02 August 2011

Santa Fe, NM: a mini getaway. Part I

Every year my husband teaches a week-long workshop at the Glen, held every August on the campus of St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM.  It's sponsored by the journal Image, whose tagline is "Arts, Faith, Mystery," and they hire experts in various fields such as painting, poetry, songwriting, fiction writing, drawing, photography, etc, with evening lectures and concerts given by some of the workshop leaders.  It's largely, though not exclusively, an ecumenical Christian setting.

Last year I joined my husband for approximately 30 hours at the end of his gig at the Glen, but this year I added on an extra night (for a grand total of 54 hours in NM) and we went out a couple of days ahead of the workshop--my schedule at work dictated that it be this particular weekend, but we had the serendipity of meeting up with our friends, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, collectively known as the music group Over the Rhine.  Not only were we on the same flight landing in ABQ, we booked ourselves into the same hotel and we had the great privilege of seeing them in concert in Santa Fe!

Flying Star Cafe in Albuquerque
Friday was taken up with travel, with a delay out of Atlanta (as always--they like to brag that it's the world's busiest airport but they're not so forthcoming with their on-time record, that's for sure!), which means that our Santa Fe dinner plans were scrapped in favor of eating in Albuquerque.  Knowing how much I love desserts, Karin & Linford recommended the Flying Star Cafe.  Very fun & funky interior, pretty good food (would have been better if the salads hadn't been positively swimming in dressing) served up fast, and a dessert display that could put you in a diabetic coma just by looking at it.  They had three refrigerated cases to showcase their desserts, one for their pies alone.  Too bad we were tired and reluctant to get hopped up on sugar that late at night to do more damage 'cause the peach-raspberry pie a la mode split four ways was the highlight of my meal.  Food was a little bit on the pricey side (slice of pie a la mode was $9, one salad + beer was $18), but the portions were fairly ample. 

Here is but one of their dessert case displays

Our home for the weekend was the Hotel Santa Fe & Hacienda, about a 15 minute walk from the Plaza.  We booked it online knowing very little about it other than it claims to be the only Native American-owned hotel in the city and it was one of the few places within walking distance of the Plaza that still had rooms available for under $200/night.  Good enough for us.  My husband and I really lucked out because we booked a regular king bedroom for $169/night but they upgraded us to a jr. suite (a $265/night value), so we had an additional living area with a pull-out sofa, desk/table, wet bar area, and television.  It's a large(ish) hotel, at least to us--we mostly stay in smaller inns or B&Bs when we travel--but it doesn't have that impersonal feel I associate  with other hotels of similar size.  And may I just say here that I LOVE that it doesn't go over the top with Southwestern kitsch? It's mostly understated Southwestern elegance in the public spaces and in our room, and I love the many sculptures and local art featured all around the property. All of the staff members we encountered were extremely pleasant, as was the property in general.  All other things being equal, I would stay here again in a heartbeat.  We made plans to use the inviting swimming pool and hot tub a couple of times but we never actually made it down there. I guess I packed my bathing suit for nothin'. 
Our living room

This bed was amazingly comfortable!

