New Mexico: Santa Fe 2

April 23, 2018 • 9:30 am

I spent two nights in Santa Fe as there’s so much to see and do—and eat. People watching is fun, too, as the town harbors a mix of wealthy locals, aged tourists, and aged hippies, as well as a “woo” culture (see below). The food is good, too, though I’m trying to restrain myself: no more than two meals a day.

Here are a few holiday snaps from Day 2:

This is the New Mexico Museum of Art, right off the central plaza. I didn’t go in, as I feared I would eat up the whole lovely day looking at their collection of 20,000 pieces. It’s got a good reputation, and is New Mexico’s oldest art museum.

It was Saturday, so things were hopping: it was market day, when the local Native Americans come to town to sell their arts and crafts, including jewelry, blankets, and assorted lovely items. The vendors line the arcade along the Palace of Governors.  I didn’t buy anything (I already have too much stuff), but I greatly admired a handmade obsidian knife with a deerhorn handle made by a nice guy who chatted with me. I didn’t photograph it (I should have), and anyway it was $450: a piece of art, not cutlery.

I noticed that the obelisk in the center of the Plaza, a memorial to the settlers of the state who died while killing off the locals, had been defaced, with a word missing and another one written in:

I asked a tour guide who was leading a group around what word had been there before. He said the word was “savage”, and that one day, in broad daylight, a guy (I think a Native American, but am not sure) walked up to the monument and hacked off the missing word. I don’t blame him, as the indigenous people were no more “savage”—and probably less so—than those who displaced and killed them. I think someone else wrote “resilient” later. The story of the destruction of the indigenous peoples is a sad one, and this graffiti is just one form of reparation.

There’s a newer plaque on the other side of the monument that tries to make amends for the old, offensive words. This is one correction I don’t mind:

Tourists. I was surprised that many of them were older, but maybe they are “snowbirds” who come here to escape the chill of the north:

Jewelry for sale. If you like Native American style turquoise, this is paradise, but prices are, I suspect, very high:

A lovely piece of greenish turquoise (Wikipedia has a nice article on the gemstone, noting that it’s been debased in recent years by artificial coloration, synthetic “stones”, and imitations.)

There is woo in town. I went into one rock and mineral shop (I’m a sucker for rock and fossil shops) and noticed that, in the rear, they were selling “gemstone water”, water in which gemstones are placed, conferring on the liquid a “healing power”. Pure bullshit, of course.

And here’s some other woo.  I’m sure that some of the warm drinks are okay, though without medicinal properties, but what on earth is Belly Bless™? Note the crystal- and aromatherapy.

But I also found four instantiations of my Spirit Animal. The first one is particularly lovely (notice the baby):


Two pumas outside an antique store:

The San Miguel Chapel (also called the “San Miguel Mission”) near downtown may be the oldest church in the United States. The adobe church was, according to its website, built between 1610 and 1626, but has been damaged and rebuilt several times since then. However, the original adobe walls are still largely there under the newer stucco. (Adobe is a building material made of mud, straw, and sometimes manure, that’s dried in the sun and used as large bricks. It’s fairly durable in dry climates, but requires attention and repair even then.)

I love the adobe houses and churches of the Southwest; I’ll show more on a Taos post later, as it’s the stuff from which the Native American pueblos are made. Here’s San Miguel:

Many of these churches were built using Native American slave labor under the direction of Spanish Catholic missionaries.

Across the street is what is reputed to be America’s oldest house: the De Vargas Street House, whose age is in fact unknown, but probably was built in the 17th or early 18th centuries. Well, who knows, but it’s a lovely adobe structure that you can enter and photograph. Here’s the outside and a reconstruction of the inside (it actually once had two stories). You can see the adobe bricks where the stucco coating is gone:

Finally, my second and last meal of the day (I did have a salted caramel milkshake as a pre-bed snack). I wasn’t hungry till about 3 pm because I’d had that huge breakfast of blue cornmeal pancakes with pinon nuts, butter, and syrup, which stayed with me for hours.

A nice woman at the tourist office recommended lunch at one of her favorite places near downtown, Del Charro’s, which has good draft beer and decent local cuisine. I had the blue corn chicken enchiladas, washed down with a superb local red craft ale, not too hoppy. (I deplore the tendency of brewers to overhop their beer in America, almost as if they’re in a contest to make the bitterest one-note ale.) This is a record day for me: I had blue corn food for both breakfast and lunch.

Tomorrow (or when I get a chance): a visit to lovely Taos.

