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Trip Report Sojourn to Santa Fe

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When word of a Fodors Get Together in Santa Fe started brewing, I got to thinking....hmmmm…I’ve never been to New Mexico, this might be fun. After a brief consultation with mom, “my travel partner in crime”, the planning wheels were set in motion. Plane tickets were purchased and a hotel was booked and we were ready to GO!

Friday, September 10th

The good thing about early flights is they usually take off on time; the bad thing about early flights is I have to get up before the crack of dawn. This trip included an early morning flight, departing Savannah at 7:30am which meant the alarm clock went off at 4:30am…UGH!

The flight from Savannah to Atlanta took all of 25 minutes. We landed in Atlanta and clearly it was rush hour on the runways because it took us 35 minutes to taxi from the farthest runway to the terminal gate, yup the taxing took longer than the flight. No worries though, we had a 2 hour layover so we would make the flight to Albuquerque with no problem. We were happy to see our friend J make it to the gate area with plenty of time to spare.

The flight to Albuquerque was packed and the airline changed the plane to a smaller one, so the gate agents were asking for people to volunteer to be on the next flight, my thoughts of getting upgraded (like we were on the flight from Savannah) were slipping away. Since the equipment changed (changed to smaller plane), we didn’t even get our coveted exit row seats…at least we had seats! J almost didn’t make it on the plane…we were relieved to see her board as the cabin door was being closed…close call!

We arrived in Albuquerque about 20 minutes late and as we walked out of the terminal we were overjoyed with the great weather and most importantly for us, low humidity! We found it easy to get to the car rental terminal via the shuttle bus. I booked the rental through Hertz since it was giving a deal of 200 Delta Sky Miles with a 2 day or more rental, I figured why not. I may not be so quick to book with them again since it took almost an hour for the car to be ready.

Once we were situated with the car it was easy to find the way to the interstate that took us directly to Santa Fe and we made the drive in just over an hour. Thankfully I was warned by a fellow Fodorite that this was Fiesta weekend and the streets around the plaza were being blocked off. Fortune was on our side and we were able to get to the hotel with no difficulty even with streets closed off.

We stayed at the Hotel Plaza Real (http://www.hhandr.com/plazareal.php) just off the plaza on Washington Street. There is parking under the hotel for a charge of $14 per day. The location of this hotel is fantastic for being close to the plaza and all things in the historic downtown area. A car really wouldn’t be needed if your focus is the historic downtown area, but we had plans to be outside of downtown on Saturday and needed the car.

We had a second floor room with a balcony overlooking the courtyard area. The room was a nice size, clean and comfortable. If I had to find any fault it would be the bed was a little soft for me, but I tend to prefer firmer beds.

At 5pm we had plans to meet 4 Fodorite friends at the Inn of the Anastazi patio for a glass of wine. We meandered over and found a free table on the patio and snagged it. Soon after J found us, then AM arrived and within minutes S & her husband T arrived. It was a great evening and a perfect place to meet since it was right next door to the Hotel Plaza Real! And now the laughing would begin…it was the start of a fun-filled weekend.

At 7pm we all walked around the corner to Marcy Street for our reservation at La Boca (www.labocasf.com). I found this place on Open Table and it sounded great, it was an all tapas menu and since there were 6 of us, we decided to trust our server and told her to just bring us her favorite tapas. Honestly, I can’t even remember which tapas we had because we were talking and laughing so much, but I remember most everything we had was good. It was a great first night in Santa Fe. By 9:30pm mom and I were starting to feel the effects of being awake since 4:30am and it called it a night and walked the 5 minutes back to the Hotel.

Saturday, September 11th

Up at 7am and a stop at Starbucks to fuel up before driving to Nambe for the Santa Fe School of Cooking (http://santafeschoolofcooking.com/index.html ) sponsored Winemakers Lunch at Estrella Del Norte Vineyard (http://www.estrelladelnortevineyard.com/).

