Santa Fe: in my mind, it was a far away, somewhat magical-sounding place. I had never been there, but popular culture provided me with an image of an artist’s utopia where the sun always shines. So when divine.ca was invited to make the trip over and discover what Santa Fe is all about, I jumped at the opportunity to fly to New Mexico.
It turns out my impression wasn’t that far from reality, but The City Different ended up being much more diversified, inspiring, and delicious than I had anticipated. I learned about the city’s tri-cultural heritage with Native American, Hispanic, and European roots, met many friendly folks, relaxed, and let myself be inspired by colourful art as I took in the beautiful scenery. My memories of Santa Fe are in vivid colour, so I decided to approach this destination overview accordingly: one hue at a time.
“Chile” is an important word when it comes to food in Santa Fe. Green chile, to be exact. I really enjoyed getting to know this delicious little pepper during my stay.
My first chance to taste green chile in action was while serving as a guest judge at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, a friendly competition among local restaurants and chefs to crown the best cheeseburger featuring the famous ingredient. Green chile adds just the right amount of heat, leafiness and sweetness to dishes: I vowed to eat as much of it as I could during my stay.
At the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, which is the oldest farmer’s market in the state of New Mexico where over 100 vendors sell fresh produce, I got a chance to witness Matt Romero of Romero Farms roasting certified organic green chiles in a metal drum over a fire. The smell was just as heavenly as their taste!
In the village of Chimayó (just north of Santa Fe) I sampled traditional New Mexican Cuisine at Rancho de Chimayó, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Deliciousness abounds in the form of burritos, tacos, sopaipillas (fried dough stuffed with meat), burgers, grilled fare, salads, and more, with many dishes including or served with a choice of red or green chile, of course.
Back in the city, Casa Chimayó actually serves a green chile stew, for those who’ve really gotten on the chile train. Their traditional cuisine also includes yummy guacamole, tortilla soup, as well as various meats, and fajitas. I was lucky enough to indulge while sitting outdoors and gazing up at the moon.
One of the things that stands out most about New Mexico’s capital city visually, is the abundance of buildings featuring adobe architecture: low structures made of adobe bricks, which are a mixture of earth and straw.
The Inn & Spa at Loretto is a luxe hotel in a gorgeous adobe structure. It also houses the enchanting Luminaria Restaurant and Patio, which is a must for outdoor dining. If you have the chance to enjoy breakfast there, I highly recommend the blue corn pancakes—a signature Santa Fe dish—with apple compote and piñon syrup. Yum!
I stayed at the historic La Fonda On the Plaza Hotel, a beautiful adobe structure, and the only hotel that sits on the Santa Fe plaza at the heart of the city. The location has been an inn for over 400 years, and is a gathering place in the city. I loved sipping a cocktail at the Bell Tower Bar atop the hotel while enjoying a stunning view of the city.
I was charmed by Santa Fe’s piercing blue sky. It is said that the sun shines 300 days of the year there, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the gorgeous weather.
I learned a lot during my visit to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum that gave me a chance to explore freely while finding out more about the 18th and 19th century history of the region.
In Santa Fe, red chiles strung together are displayed near doors and windows everywhere you look. Originally intended to dry the chiles for later use in cooking, ristras also have a symbolic meaning akin to a bright red “welcome” mat at the door (except ristras are sooo much prettier).
Hotel Chimayó, where I also stayed, has ristras hanging everywhere; they add a splash of deep red to the peaceful neutral-hued inner courtyard leading to the rooms. The hotel is also home to the Low ’n Slow Lowrider Bar, whose distinctive car-themed décor and original cocktails are a great incentive to swing by.
At Ten Thousand Waves, I took a delightful soak in the hot tubs, and relaxed in an atmosphere that was the most similar to visiting an actual hot spring in Japan I’ve ever experienced outside the country. However, there was a telling sign that I was actually a short drive away from downtown Santa Fe: the red ristras hanging on both sides of the entrance.
Art is literally everywhere you turn in Santa Fe (the city boasts an unusually high concentration of artists), which makes for a vivid, colourful landscape.
One of the highlights of my visit was going for an early morning run, as well as a leisurely afternoon stroll, on Canyon Road, popping in and out of art galleries and gardens, and taking in all the colourful pieces on display on the street. With over 100 galleries, artist studios, shops and restaurants, this art-filled half-mile (0.8 km) is on my list of favourite destinations ever. It would have been hard not to leave feeling inspired!
Just around the corner from the Santa Fe plaza is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, where I learned about the life of the famous American artist, and took the time to appreciate her mesmerizing paintings. Originally from Wisconsin, O’Keeffe eventually moved to New Mexico, where she spent several decades until her death in Santa Fe in 1986.
These are just a few of the places I visited in Santa Fe, but there is so much more to do, like take a cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, spend a day at the New Mexico History Museum, and check out the Santa Fe Fiesta, a centuries old celebration that lasts over a week in September.