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.

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