Had I know there was a 9am parade in the plaza area I would have left the hotel earlier, but when I pulled out of the hotel parking and turned the corner just after 9am, I found a road block, in fact, all the roads were blocked. How could this be! I just needed to cross one street to be able to drive to the Winemakers Lunch in Nambe. The less than friendly street warden told me in no uncertain terms, “tough luck” and I’d have to wait until the parade was over. YIKES! The event was starting in 45 minutes and from the directions I had it would take about 30 minutes to get there!

I called the school and told them my situation, but it was way to late to cancel. We parked the car back at the hotel and tried to find out how long the parade would last. At about 10am it was coming to an end (thankfully it wasn’t hours long!) and we jumped in the car and headed toward Nambe. By my estimation we would be about an hour late. Of course, now my adrenaline is pumping and I missed a turn, went out of my way a few miles, turned back and finally got back on track.

I am the kind of person who hates arriving at places late, let alone an outdoor cooking demo where everyone else is already seated and the only way to get to our seats was to walk right in front of the chef doing the demo! BUT, it all worked out, and we only really missed the demo of the blue corn flour biscuits!

This lunch/demo was so worth the earlier aggravation getting there. The chef, Michelle and the sous chef, Jeremiah were great…funny, laid back and they really knew how to cook. They had not only great recipes to share but great stories to tell.

The menu was fantastic and started with a salad with roasted squash and peppers with a southwestern green goddess dressing…absolutely delicious. The main dish of the meal was masa crusted pork chops that were so tender and juicy we barely needed a knife to cut them. The 2 side dishes were great too, calabacitas, which as Chef Michele said, “if you’ve ever had succotash, you’ve had calabacitas”…it’s just the local name for it and the best cumin roasted potatoes I think I’ve ever had. And, if all that wasn’t enough we ended the meal with the blue corn flour biscuits with an apple and peach compote. We had both white and red wines from a local winery. The wines were the Manhattan Project brand.

We left the vineyard at about 1:30pm and the drive back into Santa Fe was speedier than our drive out to the vineyard. We were back at the hotel by 2pm and poked around the plaza area checking out the artist stalls.

We met J at about 3pm and drove to the Railyard Restaurant where the Fodors get together was going on. What fun…the first couple hours were spent on the patio area with everyone chatting and getting acquainted or re-acquainted. One Fodorite even set up a computer so we could Skype other Fodorites who couldn’t make the Get Together, such fun!

At about 5pm we moved inside to the dinning room for dinner. Now, having had such a big lunch mom and stuck to the salad and cheeseburger option and it worked perfectly. And I won the Fodors Seattle guidebook in the give-away…perfect for my January trip to Seattle! Lots of laughs were had and photos taken.

Just after 7pm we went back to the hotel to relax and catch up on sleep!

Sunday, September 12th

Today was a leisurely start and we decided to go to mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi since we hadn’t been inside the church yet. We got really lucky and witnessed a processional through the streets (for Fiesta) to the basilica. I had a great vantage point right in front of the church. As the procession came up the street I kept snapping pictures. I couldn’t have planned being in this place at this time more perfectly.

When we walked into the church all I could say was “Wow”! I’ve been in some incredible churches, but this one really took my breath away, it was so light, bright and airy. The church was packed, standing room only, but we managed to find seats in the back. Aside from the lovely interior of this church I really enjoyed the music they played during the service. It was clearly a cultural difference; it was so much livelier than the music in the churches I’d been too.

We left just be 11am and walked to Luminaria (http://www.innatloretto.com/new-mexico-dining/santa-fe-dining.php) for our brunch reservation. This restaurant is at the Inn at Loretto and has a lovely patio overlooking the Loretto Chapel.

Mom decided to have the breakfast burrito with both red and green chili, or as the locals call it, Christmas. I had the blue corn apple pancakes with pinon syrup. The burrito was gigantic and SPICY…good thing mom had it and not me…even mom had a tough time with the heat of the chilis! I really liked the flavor of the blue corn pancakes, even the texture was slightly different than buttermilk pancakes, it had a bit more “grit” to it, but not in a bad way!

After brunch we walked the 15 steps over to the Loretto Chapel (http://www.lorettochapel.com/) to see the miraculous staircase. And, WOW…it is really quite beautiful but in a simple way. The story of the staircase is really very moving. Back in the 1800 the nuns needed a staircase to access the choir loft, out of nowhere a gentleman comes to the chapel and offers his services to build the staircase. He left as mysteriously as he arrived and never took a penny for the work he did. It turned out he built the staircase with no nails…some say it was Joseph the Carpenter…it’s up to you to decide for yourself, but it is one beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

After the chapel we strolled around the plaza area and stopped in a shop that sells the most beautiful vests and coats made from native blankets. The shop is Native Jackets at 66 E. San Francisco Street (www.nativejackets.com). I had my eye on a reversible vest and couldn’t resist…I stimulated the Santa Fe economy!

We spent some time at the Georgia O’Keefe museum (http://www.okeeffemuseum.org/) since it was the last day of the Abstraction exhibit and then a quick trip back to the St. Francis Cathedral to see the inside when it wasn’t packed full of people. The baptismal font at this church is really something to see…smack in the middle of the mail aisle of the church, it’s really more a fountain…just incredible.

We took a short rest before meeting J and AM for our final dinner in Santa Fe. We met J in the hotel lobby and walked over the Galisteo Bistro at 227 Galisteo Street (www.galisteobistro.com). As soon as we walked in the door I knew I was going to like this place. It’s not too big, the dinning room has exposed brick wall and an open kitchen, not that we were looking in the kitchen with the great conversation we had!

I was shocked when the chef greeted us and sat us at our table and then I noticed a wine bucket already on the table with a bottle in it…Hmmmm…J said, “Surprise…champagne to toast our last night”…OMG…how nice was that of her to arrange this special treat!

AM arrived just minutes after we were seated and I don’t think our table ever stopped laughing until we left! The meal here was fantastic! WE started with a pate dish we all shared then J and I had the risotto cake with mushroom and Mom and AM had the soup special, which I can’t remember what it was but it was green so it must have included spinach or maybe asparagus and it was creamy good.

Mom and I had the lamb stroganoff special and J and AM had the trout special, both dishes were excellent. The waiter recommended a red wine that would go with all our entrees and we happily agreed to it. His recommendation was spot on!

J took the bullet for all of us and ordered the most decadent dessert, which now I can’t remember the name, but it has chocolate and mocha and whipped cream…it was oh so good…yes, of course I had a bite, or 2 or 3!

The only damper on this great meal was the espresso machine wasn’t working so no espresso for us tonight, but I can’t fault the restaurant for this because everything else was spectacular, the food, the service and most importantly the company!

Monday, September 13th

Today is departure day. It’s sad to be leaving Santa Fe, we had such a great time and perfect weather the whole weekend, clear blue, cloudless skies, daytime temperatures in the mid-80’s night time temperatures in the 50’s, it was wonderful.

We got up early and got our suitcases together and found we had enough time to go for a quick breakfast. We walked around the corner to a cute French creperie we had spotted the other day and had 2 crepes. While eating we noticed they had really good looking quiche, so thinking ahead we ordered 2 slices for take out…we now had lunch for the plane ride home!

We met J in the hotel lobby at about 8:30am and packed up the car for the trip back to Albuquerque. As when we came in on Friday, it took just over an hour to get to the airport and unlike the wait to get the rental car, the return lasted all of about 30 seconds. So, yes, we were early for our 12:56pm flight, but that’s my “thing”…arriving in airports waaaaay in advance! We did see some of our fellow Fodorites and got to say our last good-byes.

The flight to Atlanta was a full one, so no luck with an upgrade, but we did get the exit row, which is always nice. About half way into the flight, during beverage service we got hungry and were glad for our pieces of quiche. Oh my…when we opened the box there were 2 gigantic pieces and we ate every morsel, it was so good. We probably should have know it would be good when we saw a sign in the creperie shop saying they use real butter in everything everyday….could be the best quiche I’ve ever had!

We arrived in Atlanta a few minutes late, but since we had a 2 hour layover we were good with time. J had to hustle to get her connecting flight but she made it. And for the 25 minute flight back to Savannah we did get upgraded to business class, so the 2 hour wait was worth the 2 glasses of wine we got!

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