New Mexico Reflections

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

We just returned from a week of exploring the art, culture, food and beautiful scenery of North New Mexico. The state’s motto — The Land of Enchantment — is right on the target to describe how I feel after exploring Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.

When we decided to travel to New Mexico we knew we wanted to spend a few days in Santa Fe, home of Georgia O’Keeffe and loads of art galleries. What we really didn’t have a clue about is that we’d fall in love with the region’s food, love everything about Taos, and consider Albuquerque a very underrated city worth spending more time in. Maybe you’re familiar with Patricia Schultz’s book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” There are seven listings in New Mexico, five of which are in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, plus one that should be near the top of any traveler’s list that somehow didn’t make the book.

Northern New Mexico has enough to satisfy the travel tastes of everyone from city life to the great outdoors. Art lovers, shoppers, foodies and historians can all get a taste in New Mexico. Even wine and beer lovers have much to enjoy in the state. Here are some New Mexico observations.

Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Albuquerque’s symbol is the hot-air balloon, celebrated during the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Albuquerque is cool. Yes, the city made famous of late as the setting of the hit TV show “Breaking Bad.” In the planning stages, Albuquerque was just going to be a stopover on our way north. Our flight arrived at the city’s airport, so spending a day there seemed very practical.

But then I realized the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta would take place the same week. Called the world’s most photographed event in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” I’d certainly have to agree. The sight of hundreds of hot-air balloons taking the the early morning sky with Sandia Peak off in the distance was a life experience, even if we had to wake before 5 a.m. and sit in traffic for nearly two hours to get into the park.

International Balloon Fiesta

International Balloon Fiesta

International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque’s other listing in Schultz’s book is Route 66. The Nob Hill and downtown neighborhoods still have several miles of the mother road passing through. We discovered good shopping finds and restaurants along the stretch. And we also had the great fortune of staying in this stuck-in-time motel on Route 66, the Monterey Non Smokers Motel.

Route 66

There is also the city’s historic Old Town, where we spent a couple of hours popping in and out of the shops that turned out to not be filled with tacky souvenirs, but actually a lot of really great local art. We also visited a couple of museums and ate some really great food.

Taos

Taos Pueblo

What did we know about Taos before planning this trip? The thought was it’s a small mountain town where ski bums congregate and something really cool but unknown called Taos Pueblo is nearby. Those preconceived ideas were close to the truth, and that’s what made Taos an amazing place to visit.

We spent parts of two days in Taos, including the High Road to Taos that took us through the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen.

High Road to Taos

Just north of Santa Fe where the High Road to Taos begins.

There were little arts communities like Truchas.

Truchas

Truchas is a village along the High Road to Taos where a number of artists call home. In the distance is Truchas Peak, one of the tallest points in the state.

Before arriving in Truchas, we enjoyed the best meal we had all week in Chimayo. And that’s saying something, because the week was full of great meals.

Rancho de Chimayo

On our drive back to Santa Fe, we took the Low Road, which goes along the Rio Grande. I highly suggest taking the High Road for its amazing views.

High Road to Taos

In Taos we discovered a more laid-back culture. We stayed in a beautiful apartment just off Taos Plaza owned by one of the community’s eclectic and fascinating characters.

Taos lodging

Our apartment just off the Taos Plaza.

We explored some of the great art the community is known for, and had a great experience tasting local wine at Black Mesa Winery.

New Mexico wine

Black Mesa Winery tasting room in Taos

We spent a couple of hours tasting wine and having great conversation with locals.

And just northwest of Taos is the Rio Grande River Gorge, a truly remarkable gorge in the land where tetonic plates come together. I learned the mountains east of the river is considered to be the starting point of the Rocky Mountains. Everything to the west was formed by volcanoes.

Rio Grande River Gorge

Looking east toward Taos.

But the highlight of the trip was found just three miles north of the Taos Plaza. Taos Pueblo is probably the most-recognized tribe of Pueblo Natives found throughout New Mexico. Their home is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, nearly 1,000 properties worldwide considered to have significant importance. Taos Pueblo is the only property on the list that is still lived in.

