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    Santa Fe: what to see among Old Town, churches with miraculous stairs and local traditions

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    Joel Fulleda

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    There is an adjective that unites most of the comments about our destination: adorable. And there is no more appropriate term for painting Santa Fe, a pearl in northeastern New Mexico. The city has a charm all its own, and even though it is the capital and the fourth largest city in its state, it has very little to do with modern architecture or skyscrapers. The city is also famous because a section of historic Route 66 passes through here.

    Santa Fe certainly does not represent the classic stereotype of an American city, it is rather a splendid reality that conquers with its style, its cultural background, its buildings with a warm pink color and its center that can be enjoyed step by step. Our invitation is to visit this corner of New Mexico and discover the beauties of the “different city”.


    • The climate of Santa Fe
    • What to see in Santa Fe
      • The Old Town
      • Santa Fe Plaza
      • The churches of Santa Fe
      • State Capitol
      • Canyon Road
    • The Analco neighborhood
    • The events of Santa Fe
    • Advice on where to eat
    • Where to sleep in Santa Fe
      • Day excursion

    The climate of Santa Fe

    Founded in 1610 it is located in the Rio Grande Valley it is crossed by the homonymous river and surrounded by Sangre de Cristo Mountains (it is thought that the name of the chain refers to the pink shades that are created at sunrise and sunset, even when they are covered by snow).

    Santa Fe is on high ground, more than 2000 meters above sea level, consequently lthermal excursion is significant and the clothing should follow the so-called “onion style” technique, the layered “onion” style that allows you to better manage temperature variations. In summer the heat is not stifling, which is a very good thing. The city is nicknamed “the city different” due to the presence of natives, Hispanics and Anglo-Saxons, an added value also for the architecture, food and art that originated from this mix. Ready for a ride?

    What to see in Santa Fe

    The Old Town

    Il downtown, that is the heart of the city, coincides with the ancient one Old Town, the historic center where events take place, there are restaurants, cafes, shops, offices, hotels, government buildings and points of interest. This is the most visited area. The peculiarity of Santa Fe is the harmony created by the many adobe buildings, a mixture of sand, clay and straw particularly used in construction in northern New Mexico.

    The city center immediately transmits a sense of embrace, of welcome and while walking along its streets you feel good, you can clearly feel the mix of cultures. We enter to browse the shops that offer clothing, art, jewelry and souvenirs typical of the western world and natives.

    As we walk we cannot help but notice the presence of red chillies hanging from the arcades and everywhere they can be dangled. We savor the serene and lively city atmosphere then let ourselves be tempted by the scent of the cart that churns out fajitas in industrial quantities with the certainty that the long waiting line is a guarantee of goodness.

    Santa Fe Plaza

    Santa Fe Plaza it is the soul of the downtown that flaunts its Spanish colonial style around the central park, a meeting point, a meeting point and moments of entertainment. In this regard, in the middle of the green there is a stage where performances alternate and then among trees, benches and street lamps also stands out the American-Indian War Memorial, an obelisk erected in memory of the homonymous war of 1862. All around there are shops, restaurants and food vendors: excellent street food with chili, tacos, tortillas and fajitas, just the ones we have experienced with satisfaction! During the Christmas holidays the plaza is illuminated and decorated creating a suggestive, very heartfelt atmosphere.

    On one side of the square is the luxury hotel of the Governor's (105 W. Palace Ave.) built in 1610 by order of the governor Pedro De Peralta. Before the State Capitol was built, this adobe building housed government offices, but now it is home to the state history museum. The building can be visited every day from 10 to 17 at a cost of $ 12 and is closed on Mondays from November to April. A constant feature of the palace arcade is the presence of Native Americans selling their typical crafts, mainly jewelry. Many items are actually handcrafted, some in front of our very eyes, and if you intend to bring home something local this is a great opportunity.

    The churches of Santa Fe

    We leave the square but stay in the Old Town and at the end of San Francisco Street there Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi it is a reminder for everyone. You can already see it in the distance with its Romanesque revival style. It is nice to happen when the bells are heard, something familiar as is the statue of San Francesco erected in the entrance square together with that of the first Indian saint and the first bishop.

    The architecture is very pleasant and we notice many harmonious elements: the rose window, the organ, the imposing granite baptismal font, the lateral stations of the crucifixion, the paintings on the windows and the Corinthian columns. We also visit the two chapels and the sanctuary. This is the mother church of the archdiocese of Santa Fe and the further title of basilica was conferred on it by Pope Benedict XVI.

    A special mention goes to Loretto Chapel (207 Old Santa Fe Trail), a beautiful Gothic-style church known for a significant peculiarity that is found inside and which is considered miraculous: a spiral staircase built in 1877 without nails or supports that connects the choir area located almost seven meters from the ground. This staircase contains three mysteries: the identity of its builder, the type of wood used and the construction method.

    Over time, the staircase was equipped with some support points and railings so that the nuns could use it safely, but the photo of how the staircase was originally is well exposed and surprises visitors. Although the chapel is now a museum, many weddings are held. Admission is subject to a fee of $ 3.

