Gnomeversation: Small Talk with a Santa Fe Expert
Gnome’s Note: Hello chaps, it’s the Travelocity Roaming Gnome! Even though I have a rather impressive list of travels under my belt, globetrotters like me still fancy a few new travel tidbits now and again. That’s why I’m interviewing Travelocity’s very own destination experts. Meet me here every Wednesday to learn about a smashing new place.
Splendid! I believe I just found my December getaway spot. Sharon Griffin, Travelocity’s New Mexico expert, tells me that it’s prime time to visit Santa Fe.
Why, you ask?
Sharon tells me that Santa Fe does a rather fine job embracing the holiday spirit. The Plaza is lit from end to end with Christmas lights and hotels are lined with those charming little bags with candles – the locals call them farolitos. She says the entire town glows! Of course, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background make it quite nice, too.
Here’s a snap of the farolitos…spectacular!
Roaming Gnome: I quite enjoy a town that glows! Any other reasons why December is your favorite time of year?
Sharon: It looks and feels like a winter wonderland! There is just a fun, warm holiday spirit all around as you go from your hotel to shops to the Plaza and back to the hotel to cozy up next to a fireplace with a warm drink.
The Plaza all lit up for Christmas. Lovely!
If you are looking for unique holiday gifts, Winter Spanish Market is held the first weekend in December. Over 100 Hispanic artisans feature handcrafted, traditional Spanish Colonial jewelry, pottery and textiles. On Dec. 11-12, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs the Nutcracker at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Beginning on Dec. 17, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale celebrates the holidays with a series of concerts at St. Francis Cathedral. Traditional carols will be performed by the Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble at the Historic Loretto Chapel from Dec. 19 – 26. If you happen to be in Santa Fe on Christmas Eve, join the Canyon Road Farolito Walk. The road is decorated with farolitos, everyone is strolling, mingling and singing carols. It’s truly a memorable experience.
Roaming Gnome: So what’s the latest and greatest thing happening in Santa Fe?
Sharon: This is an interesting question. The latest and greatest doesn’t necessarily apply. Sure the hotels offer the latest amenities; the restaurants offer the best cuisine; and the galleries boast modern art, but the greatest thing about Santa Fe is its age and the history that goes with it. Santa Fe is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year and is the oldest capital city in the United States. Everywhere you go you will experience a unique blend of Spanish, Native American, Mexican and Anglo cultures across four centuries. The Palace of the Governors, which is the original seat of government of the Spanish colony of Nuevo Mexico, is the oldest public building in the U.S. (now the New Mexico History Museum). Native Americans sell their handcrafted jewelry and pottery on blankets in front of The Palace as they have done for centuries. The Pink Adobe restaurant resides in a 300 year old house across from the San Miguel Mission, considered the oldest church in America that is still in use. To me, oldest is just as good if not better than the latest and that is Santa Fe.
Roaming Gnome: Tell me something about Santa Fe that most people wouldn’t know. Anything particularly surprising about it?
Sharon: Some people may not know that skiing and snowboarding are just 16 miles away. Ski Santa Fe is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The base is 10,350 feet with the highest elevation is 12,075 feet. First-timers and families will have fun and experienced skiers/boarders can be challenged on top of the mountain.
Roaming Gnome: I hear the food in Santa Fe is unique and rather delicious. Anything in particular you would recommend?
Sharon: You have to eat New Mexican cuisine. Not Mexican but NEW Mexican. Green and red chiles are the signature ingredient and the aromas of simmering chiles follow you throughout Santa Fe. My favorite eateries are The Shed, Tomasita’s and Café Pasqual’s. Definitely try the posole, carne adovada and freshly made tamales. Mmmm- mmm good!
Roaming Gnome: As I’m sure you know, I love getting a little bit of the local flavor when I visit a destination. What are some of your favorite hangouts?
Sharon: I like to go to Guadalupe Street along the Railyard. You’ll find some fantastic vintage stores. My first stop is always Kowboyz! If you like cowboy boots, you’ll be in heaven. They have the largest selection of new and used boots in one store. Up the street, check out Double Take where you’ll find furniture, western wear, shoes, and lots more.
Also, not too far from Double Take on Guadalupe is Cowgirl BBQ. It’s always a casual, fun time with live music, cold beer and of course mouth-watering barbecue. Don’t be surprised if you see someone form the movie industry. They like to hang out here while filming in the area.
