Santa Fe: At Its Own Altitude

Santa Fe doesn’t wow you with a skyline. It doesn’t have any gleaming towers or eye-catching bridges. Not even any fancy overpasses.

There are mountains. Already sitting at 7,300 feet, you see them climb a few thousand feet higher, their bold blueish hue framing nearly every view, their snowcapped peaks a beacon, their alpine slopes providing texture, life. Clouds hang softly across them, boldly tower over them and softly float above them depending on what they feel like. As I walked back to my room on Thursday evening, big fluffy snowflakes dropped softly from the sky. The next morning, the mountains were bathed in white.

There are the adobe houses, most single level and simple. The adobe missions and churches, the adobe resorts that actually manage to be tasteful. The museums have the requisite clay and sand exteriors, poles and sticks framing the structure. Windows might be framed in a dark wood or a bright blue or red, an eye-catching contrast with the pinkish orange buildings.

The streets are narrow and anything but straight. They tumble down hills, wind in between neighborhoods, meander around parks. Parking is enough without becoming a part of the landscape. Walking paths, bike lanes are easy to find and well-used.

Galleries are everywhere. Everywhere. It starts in the Plaza’s New Mexico Museum of Art and continues to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum down the street to the Chuck Jones gallery, the numerous photography galleries, contemporary galleries, the Navajo tribespeople selling their wares on the Plaza to the mile and more of galleries lining Canyon Road. I wandered through a few of the above and also looked at some newer galleries in the Railyard a mile or so south of downtown, walking right into an office once when a spectacular photograph of a canyon caught my eye.

The green chile, the state’s culinary symbol, is deliciously all over its cuisine. My first meal on Wednesday was a green chile cheeseburger at Bert’s Burger Bowl which came out spicy and tangy and juicy. Lunch the next day at Plaza Cafe was a chicken enchilada smothered in a smoky, dark cashew nut and red chile mole sauce. I had a Sheepherder’s Breakfast the morning after at the cozy, homey Tecolote Café which brought a cast iron skillet with homestyle potatoes on the bottom swimming in red chile sauce on the right half and green chile sauce on the left half, melted cheddar, covered with scrambled eggs. An Atole Piñon, a blue cornmeal and pine nut pancake, came alongside.

It was bold, colorful, spicy, sweet, original, just like its hometown.

View my photographs here.

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