    We continue to appreciate the artistic vein of Santa Fe al Sanctuary de Guadalupe (100 S. Guadalupe St.) erected in 1781 in honor of the Madonna. The statue of just over 3 meters that depicts her is located in front of the church and is very venerated. Now the sanctuary chapel is an art and history museum that contains a collection of engravings depicting the saints of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe plus some paintings from the Spanish Renaissance and Mexican Baroque. On the wall that forms the background of the altar is the Madonna of Guadalupe, a large and precious oil painting.

    State Capitol

    Lo State Capitol (411 State Capitol) is the only circular shaped capitol in the United States (The Roundhouse) and was built with a mix of New Mexican and neoclassical styles. Above each entrance is a stone engraving depicting the New Mexico state seal. The rotunda in the center of the building has a diameter of 15 meters and a height of 18, with the second, third and fourth floors facing the atrium.

    It is an impressive setting, finished with travertine and inlaid with turquoise and brass mosaics. The skylight in the ceiling is particularly interesting: it was designed to resemble the weave of Indian baskets, with blue and pale pink tinted glass representing heaven and earth respectively. The flags of New Mexico's 33 counties are displayed internally on the fourth floor balcony. A really nice building.

    Canyon Road

    Outside the city center Canyon Road it extends for about eight hundred meters, it is a particular road that is full of energy and creativity. It is an art mecca that hosts a long series of art workshops. It is worth seeing even if you don't want to spend a lot of time on this kind of thing if only because some works are exhibited outside the workshops, clearly letting the artists' styles leak out, and you can see some beautiful ones!

    At the west end of Canyon Road, the Paseo de Peralta crosses and at number 617 there is a clearing on the hill from which, with a walk of just a few minutes, you can reach the Cross of the Martyrs. This large white cross of about 7 meters commemorates the Spanish monks and colonists who died during the pueblo revolt of 1680. From here you can admire a beautiful panorama of the city and clearly see the rounded shape of the State Capitol.

    Il Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo) is the successful exhibition of the largest collection of folk art in the world divided by geographical areas and is also a location for exhibitions. It is open from 10am to 17pm for $ 12 and is closed on Mondays from November to April. The Museum Hill Cafe is a good refreshment point to stop before or after your visit.

    The Analco neighborhood

    The historic neighborhood of Analco, south of the Santa Fe River, is mostly residential with a few historic buildings. Here we point out the Saint Miguel Chapel (314 Delgado St.) an adobe church built in the early 1600s under the direction of the Franciscan friars and considered the oldest church in the continental United States. The statue of the saint is in the center of the altarpiece above the altar and above it there is a painting depicting the Nazarene Christ.

    Built on the ruins of an Indian settlement, in the same neighborhood you can visit the so-called casa older of United States (215 E. De Vargas St.), but this statement raises a question: if St. Augustine in Florida is the oldest city in America complete with a plaque on the oldest house (Gonzales-Alvarez house), where is the truth? The funny thing is that even some internet searches have given conflicting answers and ask the same question as us. Perhaps the ranking is based on quibbles such as "continuously inhabited" or "founded by Europeans rather than natives". However, it is not vital for us to know and we appreciate the historicity of the building, with or without primacy.

    The events of Santa Fe

    Santa Fe is active and rich Events. Since 1949, the Rodeo at the Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds (3237 Rodeo Rd.). The ticket entitles you to attend the various competitions: bull riding, gymnastics between the barrels and individual or team competition with a lasso. Overall there is also a themed shop which enticed us to shop. We are struck by the Stetson headgear and the characteristic bolo, a sort of men's jewel-tie (we opt for the bolo, which is much less bulky) and there is no shortage of the usual stalls and various stands.

    And if the 4th of July is a big party everywhere in the States, here too it is and not only history is celebrated because the Pancakes on the Plaza organized by the Rotary Club of Santa Fe is a fun and delicious celebration! At a cost of $ 10, you can enjoy a car show, listen to live music, stroll among art and craft exhibitions, all “seasoned” with excellent pancakes.

    THEInternational Folk Art Market (706 Camino Lejo) is a paid event that takes place in July and gathers artists from all over the world who exhibit their works. The name must not be misleading because it is not just a market but a great moment that brings together different activities. To deepen the knowledge of contemporary Native American art and their culture, theIndian Market is the ideal opportunity. It takes place in August around the Santa Fe Plaza, while other events related to the Indian population are held in other locations in the city.

    Unsurprisingly, Native Americans don't celebrate Columbus Day. On that day, the second Monday in October, they celebrate Columbus Day. Indigenous People’s Day Celebration, a much-felt holiday throughout Santa Fe County. It is perceived by the rituals, dances, songs and music that can be witnessed in the square. During our trip we had the honor of attending the formalization ceremony of this holiday by the local and federal government authorities and it was a thrill to share the joy of the natives.

    Christmas Eve Canyon Road is the Christmas Eve event that sees the protagonist of an evocative walk on Canyon Road illuminated and dressed up for the party. It begins when the sun goes down and ends when all the participants arrive at the end of the long road (the one with the artisan workshops) and sometimes it happens that someone along the way stops to observe in the courtyards the strangest things that can be created.

