Eating our way through Northern New Mexico

Old Apr 6th, 2018, 12:22 PM
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Eating our way through Northern New Mexico

We’ve just returned from a 1,172 mile, seven day early spring road trip from Colorado to New Mexico.

Our route took us from our home in Colorado west on Highway 24 towards Buena Vista, surrounded by thirsty landscape and signs warning of extreme fire danger, thanks in no small part to our almost snow-free winter (but it’s snowing as I type – yippee!).

We drove through the South Park basin, antelope blending in with the dry prairie, the snow-capped Colligates in front of us. We spotted the resident herd of bison, two albinos standing out amongst the brown and yellow.

We joined 285 near Buena Vista and turned south towards Poncha Springs, alongside the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and eventually joined CO-17, skirting The Great Sand Dunes. Three hours after leaving home we were in Alamosa, where we stopped for a quick lunch, before continuing on 285 to Antonito via the San Luis Valley. Before long we crossed the border into New Mexico; the welcome sign having disappeared since my trip through here in October.

We turned onto to US 64 towards Taos, passing some interesting semi-subterranean buildings, slightly reminiscent of our visit to Coober Pedy, Australia several years ago. Then a sign for Earthship Biotecture, baffling us at the time, but we're now enlightened thanks to Google. It seems they offer tours, which I might have to look into on a future visit.

https://taos.org/what-to-do/landmark...ip-biotecture/


We stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to poke around, and stumbled upon a herd of Big Horn Sheep - great photo op.

Five hours and 261 miles later, we were pulling into Taos, where we got settled into our home for the next two nights, El Pueblo Lodge.

https://elpueblolodge.com/

I’d stayed here last October, so knew what to expect, but it was the first visit for Bill. We had a king room with fireplace on the second floor of the north building. We enjoyed the room, the outdoor hot tub and the great breakfast, but the noise level on this busy Easter weekend put us off a bit – thin walls and noisy neighbors don’t mix.

What we did:

On our day of arrival we walked through the Plaza and generally poked around (me surprised again at that intense Taos sunshine) had drinks at the Adobe Bar in the Taos Inn – good, unadulterated potent margaritas - tequila, agave nectar, fresh squeezed lime juice - followed by a green chile fix at Orlando’s - which was every bit as good as the last time I visited. This place is tiny and very popular – it pays to go early (they were completely full by 5:40 pm on a Thursday night!). We rounded out the evening with a soak in the lodge’s hot tub.

We’d reserved the following day for hiking in Angel Fire (we drove via 64 through the very pretty Taos Canyon). We hadn’t been there for many moons and were curious to see how it had changed. We explored the village and undertook the Oeste Vista Trail, which turned out to be an ordeal. We missed a turn and walked about two miles before discovering our mistake and backtracking. We then took the long loop, and well, it was indeed long - and treacherous. Mud, ice, steep slopes and a bad knee = unhappy Mel. We survived though (took us three hours – this trail has the most elevation gain of the trails in the area – a fact we failed to notice when setting out).

Afterwards, we shared a tasty green chile, caramelized onion and pepperoni pizza at Angel Fired Pizza and visited the Country Club just for grins.

https://www.angelfiredpizza.com/

That afternoon we drove up to Taos Ski Valley, surprised to find it hopping, the car park filled to capacity with license plates from as far as way as Kentucky.

On the return to Taos, a Happy Hour sign caught our eye, so we detoured to Sabrosa, which is located just outside of Arroyo Seco.

Home Page Taos Restaurant Sabroso Restaurant and Bar in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Here we cooled our heels over more unadulterated margaritas while chatting with the world traveler bar tender Charlie and a couple from St Louis. Great stop.

Then it was back to Orlando’s for an encore dose of green chile followed by another soak in the hot tub.

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...57689586467650

Up next – Santa Fe
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Old Apr 6th, 2018, 01:12 PM
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Loving your trip report, Melinq8! This is my dream trip, I just haven’t found the right timing, so I’m so looking forward to more details!
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Old Apr 6th, 2018, 04:23 PM
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Thank you marvelousmouse - hope it helps. I think I remember you posting about a potential trip to Santa Fe?
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Old Apr 6th, 2018, 08:38 PM
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Yes, but it’s not working out time off wise. Or, if I’m totally honest, it’s a combination of that and elderly dog that I’m not really sure I want to board for longer than a week. Usually he hangs out with a family member, but she has a full house this summer. So it may be armchair travel and saving for a while
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Old Apr 7th, 2018, 01:39 PM
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When I planned this trip, I didn’t realize that we’d be traveling over Easter, let alone what that would mean in New Mexico. I was completely ignorant of the annual Easter pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo until a few days prior when a friend sent us a text, advising us to expect crowds on our planned drive via the High Road to Santa Fe.