Desk & wet bar
One of the many sculptures around the property

A beautiful urn set into the wall

We agreed to meet Karin & Linford for a late breakfast at Pasqual's on Saturday, so when I woke up at 6:00, still on Eastern Time despite only about 5 hours of sleep, I got ready for the day and when my husband woke up, we decided to go out and explore.  We sought our first destination, Collected Works, a wonderful independent bookstore in the old town, with a twofold purpose: to replace a missing copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Orchard Keeper that my husband had been counting on reading this week and to fortify ourselves with some coffee to keep us going until our breakfast at 11:00.  I also picked up a small box of salted caramels (alas, disappointing) and a novel called Pie Town by Lynne Hinton.  I had a customer tell me about this book just last week and since it's set in New Mexico, I bought it for the trip home. 
Colorful Cafe Pasqual's
Breakfast at  Cafe Pasqual's was a lot of fun, not to mention colorful!  They offer a very wide range of breakfast and lunch items and we all enjoyed our smoked salmon & cucumber on toasted brioche (DH), smoked trout hash with poached eggs (Karin & Linford), and an egg and guacamole quesadilla (me).  Each couple also shared a cup of the cold avocado soup to start.  Three of us had a glass of freshly squeezed juice, and one a la carte order of toast & jam brought our meal to $96.  Again, I admit I was a little surprised with the price since it didn't seem like we had ordered extravagantly--we hadn't even ordered coffee, much less mimosas.  Coming off a recent vacation to Anguilla, I feel a little jaded when it comes to restaurant pricing, so that's saying something.  But it was all excellent and the company was even better, and best of all, our window table provided us with outstanding people-watching opportunities!
Our good buddies, Karin & Linford
 It was close to 1:00 when we parted ways: our friends back to the hotel to prepare for their concert while DH and I opted to walk around the Plaza.  I didn't know at the time of booking our hotel, but one reason there was such a dearth of reasonable accommodations was because it was Spanish Market weekend.  Streets were closed off all around the Plaza for artists and vendors to set up their booths.  The following comment just may mark me as a Philistine, but I have to admit that after walking up & down the second avenue of vendors that all of their wares started to look alike: the jewelry, the art, the religious icons & statues.  We poked around for about an hour and when it started to rain, we made for the Georgia O'Keeffe museum (admission $18 for the two of us), where we walked through the small galleries and watched the two short films.  I had read many reviews proclaiming disappointment that not many O'Keeffes were on exhibit, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a good many of them.  I thought the museum was very well done, indeed.  We enjoyed the short film on O'Keeffe's life, narrated by Gene Hackman, but the second film on artists' use of photographs in their work was both clumsily edited and lacking articulate interviewees. 
No photos allowed inside the museum except for here in the lobby.  Note the signature poppies.
We saw this couple on our walk back to the hotel.  Fun!

We went back to the hotel to rest & freshen up (all that walking, the sun, & the altitude contrive to make one sleepy!) before leaving for the Over the Rhine concert at the intimate venue of Sol Santa Fe, about a 15 minute drive from the hotel.  They are the sweetest people in the world and reserved tickets and a table for us.  We ordered the local beer (excellent) and the grilled cheese from a very limited menu (it was god-awful AND they shortchanged us) and settled in to enjoy the show.  Now I'm clearly a biased source because OTR have been friends with my husband and me for quite some time now.  But I am not blowing wind up your ass when I say that they give as fine a live performance as I've ever heard.  No smoke & mirrors, no distraction, just a couple of performers and music at its purest-- searching, reaching, and revealing.  And this all in the face of some major technical difficulties.  Apparently someone tripped backstage somewhere and shorted out the lights.  They performed in near-darkness and had to put up with sound & light crew interrupting the flow of everything, but they are also commensurate professionals and kept up a steady stream of banter to distract us while ladders were being toted about behind them on stage.

View from the parking lot of Sol Santa Fe

First song--the lighting was spot-on.  (so to speak!)

Here's the odd orange mood lighting from the rest of the concert
NB: I have tried unsuccessfully to upload a video of my favorite Over the Rhine song that I shot with my iPhone that night.  OTR has given me permission to post it, but if any of you Blogger users can give me advice, I'd appreciate it.  When clicking on the "insert a video" icon and uploading, I get an error message.

After their post-concert obligations the four of us met up in our suite (that upgrade came in handy!) for some liquid vitamins.  Vitamins V and G, to be precise, supplemented with some medicinal tonic. We talked story until the wee hours.

TBC...but until then, here are a few photos from around Santa Fe:

How much is that gander in the window?

At the Spanish Market festival downtown

I loved these funky fishes

Just a cool tree

Here's Linford gesticulatin' for a story
NB: All photos in this post are mine, shot either with my iPhone or a small point and shoot Pentax. 

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