Taos Pueblo

Santa Fe

Santa Fe

Santa Fe Railyard with snow-peaked mountains in the distance.

Santa Fe is home of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the historic Palace of the Governors, the end of the old Santa Fe trail, an art lover’s dream, and a hiking enthusiast’s joy. Santa Fe was probably a bit more glossy than we imagined it would be. It seems like many of the residents are from somewhere else. We talked to several locals who in fact formerly called another locale home. But for various reasons they were drawn to the sentiment of renewal found in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe

The historic Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Santa Fe is full of history and culture. My favorite activity was visiting the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico Museum of History where I was blown away by the heritage of New Mexico. Stacey’s favorite activity was probably gallery hopping Canyon Road.

Canyon Road

And Colby, well, he really loved chasing pigeons on the Plaza.

Santa Fe Plaza

But he also loved the hike we did in the mountain above Santa Fe.

reflection 16

I also loved driving up to Ski Santa Fe where we were able to see the beautiful Aspens in all their fall glory.

Santa Fe

Near the Aspen Vista Trail above Santa Fe.

There are so many more stories to tell from our week exploring New Mexico, and I’m looking forward to going more in depth here over the coming weeks and months.

 

22 thoughts on “New Mexico Reflections

  1. Wow – sounds like you had a fantastic trip. I’m really looking forward to returning to New Mexico someday, especially to visit Taos since I didn’t make it there the first time around. I agree that New Mexico is definitely a very underrated destination. I’m looking forward to reading more from you!
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  2. Charu, the Balloon Fiesta isn’t the type of event I typically plan a trip around. However, it was one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite some time. I think planning a trip to New Mexico in October and including a couple of days in Albuquerque along with the Fiesta is a perfect trip.

  3. I have to admit, New Mexico has never been on my radar as a place I’d choose to go. Having been to Arizona a couple times and, with the exception of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, not just loved it I thought the Southwest just wasn’t really for me. But, this post has me thinking New Mexico is a place to think about visiting someday. Especially for Balloon Fiesta. A hot air balloon ride is on my bucket list!

    This post also reminded me that Gruet, a New Mexican winery, produces a highly decent, very affordable brut sparkling wine. I remember people were always shocked to find out it was from New Mexico. :)

  4. Stacey had that wine. She loved it. I believe they have a tasting room in Albuquerque. Northern New Mexico is crazy to me in that it’s a mix of desert and beautiful mountains. Everything but the beach can be found there. A trip to Balloon Fiesta is very affordable. We found really affordable hotel rooms in town, and the restaurant scene is good too.

  5. At one point I lived in Boulder – just a 6 hour drive from Santa Fe so I had the opportunity to visit NM on many occasions. I LOVE Santa Fe and Taos but have never spent any time in Albuquerque. I also highly recommend a trip to Bandolier National Monument fairly close by. And if you ever have the opportunity to raft the Rio Chama do it. It’s gorgeous Georgia O’Keefe country not too far from Taos.

  6. Leigh, that sounds great. We planned to do some hiking in national parks, but the federal government shutdown prevented that. You’re not the first person to recommend Bandoller. Definitely next time.

  7. Lance, just got a heads up from Pam at Black Mesa Winery about you blog. Thanks for the shout out and link for my Red Cat House apartment. Good photo too. I so enjoyed meeting you, Stacy and of course Colby. Hope he is being a good dad to “Carrot” Hope yo see you again in Taos. Next time come in summer and we’ll take you tubeing from the John Dunn Bridge to Stagecoach Hot Springs and a glorious hike up out of the Gorge…Me
    Melissa

  8. Melissa, it was wonderful spending time with you in Taos. Your home is wonderful, and so is Taos! We have several stories to tell from our time there, including your amazing apartment. Stay tuned for lots of stories about Taos!

  9. Great post and photos! New Mexico is far and away my favorite state to visit. Being from Canada, it is just so different from what I am used to! Plus, the history and culture is amazing…and let’s not even start on the food! Not sure if you got to Bandelier National Monument, but that might have been my favorite place in the state! Love the blog and eager to see the rest of your time there!
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