The Long Journey of the Pilgrim Child

Taos was gearing up for a busy Saturday when we left town via Highway 68 south to Ranchos de Taos, then joined Highway 518 east, Highway 75 west to Penasco and Highway 76 south to Chimayo, loosely following an itinerary I’d found online. At first the High Road was deserted; we enjoyed the views, but we found the churches mentioned on the itinerary locked, and therefore underwhelming.

We located Rancho de Chimayo, our intended lunch venue, surprised to find it empty. We were early, so we put our name on the list and waited in the bar. Bright green Easter basket grass lined the window sills, stuffed bunnies were hung on the walls…hmmmm.

Lunch was okay, but it certainly didn’t knock our socks off – Bill enjoyed his Carne Adovada Pequeña, but my chile relleno was disappointing and resembled a corn dog without the dog; the highlight of my meal was the sopapillas and honey.

RESTAURANTE ? RANCHO DE CHIMAYÓ

We continued along the High Road; passing pilgrims making their way towards the church and cars lined up to make the turn into El Santuario de Chimayo’s parking area. We don’t do crowds; we took a pass.

More pilgrims flanked both sides of the highway for miles, port-a-loos were scattered alongside the road, people were selling water from their cars; a man was selling walking sticks. We were surprised that so many walkers were so far from the church. I found out later that some people walk from as far as Santa Fe and Alburquerque.

(We’d missed the worst of the crowds – evidently Good Friday is THE day, we were there on Saturday).

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-sta...ter-pilgrimage

We eventually joined 285 and successfully located our home for the next two nights, a spare bedroom in the home of Bill’s long lost cousin Laurie, who we'd reconnected with several years ago.

What we did:

We talked, and talked and talked. We poked around the Santa Fe Plaza and helped Laurie in her quest to collect stamps for her two Margarita Trail Passports (strictly for her benefit of course!).

https://santafe.org/Visiting_Santa_F...ail/index.html

We wanted to have margaritas in the Bell Tower of the La Fonda hotel, but weirdly, it didn’t open until May (shame as the weather was brilliant). So instead our first margarita stop was at the rooftop bar of Coyote Cantina, where we all tried their signature margarita, the Norteno, made with Hatch green chile infused tequila. Nice atmosphere, but the margarita was underwhelming.

https://www.coyotecafe.com/cantina

La Choza was at the top of my list for dinner, but because it wasn’t in the vicinity, we opted to try La Choza’s sister restaurant The Shed. We rocked up at 5:30, the place seemingly empty, but we were told the earliest they could fit us in would be 7:30 or 8:00. Yowsa.

That didn’t bode well for dining on the plaza on a busy pre-Easter Saturday night, so we deferred to Laurie. She suggested Atrisco in the DeVargas Center, which is owned by the same family that operates Tomasita’s (a place I’d been to and liked). As soon as we settled in at a table and I opened the menu, I realized I was tired of New Mexican food. But I took one for the team and ordered enchiladas. The food was good; Bill really enjoyed his lamb burrito with green chile.

I knew that Ronald Roybal played in the lounge of the Hotel Santa Fe on Friday and Saturday nights (the only Native American owned hotel in downtown Santa Fe), and having seen him perform once before, I wanted to end our night there. We all thoroughly enjoyed the music and the margarita options were interesting – Laurie and I went for the Prickly Pear, (I was surprised they were pink), spice lover Bill went for the jalapeno (all were good and Laurie got another stamp in her margarita passport). Our work here was done.

https://hotelsantafe.com/hotel-santa-fe

Ronald Roybal ~ "Enchanted Music From The American Southwest" | Native Flute & Spanish Guitar Music from Santa Fe, New Mexico | Home

We’d reserved the following day for walking in Bandelier. Unfortunately, the skies were uncharacteristically grey, bad light for photos. We followed the nature trail to the talus houses, then on to the Long House and the Alcove House (accessed by four ladders). From there we continued walking along the Frijoles Canyon floor and on to the narrows, our turn around point, logging 7-8 miles.

