Brendan surprised me with a trip to Santa Fe for our first date anniversary, when we first met at the Botanic Gardens’ Corpse Flower exhibit. I had been wanting to get to Santa Fe for many years now and, embarrassingly, New Mexico was on my list of states I’d not yet visited (Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Puerto Rico are the others). So I was thrilled when he announced the plans to visit Santa Fe over Labor Day weekend. Apparently there’s a Santa Fe, California as well (and a Santa Fe Drive in Denver to be fair that also had a lot of art!), so I guess i should have asked for more information before getting too excited. I was excited either way.
We were on our way to – yes indeed, Santa Fe, New Mexico – on Thursday afternoon after working from home in the morning. Here was our path from Denver to Santa Fe – literally the easiest drive in America, straight south on I-25.
We missed Colorado Springs and Pueblo traffic, but surprisingly hit a few random spots of construction and major accidents causing it not to be as fast as it could have been. Still, we reached the Old Santa Fe inn after about 5.5 hours on the road, with time to still make dinner at restaurants that mostly closed by 22:00 on a weekday evening. Originally we had left Thursday night open, not knowing when we’d get in. But since we got in at 20:15 we decided to move our Sunday night reservation at Cafe Pasquals to a late spot tonight.
That gave us time to check-in and relax a little bit at our room in the Old Santa Fe Inn where Brendan booked us, which turned out to be really charming. Brendan booked the Fireplace Classic King with balcony, and it actually gave us our own upstairs patio area as well as a very spacious and comfortable room. The outdoor patio balcony turned out to be a boon later.
Here’s the hotel, patio, and the room:
Already feeling like we were on vacation, we decided to walk around old town Santa Fe before dinner, having arrived a little early. We loved the squat adobe buildings with art galleries nestled here and there. Despite it being hot during the day (90 degrees), it does cool down at night to a pleasant temperature, being a desert and all. Similarly to Denver, we also noticed quite a number of homeless people.
We were glad we changed our reservation for Cafe Pasquals, because it was a great introduction to New Mexican cuisine on our first evening. It definitely wasn’t cheap, but boy was it tasty! We started by ordering the papusas, which came with picked vegetables and salsa. For our mains, Brendan ordered the Three Sisters stew, and I ordered the Christmas enchiladas. I liked the red chili sauce best, since it was extremely spicy and flavorful, but not in the burn your face off kind of way.
While I didn’t end up getting a picture of the entrees, I did get this picture of Brendan and the rest of the restaurant as we enjoying some drinks. Because it was just a beer and wine place, Brendan’s margarita had agave wine which was a little weird. I enjoyed the crisp Italian white wine on special.
The colorful decor immediately made us feel welcome and like we were in Santa Fe. There was nothing not to love about Cafe Pasquals – even the dessert was fabulous. If you ever have a chance to try a nectarine pie, please do yourself a favor and try one. The on at this joint had blueberries as well, and with vanilla ice cream, it was the perfect dessert. Brendan ordered the Affogato sundae which was good but not great. I also ordered a side of the spearmint ice cream since I was forced to share my nectarine blueberry pie with my husband 🙂
We again enjoyed the walk back to our hotel – and were finding our bearings location wise. Our hotel was extremely central – halfway between the Railyard district and old town Santa Fe center, but no more than a half mile from either. Feeling full and tired, we easily fell asleep. We set our alarms to wake up fairly early since Brendan and I both had to do some work in the morning.
Spending the first half of Friday working, we did manage to grab the complimentary breakfast at the Old Santa Fe inn and we’re glad we did. not only was the coffee from Starbucks, but they had a make your own burrito bar which was actually a delightful amenity. This fueled us through the rest of the day and up until dinner.
For the second half of the day, we walked to Canyon Road and explored the fancy art galleries. At this point we were actually looking for a significant piece of art to hang in our bedroom, above our bed. However, we were only looking to spend $1000 – and these Santa Fe galleries typically start at $3000. Just as our friends warned us, prepare to spend some coin if you are going to eat, drink, or shop in Santa Fe.
Even though we didn’t make a purchase, we still really enjoyed window shopping at the galleries. There was beautiful contemporary, modern, and Western art that was museum quality, all free to the public to admire. The galleries included a number of sculpture gardens and shaded outdoor displays to enjoy.
