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Trip Report Unusual Things I Learned in Santa Fe; Not Your Usual Trip Report

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Some of you helped me pick restaurants and music venues for my trip to Santa fe, from which I just returned. The trip was not at all what we planned. But I did get a view of a different part of Santa Fe that I thought I would share. Here is what I learned after experiencing high altitude problems in both myself and my travel companion. I have intertwined a few meals and places into this.

1) HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS IS UNPREDICTABLE AND CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS EVEN AT 7K FT.

I now know more than I did before about altitude illness, although I have been to Peru with my son and he was hospitalized for pneumonia brought on by high altitude there. I have been to SF 10 times, and 10K ft in Peru and CO., and have never had any altitude illness. My travel companion climbed a 14K peak in Colorado last yr, never has had altitude illness. It doesn't matter, I have learned that each time you go to high altitude, it is a new event for your body and your past experience and fitness level can not predict anything.

2) IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A HYPOXIC SEIZURE IN A RESTAURANT IN SANTA FE, LA BOCA IS A GOOD PLACE TO DO IT.

We arrived in SF last Thurs. afternoon. I felt tired and a little foggy, but I had not slept well the night before and chalked it up to that. We tried to go to La Choza for lunch when we got in but they are closed btwn. 2 pm and dinner. So we went to Tomasitas since it is close by. Big mistake, food was just awful. Tortilla soup was just bad, it had so many tortilla strips in it and that was all that was there, that and a tomato broth that was not good. Friend had margarita that she could not drink, it was made w/a bad mix. Guacamole was really bland. I felt queezy afterwards but I chalked it up to the bad food.
Checked in to Hotel Chimayo (more on that place later) and rested. Walked over to La Boca for dinner. We had reservations, good thing as we got the last table at 7pm.
La Boca is small and the tables are close together, but we were fortunate enough to get a table that only had one other table next to it, on other side of our table was a small open area for waiters to pass by. That turned out to be very important. Nice live music by Nacha Mendez, female Spanish singer who played guitar.
We ordered a cheese plate and 4 tapas, and we each ordered a small glass of sherry. Cheese plate was good and came pretty quickly. Then it took a long long time to get any more food. We had 2 seafood tapas, a salad, and another vegetarian tapas. Both the seafood tapas arrived 1st. The sardines were good and fresh. Tuna caraccio was nicely presented and good. After those two tapas it was another long long wait for another plate to arrive, which was the salad. By this oint I had only had 3 sips of the sherry.
All of a sudden, I felt very ill, and I told my friend I needed to get to the bathrm. That is all I remember for the next 5 min. til I came to. When I came to, I was very confused, and my friend was telling me I had passed out and had a seizure. I recognized her but could not recall her name. She kept wanting me to keep my head up and all I want to do was put it down on the table.
She told me I started to fall over when I passed out but the waiter grabbed me and prevented me from hitting the hard floor w/my head. KUDOS TO THAT WAITER. This is very important, because one reason my friend and I went on this trip was because we had a good mutual freind who recently died from having a seizure and falling on the floor and hitting her head and causing head injury while alone, and we wanted to get away together after her death.
911 was called and off I went to the Christus St. Francis ER.

3) IN SF, PARAMEDICS ARE CROSS-TRAINED AND VERY GOOD

The paramedics in the ambulance were really good. I am a licensed RN, and I listened to one of them call in a report on me to the ER, it was a good report, had all the right items concerning my status in it. I was still confused but started to clear up with oxygen in the ambulance. The paramedic told me that in SF, paramedics are cross-trained. They are trained as paramedics, firefighters, and rescue personnel. They complete 400 hrs of classrm and 200 hrs of practical training. On any given shift, they can act as firefighters at a fire, then go out in an ambulance as a paramedic. This seems like a great model for a town like SF. Both paramedics were very professional, and the one assigned to me gave a great report to the RN in the ER when we arrived at the hospital.

4) THE ER AT CHRISTUS ST. VINCENT IS VERY WELL-ORGANIZED AND GOOD.