Evidence of the flash flood of 2013 – the largest in Bandelier’s history – and several fires – was startlingly widespread. Piles of downed trees and debris, burn scars, quite a sight.

We only saw two other walkers beyond the Alcove House, so we pretty much had the canyon to ourselves, although the parking lot was full as we prepared to leave.

Most restaurants in Santa Fe were closed for Easter, but fortunately for us we were craving Indian food. Enter Paper Dosa, where we had a fabulous meal with Laurie and a mutual friend. Excellent!

Paper Dosa Santa Fe - Fresh South Indian Cuisine

Photos here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...57694646616774

Up next: Albuquerque
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Old Apr 11th, 2018, 07:39 AM
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We bid adieu to Laurie and worked our way to Food King, a grocery store she’d recommended for well-priced tequila (unfortunately we didn’t find what we were looking for).

We next located 285 and followed it to south I-25, where we took exit 264 to NM 16 and then turned right on NM 24. Our destination was Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, where we’d hoped to walk the three mile Tent Rocks Trail. But it was not to be. The gate was lowered and there was a big CLOSED sign. Seems even the National Monuments in New Mexico close for Easter (Friday-Monday). New Mexico was beginning to feel a lot like Australia, where life comes to a screeching halt from Good Friday through Easter Monday.

We made a short detour to Conchiti Lake for the cheapest gas we’d seen thus far ($2.46) and then backtracked to Santa Fe. Our plan was to drive the Turquoise Trail to Albuquerque; we took exit 278A from I-25 and we were on our way along NM State Road 14.

Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway (New Mexico) - The Perfect Day Trip between Santa Fe and Albuquerque

I’d read that the Turquoise Trial is a scenic highway linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque through rolling hills and historic mining towns. The day was warm and sunny (64 degrees) the landscape seriously thirsty, the numerous roadside memorials elaborate and gaudy with their bright plastic flowers and Christmas garland.

We briefly stopped in Cerrillos - a dusty spot on the road - and popped into St Joseph’s Church, which was actually unlocked! We then continued our drive through the hills to the former mining town of Madrid, the main stop on the Turquoise Trail, where things became significantly more interesting.

Eclectic shops selling handicrafts and artwork lined the street, murals were painted on the sides of buildings, a bank of quirky mailboxes stood at one end of town. Funky, fun and very colorful.

I’d read that the Mine Shaft Tavern was a good stop for lunch, so that’s where we ate (green chile burger for the carnivore, green chile quesadilla for me – both good). Afterwards I poked through a few shops while Bill stood outside looking woeful.

Back on the road we eased our way south, spontaneously making a detour through the Cibola National Forest up to Sandia Crest (10,400 feet). We wound our way up fourteen miles of nausea inducing switchbacks hoping for some views at the top, but were so discouraged by the sight of the antenna farm and the requirement of a parking permit just to look over the edge, that we turned around and went back down.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Location...ew_Mexico.html

Once in Albuquerque, we located our home for the next two nights, Hyatt Place Uptown (we really enjoyed our stay here). The hotel is located in a busy commercial area – loads of shops and restaurants for those inclined.

https://albuquerqueuptown.place.hyat...otel/home.html

What we did:

The evening of our arrival, we met up with a friend from our expatriate days for dinner. We love Indian food and had scoped out the Taj Mahal just for this purpose. Decent food, good company.

Taj Mahal Cuisine of India - Home

The next day we spent the morning exploring Old Town, where I stumbled upon a shop that sold the work of a local artist my mother and I’d enjoyed last October. We’re now both proud owners of a few small paintings.

We sought out Talin, a massive world food market that Laurie had suggested. Fascinating place for unusual and hard to find food items.

https://talinmarket.com/

We had a nice lunch at La Madeleine (which reminded me of a Panera or Kneaders), and spent a few hours at the Sandia Casino, which was absolutely heaving…on a Tuesday!

(PS – the sheer number and size of the casinos spread across New Mexico never ceases to amaze me).

Dinner that evening was at the home of our friend.

Spring has definitely sprung in Albuquerque – many trees are in full leaf, tulips in full bloom, and it reached 73 degrees, reminding me of why I’ll never visit in the summer! And the traffic, yikes.

