Monday, March 31, 2014


This is the last post from my photo journal of our one week surprise trip to the southwest and it also represents what was really a nice surprise for both of us.  We were just taking the back road from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to catch the airplane back to Seattle and I hadn't really scouted it out, other than knowing it would be more interesting than the interstate in the valley and that it wound through some old mining towns.

Madrid began that way, but is now a colorful strip of houses turned into art galleries.  It was certainly touristy, but that didn't keep it from being fun. We didn't have plans to actually buy anything, but we ended up leaving with a pair of small metal sculptures that will add a nice southwest motif to our living room wall. It's sort of cool for us to find something we both like, in a place we didn't expect to find.

Santa Fe

I don't know if M and I are very good at staying in one place for very long, but I suspect we could have handled several more days in Santa Fe.  We only checked off a few of the restaurants on my ridiculously long list - although the checked included both El Meson and The Shed - and it would be fun to come back and visit the rest.

I would love an excuse (do I really need one?) to read up on southwest native culture and crafts, although that might just tempt to me to collect stuff I can't really afford and that we have no room for!

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

The next time we're down here, I'd love to drive up to Abiqui and Ghost Ranch, where O'Keeffe lived and painted, but for this trip we settled for a visit to the Museum here in Santa Fe. Apparently, much of her well known flower paintings are in private and public collections elsewhere, so the the emphasis here is on her landscapes and on her collaborations (right now, there's a neat exhibit showcasing paintings by her and photos by Ansel Adams of Hawaii).

I came not particularly familiar with her work other than a general awareness of her floral paintings. I left captivated by her paintings of the Ghost Ranch landscape. All the more reason to visit there someday.

Palace of the Governors

Built in 1610, this place is billed as the oldest continuously occupied public building in the U.S. It was the seat of government when the Spanish were in charge and remained the seat for American territorial governors after that. At some point - perhaps from the start - native craftsfolk from the surrounding pueblos have sold their goods on the sidewalk out front.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


We took a few hours on Tuesday to drive over to Bandelier National Mounument, just below Los Alamos. The canyon dodged the 2011 fires, but received the subsequent flash floods. The cliff dwellings were built well above the valley bottom and above the flood waters, but the visitor's center was not so thoughtfully located and just missed being turned into an archaeological site.

Bandelier is a neat combination of valley floor pueblo and cliff dwellings.  The caves - many natural, but artificially enlarged - were probably used more for storage, whereas the residential development was in multi-tier stone apartments built along the base of the cliffs.

Loretto Chapel

Another church. And a bit of a tourist attraction, too. Apparently, it was modeled after San Chapelle in Paris, which it resembles in form, although it lacks the sheer power (and the amount of stained glass) of the original.

What it does have - as should any good Catholic attraction, is a miracle. Specifically, it has a miraculous staircase. Well, it has a very elegant wooden spiral staircase. With a great deal of mystery attached to it. The builder vanished after completing the work. The staircase cannot possibly stand by itself. Even the wood from which it is made is unknown.

Well-crafted mystery is the stuff from which miracles are made. I thought it was really neat, but somehow the fact that the wood was hard to identify and that the contractor ran off doesn't seem that unusual. And the spiral structure looks plausible to me - at least if built well.

What I thought was truly miraculous was that the original was built without a balustrade! That was added much later in the interest of safety. There was no mention of how many choir members were lost before that decision was made. But I admit, without the railing, it would look a lot more miraculous.

St. Francis Cathedral

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, to be more accurate. We walked past many times over our two day stay and late one afternoon I wandered inside to see the sun streaming in the rose window.

The church dates mainly to the 1870s - fairly recent compared to much of the architecture around Santa Fe.  The stubby towers are apparently the result of fundraising problems - money ran out before the tall steeples that were originally planned could be completed.

Santa Fe

We spent the last two days of the trip in Santa Fe. All the planned surprises were over, and now we just had a couple of days to wander around town, shop a little (but shopping isn't really us), and find good places to eat. The weather was perfect for us - 30s at night and low 70s in the day.

We admired the native crafts, from high-end pottery and jewelry to not-so high-end chachkas, along with a lot of wonderful and sometimes whimsical art and sculpture. I took an awful lot of photos of architectural details - the sun makes the adobe glow, brings out the bright colors, and accentuates the shadows.

Truth or Consequences

Hot Springs was a perfectly appropriate, but somewhat generic name, in 1950 when this little town jumped at the chance to host a broadcast of the radio show (the TV version came later) in exchange for renaming itself Truth or Consequences!  The town sits on several hot springs and a number of local hotels and spas tap into these.

In my effort to keep M surprised and amused, I found this neat little place to stay (only one night, unfortunately) in TorC.  Our room had a huge tub that filled quickly from a high-volume waterfall in the corner and was staged in a Jetson's theme. I guess this, combined with the Caverns earlier in the day, helps make up for driving through hundreds of miles of desert.

Geology note: The Rio Grande River valley in New Mexico runs north-south within the Rio Grande Rift, an early attempt by the powers that be (were?) to split the North American continent in two.  Their attempt failed, but the result was a lot of heat near the surface and plenty of hot springs.