Roaming Gnome: I love taking pictures when I’m on vacation. Where’s the best place for a smashing photo op?
Sharon: My favorite is the beautiful bronze of Native American saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, in front of Santa Fe’s St. Francis Cathedral. I’ve seen lost of statues in my day, including you, but this one takes my breath away. Maybe it’s the turquoise that adorns her or her flowing hair, but I always make that my first stop when sightseeing.
Roaming Gnome: What’s the best souvenir to bring back from Santa Fe? Any particular place I should look for it?
Sharon: Jackalope Santa Fe on Cerillos Road is a huge indoor and outdoor shopping experience. You’ll find pottery, folk art, jewelry and… garden décor! It’s perfect for a Gnome like you. But be careful someone may try to take you home.
Roaming Gnome: What do you think most people think of when they think of Santa Fe? Are they right or wrong?
Sharon: Most people may think it’s too expensive. But it really can be affordable. There are great hotel deals right now. There are many things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money. Visit the parks, the churches and missions, museums, meander the streets and pop into shops and cafes You can do Santa Fe on a budget.
Roaming Gnome: Now that we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, you can tell me: what’s the one thing you wouldn’t do in Santa Fe?
Sharon: As much as I love Historic Santa Fe, I wouldn’t spend all my time there. I recommend taking a day trip to another city nearby. Only 45 minutes away, traveling south on the Turquoise Trail (Hwy. 14), you’ll come to the town of Madrid. It’s an old mining ghost town and is now home to an eclectic creative community of galleries and shops. It was also the filming site of the movie Wild Hogs, so you’ll see lots of familiar places including the Mine Shaft Tavern, a stop for bikers and a great place for a burger, beer and live music.
If you have more time to explore, head north to Taos. Take the River Road (Hwy 68 N) following alongside the Rio Grande River to Taos and then return via the High Road (Hwy 68 S). Roundtrip it’s about 2 ½ hours with no stops. You’ll drive through narrow canyons, remote villages and will be able to visit old churches, art galleries and wineries along the way.
But please don’t leave Taos without visiting Taos Pueblo, one of 19 New Mexico Pueblos. This Native American community has been in existence for over 1000 years and 150 people still live in the Pueblo. There are two multi-story adobe structures split by a flowing stream. You can walk through the Pueblo visiting with the tribal members who are more than willing to share their history and culture, as well as sell their art and crafts.
Roaming Gnome: Last question. Is Santa Fe best for families, couples or people traveling alone?
Sharon: Santa Fe is perfect for all three. As a family, we enjoy sitting in Santa Fe Plaza listening to musicians, talking to artists and letting the kids play on the bandstand. It’s easy, fun and we usually get an ice cream cone or fry bread taco as a treat. The kids enjoy their freedom to play, and we enjoy the community spirit of the Plaza. We always pay a visit to St. Francis Assisi Cathedral just to enjoy the serene beauty and majesty of the cathedral, and we never tire of the story and mystery of Loretto Chapel’s spiral staircase. It’s something not to be missed.
Sharon with her cute little kiddos.
As a couple, one of our favorite days started with a spa service at one of the hotels, followed by our own progressive dining tour as we strolled through Santa Fe enjoying various bars and restaurants before ending the night at Eldorado Hotel & Spa for Latin music and dancing. I would also suggest El Farol on Canyon Road for Tapas and Tango. This is one of my favorite places for a late night outing.
And if I was alone, I would go from gallery to gallery, museum to museum, and shop to shop and enjoy every luxurious minute of it.
My name: The Travelocity Roaming Gnome
How I earn my keep: I roam the world finding great deals, upholding the Travelocity Guarantee, and looking rather handsome while doing it.
What kind of traveler I am: A small and perfectly-formed one.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Just because you can climb into the overhead baggage compartment and stay there for the rest of the flight, doesn’t mean you should.
Travel ambition: To never again miss my plane because I’ve stopped to take a photo with a fellow traveler who’s spotted me. Ah, it’s tough work being a charmingly lovable travel mascot, I’ll tell you that.
First thing I do in a new place: Make friends.
When I’m not traveling: I’m browsing the SkyMall catalogue, toasting crumpets, testing beard conditioners, and planning my next trip.