Summer Road Trip - Taos + Santa Fe
Mr. H and I travel somewhere for our anniversary each year. We plan a special day, just for us, and ‘get married’ again, complete with a special dress and a photographer. We choose a unique event or landmark to help commemorate the day. We’ve been married by an Elvis impersonator under the Las Vegas sign, (he drove us through town in a pink Cadillac and made us promise to be each other’s hunka-hunka burning love.) We were also remarried by a French officiant atop the Eiffel Tower, and a civil servant in a small Italian village. We’ve made up our own annual vows at an RV campground in southeast Tennessee, too.
Our road trip across America took us to Santa Fe, New Mexico, just in time to celebrate again.
I absolutely adore Santa Fe. There’s a storied history and an earthy, rich-hippie vibe that makes me feel creative and a little wild! That, along with a fabulous art scene and delicious local food, makes Santa Fe the perfect getaway.
To get there from Aspen, we headed into the unknown, on backroads that took us through the Ute Mountain Reservation and the outskirts of Navajo Nation trust land.
Along the way, we went down into a gold mine and made a detour into Ouray, Colorado, a postcard-worthy mountain town. We lunched at a half-deserted truck stop, because it was the only thing we could find.
We spent the night in Taos and had dinner at De La Tierra at El Monte Sagrado, where blue corn and green chiles dominate the menu. The restaurant is located in a Heritage Hotel, and features an open courtyard and private wine room.
Breakfast was at Gutiz, a Latin-French fusion cafe where they’re famous for their scrambled egg tower. We browsed a few shops and galleries in Taos — including Kimosabe, Jones Walker and Two Graces — before heading over to the Taos Pueblo, a living Native American village continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years. The Pueblo is currently closed as a precaution during COVID, but is well worth a visit when open.
For our anniversary, we had booked three nights at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe. “La Fonda” means ‘the inn” in Spanish, and since 1609, an inn or hotel has stood at this same site. The main plaza in Santa Fe was once linked to ancient trails that terminated in Mexico City in one direction and Independence, Missouri in another. Who’s to say how many travelers have rested in this spot over the centuries?
The current hotel opened in the 1920s with 180 rooms, a newsstand, gift shop, restaurant and more. Architect Isaac Hamilton Rapp, despite being born in New Jersey, is known as the father of Santa Fe style and the building honors indigenous structures like the pueblos. Smooth adobe walls, exposed beams and Mexican tiles add to the mood.
The rooms are classically southwestern, too, with beautiful attention to detail, from the painted wooden headboards…
…to the embroidered linen window treatments.
We spent our first day in Santa Fe exploring shops and museums.
First stop, of course, had to be the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I’ve been a fan of O’Keeffe’s for as long as I can remember, both of her art and her determination to live her own life in a time when that wasn’t the norm.
Over the years, she became a style icon as well, inspiring fashion designers and Vogue photoshoots on numerous occasions. Her love affair with photographer Alfred Stieglitz is well documented, but in her 90s she was also riding around the desert on the back of a motorcycle with her 58-years-younger companion. She definitely played by her own rules!
Just outside the central plaza area in Santa Fe is Museum Hill, where must-sees include the International Museum of Folk Art, founded by Florence Dibell Bartlett. The museum houses one of the top 10 costume collections in the world, among other things. There are also two museums dedicated to Native American art and culture and a museum of Spanish Colonial art on the hill.
The strong graphics of native art often have deeper meaning, and also seem to reflect the surrounding terrain. I’m intrigued especially by the triangle and stair step patterns that appear in the southwest, as well as in the ancient cultures of the Incas, further south. Kellie and I created patterns inspired by these timeless shapes, treating them with layered washes of strong desert-inspired color. These patterns feel intentionally aged, which is a favorite SmithHönig treatment. I especially love our Andean Summer fabric in Sunset, mixed with denim blues and antique wood.
If planning your own trip to Santa Fe, be certain to include a visit to Meow Wolf. This mesmerizing and mind-bending art experience is NOT to be missed. You could easily spend a full day here, wandering the 70 rooms of The House of Eternal Return, opening doors to strange and intriguing spaces or peering into clothes dryers that hold the entire cosmos!
We lunched in La Fonda’s courtyard restaurant, La Pazeula. The ambience is pure southwest hacienda, from tile floors to painted furniture and windows. I feasted on beer-battered chiles rellenos and Mr. H chowed down on chips and carne asada.
After lunch, we headed out to find the iconic turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace I’d always wanted. Turquoise and silver jewelry is ubiquitous in the high desert. It also looks stylish anywhere.
I wanted to buy from a local artist. Eventually I found the necklace for me, at Maverick’s on the Plaza. It was sized a little smaller than some, so as not to overpower. We bought directly from the artisan, who was able to shorten the clasp slightly while we waited.
The next morning – our anniversary – Mr. H and I woke up early to catch the desert sunrise with our photographer, Elizabeth Wells. We wrapped ourselves in a blue serape and said our personal vows for the coming year.
Then it was off to the Santa Fe School of Cooking for a culinary tour. We enjoyed “nouvelle” southwestern tastings on a restaurant walk, then a cooking demonstration in the school’s classroom. Of course, we left with some local spices and salsas, too.
In the late afternoon we wandered through a few furniture and antique shops, including Mediterrania, Camino Real and Santa Kilim. At one stop, a local Indian artisan came in, his arms draped with dozens of handmade turquoise necklaces. The owner turned to us…
“You could get a great deal if you purchase directly”, she said. “This gentleman supports his wife and five children by making turquoise jewelry. And you’ll get it without my markup.”
The jewelry maker offered us a great price and I bought multiple strands as early Christmas gifts for friends and family. Transaction happily completed, we – and the seller – exited the shop and headed in opposite directions. Then suddenly he was behind me again, on the sidewalk, a single necklace in his outstretched hand.
“For you,” he said. “For your anniversary. Or something else.” He put it into my hand, smiled, and left.
I hadn’t told him – or anyone – that it was my anniversary!
Stay tuned for more adventures. We’re heading deeper into the desert as our road trip across America continues.