Part of my job involves election work and overwork combined with bitter disappointment about the results of the presidential race led to the need for an impromptu road trip right before Thanksgiving. Since traveling for J involves quite a bit of prep and bringing at least one attendant with us, he opted to sit this one out and my mom and I made it a girls’ trip. Northwestern New Mexico is one of my favorite places for a short getaway. It’s an easy six hour drive from Denver and has a lot to offer. We drove down on Thursday night after work and headed back early Monday morning. This trip was spent largely in Santa Fe proper with a quick trip to Chimayo and a short jaunt down the Turquoise Trail. A post detailing everything I love about Santa Fe would a novel, here’s a quick list of my top favorites:
1. History Museum/Palace of the Governors – The museum is on the smaller side, but is well curated and offers a well guided tour of New Mexico’s history. Museum admission includes the Palace of the Governors, which was originally served as the Spanish seat of government in the 17th century.
Chimayo is outside of Santa Fe and requires a car to access, but if you are a lover of history, a devotee of churches, or tapped into the spiritual, then this historic site is not to be missed. Chimayo, or more accurately El Santuario de Chimayo, is home to dirt that has miraculous healing properties. A second shrine, the Shrine of Santa Nino Atocha, is within walking distance of El Santurario and serves as the final destination for an annual Easter pilgrimage.
The San Miguel Chapel (also pictured as the feature image at the beginning of this post) lays claim to the designation of oldest church in the US. There is some debate about the veracity of this claim both because there are churches in Arizona and Texas that make similar claims, but also more importantly, because that designation doesn’t necessarily acknowledge the role that colonialism played in the settlement of the Southwest and its long lasting effects. Those discussions aside, this is a beautiful church and the priest is lovely. In 2014 I took a quick weekend trip to Santa Fe and stumbled into San Miguel right after the wrap-up of the Wednesday evening service. Despite having just performed the service, the priest spent an hour with me talking about the church and its history. He walked me around the small building, pointing out all of the intricacies of the sanctuary he was very obviously so proud of. At the end of our visit, he handed me a small highly polished light pink stone that he said would bring good luck and healing. He had no way of knowing, but 2014 had been a very hard year. J had some very serious medical issues and ended up spending nearly a year on flat bed rest. At the same time, the organization I was working for was undergoing some intense changes that meant my job duties were rapidly shifting. I had come to Santa Fe because I was physically exhausted and emotionally spent from all of the anxiety and turmoil. J and my close friends had arranged the trip in the hopes that I could have a few days to unplug and recuperate. I am not at all religious or a believer in the spiritual, but that priest’s kindness was exactly what I needed in that moment. Since, then, this tiny church has held a special place in my heart.
4. Georgia O’Keefe Museum – Lovers of both art and O’Keefe will not want to miss this museum. The collection is truly impressive and the museum blends O’Keefe’s life story with her beautiful work seamlessly. The free docent tour that runs multiple times a day will help you get the most out of your visit.
5. Palacio’s Cafe (209 E Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501) – There are lots of really amazing places to eat in Santa Fe, but I want to give a special shout out to Palacio’s because it’s a largely undiscovered gem in a foodie town. This is my favorite place for breakfast and/or lunch when I’m visting. The huevos rancheros with green or Christmas tree chili is my favorite thing on the menu, but they have an excellent selection of affordable sandwiches, salads, and soups to please any palette. It’s family owned and run, which adds to the charm.