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Trip Report Trip Report: Santa Fe, Taos, Hopper & more!

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Just returned from a fabulous week in New Mexico. Thanks to all the Fodorites for your (yet again) excellent advice. Thank you to the people of New Mexico for your friendly welcome to your wonderful state - New Mexico IS the Land of Enchantment!!

We landed in ABQ, grabbed our car from Hertz and headed direct to Santa Fe. Really wanted to get into town so we took I-25 in for the fastest arrival at the Inn of the Governors. Registered and headed up to Room 215. This was a standard room and we really enjoyed our stay there. Nice room, excellent breakfast, pretty little pool area, tea and sherry and cookies in the afternoon and friendly staff. Tired, but headed off to the Plaza for a coupla of house Margarita's at Ore House overlooking the plaza. Great happy hour prices and strong/delicious rita's.

Trying to get our bearings wanted to stay around the plaza for dinner so walked over to the Shed. Crazy 2 hour wait, but guess what. We were tired, not feeling adventurous so we waited. Well, we enjoyed music in the courtyard, a beautiful early evening breeze and before we knew it were seated for food. Went back to the hotel room, happy to be in Santa Fe and collapsed into bed. A nice start to the vacation....

Day 2: Awoke early because we are from CT and are now on Mountain Time. Rolled with that and enjoyed breakfast and headed out early to Tent Rocks. WOW! con't....

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    Ok, so SO glad the Fodor poster mentioned that this would be closed for the summer. We made a point of getting there before that happened and glad we did. Great hike. Bring LOTS of water. You can do the longer path as long as you stay hydrated and take your time. Lots of interesting birds along the way also. Dinner that night at La Boca. I thought the tapas were excellent, boyfriend says okay - although I noticed a lot of men looking for the entree menu. LOL.

    Day 2/Memorial Day: Not sure what would be opened we headed out to Bandelier. Glad we did. A day or so later fire in Jemez seemed close to this location. But we got in our hike, and joined lots of others as we climbed ladders into the cave dwellings. So cool and interesting. Not to be missed. Next stop - Los Alamos. Didn't know what we would see, but stopped in at the little Historical Museum and read the interesting letters about what it was like to be in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Drove around a bit, ate lunch there and wa la, not much more to see or do but for some reason we really wanted to get a glimpse of it. On the way back, stopped into the National Cemetery and paid our respects. Dinner at the Plaza - not sure where to go - ended up on the roof bar (can't remember name). Okay for a pub drink, but not for the pizza. We should know better coming from CT and the home of Pepe's Pizza in New Haven. This was basically foacaccia bread with lots of veggie's dumped on it. Not good.

    Day 3: Canyon Road. Kinda tired this morning from two days of hiking. Decided to stick around town and really give some time to the art scene. Spent the first half of the day on Canyon Road. We could not believe the abundance of fine art and fabulous sculpture. A must see. Took many pictures of us with sculpture. Talked to many gallery owners. Dreamed aloud about living there. Spent the late afternoon at the Inn's pool. Enjoyed sherry, homemade cinammon cookies, a cat nap and practicing my dead (wo)man's float. Yay. Vacation feeling really setting in. At 4:30 p.m. headed off to 10,000 Waves. Boyfriend not a spa person, seemed nervous about the whole shower, kimono, meet me in the communal area to wait for our name to be called. But he wasn't alone. A mix of people there, the staff was friendly and our hot tub (Shoji?) was the contemporary tub with blue tile. I swore I wouldn't even go near the cold plunge pool - not a Penguin Plunger - but the tub was HOT - and I used that cold plunge at least 5 times in our one hour. So undressed, well in bathing suits, and in the tub, discussion ensued about how would we know when we had to get out? I had completely forgotten to ask, and also forgot whether this was a 50 minute, 60 minute or more session. Had lotsa laughs over this as we cold plunged, hot tubbed, and filled our little dixie cups with water. Approx. 60 minutes later, heard a ding and a garbled voice telling us many directions that we could not hear over the roar of the hot tub. Laughed again and figured that was the cue for us to get out. Put the kimono's back on, took pics of us in them, and headed off to the meditation room. Wished we had more time, but spent the next 15 minutes laying in there on bamboo mats, with headphones on listening to rain/thunder/running water, etc. Aaaahhhh....relaxing.....! We both agreed that this was well worth the price.
    Dinner at Bistro 315. Ate in the courtyard outside with pretty twinkling lights. Lovely French waiter who gave a great recommendations for our next stop in Taos. Food was very very good and wine list excellent. But maybe it was the French food in a southwestern atmosphere...we just weren't into it that much. Maybe French food isn't our favorite either. Did enjoy a delicious chocolate dessert!!