The RN was good, the ER dr. was very good, and management of my case was very good, and the organization was phenomenal in the ER. I was only there 4 hrs and in that time period I was evaluated w/good history taken, had a CT Scan of the head. a chest Xray, bloodwork, EKG, and was adminstered meds by IV, got my assessment from the dr. and was discharged. At our ER at home in Northern VA it would have taken many more hrs to get all that done. As soon as one thing was done, the next thing started. There was very little lag time sitting in the rm. waiting for something to be done.
The ER doctor's educated guess was that I had hypoxia (low oxygen), which was evidenced by my very low oxygen staturation level when the paramedicas arrived at the restaurant, which was caused by the altitude and which caused me to pass out, and then had seizure-like activity from the hypoxia. She didn't think this was a true epiletic seizure, since I was not confused for longer and was not so profoundly confused (this is called postitchal state) after the seizure-activity.

5) IN SANTA FE THERE IS ONLY ONE CAB CO. AND GOOD LUCK IF YOU NEED THEM !!!

In spite of how organized the ER was, once I was discharged it was a nightmare getting a cab from the hospital to the hotel. It was 1 a.m., and the ER personnel called for the cab. Here is the drill. You call the cab co., and leave a message; there is no live human being ever on the line. Per their message, they are supposed to call you back, but they don't. So you never know if they are coming or not. At 2 a.m. we were still waiting and calling the number constantly, leaving messages, not getting a call back. Our hotel also was calling the cab co. for us. Finally at 2:45 a.m., 1.75 hrs after we started calling, a cab pulled up, without a dispatcher ever being in touch w/us and calling us back.
I talked to a lot of people in town about the cab co problems. And I witnessed another couple have a terrible time w/a cab. I was in a bar a few days later and a cab from the one cab co. pulled up outside. Cab driver came in and told bartender "Someone called for a cab, they have 2 min. to get outside or I am leaving." The people who called for the cab had been waiting an hr. and they hurried to pay their bill to get the cab. Well, it wasn't fast enough for the driver, he left them there in the dust and drove off as they were getting up from paying the bill to go outside to get the cab.

6) SANTA FE HAS GOOD URGENT CARE, BUT YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHERE TO GET IT (ULTIMED)

When my friend and I met up at ABQ airport, I noticed she had a minor dry cough, she coughed like 4 times on way to Santa Fe. I said to her, we are going to altitude, I hope that doesn't progress. It was a premonition. SHe coughed more Thurs. night while we were in the ER. Fri. a.m. she had a terrible cough and felt awful and dizzy. So off to the Urgent Care with her. I looked online and found several Urgent Care centers but they had mixed reviews from users. I asked at the front desk and was told to to to Ultimed on Paseo de Peralta, close to the hotel.
Ulitmed is owned by a board certified ER dr., educated at Vanderbilt, who did her residency at Cook Co Hospital, so she has good credentials. She hires only board certified ER drs. to staff the urgent care clinic. The place was busy and we ended up being there 3.5 hrs. Friend diagnosed w/bronchtitis brought on by high altitude. They gave her a nebulizer treatment w/brohodilators, which made her feel better as she could get more oxygen, and prescribed an inhaler and codeine cough syrup. But no antibiotic which puzzled me, as she had a fever. I should have gone into the rm. w/her to see the dr. but I didn't, and I kicked myself for not doing so afterwards, more below.

7) YOU CAN GET GOOD MEDICAL CARE IN SANTA FE, BUT YOU CAN PRACTICALLY DIE TRYING TO GET MEDS FROM EITHER CVS PHARMACY

Off to CVS to get the albuteral inhaler. This is a standard inaler that many asthamtics use, and it should be stocked in every pharmacy. First we drove to CVS on Paseo de Peralta, closest to the Plaza and hotel. A half hr in line to find out they did not have the inhaler in stock (!??!). Sent us to another CVS all the way around town, on Cordova, where we got inhaler. Another even worse experience w/CVS below....