67 thoughts on “New Mexico: Santa Fe 2

  1. The great advantage to the adobe construction is the insulation it provides. Prior to modern air conditioning it made for a much more pleasant existence in the hot summer.

  2. They could have just put quote marks around “savage,” except that a lot of people would think that the punctuation was emphasizing said “savagery.”

    Glen Davidson

    1. 🙂

      Sadly, you’re probably right. It’s difficult to be precise or subtle these days for fear that some ignoramus will misinterpret it.


  3. Beautiful images!!! The puma sculptures are amazing, and the food sure looked good. Santa Fe is also home to the Santa Fe Institute, a very interesting place that focuses on complexity theory and has many fascinating scientists on staff.

  4. It’s said that no turquoise that fits the composition of the designated mineral turquoise has been assayed in America.

    That means nothing to the authenticity of turquoise in America, since a host of (related) mineral compositions that result in the turquoise color has always been called “turquoise” in the gem trade. It’s just that for the purposes of mineralogy, only one composition (or a limited range of similar compositions) can be called by one name. But if you buy American turquoise, it almost certainly doesn’t have the composition of the mineral “turquoise.”

    The fakes and treatments are a real abomination.

    Glen Davidson

    1. Ooops didn’t mean to post without saying this: I’m betting the above biz doesn’t tell their tourist customers that oxygen treatment will not cure Mountain Sickness [AMS] (Santa Fe is at 7,000′) – any benefit is gone within minutes of coming off the oxy. There are drugs that help with some of the symptoms, but I doubt that this joint offers sensible advice: Diamox [prescription required], plenty water & a lie down in the quiet for a day or so.

      1. Most people miss the “plenty of water” part of your advice, which is likely the most important. The Mountain West is not only high but also dry – flatlanders from a humid area don’t realize that they are losing a lot of water because the aren’t sweating! 🙂

        1. Surely they *are* sweating but the sweat is evaporating instantly so they never notice that sticky feeling?

          (For much the same reason that a good breeze on a sunny day greatly increases the risk of sunburn).


    2. So for the Temple Infusion, is that two to four people massaging you at the same time? That seems unnecessary.

      1. “Infusion” in the conventional medical sense is a method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. e.g. insulin or chemo drugs are the two situations where I’ve seen the term used.

        The woo palaces have hijacked the term somewhat & all it means to them is a beverage delivered by mouth or a balm applied to the skin. Deceptive medicalisation of woo. Here is the ‘menu’ for a $77 [30min] to $197 [90min] “Temple Infusion” :-

        Two to four healers* will provide an amplified healing experience. Feel empowered to bring out your unique purpose and gifts in the world while being supported by the love and appreciation of our healing community.

        *Price may vary, depending on number of healers

        This isn’t a full body massage which requires an advance appointment [& is a very skilled, expensive trade]. I’m guessing a “Temple Infusion” is the same as everything else on the menu:
        Flower essence drink [the ‘infusion’]
        Hands-on healing
        Body mandala of flowers
        crystal infused aromatherapy

        Maybe the cheap, two ‘healer’, version is where they make a temple over your prone body with their 4 arms & babble some nonsense & the 4-person version is the same, but more ‘temply’ now you’ve got 8 arms to make a roof. I’m guessing you don’t get more than one person for most of the session & your sole ‘healer’ just puts a petal on your forehead & rubs you behind the ears 🙂

  5. “Savage”, as you say, is both offensive and inaccurate.

    “Rebel”, as applied to the attempted incursion of slave-drivers from Texas, hoping to extend their peculiar custom all the way to the Pacific — that is both accurate and far too kind.

    1. Santa Fe – probably best known overseas from the Santa Fe Railroad.

      I’ve always liked the incongruity of those midwest US railroads named after obscure towns that extended for thousands of miles (and never bothered to change their name).

      Such as –
      Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe (where the heck is Atchison?)
      Denver & Rio Grande Western
      Chicago Burlington & Quincy (Quincy?)
      Chicago Rock Island & Pacific

      (Though if I Google ‘Santa Fe’ images now I get a page full of Hyundais 🙁


      1. Oops sorry Loren – that wasn’t intended as any sort of reply to your comment. My mistake.


  6. I absolutely love New Mexico cuisine. I find it very different from Mexican or TexMex. When I was in NM, after a meal I looked forward to being hungry again later! Alas, it is difficult to find good NM cuisine outside of the state. Here in Chicago, I know of only one restaurant that does NM cuisine. Even though they are very good, it just is not the same as being there.