    Do Shopping in Santa Fe it certainly means visiting the characteristic shops of the Old Town but, if desired, also classic shopping centers such as the Santa Fe Place Mall (4250 Cerrillos Rd.) and From Vargas Center (564 N. Guadalupe St.). Also cerrillos Road offers ideas for shopping.

    Advice on where to eat

    You can't leave Santa Fe without tasting its cuisine, it would be a big mistake. We report some restaurants starting with the square (100 E. San Francisco St.), a nice casual-chic place with a Spanish atmosphere at the beautiful and central La Fonda hotel. Decorated glass, a tiled fountain and a peaceful green and colorful setting give the perception of being in a courtyard with a Latin flavor. The menu features mostly traditional New Mexico cuisine with a twist. This is one of the most popular historic restaurants in the city and the beauty is that the costs are not prohibitive.

    Il Rooftop pizzeria (60 E. San Francisco St. - upper floor of the Santa Fe Arcade) is known for its patio overlooking the street and plaza. Obviously the top dish is pizza, excellent, but the menu also includes appetizers, pasta, salads and good wines. Since 1974 typical New Mexico dishes such as chili, burritos and tortillas "go big" and with low prices from Tia Sophia’s (210 W. San Francisco St.) also specializes in take out service.

    Excellent meat is appreciated in the restaurant River Chama Steakhouse (414 Old Santa Fe Trail) serving American and New Mexico cuisine in the dining room or on the patio and courtyard. A curiosity about restaurants. In these parts it happens that people ask for red, green or Christmas? This refers to the choice of the typical chili pepper: red, green or both.

    If the time you have available is short and you prefer to rely on a food tour you can rely on Santa Fe ‘Sip and Savor’ Food Tour which will allow you to have a general idea of ​​the cuisine and particular flavors of this corner of New Mexico.

    Where to sleep in Santa Fe

    La Fonda on the Plaza

    Among the various proposals of pernottamento in the city these are our tips. Centrally located, La Fonda on the Plaza (100 E. San Francisco St.) is a historic adobe hotel, elegant and with a Southwestern style. The rooms and suites, equipped with wi-fi, are finished with artistic details. The hotel has shops, restaurants and lounges with music. The hotel HR Palomas (460 W. San Francisco St.) is a New Mexico-style property with rooms equipped with wi-fi and fireplaces, each decorated with its own style and works by local artists.

    THEInn of the Turquoise Bear (342 E. Buona Vista St.) is a B&B located in a historic property from the late 800th century not far from the plaza. The structure, surrounded by a lush garden, offers wi-fi, concierge service and afternoon tea. The rooms and suites are distinguished by their furnishings. L'Inn on the Walk (630 Paseo de Peralta) is a B&B located in a property dating back to the 20s and not too far from the center. The property has 18 rooms and suites equipped with wi-fi, well furnished and each with its own style.

    All the hotels in Santa Fe

    Day excursion

    About 1 hour and 30 away from Santa Fe we report two excursions possible on the whole even during the day.

    Taos Pueblo

    Let's start with the unmissable Taos Pueblo, a Unesco world heritage site. In this large and extraordinary dwelling site built entirely of adobe, Native Americans open their doors to visitors who discover up close and touch a reality previously seen only in images. You can buy their local handicrafts, freshly baked bread and some sweets. The ticket costs $ 16. We also find adobe buildings in the country of Taos about a ten minute drive, but the impact is not the same.

    Its small city heart is the relaxing Taos Plaza, a park with trees, benches, a gazebo and the statue of a prominent local figure, Father Ramirez (priest, educator, politician, publisher and farmer). Around the square there are shops and the historic hotel La Fonda (with the same name as the one in Santa Fe but not even a "relative"). From 1843 until 1868, the famous Far West explorer, soldier and hunter Kit Carson lived here. The street where he lived until his death now bears his name and at number 113 the Kit Carson Home & Museum is a very popular site.

    There is also time to pass along the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (also called Gorge Bridge) about 15 kilometers northwest of Taos. This steel bridge rises over a gorge 172 meters above the Rio Grande River. You can enjoy the panoramic view from the side walkways of the bridge used for the passage of pedestrians.

    If you prefer to leave your car parked for at least half a day to visit the Pueblo and the particular town of Taos, you can take advantage of an organized tour. In particular you can refer to the Taos Highlights Tour which, in about three hours, will allow you to fully enjoy the beauties of the area.

    You can also discover all the other Indian villages in the state by reading our article dedicated to New Mexico town.

    Bandelier National Monument

    About 50 minutes by car from Santa Fe is the Bandelier National Monument where you can observe the remains of the ancient dwellings of the Anasazi natives carved along the rock walls of Frijoles Canyon. Again you can choose a organized tour which will allow you to discover the natural beauty of this park with the help of a local guide.

    To reach St. Fe you can refer to his airport municipal (121 Aviation Dr.) or, 1 hour by car, to that of Albuquerque (2200 Sunport Blvd.) but both do not have direct flights to Europe. Less than 6 hours from the international airport of Denver in Colorado (8500 Peña Blvd.) it makes connections with Europe.

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