8) THERE IS A REALLY GREAT HERB AND TEA STORE CALLED THE SPICE LADY next to the CVS on Codova Rd. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If you are anywhere near Codova Rd. (it crosses St. Francis before Cerillos, coming from I25) or even if you aren't it is SO worth the drive, there is a really GREAT HERB AND TEA STORE called THE SPICE LADY next to the CVS! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This place is wonderful. The lady stocks a large amt of diff. spices and blends, and a great selection of tea blends. She only puts out a small amt, about 10 oz of each, and keeps the rest of her stock under vaccuum seal in back of the store, so everything is really fresh. My sick friend and I are both big cooks and I have tea w/my son every day, so we LOVED this place. I got great loose teas lke Lemon Ginger, a Valentines day blend w/chocolate and raspberries, Blood Orange tea, etc. We both got lots of fresh spices too, her vanilla sugar is to die for w/fresh vanilla beans in it. This was my biggest purchase to take home from the trip. She does mail order too, just email her, and already I need to order more Lemon Ginger tea.
http://www.thespiceladysantafe.com/

9) THERE IS A REALLY GREAT GOURMET OLIVE OIL AND VINEGAR STORE CALLED OLEACEAE by the Plaza, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

After resting, we walked around a bit, and this turned out to be the last time for the next 3 days that my friend could leave the hotel. We ducked into OLEACEAE, on the side st. from La Fonda hotel , 100 E. San Fransisco St., just off the Plaza. OMG. If you are a cook or just like vinegars and olive oils for bread dips or dressings or whatever, this is a FANTASTIC place. A whole store for vingegars and olive opils, you ask? YES, and you can sample very one of them. They are kept in steel vats w/spigots, many from Italy, Fance, CA, on and on, and there are little paper cus to get some and dip your fingers in them to taste.
I think we tried every one of them. The infused olive oils are unimagineably good. Roasted onion cilantro, whole fruit blood orange, wild mushroom sage, all kinds of fruits infused oils, grapefruit, chipotle chili oil, on and on. Balsamic and light vinegars lke Pomegranite, ripe dark fig, cinnamon pear (a favorite), dark chocolate, on and on.
Best part was you can ship up to 4 bottles of oils/vinegars for $9 ! So we each got 4 bottles and had them shipped to our homes. Can't wait for them to arrive.
http://www.oleaceaeoliveoil.com/#!

10) STAYING IN A HOTEL RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO INN OF THE ANASAZI IS A VERY GOOD THING when you need to walk a very short distance to dinner and are bummed about havng to cancel other reservations.

Fri. night we had to cancel our reservations at Dinner for Two, as friend was feeling way too bad to go anywhere but very close by. We walked next door from Hotel Chimayo to Inn of the Anasazi for dinner. Lovely atmosphere and a classical guitarist playing quietly in th corner, tables nice distance apart unlike La Boca. We liked that.
My friend is a bonafide foodie and I like well-prepared, fresh, nicely presented food, and I abhor bad service. We are picky about restaurant expereinces.
We both agreed this was the best meal we had ever had together in over 30 yrs of friendship and extensiive travel and working together. And it earned a "One of the top 5 meals ever anywhere" rating from each of us. The cocktail list was incredible. Friend too sick but I had a cocktail that incorporated an apple brandy made in Santa Fe at a local distillery, along w/ a French apple brandy and fresh lemon juice and a dried apple crisp ring floating in it n a martini glass. Yowza, this was fantastic and it looked divine too.
Started w/Heirlom beet salad. Sounds simple but they elevated this to an art form. In middle of plate was "Living Watercress," which turned out to be a bundle of watercress still in its roots which were wrapped in cheesecloth so it was easy to deconstruct to eat the watercress. 4 diff. kinds of beets, some of which looked lke little pear tomaoes in diff. colors, but it was all beets. Warm goat cheese pepita croquettes, all topped w/a jemez vinegarette. We both were in awe, and this was just the salad. It looked lke a cover shot from Gourmet magazine.
Next the duck mole enchilada app. This one was also beautiful, but we only ate half of it, it was a bit heavy and would have made a good entree. The duck was tender and not overpowered by the dark mole sauce.
We split the Diver scallops and Kurobuta Pork Belly entree. OMG, what restaurant imports kurobuta pork belly from Japan for $29 entree no less? This one does. This was a wonder, a miracle of an entree, served on a long rectangular plate.. Next to the each of the scallop and pork belly pieces were califlower puree, thinly sliced granny smith apple, and pieces of perfect crunchy light chicarron, and it was all covered in a very light bourbon glaze that was hard to see but wonderful to taste. A PERFECT 10. Side of sauteed spinach, what can be great about that? It was the best spinach I have ever had, lightly seasoned w/I have no idea what, but it was melt in the mouth perfect spinach.
The service was perfect, non-intrusive but we always had what we needed and never had to call for anyone or anything. I only wish we had had room for dessert. I would go back to Santa Fe just to eat there again.

11) HIGH ALTITUDE RESPIRATORY ILLNESS CAN TURN INTO PNEUMONIA VERY FAST.

Fri. night was bad for my friend. Luckily we had a two room suite so I could close the door the bedrm and sleep on the day bed/sofa, as she coughed all night long. Sat. morning, back to Ultimed Urgent Care right as they opened. They took her back immediately and I went w/her this time. Chest xray showed pneumonia. She was really sick, could not walk more than a few steps. The dr. worked w/me to keep her out of the hospital. Since I am an RN they got us a nebulizer to take back to the hotel, loaned us a wheelchair, gave her huge doses of prednisone (steroid), an antibiotic shot and prescribed levaquin (a big gun antibiotic) and 2 diff. bronchodilators for the nebulaizer treatments. I wanted an oxygen tank and mask but the dr. wouldn't give it to me, that would have required hospitalization in their playbook.
Friend now really ill. Back to hotel w/her then driving back and forth to diff. pharmacies trying to get all the diff. meds filled. Santa Fe pharmacies do not seem to stock drugs I would expect to find in any pharmacy. Finally got last of the drugs at the CVS on Paseo de Peralta, and after waiting an hr, when I went to pay they had NOT run her insurance lthough they had her card, and wanted to charge me $400 (Levaquin is $250!). So waited another hr for them to run insurance. VERY inefficient and snarky and unfriendly CVS pharmacy, avoid this one at all costs.
Friend hacking all day, I am doing the nebulazer treatment every 4 hrs., pushing fluids on her in btwn., cupping and clapping on her back to get lung congestion moving. Private duty nursing in Santa fe hotel rm. all of Sat. Sun. a.m. back to Ultimed, determine we can not go home as planned, not a surprise. Back to hotel to cancel flights, more private duty nursing.

12) SPEAKING OF HOTEL CHIMAYA, WHERE WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME....AND GET A RM. W A FIREPLACE IN SF IN WINTER

I usually stay at Sage Inn, but since this was to be a special trip in winter I decided to get closer to the Plaza. Hotel Chimaya had a special on Snique-Away for $109 for a two bedrm suite, a king bed and in separate rm a day bed and fireplace, full wet bar w/fridge, microwave, sink. Have never used Snique-Away before and it was great, although you do have to prepay with set dates.
This hotel used to be the Plaza Real. It is a half block off the back of the Plaza, on the side street to the Governor's Palace. The decor is now inspired by the Chimayo Puebla. Lobby small and inviting, large fireplace. Then you step into an outdoor courtyard to get to your rooms, so you must go outside to get to rooms, something to consider in bad weather or when really cold.
GREAT front desk staff, very friendly, they do double duty in bar and at front desk. When we needed to stay 2 more nights due to illness the manager gave us an even better rate ($99) than we had from Snique-Away. They don't do rm service but they did for us due to the pneumonia, from both the Low and Slow Rider bar (nice small bar themed for low ridng w/hubcaps, low rider car phtots, etc), great cocktails and apps- esp their guacomole and the corm crusted fried green hatch chile strips) and the Tia Cocina restaurant which was suprisingly good (the trio of taces w/ beef tongue, pork belly and slow roasted lamb w/great sauces; and the heuvos concidos en agua (their SF version of eggs benedict) for breakfast.
Since we were in the rm. all of Sat. and Sun., we called to have fires started in the fireplace both days and kept it going all night long. The fella who started the fires was nice and did a good job and left us lots of wood to add on. Front desk staff very synmpathetic and helpful w/the logistics of the illness.
Underground parking garage very convenient as there is an elevator to take you to lobby, good for wheelchair. But there were about 10 steps to our rm, which were very hard on my short of breath friend. Many rooms have lots of steps to get to them, so consider this if you have mobility problems.
The rm. decor was much older than what it looked lke on website. Dark striped low carpet, heavy wood furniture what was somewhat nicked up. Old style box TVs, one in each rm. No TV guide for channels, no TV guide on TV either, and no pay per view movies which would have come in handy for us as they also had no DVD players available. But rm. was cozy and two rm set up w/door in btwn was good for us, also the little kitchen wet bar set up was good scne we ate in the room for 2 days. Bathrm small but close to bed which was good for friend who was dizzy and totally fatigued.