On our day of departure, we took I-40 to I-25 to Santa Fe, then joined 285 north; 285 meanders a bit, necessitating turns in small towns that aren’t particularly well marked; we lost it a few times and had to backtrack.

Throughout our stay we’d noticed that with the exception of interstates, the speed limit on NM highways is 10 mph lower than in Colorado. We’d also encountered many sudden, unannounced changes, such as a speed limit dropping from 55 to 45 with no warning and no apparent reason.

About two hours north of Sante Fe we stopped at Ojo Caliente Hot Springs, where did a bit of reconnaissance for a possible future visit. We then continued driving the flat boring stretch of road between Tres Peidras and Antonito, the speed limit increasing the minute we crossed back into Colorado. We made a brief stop in Conejos to peer at Colorado’s Oldest church (1858), and were amused to notice that almost every tiny town we drove through had a Dollar Store. In some cases, nothing else.

https://www.southern-colorado-guide....st-church.html

We made a pit stop in Alamosa, where we saw patrons lined up out the door of Oscar’s Mexican Restaurant, piquing our interest for next time. Surely a long line means good food? We wound through the somewhat confusing streets of Alamosa, located 17 and were on our way.

We rejoined 285 and worked our way through the haze (hoping it wasn’t smoke) towards Poncha Springs. The skies cleared, the snow covered mountains appeared, the views got better and better – we were back in the pretty.

Five and a half hours after leaving Albuquerque, we approached Buena Vista. Hungry, we made the short detour into town and sought out our favorite restaurant in the area, The Eddyline on South Main. My green chile and pepperoni pizza was good (yep, more green chile), but Bill’s wood fired Sockeye salmon was a huge disappointment.

And weirdly enough, I’ve just this minute discovered that the Eddyline, a place I thought was 100% Colorado, also has a location in one of our favorite countries – New Zealand. Who knew?

It had taken us eight hours, but we were home.

Photos here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...57695535164835
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Old Apr 11th, 2018, 08:18 AM
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Wow! I would've never thought about a national monument closing over Easter weekend. Paper Dosa was our favorite place that we tried in Sante Fe. Thanks for your report. I'm taking notes on places we missed as we'll be passing through the area again in December.
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Old Apr 11th, 2018, 08:42 AM
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I haven’t been to Ojo Caliente for many years. From the website it looks yuppified.
does it still have any charm at all?
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Old Apr 11th, 2018, 09:21 AM
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Patty -

Our meal at Paper Dosa was probably the best meal of the trip (although they were all pretty good other than Buena Vista).

jubilada - Ojo Caliente looked promising to us, but we were surprised at the high prices for lodging.
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Old Apr 25th, 2018, 07:05 PM
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Hi Melnq8, really enjoyed following along on your spring trip to CO-NM. We took that same trip over Thanksgiving a few years ago. Your photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing so many details of your journey.
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Old Apr 26th, 2018, 04:01 AM
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This sounds like a fantastic trip. We've missed Tent Rocks every time we've been in the area, so I guess we'll have to go back too.

Next time you're in Bandelier, check out the area called Tsankawi which is not attached to the main park and is about 5 miles closer to Santa Fe. It is a fun area to hike and is not as developed as the main part of the park.

West of Bandelier is Valles Caldera, where we saw elk in rut in October, a fantastic spectacle.

Thanks for the report.
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Old Apr 27th, 2018, 08:37 AM
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Thanks for tuning in tomarkot - off to New Zealand tomorrow!

I appreciate those suggestions emalloy!
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Old Apr 27th, 2018, 01:35 PM
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Hi Melnq8, wishes for safe travels, good weather, and fun adventures in the SI. You were really helpful to us in planning our experiences there. We'll be eager to follow along with your trip. Bon Voyage!
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Old Oct 7th, 2018, 04:49 PM
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Mel -
Been AWOL from Fodors for quite awhile. This trip looks like a lot of info I've posted about; hope that was helpful.
Sounds like you did justice to our home state.
You drove right past our house on your trip from Mine Shaft to Sandia Crest!
Deb
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Old Oct 9th, 2018, 04:18 PM
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Welcome back Deb, missed seeing you here on Fodor's. Hope all is well.
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Old Oct 12th, 2018, 05:35 PM
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We are good here. Sorry I missed you as you drove thru.
Are you on FB?
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