We grabbed some San Pellegrinos halfway through to hydrate us at Caffe Greco in the middle that had a jazz duo playing and a good amount of customers taking a rest or eating a late lunch. We would actually be dining on Canyon Road for our “fancy adult night” on Saturday night at a restaurant called “The Compound.”
On our way back from Canyon road, we went in to old town Santa Fe again and browsed around. We explored several additional galleries and saw the city setting up for the Fiesta Fine Arts and Crafts Festival in the Santa Fe Plaza for the Labor Day weekend extravaganza – Fiestas de Santa Fe, now in it’s 307th year in 2019. The Plaza was basically the main square. We walked by several museums, noting that the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts looked intriguing, as did the New Mexico Museum of Art. We decided to do a hard pass on the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. Even though she was an exemplary American artist and human being and woman, neither of us particularly liked her work!
We noticed there was a lot of the “Loretto” name everywhere, which is my new boss’s last name. Apparently it’s after the Sisters of Loretto – a Roman Catholic American organization of women from the Kentucky frontier in 1812. They answered the letter of a New Mexico Territory Bishop who needed help spreading Catholicism to his potential flock of 900, and made the arduous journey, where many died along the way. Ultimately the sisters set up a school which grew to educate 300 children.
Bizarrely enough, shortly after seeing Loretto everywhere, I saw a coat of arms for Leyba, which is also one of my new colleagues!
We particularly enjoyed all the bold colors against the rich adobe.
Right across from the Loretto Chapel.
Making it back to the room a little before dinnertime, we decided to rest and figure out the game plan for the evening. It was important to Brendan that we watch the CU vs CSU football game at 20:00, so therefore it was important to me 🙂
We found a nearby sports bar called the Boxcar, and called ahead to make sure they would be showing the game and that there’d be seating. It sounded like it was going to work out, so that became the plan. Since the Boxcar was in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District, another part of Santa Fe that we were nearby and wanted to check out, it made a lot of sense.
We headed to the rail depot area around 1900, a bit early so we could walk around and get the vibe. We enjoyed seeing some flower bushes on the way that could be nice in our backyard.
The Santa Fe Railyard Arts District could be likened to RiNo in Denver – where all the hipsters liked to hang out. The art and style was industrial aesthetic.
Some of the galleries we went by were unfortunately closed, but looked very interesting. Evoke Contemporary and Blue Rain both caught our eye.
At the Boxcar, we were pleasantly greeted by a hostess who took us to a center table right in front of the largest TV in the bar, which would be playing the game. She also regaled us with history of a bonkers tradition in Santa Fe called Zozobra. It’s about burning in effigy a giant puppet, called “Old Man Gloom”, and it always takes place the last Friday before September. It was invented by a Santa Fe artist named Will Shuster in 1924, and this unique Santa Fe curiosity has been celebrated 94 years and going strong. The puppet now towers 50 feet high, and the event comes with fireworks, and lots of people in costumes dressing as something called “Gloomies”. You’ll have to read about the detailed history to find out why, but basically because in the mythology, Old Man Gloom (who is the monster/villain and the representation of all that is bad), has a number of minions who gave in to dark and despair. The point of the waitress’s story was that people would be pouring in to the bar once Zozobra was over, around 20:00, so it might get crazy later.
Even though we came for the game, which actually had a huge weather delay so we didn’t start watching it until we got back to the hotel, the drinks, food, and service at Boxcar were all really good. We shared a spinach salad, each got a Southwest-style bison burger, and shared the brownie dessert. The only bummer was that we really wanted to the carrot cake, but they were out. For drinks, I’d recommend just asking for a Mexican Mule over any of the Margaritas on special if you are not a fan of sweet (I got the Paloma for my first drink). Brendan thought the Boxcar Silver Margarita was also tasty.
Another fun encounter happened at dinner – the two ladies at the table next to us turned out to be on a scavenger hunt, but against each other. They had to each beat the other one to doing things throughout the night. One of the things apparently was to find another person with their name, and there was a side competition of taking a picture with a stranger leading to the other person having to take a shot. Brendan and Chandra/CJ were unfortunately NOT their names, but we still enjoyed the shenanigans and the pictures.
Right around the time of Zozobra, we left and went back to the hotel. Back at the Old Santa Fe Inn, we actually were able to watch the Zozobra fireworks from our balcony! Frustrated initially by the weather delay and jumping the game between stations, Brendan was ultimately able to find it on the hotel TV and that’s how we spent the rest of the evening. I turned in early and surprisingly slept for about nine hours.