13) TODOS SANTOS, GREAT ARTISINAL CHOCOLATE SHOP IN CASA SENS COURTYARD SHOPS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (AND SPROUTS IS GOOD GROCERY STORE CLOSE TO PLAZA)

I went totally stir crazy from the coughing friend was doing non-stop in the hotel. I snuck out Sun. afternoon to get some goodies for Super Bowl viewing in the rm. I went to Sprouts, a nice independent organic-type grocery store on Paseo de Peralta behind the Plaza area. They have a GREAT soup bar w/8 diff. soups every day. Great cheese area and organic produce also, so we had a cheese and fruit plate. Great wine area and they sell the Santa Fe apple Brandy so got some of that to bring home too.
Wine lady at Sprouts sent me to Todos Santos, around corner from our hotel, to get chocolates. YUM YUM YUM. It is an enchanting small shop and they sell house-made gourmet chocolates by the piece as well as some prepackaged chocolates from Belgium, Italy, France, etc. I went nuts and got several boxes of their single pieces, and I was able to select each piece for each box for Valentines gifts. Things like heart shaped white chocolates filled w/rosewater scented chocolate truffle, grapefruit flavored filling covered in dark chocolate, etc. Now that i have tasted several items, my favorite are their chocolate covered toffees. No website but they are on yelp and you can call them for mail order. Very pricey for the individual housemade pieces ($2 to $3 apiece), but worth it, and take into consideration that I have been to Belgium and had (10 star) artisinal chocolates there.
http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/todos-santos-chocolates-and-confections-santa-fe?select=1-Cf_yz5rwJwfmI8HHFqYQ#_VfdJOd6PethhfClkL2brw

14) TEN THOUSAND WAVES HAS A STRICT POLICY RE KEEPING APPTS, and provide a hassle even if it is illness-related.

We had reservations for Fri. fafternoon for massages and a private hot bath at 10,000 Waves. Called early on Fri. a.m. to cancel after spending Thurs night in ER, and got run around re having to pay, so we rescheduled for Sat., thinking maybe we could make it. Wrong, friend too sick on Sat. a.m. Had to haggle w/them on phone and when they finally agreed to not charge us full price for the massages (I told them I would dispute the charge w.credit card co) they acted like they were performing a miracle for us, even though the cancellation was due to pneumonia and a high altitude seizure.

15) ABOUT ALBUQUERQUE (ABQ) SPAS...and I love Nob Hill at the end of a trip

Mon. afternoon friend was finally well enough to get in the car to go back to ABQ, we stayed at the Embassey Suites in ABQ. It is dead of winter and the hotel was not very busy. They have a nice full service spa, I have stayed there in past and used the spa. I called at 10 a.m. before leavng Santa Fe and asked to get appt. for a massage, I felt I deserved a break since the trip to SF was stressful w/all the illnesses. Although they were open til 8 pm, they told me they could not accomodate me. I asked if they could call in another therapist PLEASE and get me a massage, facial, manipedi, anything to get out of the rm. and get sme pampering. No can do. \
I called La Bella Spa, nice spa about 20 min drive from the hotel. They said they close at 6 pm and can't fit me in for anything. Bummer. I give up. No rest for the wicked I guess.

If you can't spa, may as well drink and eat and shop. I drove over to Nob Hill on Central Ave and walked, shopped, and ate and drank. Went to Scalo and sat at the bar, had a phenomenal cocktail called the Mariposa. it is Patron Silver tequilla, St. Germain Elderflower liquor (LOVE this stuff), and freshly sqeezed pink grapefruit juice. It was busy and everyone in there seemed to be drinking these. It was an exquisite cocktail. Walked around the neighborhood behind the center where Scalo is, great art deco architecture there. I ate an early dinner at Zinc, very good. smoked trout and potatoe pancakes w/creme fraiche and black truffle niegarette, and crispy duck confit eggrolls, YUM.

So this was not your typical relaxing trip to SF, but I did learn about emergent health care there and tried a few new places. High altitude, even just 7K ft., can really do a number on you. I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else...but just in case, go to Ultimed and I hope you have rented a car to get around! Avoid CVSs, and stay somewhere where the front desk will help you out.

And eat at Inn of Anasazi, do not miss that!

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