Santa Fe beginnings:
The drive out was uneventful except for the big winds blowing us around on I-40. We encountered a few flakes (snow, that is) past Santa Rosa but at Clines Corners I got my Christmas wish: big snow! After letting Molly the dog out for a quick pee we hopped back in the car and headed up to Santa Fe where we were imagining a winter wonderland! But no. The snow stopped a few miles away from Clines Corners and we arrived in Santa Fe with no falling snow.
Needing only one night in Santa Fe we stayed at Hilton of Santa Fe just off of the plaza. It is very close to the plaza and they are dog friendly (not friendly to us at a $50 fee for one night) but dog-friendly was a requirement since we had Molly with us. Parking was easy and we unloaded our goodies from the car that we didn’t want to find missing in the morning.
recommend Hilton by the plaza. Fair price for Christmas/New Years and Location is excellent. Very close to Tia Sophias on San Francisco for breakfast or lunch.
Had breakfast at Tia Sophia’s and it was excellent as always. There was a wait but we din’t mind as it is worth the short wait serving real New Mexican fare. Huevos Rancheros, green chile with blue corn. Breakfast of champions!
After Tia’s we took a short walk to Café Pasqual’s to appease my craving for a Café Mocha. Not just any mocha. And don’t send me to Starbucks. Pasquals’ serves the real deal made with Mexican chocolate. It. Is. to. Die. For. After responding that’s all I needed he laughed at the notion that for me, all would be well in the world if I had a café mocha. Simple pleasures.
Heading out we stopped at Tesuque Village Market for some drinks and snacks to take with us to Taos. Another pit stop for Molly and we were on our way.
It was bitter cold but we had sunshine and on the road to Taos. The first part of the drive on 285 isn’t scenic but once you got past Espanola and on the mountain road the scenery comes alive! Coming over the hill this huge expanse of land, mountains and the royal gorge appear before you like something out of a James Mitchner novel, beckoning the question “why had we waited so long to come back”? I stopped for a couple of photo ops but you just can’t get all of that in a photo. It’s just too much.
Heading up the two-lane road into Taos we found our street just off of Kit Carson and the main road on Burch Street. We stayed in a cute unit located in a very serene compound of adobes. I think there were 4 buildings, 2 or 3 units each and all built around a beautiful courtyard with running stream and koi pond. And the trees were unbelievably tall. Burch Street is lined with them. Beautiful in winter. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in summer and especially fall .
We found our room on Craig’s List and it was very reasonable, 1 bed/1 bath, full kitchen and lots of windows to look out to the snowy courtyard. It was pet friendly and close to “downtown” Taos. Perfect!
As frequent visitors to Santa Fe we wondered how we would feel about Taos. But after the first day we both loved the quiet charm of Taos. No Rolex stores. No flash. It reminds me of Santa Fe many moons ago. We’ve been here many times but this is our first time for 9 days and we were really looking forward to it. A different experience than a quick day trip.
Speaking of Day Trips:
Royal Gorge Bridge.
For a gal that is afraid of edges, it was worth every jittery moment of looking down at this awe-inspiring site. And snow covered as well. Only 15 minutes or so from downtown Taos. But beware of the bouncing movement on the bridge when a large vehicle goes by. It didn’t bother dh but it sure did me!
A very short drive to the pueblo from town took maybe 20 minutes and that was due to parking issues. It was New Year’s Day and the pueblo was open to the public for their Turtle Dance. Here is an excerpt on the dance and it’s representation:
….”The Turtle Dance is easily the most important public religious ceremony, defining as it does the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. The dance is named for the turtle, believed to be the first hibernating being that moves about after the year has turned; thus, the turtle is seen as symbolizing the beginning of each new annual cycle.” New World Records.
It began at 8am and continued until 1pm. We arrived about 10:30 and waited about 30 minutes before the next dance began. It was magical and such a beautiful day with clear blue skies and snow. The dancers were adorned with different feathers, animals skins and all had evergreen tucked in their costume. They performed 4 songs, one in each corner of the pueblo. We were able to follow the dancers for two songs/dances before they went into an area we were not allowed. So we left and headed to the gorge.
For the most part, people were very respectful of being a guest at such a special event but there were several ugly visitors who didn’t feel they had to follow the rules. The Navajo police quickly reminded them that “they were not in the United States and they must abide by their laws.” A man came very close to having his camera confiscated and not returned.
We started this drive going north to Questa which was nothing special. Then on to Red River with a bustling, little ski town. It was hoppin’! Continuing on we came to Eagle Nest. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Mountains at your feet, sprawling land with horses and nary a house to be seen. It was beautiful. Towards the southern end of Eagle Nest is a lake which I imagine in summer is full of vacationers. A beautiful spot.
Next stop past Eagle Nest is Angel Fire. It has grown in the 10+ years since I saw it last. There were a lot of skiers there and the town seemed quite busy. Nicer than Red River. It’s a quaint, small ski town but looks to be booming.
That was our last stop before arriving in Taos. It was a scenic drive this winter but the time to drive it would be fall, I imagine. Seeing the golden aspens and cottonwoods would be gorgeous. I highly recommend this drive for a scenic day trip.
Now, on to the food portion of my trip:
There are many places to chose from in Taos. Santa Fe has more but Taos has plenty and they are great choices, too:
Dinner @ Doc Martin’s : we ate at the bar twice (service bar in the dining room) . It was perfect as we didn’t want to sit at a table. The dining room is warm and cozy. A great spot for a casual dinner or special one. Service and food was very good.
