Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Journey: Santa Fe ...

Saturday is probably not the best day to visit a place like Santa Fe, but despite being a bit crowed, was well worth all the effort. It's just beautiful, atmospheric, charming and all the words that describe it in the travel brochures. We were very fortunate finding a convenient place to park just off the town square.

First things first ... lunch. Of course, a restaurant on the square. Of course, I can't remember which one, but a little Internet research and I have discovered it was the Famous Plaza Cafe! Apparently, it's the oldest restaurant in Santa Fe. And it was fun -- I remember more and more now that I looked at the website! It was crowded, but we were able to be immediately seated, so who's complaining! Which reminds me of a particular New Mexican food which I loved: sopaipilla. And the Famous Plaza Cafe served excellent sopaipilla! So I remember the bread, but nothing else, except an excellent speciality of the house, a delicious ice-tea type of drink. I know I was afraid to try any of the chilli's having read numerous jokes about how hot they are compared with what we from outside the southwest of the United States are used to eating.

As we arrived at lunch time -- around noon as I remember -- that left us only the afternoon for any site-seeing and thus we were somewhat limited.
We found a charming artisans' market and a lovely woman and artist, Julie B. Salazar, selling water colours of charming New Mexican buildings and vistas. I liked her a lot -- she was very friendly and had stories to tell about each of her works of art. I bought a print of a rather charming old adobe house in the colors only the desert and blue blue sky of New Mexico can boast. On the back of her work, she writes:
Everything that fascinates me about the American Southwest is embodied in this series of paintings. Specifically, the living spirit and beauty of that vast and dynamic landscape, as well as the history and culture of the indigenous people with their deep and abiding respect for nature. I admire the reverence Native Americans have for the earth, and the knowing that accompanies that reverance, we are of the earth, we are one.
Many years abo I was visiting Puye on the Santa Clara Pueblo. As I stood on top of the mesa amongst the remnance of history, and looked out at the immense distance separating me from my home in Santa Fe, I received a clear message. I needed to create my own story of honor, using my own symbols, and I need to start with the earth as the "Ancient Ones" did. That moment marked the beginning of an eight year story. The older I get the more I'm able to recognize that my own roots stretch deep into the soil, where I'm nurtured and challenged to grow.
My greatest desire is that within this series you see and feel the undying richness of this planet, in all its mysterious and awesome beauty.
We now headed for the State Capitol building in the hopes of getting on a tour. The building is very new and -- round. To reach it we had to pass by the oldest church in America, as well as the oldest known private dwelling. And would you believe the are right next to each other and located on famous old Santa Fe Trail!

The church was very interesting. People are still able to worship regularly here. There are three services every Sunday. A mission church, it is still served by clergy and has been lovingly cared for. If you walk up to the altar rail you can you can look through a glass floor to the original level of the building. As you enter, from the church gift shop, before you is an ancient bell made of gold and silver.

But just down the street stands the ancient Church of San Miguel, built in
1610 and the oldest church in the new world. The old shrine was built and
occupied a full decade before the Mayflower arrived on the distant eastern
coast. Perhaps one of the greatest attractions inside is the Bell of
Andalusian, weighing 780 pounds with four inch walls. It is the oldest bell
in America, constructed in 1356 in Spain.

Before ever arriving in the New World, the bell developed quite a history. In the mid 1300's, the Spanish faithful were at war with the Moors. It was a losing campaign for the Spanish, battle after battle won by the invading Moslems.

In a desperate effort, the Spanish Catholics vowed to construct a bell in tribute to St.
Joeseph, and prayed that in return he would turn the tide of war in their favor.
Villagers from miles around brought gold and silver to add to other metals that the "miracle" bell might be built. An inscription on the bell reads "San
Jose, ruega por nosotros"...St. Joeseph pray for us! Be it the miracle of the bell or not, the tide of the war changed, and eventually the Moors were chased from Spain, giving the kingdom dominance in the region for centuries thereafter.

And so we continued on our way to the Capitol building. And on the way through the back streets -- we discovered later we merely had to continue up the Santa Fe Trail about a block -- but nevermind, it was a pretty diversion:

And so we arrived at the Capitol building, all new and round, only to discover that of course being Saturday, it was closed!

Back down the Santa Fe Trail, back to the plaza and our car. It was a lovely day, with many interesting sites. But we'd barely scratched the surface of Santa Fe. Another place for another visit. I hope it's soon.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Journey: Respite at the Foot of the Sandia

I just loved New Mexico: the sun, the blue sky, the pueblo architecture, the restauarants, the house we stayed in and most of all our hosts! The weather was perfect for us -- warm bueat not too warm. Even now on July 5, it escapes the sweltering heat away from the mountains. Now I understand Albuquerque itself isn't of particular interest to tourists in the way Santa Fe and Taos are. Regrettably time did not allow us a visit to Taos, but next time, next time, next time!

My priority our second day there was to find out if my computer had bitten the dust, and how much it would cost to repair it and could it be done before we had to leave. We decided the best bet would be to head for Best Buy -- we knew it was probably going to cost $200 or more just to look at the thing. Anyway, on our way down Juan Tabo Drive at 1701 Juan Tabo Drive, to be specific, we saw the sign for Computers Direct. The sign said diagnostics would be done for $32.50 (or maybe it was $36.50). Ok that was it! In we pulled. So we dropped off the laptop and they promised not to do any work on it until they called us with an estimate. Two days later I got a phone call: my computer was up and running! Turns out, it really had 'bitten the dust' -- far too much of it over the years. They blew some air through the vents and voila! I bought some compressed air, took a short lesson on how to use it and handed over $41.00 and left the shop very very very happy! Since then it's worked better than it has for a very long time.