    Day 4: Got up and turned on the morning news. Fires in Jemez. Yikes - wondering if we are close and now searching the map. Realize we are lucky we already went to Bandelier cause it seems closest to that location. Also hear that Dennis Hopper will be buried in Taos today. Well, we happen to be going to Taos for the next two nights. Thought I'd shop around a bit in SF before leaving, but boyfriend seems intent on getting to Taos and somehow dropping in to this scene. I am not so sure. On leaving SF I feel like I smell smoke, but am sure that is my overactive imagination. Take the majestic, incredible High Road to Taos.

    First stop Chimayo and the Sanctuary de Chimayo. Am incredibly moved by this church that hundreds of thousands have pilgrammaged to. I sign a petition in a guest book for friends battling health issues and a thank you for my own good health. We buy a little plexiglass tin for $2 and head to the side of the church to the room with the blessed dirt. The room is full of crutches, walkers and even xrays of those who have been healed. Notes and photos fill the room that have been brought by others to be prayed for. I fill my little tin with the holy dirt and head out back into the hot sun for some photos on the grounds.

    Back on the High Road. Along the way I am treated to Hopper movie scenes (Heineken? NO ....Pabst Blue Ribbon!!!) and a story of how boyfriend at ayoung age painted his bicycle orange and yellow to resemble Hopper's motorcyle. Now I pretty much know we are headed to the funeral. Once in town, we stop off at the Visitor's Center - which is right on the road into Taos. Women so-so friendly but I assume that may be because I am gently inquiring about the Hopper funeral (not wanting to seem like a paparazzi). She seems annoyed. We overhear it is at the beautiful San Francisco de Asis church. So we head back out on the one main road and in one more minute see the police lights, the hearse, etc. We join the handful of locals, local and national media and stand in the blazing hot sun surrounding the church. Eventually the service ends and out comes the pall bearers with Dennis Hopper's casket, Jack Nicholson, Val Kilmer and friends and family. We meet sincerely nice Taoseans who saw Hopper around and about in town. When the service has ended we are able to go in and see the inside of this Spanish Mission style church. As we come out, an artist, Lloyd Rivera, whom we have met there comes out of his shop calling my name. He presents me with a painting of "Our Lady of Solitude" that he has painted and signed on a piece of wooden bark. So lovely and fitting to end our tribute to Dennis and such a nice welcome to Taos.

    Such a heady day then we check in at the Comfort Suites. Okay. Just a place to lay your heads, but we make the best. Head into Taos Center to get a feel for the place. Check out some galleries and listen to the locals. The buzz is all Hopper related. We catch a drink in the lobby of Old Taos Inn, and land at Bent Street (Grill? Cafe?) for dinner. It's at the corner of Bent Street. Two thumbs up. Friendly staff and good food. We both enjoy the chicken salad with sliced almonds, goat cheese and ranch dressing on the side. Took a post dinner drive out past farmland and toward ski basin, through Arroyo Seco. Really really lovely part of the US of A. Oohed and aahed a lot. Head back to Old Taos Inn and enjoy the music there in the lobby. Decide during Margarita's that this place is a lot more fun than Comfort Suites and how we would rather be here the next night. Talk to the desk and they have a cute little room in the courtyard out back for only $30 more than our Comfort Suites room. They are very nice and let us see it first. Decide we will stay there the next night and am psyched about that.