Graham’s Grill: a little bit of everything. Wild salmon, ribeye, roast chicken, mussels and clams. Nice wine choices by the glass. Ate at the bar on the second visit and it was just as good. They have a nice dining area and bar on the main road side and a more casual side on the small plaza of John Dunn Shops.
Joseph’s Table. Wonderful dinner! Started off a little rocky but finished well. It has a few cozy booths that you climb up and sit on the floor with curtains that close for privacy. . A spot for a special dinner.
Lambert’s. A perfect meal. A perfect evening. Hands down one of the best lamb dishes I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. Husband’s dish was delicious and prepared perfectly as well. All around a great meal. Love the cozy room off of the bar, too.
Our choice for #1 in Taos over Joseph’s Table.
Top choice is not Orlando’s either.
Orlando’s just outside the main part of downtown. A very popular place and we ate there twice this trip but I feel like their food is “dumbed down”, if you will, for tourists. Chiles are bland and they don’t live up to what we’ve been eating for years. It is a lively and fun place and the food is good but not our top choice.
Torbidio’s. At the corner of Taos ski road and the main road out of Taos. A local steered us here as well as an online friend and glad they did. EXCELLENT mole sauce! And the green sauce was very flavorful and spicy. DH loved the red sauce as well as his tamale. Highly recommend this for authentic New Mexican., no frills kind of place. It is very small, as in 2 booths and 5 tables. Walk up to the kitchen window to order kind of place. In nice weather there are tables outside to accommodate more people. Recommend this for real New Mexican food.
Michael’s Kitchen. Went for breakfast and the line was out the door. Everything you can think of is on this menu where they serve 7 days a week from 7am to 2pm. Again, the chiles were bland but the food good, not great. Huge portions. They also have a bakery to get pastries and green chile cheese bread (it’s yummy toasted). I would go again to give it another try.
Bent Street Deli. Good sandwiches but nothing special.
Anaconda Bar at El Monte Sagrado. Beautiful décor of stone walls and heavy fabrics. And a large anaconda on the ceiling winding through the bar to the inside patio dining room. It didn’t remind us of Taos at all or the southwest. Service was ok, but not up to par. The wait staff and bartenders were standing around talking to each other and not paying attention to the customers in the lounge. They over-cooked our meat and instead of taking it off or bringing another they took off a whopping $1.90 off our ticket. Wow, we didn’t know if that was a slam or their version of “we’re sorry”. Had she come around after we were served she could have remedied the problem. And they weren’t busy either.. We were disappointed. Not sure if we’ll return as prices are high and service and food mediocre.
Tim’s Stray Dog. Located in the ski mountain village. Burgers, enchiladas, nachos, beer. Their red and green chile was the best we had in Taos. Very authentic. Orlando’s should have some to remind them what it is supposed to taste like.
Old Blinking Light. Didn’t eat but enjoyed a drink at the bar. Big patio with two fires going and lots of saddle blankets to keep you warm. Located just a mile up the ski road. Charming spot to enjoy a drink or inside for wine and dinner.
Adobe Bar @ Doc Martin’s. Love the vibe of this charming, old spot. A little bit of everyone, tourists and locals. Excellent margarita, the Cowboy Buddha . Excellent but be warned -- they go down waaaay too easily! Great spot for people watching.
We were enjoying a spot by the fire when a crazy lady with long gray hair just sat down and started talking to us. Pulled out a picture of Sting that is laminated and hanging on a chain around her neck. Went on about playing with him for the Inauguration. And giving us grief for not knowing her music and blah, blah blah. Then began preaching and going nuts! She was kindly escorted outside by management. Man, was she nuts.
New Year’s Eve:
We kept it simple and stayed in downtown, opting for a night of drinks at Adobe Bar followed by a nice prix fixe dinner at Doc Martin’s. It was very reasonable at $60 for four courses with wine. Great service and food was good as well. We wanted to stay out and party but after an early start to cocktail hour and a big dinner we were both party poopers and walked home before the clock struck twelve.
We asked around for NYE parties and there were several. Some nicer parties with live bands and cash bar, such as the party at El Monte Sagrado, a very upscale resort in Taos. Others were more casual as is almost all of Taos. And of course, the torchlight parade at the mountain followed by fireworks and bands at the local bars on the mountain. We would have done that but didn’t want to make that long drive down the windy mountain back to town. If you’re staying on the mountain, then definitely go to the parade and parties.
On the day of our departure we woke to a winter wonderland. Five inches of fluffy snow and more coming! Wanting to stay and enjoy the snow I persuaded dh to stay and extend our visit one more day. Seeing the road conditions in Taos we knew our drive to I-40 would be slow and tiring so we decided to overnight in Santa Fe giving us another afternoon to play around there. Actually, my thinking was “if we leave now, we can fit in 3 more meals in Santa Fe!” We actually snuck in 4 having our final meal at The Shed for Shed Red, of course, followed by their famous hot fudge sundae before hitting the road.
Taos was such a pleasant surprise. We never thought we would like staying there as much as Santa Fe but it has so much to offer. The slow pace and small-town feel has us hungry for more and now that we have some favorite hangouts, I’m sure we’ll find our way there again very soon.
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Santa Fe beginnings: