The Navi led us right to our hotel in Santa Fe. Santa Fe's main tourist attraction is the Santa Fe Plaza. I wanted to splurge at least one night on this trip so I had booked a deluxe room at La Fonda Hotel which is right on the Plaza. I had originally planned to book the 3rd Night Free package but was told it was not available on the dates we'd be in Santa Fe. Therefore, I only booked one night here. The situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, but more about that later.
The block-long La Fonda is on the list of National Historic Hotels. It has a pueblo-Spanish decor inside and out. The walls are covered with Native American and Spanish art. With its location, authenticity, and history, La Fonda ended up being our most expensive lodging of our 11-day vacation.
Despite all the exquisite splendor of the hotel, Traci and I were somewhat disappointed when we saw our room. It was not that there was anything wrong with it. It was spacious and clean. It is just that we were expecting it to look a little more upscale. To those who love old historic hotels, our room would probably be considered upscale. After all, all of the antique furniture was hand-made. To me, this just made the room look older. Speaking of old, it doesn't look like the bathroom has changed much since the 1920's.
artsy hallways of La Fonda Hotel
Other than our first impression of our room, I have no complaints about La Fonda. I loved being able to walk out of the hotel directly onto the Plaza. This is exactly what we did after putting our luggage in the room. It was getting dark and there was a light, chilly rain when we headed out for our walk.
The Plaza is several blocks of shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars, historic churches, and museums. Everything was closed for the day except the restaurants and bars. There was an outdoor church service in progress in the central square. Turning down one street, we could hear live jazz coming from a bar and the sounds of a rock band coming from another. It had been several hours since our lunch at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and we were starting to get hungry. As we toured the posted menus on the various restaurants in the area, I noticed my body having trouble adjusting to the 7000-ft altitude of Santa Fe. I had an earache and a throbbing headache. Walking up the smallest flight of stairs sent my heart racing. Fortunately, these symptoms wouldn't last longer than a day.
After an hour of walking and reading menus, Traci and I eventually settled on our original restaurant consideration, the Blue Corn Cafe. Like most of the restaurants in the Plaza they serve Southwestern cuisine. I don't care for that style of food so I ordered the rib and chicken basket. To my surprise, these were some of the best baby back ribs I have ever tasted. They had a nice smoky taste and a sauce that was both sweet and spicy hot. We really enjoyed our meal here. Of course, we had to finish it off with an order of Indian fry bread and honey. Yummy!
We took our time getting started on Monday morning. This gave Traci the opportunity to work out at the fitness center and me the opportunity to sleep in. It was approaching lunchtime when we left the hotel, so we skipped breakfast and had lunch at a place called the Rooftop Pizzeria. The pizza here was excellent. I'm not sure you can find a bad restaurant at the Plaza.
During the day, the Plaza comes alive with shoppers, sightseers, and vendors. In addition to all this, there were Native American vendors that lined the streets with their hand-crafted jewelry and pottery displayed on mats on the sidewalk.
Traci had already acquired a liking for the Native American silver and turquoise jewelry. She was on a mission to find a necklace and earring set that contained both turquoise stones and the orange spiny oyster shell stones. This meant a day of visiting every shop and vendor booth in the Plaza. I don't enjoy shopping but I enjoyed chatting with the shopkeepers and vendors while Traci searched for her perfect jewelry set. One thing I like about the shops we visited is that all the merchandise seemed to be of good quality. I did not see a lot of the flimsy trinkets I normally see at other tourist areas.
In between jewelry perusals, Traci and I visited two interesting historical churches at the Plaza. The first was Loretto Chapel. This church is known for its Miraculous Staircase. The church's construction was completed in the 1870's but without a means to get to the choir loft. There was no room to build a staircase in this small sanctuary. The nuns of the church prayed a novena to St. Joseph the Carpenter. On the ninth day, a man carrying a hammer, a saw, and water showed up offering to build a staircase. Upon completion of the staircase several months later, the man disappeared without asking for payment and was never heard from again. If that isn't miraculous enough, the spiral staircase the mysterious man built contains two 360-degree turns with no visible means of support! Furthermore, it was built without nails - only wooden pegs. The staircase has been the subject of TV specials and movies.
Loretto Chapel entrance
The Miraculous Staircase
Loretto Chapel altar
The church is now a privately-owned museum. Traci and I spent about 15 minutes inside the small, beautiful sanctuary. There is a continuous audio playing that explains the mysteries of the chapel. Although supports and banisters were added to the Miraculous Staircase in 1919 at the request of the nuns, it is roped off today to prevent visitors from climbing it. Of course there are always those who want to bend the rules. We saw some adult tourists push the rope aside so they could have their picture taken on the steps. Fortunately, the others in their group told them (in whatever language they were speaking) to put the rope back and to come away from the steps. Unbelievable! Anyway, we finished up our visit to Loretto Chapel with a quick look through the adjacent gift shop where religious souvenirs and books are sold.
The other church we visited was the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It was built in 1610 but destroyed in the Indian Revolt of 1680. It was rebuilt in 1714. Since that time, it has undergone many changes but La Conquistadora Chapel still exists from the 1714 reconstruction and it contains the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was brought to Santa Fe in 1626. Outside the cathedral are several statues including that of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North American Indian to be promoted to sainthood. Continue...