hike with hundreds of limestone spires (looking like teepees) in shades of white, grey and pink. It was really beautiful (and not scary at all as the gate attendant led us to believe). Unfortunately we forgot water. It was a short enough hike that we didn’t really need it, but not the brightest idea! It was much warmer today (finally), but most of the trail was in shade. We drove another three miles to The Veterans Memorial Trail where we took in spectacular views (especially on the drive back out of the park). It would have been a great picnic spot, but someone didn’t want to stop at Whole Foods . We left the park, and asked directions to a convenience store. We bickered over the directions (of course the girl was right) and finally found the place. It was a very strange store – large, but a lot of the shelf space was not in use. There was not one healthy food in the entire place!! We grabbed waters, John was bad and got chips luckily I had some trail mix from the Inn to munch on!

We headed back toward Santa Fe and stopped for lunch at Vinaigrette. The salads were just okay, yet very pricy. I got a pear, bacon, pecan salad – and requested it without the bacon. It arrived with lots of bacon and way too many pecans and too much dressing. John got the salad with tuna – his was also just average. After the yummy salad at Ristra our first night in Santa Fe, this place was pretty disappointing - $36.18 including a 20% tip.

We got back in the car and headed to the Tsankawi section of Bandelier National Monument. I had read that it would be difficult to find, but we found it pretty easily. It was about an hour drive on the highway where we passed many, many casinos. At Tsankawi we took a 1.5 mile walk along a mesa, climbing ladders, visiting caves and viewing cavates, petroglyphs and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi. This hike was in direct sunlight, so we got a bit of sunburn.

After the hike, we stopped at the tourist information office. I think we may have been the first customers of the day, even though it was after 4:00. The man there was very knowledgeable and talked to us for about a half hour. He suggested that we head to a nearby viewing area, we did and enjoyed great views including the Rio Grande. We there met a native who talked to us for a bit about northern New Mexico’s beauty. He was from the same town as Georgia O’Keefe and spoke of what great things she did for the community. Unfortunately it was getting late, so we never made it to the main section of Bandelier.

We returned to Santa Fe, stopped at Del Charro Salon and had a very large fabulous Margarita for only $6.00, John had a beer and we split yummy chips, salsa and guacamole – total $15.37 before tip. The bar was crowded and we ended up speaking with a local barber for a bit. It was a cool place!

It was a beautiful evening. We wandered back toward the Plaza and stopped to sit out on the deck of the Ore House. We each got a margarita ($10 each) and enjoyed the warmth and the views – no band this time (just an old lady “loud talking” on her cell – John finally got her attention and got her to hang up as she was annoying everyone on the deck).

We drove around a bit and finally located Canyon Road – OMG – so many galleries! And all of them closed! It was after 6PM on our last evening. Probably a good thing because we would have spent some money. Kind of a bummer though, the stores looked fabulous!!

We returned to the hotel to take showers and found that we had no towels. I used a robe and John used a small hand towel. We set off for dinner and got into a bit of a fight (I was sick of Herb!). Anyway, it didn’t last long and we arrived at Restaurant Martin, John dropped me off and went to park. Another couple walked in behind me. When the hostess asked if we had reservations (she assumed we were together), the lady behind me spoke up and said yes. When I spoke up and said I wasn’t with them (clearly I was standing in front of them and closest to the waitress station), the hostess said that she would be right with me after she seated the other couple. Wasn’t I there first? I was tired from a long day of hiking/driving and a few Margaritas and maybe a bit cranky. But I thought it very rude of her to make me wait. So I walked out.

We instead went to Restaurant 315. A great choice!! I had crunchy eggplant – it was really yummy! The wine was fabulous. We sat at the bar – the server was really sweet. We were her only customer’s so she had a chance to chat with us. They peer pressured me into dessert. John claimed that he wouldn’t tell Tracy! I had a yummy lemon cake and John had a molten chocolate cake – equally as yummy!

We headed back to the room. There was a note and bath towels left by the owner of the Madeline/Alexander Inn, Caroline Lee, apologizing that she wasn’t able to get the towels to us before dinner. A few minutes later, she knocked on the door and handed us a gift of candles. She profusely apologized for the earlier mix up with the towels.

After she left, we headed off to bed. To our horror, we found our bath towels from earlier that day hanging in the bedroom. Oops! I did email when I got home to let them know so that the housekeeper wasn’t blamed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
We rose and were out of the casita by 5:50. We drove to Santa Fe, got gas (a bit difficult to find), returned the rental car and got through security arriving exactly at 7AM for our 8:15AM flight.

We had a layover in DC that got delayed for 2 hours because the PA system didn’t work!! We boarded the plane and arrived in Boston 2 hours late at 6PM.

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