But alas, no computer meant I was way behind on my journey chronicles. I mean it's now July 5 and we got back to Olympia on the 25th of May and I'm only half way around!

We did relax a lot while there. Our first full day we went out for lunch with Kristen to the Flying Star Cafe. Since it was warm enough to eat outside we did. My Chinese Crunch Salad was yummy and I managed to stay away from the tantalising freshly baked desserts that tempted me as we entered the place. The staff was very friendly, the food was great, the weather was perfect -- what more could you ask?

The following day it was Guarduno's and my first taste of New Mexican food. I can't remember what I had, just that it was delicious. This restaurant has lots of character and I just love the decor. The service was impeccable and very friendly.

Our favorite shop was without a doubt Skip Maisel's. It's quite an Albuquerque landmark, located on old Route 66 in the heart of town. We returned three or four times to buy Native American pottery, figures, and jewelry at the best prices we found anywhere -- whatever the cost is half of whatever the price tag says. And it's not just the prices that are so great, it's the sheer quantity and quality of the merchandise, as well as the ambience of the storefront, the window dressing and the helpfulness of the staff.

Another place that I liked very much, but which was more expensive was a pueblo style museum and shop run entirely by Native Americans and on reservation land. I was sorely tempted to buy a very small but exquisite little pot, which had been designed and hand painted by a Native American who was there demonstrating his work. The pot had been shaped by hand and the design and story of the design had been painted by the artisan from stories he had been told by his grandmother. He and his wife were a softly spoken lovely couple. She designed and made jewelry that was also very fine. But the pot was very small and though I thought it worth the $100 he was asking for it, I didn't -- some day, I'm sure I'll regret my decision. They were from Acoma Pueblo, an ancient village also known as 'Sky City'. Another place, I hope I see one day.
On a rather cloudy day, we visited the Petroglyph National Monument, about 40 minutes from where we were staying. It has to be said the the National Park Service does these things very well! Trails are clearly marked and there are trails to accommodate every ability. Petroglyphs are ancient drawings in the rock ranging over a long number of years.
From the National Monument website:

American Indians and Spanish settlers carved their images on these
basalt boulders. The nature of the rock itself is what allows the petroglyphs to
be visible. The basalt is high in iron, manganese and calcium. The combination
of these minerals makes the basalt a light gray color. After long exposure to
oxygen and water the iron and manganese oxidize or rust. A dark shiny coating,
or patina, forms on the surface of the basalt boulders. The patina is called
desert varnish.When looking at the dark basalt boulders, you are actually
looking at desert varnish. American Indians discovered permanent marks could be
made by using another rock to chip off the desert varnish. Many American Indians
are able to claim cultural relationships to past inhabitants of this area be
cause they recognize the images as having deep cultural and spiritual
significance. Please respect the importance of petroglyphs to American Indians
and to the descendants of original Spanish settlers.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Journey: Sedona to Albuquerque

I can't do justice to Sedona. It's very beautiful and has lots of red rocks and streams and woodland. We weren't there nearly long enough. Guess I'll just have to go back again.

In the morning we left our hotel in Flagstaff by 9 -- as planned. Then Neil decided to play navigator and out of two roads going south, managed to choose the wrong road. 8We wanted 9A, the Oak Creek Canyon Road there and back, but managed to find instead, route 333 heading south but away from our destination. Instead of turning around and heading back to Flagstaff (men don't turn around) we continued on to Mormon Lake -- missed the first turn around the lake and took the second. Didn't seem much of a lake to me. Anyway, we had to take a dirt road to cut across to where we could get on Interstate 17 south to another cutoff toward Sedona. The dirt road was 11 miles long and took us at least 90 minutes to get down -- horrible dust red rutted road that it was. And there were many roads off, with turns and twists, we were never entirely sure we were headed in the right direction. That is until we found a cowboy coming in the opposite direction in his pick-up truck who said we were going the right way.

Neil says now how he enjoyed that ride, I hated every minute knowing that we had limited time and that it was all coming off Sedona, which I had partAnd so onto the I-40 heading East. And one fond look back at the San Francisco mountains.icularly been looking forward to ... in his perverse way I think he rather enjoyed my piss-off-ed-ness. So we 'drove through' -- stopped at a Burger King for the toilet and Neil's much-needed coffee and continued up the 89A. Which was very beautiful, even in a bad mood.

I am still so annoyed.

So back to the I-40 and a last look at the very beautiful San Francisco Mountains.

Interstate 40 still has a few short spurs of Route 66, one of which, Winslow, we bothered to explore. Not much quaintness here -- it was sad and woebegone. So much for Route 66 until later in Oklahoma.

Except for the Painted Desert and the Petrified National Forest there was not much to interest us -- and nothing we were going to stop for other than lunch. Too bad -- both look to be very interesting. It is a sad fact that time always plays a role in journeys. We never seem to be really free enough to bide our time, no matter how much we think we will. We'd probably still be on our travels had time and money really been no object. It's still great though, having heard about these places for so much of my life that I now have in my head where they really are.

Soon we would have to change our watches and the car clock for the first time. New Mexico is one hour ahead of Arizona time. It's interesting how often state lines and borderlands anywhere have identifiable changes in scenery. New Mexico had rocks that seemed to define the 'pueblo' look!

I think we arrived in Albuquerque late afternoon and my nephew's directions being perfect drove straight to their beautiful home and welcome hospitality. I just loved New Mexico and could have stopped for a very long time!