    1. If you like to cook and don’t mind being accused of cultural appropriation, you could get “Feast of Santa Fe: Cooking in the American Southwest” by Huntley Dent. It has mouth watering recipes and goes into the history of the cuisine. I’ve had the book for decades and it’s served me well.

      1. Thanks, got a used one on Amazon. I’m always on the look-out for good culturally-appropriated cook-books. 🙂

  7. American beer is “overhopped”? Isn’t it the lack of hops that makes Budweiser, Miller Light et al. so tasteless? Isn’t it more hops that makes Becks, Heineken, St. Pauli Girl etc. so much more full bodied, tasteful? Am I wrong about that?

    1. I think what PCC means with this comment is the micro-brews. They tend to go over the top on the hops. Many of the American big brands are just a mass production of the beer and the way they do it. More or less hops would not help it much. This more tasteless beer is also pasteurized and that always hurts. I found the best beer for me was in Germany. It was pretty local and not pasteurized.

    2. Yes, he means the craft beers, especially the IPAs. They seem to one-up each other with more and more hops.
      The intent of beer is to mix malted barley, which is sweet, with hops, which are bitter, to make a beverage which is neither, but instead has a nice balance and a little complexity.

      1. It is all a matter of personal taste. I like very hopppy IPAs. Others don’t. New Mexico has new brew pubs opening frequently these days. There are over 60 breweries in the state now, I think. I just went to a new one yesterday. The beauty of it is that there is a wide range of craft beers to meet everyone’s preference.

    3. IPAs have become, have been for a while now, way over represented among US craft brewers. It is very common that if you walk into a drinking establishment with 50 + taps that promotes themselves as a specialty beer place, or a similar package store, 75% to 90% will be some sort of IPA. I like IPAs but, damn if I haven’t become sick unto death of them. I’ve no doubt that is what Jerry is talking about.

      1. Where have you been going for beer? Most places I know of with many beers on tap will only have a few IPAs. But I would love to find a place with 75-90% IPAs.

        1. Not that it would mean anything to you unless you came and visited the small town I’m in, but I can easily name off 1/2 a dozen stores and bars / restaurants around my town for which that is pretty accurate. And it has been the same most places I’ve been in the past 5 years at least. Of course I might be exaggerating a tiny bit. But not much!

          How many craft brewers’ main beer, the one you most commonly find and that they sell the most is an IPA? In my experience they are way over represented compared to other beer types. When you go into a package store that has all the mass produced crap US beers, but also a separate section with a selection from one or two dozen craft brewers, how many of them will be an IPA by that brewer? Very often more than half in my experience.

          As I said I do still like IPAs. One of the best I’ve had was a limited run from Bell’s that I can’t remember the name of. The aroma was unbelievable. I just sat there with my head down over it and smelled it for a while. I was afraid the taste wouldn’t live up to the smell, as so often seems to be the case (for example Earl Gray tea). My fears were unfounded.

          Another favorite was a limited brew from Sailfish out of Ft. Pierce, Florida. An Imperial IPA with jalapeno. I figured the jalapeno would either be too much or barely detectable. To my surprise it was spectacular. I don’t know how they did it but it was perfect. I’ve yet to have anything lower than a “quite good” beer from Sailfish and most have been very good.

              1. Sorry- I did not mean to be rude. I just get easily and unnecessarily riled up by hop bashers. The hops- and the brewing methods used to cradle the flavors from them- are all we really have in this life.

              2. Again I apologize for any offense- I meant it only in the most internet troll-ish, searching for a reaction, totally joking kind of way. We’re talking about beer for cryin out loud here right?

    4. I’d say American beers are overhopped. Too many neglect the malt for flavor. Miller and Bud are made with corn (Miller) and rice (Bud) rather than good barley malt.

      A good friend of mine lives in Prague (great beers!). He says lighter beers like Pilsner are actually difficult to get right — if you make mistakes, you have undrinkable beer. He says Americans just dump a load of hops in so nobody can tell what a sorry beer they’ve produced.

      I find Anchor Steam to be a great example of a well-hopped American beer. It has a wonderful balance.

      1. English beer (my favorite) is also notable for a variety of malty beers that are light on hosp but have plenty of flavor. I cannot stand IPA’s.

        1. I agree. But the IPA style is an English invention. The story is that the beer of the day would often spoil on the trip to India, and you can’t have the troops in India going without their beer. The solution to the problem was the addition of extra large amounts of hops, which apparently is a pretty decent antimicrobial. The result, India Pale Ale. I’m not sure if any of that is actually true, but that’s what I’ve heard some where.

