Vail Daily travel feature: Santa Fe splendor
Driving to Santa Fe from Vail takes approximately 5 hours, 35 minutes via U.S. Highway 285 South (317 miles). If winter driving conditions exist on this scenic route through the mountains, an alternative (and longer) is Interstate 70 East and Interstate 25 South (it’s 487 miles and takes approximately 7 hours, 37 minutes).
• GLOW: A Winter Lights Event in the Garden, Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Thursday, Dec. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 3; Thursdays and Fridays 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 5 to 9 p.m.
• Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra: Christmas Treasures, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, Sunday, Dec. 14
For more, visit http://santafe.org/Calendar/.
Santa Fe residents will tell you their city has a little magic in the air, and even a brief trip will make you a believer.
But it doesn’t take any alchemy to appreciate, to dream about, the dynamic heart of this place. It’s a sophisticated gallery stroll followed by a trip along the Chocolate Trail, a refined glass of wine or a salt-rimmed margarita.
It’s the bells of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi singing at set times throughout the day, the sound filling the historic Santa Fe Plaza and spreading to the streets on the wind.
It’s hand-embroidered cowboy boots and turquoise-studded silver, hanging red chilies and spicy salsa verde. “The City Different” has a melting pot of heritage simmering above its historical roots. The rich stew that is Santa Fe feeds a steady current of creation — a rio grande of art-driven culture and foodie-inspired cuisine.
SANTA FE FLAVOR
It’s great to plan a visit around the city’s abundant holiday light displays in December. However, if you must miss the added magic of the advent season, you can always find “Christmas” in Santa Fe — it’s right there in the spicy food on your plate. The city is known for its red and green chilies, so if you can’t decide which one to try on your enchiladas, just order both by asking for “Christmas.”
Holiday cheer can be spread easily throughout a variety of restaurants here, offering everything from authentic Southwestern fare to French fine dining. The first time I ordered Christmas was for breakfast, on a hearty and delicious helping of huevos rancheros at the Old House restaurant. Eating the local fare is a must in Santa Fe, but a strong presence of international cuisine keeps palates intrigued (http://www.eldorado hotel.com/old_house_restaurant).
Osteria D’Assisi is an ideal late-lunch stop after gallery or museum strolling and allows your eyes to stay enticed with its dining-room wall frescos as you settle into your seat. Try a dry glass of rose with the house-made burratta appetizer — so simple and so satisfying. The ravioli di vitello, a house specialty filled with veal in a porcini and seasonal mushroom cream sauce, is as tasty as it is decadent, so plan to walk after lunch, too (http://www.osteriadassisi.com).
Restaurants are woven into the fabric of Santa Fe, so it’s important to settle your stomach between each food stop. Afternoon naps are sometimes a necessity and seem appropriate in honoring the Mexican tradition of siesta, so having a hotel in the center of town is definitely convenient.
The Eldorado Hotel & Spa is just two blocks from the Plaza and has convenient valet parking. (It’s easy to access your car if you do need to drive, but walking in the city is easy and enjoyable.)
It must have been that Santa Fe magic when upon my arrival to the hotel, dense traffic outside the city parted for me to arrive just in time for a treatment in the on-site Nidah Spa, “nidah” being the Native American word for “your life.” The 80-minute chocolate mole mud wrap and massage was certainly life affirming, as all the pleasure of a desert-style dessert soaked like silky mousse into my skin (http://www.eldorado hotel.com).
I let the chocolate cream from the massage linger along on a short afternoon walk to the The Railyard, a special area of town that combines elements of shopping, art and culture (http://www.rail yardsantafe.com). The must-see farmers market is open year-round on Saturdays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the artisan market is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Railyard Arts District houses galleries featuring regional and international contemporary art. There’s a lot to see, and you can stop at Second Street Brewery for a hoppy refreshment (and live music, if you time it right) while you’re there (http://www.secondstreetbrewery.com).
There’s no real “getting lost” in the main circle that is downtown Santa Fe, since wherever you are you are surrounded by some combination of galleries, boutiques, spas, cafes, book and music nooks. Paseo de Peralta is a good street to know, since it forms a large circle (by walking standards) around the city center.
Head back toward Santa Fe Plaza — perhaps with intentions to walk the New Mexico Museum of Art (http://www.nmartmuseum.org) — from the Railyard and stop by anywhere that catches your fancy. Santa Fe is a tough place to be too discerning about where to go (with so much to do in so little time), so get curious and explore.
Once your hunger has returned, take it to the Beestro. A lunch crepe stop staple, the cozy French bistro on Marcy Street now serves dinner upstairs. Try a brut cider with a cup of French onion au gratin soup, followed by the spinach and mushroom crepe. The generous portions here are great to share, especially since you should be sure to leave room for the lemon curd cheesecake crepe (http://www.thebeestro.com).
MUST BE MAGIC
After a day or two of full-bellied art walks, start one of your mornings off with yoga at Body of Santa Fe (http://www.bodyofsantafe.com) or for some runs at Ski Santa Fe (http://www.skisantafe.com). If you’re headed to the ski hill, then swing by Ohori’s coffee roasters on St. Francis Drive to grab a joe (http://www.ohoriscoffee.com). Even when it’s not cycling season, the health and wellness scene of the area seems as prominent as its art, especially in certain gems such as the Rasa Juice Bar (http://www.spandaram ayoga.com/rasa).
You might be lucky to catch sight of some winter snow flurries during lunch or Sunday brunch at Luminaria Restaurant in the Inn and Spa at Loretto. Stay cozy by the kiva fireplace and colorful Anasazi paintings while sipping tortilla soup or biting into a green chili cheeseburger. The restaurant makes you want to stay awhile, and the inn itself offers a Sleep & Slope Santa Fe Ski Package that includes ski amenities with your accommodations. The Winter Wonderland Package is enticing, too, and includes a handmade Christmas ornament of the beautiful Loretto property (http://www.innatloretto.com).
A trip to Santa Fe is not complete without a stroll down Canyon Road. After your brunch-time meal, walk through and past the countless galleries, restaurants and shops along this enchanting strip (http://www.visit canyonroad.com).
Local artist Melanie Brittain said the entire street is illuminated by farolitos — “little beacons of light” — on a very special evening every year (http://www.melaniebrittain.com).
“Walking on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve is one of the most wonderful experiences in Santa Fe,” she said.
When holiday magic meets the Santa Fe enchantment, there’s no doubt there will be a lot of miracles within the halo of Paseo de Peralta street.
To match these miracles, don’t miss a stop at Restaurant Martin on Galisteo Street. Named Restaurant of the Year by the Santa Fe Reporter Restaurant Guide, this fine-dining symphony conducted by chef Martin Rios brings magic and more to the table (http://restaurantmartin.com).