Terrible Traffic, Torrents of Rain

Trip Start Feb 06, 2013
Trip End Mar 12, 2013

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Friday, March 8, 2013

We left Albuquerque in beautiful sun and headed north along I25 which was immediately adjacent to our Plaza Inn. I would not stay there again. The bathroom and common areas were dirty and run down. However the price and location were right!

No sooner had we joined the highway but the electronic signs were saying all lanes were closed some 10 miles ahead and please find an alternate route. I had wanted to get a picture of the Madonna of the Trail ( in Alameda I thought) so we left I25 and headed west. Even though we stopped to ask no one knew where this statue was. However this enabled us to skirt up the west side of I25 via Corrales, Rio Rancho and Bernalilo. I wished we'd taken the Turquoise Trail east of the city and Sandia Pass where we might have seen the ski area. Of course we were hoping that this diversion would put us ahead of the traffic problem but that was not the case. As we re-entered I25 "Charles" let us know it was ahead.

As it turned out we had to exit at the next exit along with loads of others making an one hour trip more like two and a half hours. I saw my time to explore Sante Fe evaporate before my eyes. The detour involved the Santa Ana Indian Reservation and specifically their town of San Felipe Pueblo. I noticed every home had an outdoor adobe fireplace. Suffice it to say that the detour was painfully slow!

Nonetheless we did get to Sante Fe and our B&B hotel on West San Francisco Ave. It is very unique - a collection of former homes and we have a suite (#27) with a fireplace, kitchenette and wi-fi and free parking - none of which one can take for granted. As it was too early to check-in we took their shuttle to one end of Canyon Rd. - a mile long stretch of more than a 100 world-class art galleries showcasing old masters, contemporary paintings and sculpture and traditional Native American weaving, ceramics and jewelry. The galleries are for the most part located in beautifully preserved and restored adobe and Territorial-style homes. We ate lunch there at Caffe Greco, a quirky multiroom space with a crackling fire (not the only place to have a fire today!).

Although it was starting to rain after lunch we walked to get pictures of the oldest house in the US, the De Vargas House built in 1646 and the San Miguel Mission built between 1610 and 1626 on the Sante Fe Trail. The latter is regarded as the oldest church in the US.

From there we headed north to the Plaza established in 1610 by Don Pedro de Peralta passing the St. Francis Cathedral and Loretto Chapel on the way. The latter chapel is renowned for its spiral staircase purportedly built so women could gain access to the choir loft rather than using a ladder as the men did. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi combines adobe, French-Romanesque and modern architectural styles and has the most magnificent font. The Plaza was originally a presidio (fort) with barracks, a chapel, a prison, a few homes and the Palace of the Governors. Today it is a grassy square surrounded by shops and restaurants - the former where I found a bracelet of silver and inlaid stones that I love. We also checked out the La Fonda Hotel which occupies the site of the inn which marked the end of the old Sante Fe Trail. The interior was designed by Mary Colter, the architect whose work we saw yesterday. It was acquired by Fred Harvey in the early 1920s. Harvey is a name I have heard repeatedly in the southwest (similar to Flagler in Florida) in relation to his sophisticated vision and interest in southwestern culture and the arts. The La Fonda hotel was also a gathering place for scientists working on the Manhattan Project where information was leaked over drinks at the bar.

We opted to shuttle back to the hotel as it was pouring rain by then. After we'd done some laundry the skies had cleared sufficiently for us to explore the railyard/Guadalupe district known to be funky, fab and friendly. I managed to get a photo of the Sanctuario de Guadalupe built around 1776 and just a couple of blocks from our hotel. A 12 foot statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of New Mexico, stands on the grounds.

We parked the car at the hotel and walked to dinner at Casa de Cimayo - a delightful Mexican bistro with an Indian guitarist who also played pies. The owners were seated nearby and trying to sell some folks on using the restaurant to celebrate Cinqua de Mayo.

Sante Fe is the oldest capital city in the US at 403 years old. It has 300-plus days of sunshine per year (sadly today was not one of them). At 7,000 feet above sea level it is also the highest capital city in the US with apparently 30% less oxygen than at sea level.
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