  8. We have the dubious honor here of being a place where many seekers have found themselves. Not sure how the selves got here in the first place. But it has been that way for a long time, Mabel Dodge Luhan in Santa Fe and Taos, DH Lawrence, even, many hippie communes, some still going. Like Sedona and Ojai. And then there’s the other extreme typified by the Los Alamos Lab and Sandia Lab in Albuquerque. The marker “resilient” on the plaza monument is an ongoing thing. Someone writes something; it stays for a while; then it is removed by the City. Most of the time it is just blank. In last year or so the city of Santa Fe has conducted a statue and monument review, so we’ll see what happens. Interesting times.

  9. Its only a question of time before you, like Kevin Costner, adopt your native American name. I suggest, rhather than “Dances with Wolves”, “Rambles with Cats” would seem appropriate.

  10. When you go to Taos don’t forget to visit the Chimayo Sanctuary and collect your free handful of miracle dust! It cures everything, except all the obvious things like amputated limbs, death, etc.

    Apparently over 30,000 people have been visiting for over 100 years, collecting their handfuls of dust. The real miracle is that the hole you collect it from is still only a couple of inches deep!

    1. That was covered by LINK: Skeptical Enquirer :-

      “priests periodically refill the hole with dirt from outside the church” (Kay 1987, 77). Indeed, previously tipped off to this fact by a television cameraman (Del Monte 2001), we searched for and found the storage area where five-gallon containers of the reddish soil are stored (Figure 2). In recent years, priests at El Santuario de Chimayó have increasingly taken pains to point out the shed where the trucked-in soil is stored, with one complaining, “I even have to buy clean dirt!” (Eckholm 2008).

    2. Someone once gave me a vial of it. It is a marvel to be sure. The very fact that this dirt is considered miraculous is a marvel in itself, a marvelous testament to human credulity.

  11. “I deplore the tendency of brewers to overhop their beer in America, almost as if they’re in a contest to make the bitterest one-note ale.”

    Right on, sir!

    I think this is a reaction to the insipid liquid that passes as “American Lager” “beer”. So they go too far in the other direction.

  12. I’ve always loved what I would call the “adobe aesthetic.” Has anyone here has ever been to Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona? It’s one of my favorite vacation spots and is built around this aesthetic. I’ll have to check out Santa Fe at some point, as I’ve never been there.

    1. Santa Fe used to be a town with a lot of Victorian architecture. Most of the Victorian houses were butchered to become faux adobes so that the city would have its “look.” It has been referred to by some as an adobe theme park. There are still a few Victorian houses along Canyon Road.

  13. Google only helps a little:

    “Belly BlessTM Improve your digestion, relax, and soften your belly to access and release your emotions more easily. Stomach ache relief.”

  14. Georgia O’Keeffe has been quoted as saying “If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.”

    I completely agree with her. If the blue skies and the ability to see for miles isn’t enough, you’ll crave the chile for the rest of your life! We travel to Sante Fe and Taos regularly from Denver to get our NM fix and are never disappointed.

    1. Amen! We lived in Los Alamos for a number of years and two of our three children were born there, the other in Denver. We are back in CO now, but the NM itch persists.

  15. As the guy in back says, it is all in the eye of the beholder. Taste in beer is no different than movies or music. When I see bad reviews on a beer I really like I just have to say to myself, the guy has no taste. Think of the poor bar tender. He very likely has his favorites and the bad ones but he has to fill the orders regardless.

    1. Aside from the mass produced American light lager-water, I am open to just about any style of the 150+ beers, or whatever it is now as recognized by the GABF or other authorities. For me, it’s not a question of too hoppy, too malty, or not enough, it’s all about time and place. Different seasons, different foods, different company, different countries, there’s a beer for all occasions!

      1. several years back I had the good fortune to go over to Germany 3 or 4 times with business around Giessen, Germany. A small town not far away, Lich, makes a beer called licher. It is superior to anything I have had before or since.

  16. A Hungarian freedom fighter who went to college and grad school in Pittsburgh, I came to NM in 1963 and fell in love with green chile. Later, on a trip to Los Angeles I asked a waitress in a restaurant featuring “chili” if they might have some green chili. She looked at me as if I was an Alien and said: “But sir, chili is red!”

  17. The snowbirds come to trade the chill of the north for the chilies of the southwest…and I don’t blame them! I’ve never been but New Mexico has always appealed to me, that rustic yet artsy aesthetic just begs to be experienced, as does that lovely food. If I weren’t feeling so low with a tetchy tummy, I’d be drooling right now.

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