    Day 5: Taos Pueblo. Nice that we are not doing lots o driving today. Pueblo is close by and we enjoy the tour. Do you know that the Pueblo speak a secret language called Tiwa that is only taught to their children? I am nervous about asking the young tour guide if she will speak some of it for us - its secret after all - but she smiles and says a few sentances. We all tip her some dinero following the tour and head out to visit the little shops on the pueblo. We buy some cookies made in the beehive oven and a printed paper ornament of a labyrinth. Boyfriend admires a really nice silver and turquoise necklace with a cross. It was $25 or so - it seemed hard to pin the seller down to a price. It seemed to keep changing for the higher. Anyway, we did not have change and neither did the seller, Some back and forth and money exchanging hands, we are not sure but feel that we may have been flimflammed out of $20. Again, unsure, but could have happened. During all of this I was trying to get change for a $20 from other shop owners to no avail. Seems like that was holding up business. Lots of other tourists also seemed to be at a loss to buy things. Had money, but did not have singles or fives. Advice: Bring small bills to Taos Pueblo. Did not end up buying the necklace - had unsavory taste in our mouth. Funny thing is the Pueblo sheriff dressed in black tribal wear happened to be standing by to talk to this same gentlemen about another matter/police issue and didn't look to happy with him.

    Where to go next? Decided to head out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Parked car and walked across the span. Saw rafters below - WAY below. Took some pictures. Windy. Went on to visit the Earthship Biotecture. This is the little community with self-sufficient houses made of cans, cement, tires, windows and water retention systems. Interesting and timely concept, but had a very 70s ish feeling. It's like they had the right idea back when they began, but never took it to the next level. Boyfriend is an energy auditor and he give it more credence than I do. For $5 each you do a self-guided tour.

    Headed back to town and checked into Old Taos Inn room. Nice. We nap and enjoy the flat screen for an hour or so. Dinner at Guadalajara Grill Taqueria. This is excellent. Just a simple place, you order at the counter and they bring out the food. Highly recommend for real down home southwestern cuisine. Yum. Back to OTI and listen to a young singer songwriter, Max Gomez. He has a local following and the room is crowded. We have drinks until closing and buy a CD from Max.

    Day 6: Need to leave Taos and head into ABQ for our flight out the next day. It's HOT HOT HOT. Get off a little late and find that we really just don't have time to do the Turquoise Trail and make a pact that we will come back another time to do that. Am amazed by how large Albuquerque is. We check in to the Sheraton and are surprisingly please with this room for only $99 dollars. For dinner we head to Old Town. There is a Fiesta happening and we eat from some of the little booths - homemade tamales and Indian tacos. The food is really good and we listen to a band in the gazebo and watch people dance. It's been a wicked hot day and people are really just trying to cool off and enjoy Friday evening. It was such a nice ending to our trip!

    I know this is very very long, but we packed so much into the week. We loved New Mexico, the residents, its style, authenticity, food, art and nature. Can't wait to return!!

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    Zoom, you had a wonderful trip report. We've been to Santa Fe about 7 times. There is so much to see and do. Next time you must go to the several musuems in the area. I laughed at your 10,000 waves story. I went alone last time and had a superb massage. I couldn't talk my husband into going. I went to the all female hot tub and was the only one au naturale (which is acceptable)-pretty embarrassing, but I got over it knowing I'd never see these people again. The high road to Taos is gorgeous. Last summer we went to one of the museums (Harwood Museum of Art)in Taos and saw a Dennis Hopper exhibit. He was a muti-faceted talent. Let me know if you are planning another visit to Santa Fe. I don't live there, but I can recommend several restaurants and accomodations (we've stayed in everything from luxury resorts to casitas to camping). Don't forget the summer opera season!

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