A Quick Day In Santa Fe, NM
“Red or Green?” asked the lady
“Christmas!” I replied confidently
This was not a political discussion, nor was I going mad (although some may argue that’s already happened). This was in fact “insiders” New Mexico code-speak** and it was all about chilies.
Chilies, chilies, chilies….you either love ’em or hate ’em. There’s that hard bite when you first taste them, kinda like a bee sting, and then there’s that lingering burn on your lips and throat after they’ve gone down, kinda like sulfuric acid. The hotter the chili the longer the burn, and when it’s particularly strong it’s like a drug. You keep trying to stop, but you just can’t help wanting more. It’s a hurt that’s oh-so-good, if you’ve got the taste for it that is.
Now you wouldn’t think a pasty white Danish pastry like myself would be able to handle such intensity, but despite my puny tastebud genealogy I’ve actually developed quite the spicy palette. Growing up in Asia will do that to you, especially if you love Thai or Indian food as I do. I’ve had many years to build up a tolerance and these days I can hang with the best of them. Besides chilies are good for you, and if you’ve got any kind of…ermmm…through-flow issues they’ll fix that up for you right away (sometimes way more efficiently than you’d like, mind you).
New Mexico is the very heart of such things and it’s one of the many reasons I love it here. In this state chilies rule the day, and that same heat flows through to the landscape, the people and the colors. It’s a place of toasty golden hues, warm earthy tones and wonderfully fiery foods.
Our entry point to this heat-fest was Santa Fe, art capital of New Mexico, land of Adobe brick and high desert hills. We ‘d missed this city in our 2-month spree through New Mexico in 2011 and it’s an error we wanted to correct. That year was the first time we discovered this state, and like many of the best things in our travels it was completely unplanned. Much like Oregon, New Mexico was a state that, for whatever reason, wasn’t on my radar when we first started RVing. It was only because we were evacuated by fire in Texas that we even came here, and it was only because of her charm (and the incredible deal of the State Park Camping Pass) that we stayed.
We traveled extensively across the state in those 2 months exploring deep caverns, meeting aliens, playing on white sand dunes, hiking ancient cliff dwellings, seeing the heavens through the VLA, discovering pueblos, sampling art & wine and driving the enchanted circle (amongst other things). New Mexico gripped us from the start and the time we spent here would forever tempt us to come back.
But we never made it, at least not until now.
So we were very excited to be here, and even though we were running behind in our schedule we decided we’d stop for a quick visit to Santa Fe, to get a feel of what we’d missed the first time around. We’d heard Santa Fe was touristy, expensive and somewhat overdone which is actually part of the reason we skipped it in 2011 (we stuck to more remote and nature-rich spots on that trip). Plus there’s not really any great, inexpensive RV camping options here.
All of that is true, to an extent.
During our stay here we did find the artsy downtown somewhat touristy, and there’s no doubt it’s pricier than other NM cities, both for camping, parking and eating. But there’s also a rich cultural history and definite visual appeal that cannot be denied. Santa Fe was established in 1607 which makes it the oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi. It’s been incredibly well-preserved making for a very pretty town with lots of museums and historic churches. In recent years it’s gone through an art and tourism boom which means it’s also an easy place to pickup some colorful sculptures or a good meal. It’s the ultimate potpourri of New Mexico’s soul in one place; culture, art, food and history, kind of like the Christmas** chili I ordered in the first line.
We didn’t have much of a stay here, just a single day to explore, but we made the most of it. We enjoyed a walk through old town and visited all the major historic attractions including the oldest church (San Miguel Chapel est. circa 1610 and thought to be the oldest church in the continental United States), the church with the miraculous staircase (Loretto Chapel which was ok, but not quite as exciting as I thought it’d be for $3/person) and the oldest house in the USA (De Vargas Street House, which we did enjoy).
Food-wise we indulged in red and green chili creations at The Shed which was somewhat overpriced and over-hyped, but super cute (and I must concede the margaritas were lethal). I’d say it was a good start to our chili sojourn of New Mexico, but I think we’ll manage better as we stay here longer.
Lastly, so as not to fall behind on our beer duties, we managed a trip to Santa Fe Brewing Company, another tasty brew spot located just minutes from our RV park with a nice, laid-back atmosphere. Being several miles outside of downtown the brewery had a more “local” vibe to it, and felt much more like the kind of place we typically like to hang. The Happy Camper IPA was good, but the Black IPA was our absolute joint favorite here. Great service, relaxed atmosphere and they had a lovely outdoor dog-friendly seating area too. It’s a recommend.
Our full and HOT day (we were breaking heat records) wrapped with a subtle, but colorful sunset which fittingly ended our time here. Even though it was a super-quick visit (we missed a ton of good stuff esp. museums & food-wise) I can definitely see coming back in the future for a longer stay. I have a feeling that’s there’s much more depth to Santa Fe, especially if you explore outside of the tourist center. Plus there are hikes and outdoor activities in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that we didn’t even touch.
But we ran out of time….
We’re now finally, after almost an entire year of anticipation, going to an event that’s been on our bucket list for YEARS. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has arrived and we are bursting at the seams with excitement to see it happen. Paul’s dad & stepmom are joining us (they traveled across from Florida in their RV) as well as around 1,000 other close friends & RV buddies. It’s going to be busy and it’s going to be crazy so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t post about it for a few days. But fear not, I’ll be back and you’ll have more balloon pics than you can handle.
- Santa Fe Historical Sites -> Click HERE
- Santa Fe Museums -> Click HERE
- Pet-Friendly Santa Fe -> Click HERE
- Santa Fe Brewing Company -> Click HERE (outdoor area is 100% dog-friendly)
** For those wondering Christmas means you want a combo of both green and red chilies.SPONSORED LINK:
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