In 1610 Spanish missionaries founded a town that would one day become a center of art and culture. Santa Fe means Holy Faith and it must have taken a great remarkable belief to see the possibilities of this desert-like area that lies between mountains. Just as those priests from a foreign land saw something that made them decide to settle in the area, today Santa Fe is a mecca for artists, travelers, authors, retirees and anyone who becomes mesmerized by its haunting beauty.
I find myself wanting to return to Santa Fe again and again. The narrow streets and adobe structures are from another place in time. The lovely buildings center around a tree filled plaza that seems to defy the heat of the summer and cold of the winter. It is a relaxed city where nobody has to conform to a mode of dress or a certain living style. It is one of those places that enlivens the imagination and has many stories to tell. Little wonder that so many have come here to quench their creative thirst.
I always enjoy strolling past the Native Americans with their wares spread on blankets. The artistry of the jewelry, pottery, paintings and other crafts is stunning and the prices are far lower than in the boutiques that dot the area. I especially love the turquoise and silver pieces or those made from shells. Just gazing at the beautiful items is fun in itself.
There is an old style five and dime store that brings back memories of my childhood. Of course there is nothing left today that costs only a nickel or even ten cents but the prices are low and it’s fun just to browse the many varieties that are housed inside. Ironically just down the street are emporiums offering the finest in jewelry, clothing and leather at prices that might require a loan or a splurge with the plastic. It’s fun to walk through and see how the other half lives but rare to find anything affordable.
I enjoy the open air markets where the prices all seem to be low and negotiable. With a keen eye it is possible to find items similar to those found in the finer stores at a fourth of the cost. Even better are the conversations with the friendly sellers who seem to like their work as much as I like visiting their stalls.
I always spend time in the Native American Art and Craft Museum. There is always something exciting to see. This time textiles were featured. For fun visitors got to create their own designs. A short film theater gives a glimpse at future filmmakers and is always thought provoking. The garden is serene and a place for reflection. Somehow is shuts out the sounds of the city and offers a quiet moment to contemplate the true beauty of Santa Fe.
Most people visit the Church of Loretto with its mysterious and perhaps miraculous winding staircase that seems to somehow float upward without the aid of supports or nails. My personal favorite, however, is the Basilica of St. Francis with its life size stations of the cross and a fresco of saints. It is a grand tribute to a saint who I think would have loved the feel of Santa Fe.
We camped just outside of the downtown area on a bluff overlooking the city. At night the lights below twinkled like a fairyland. The warm temperature grew cool and the night sky glowed with stars tempting us to tarry. The tempo of Santa Fe is slow and serene. There seems no reason to hurry. There is far too much to see and rushing around might cause one to miss something.
We enjoyed visiting with the Rainbow Man who offers Native American artifacts in his tiny shop. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the cultures of the Zunis, Hopis and Navajos. Purchasing a kachina comes with a history lesson and a smile as he lovingly says goodbye to his prized items. His store is like a museum and he is the curator.
Not far from Santa Fe are other glorious sights that may be reached in a day’s drive or less. Chaco Canyon, Taos, Albuquerque, pueblos, mountains and festivals abound but I never stray far from the city itself. Something about it is so magical that I hate to leave. My husband likened it to Old San Juan or New Orleans (without Bourbon Street of course.) My granddaughter thought of it as a warmer version of Colorado. Each of us found something to love in this delightful place. The history, the art, the culture and the friendliness of the people make it a destination that everyone should experience at least once. I suggest that setting aside enough time to linger on the plaza and slowly learn the wonder of this glorious place.