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It was late afternoon when our little American Airlines jet set down in the Land of Enchantment, and we disembarked into the sparkling Santa Fe light, the scent of pinon and sagebrush filling the air, the mischievous desert wind threatening to take our hats. Our first stop after leaving the intimate Santa Fe airport was The Inn and Spa at Loretto, our home away from home while in the Southwest.
The Inn and Spa at Loretto is an architectural interpretation of the historic Taos Pueblo, and just a block from the Plaza; the perfect location from which to begin our adventures. This luxury boutique hotel blends sophisticated old-world charm and modern, world-class amenities, all nestled in the heart of Santa Fe at the end of the historic Old Santa Fe Trail. Built on the site of the Sister’s of Loretto girls’ school, the Inn shares its grounds with the famed Loretto Chapel whose mysterious and miraculously constructed staircase confounds modern engineers! Our guest rooms, as well as the hotel’s common areas, were a feast for the senses, gorgeously appointed with vibrant, hand woven fabrics and authentic regional artwork. We were further charmed by the white-washed adobe walls, glossy tile floors and traditional beamed ceilings complete with vigas and latillas. It was late, so we grabbed a bite in the elegant lobby bar, discovering the delectable bison sliders, flavorful chicken quesadillas and quality wine list were definitely worth a return visit.
Day 1: Morning
The rosy light of the sun rising over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains spilled in at dawn, beckoning us out onto our private balconies for the hotel’s signature Agapao organic coffee. A southwestern breakfast of blue corn pancakes, green chili scrambled eggs and ginger-pear juice waited downstairs in Luminaria, the hotel’s on-site restaurant. Its serene décor is inspired by the ancestral history of New Mexico’s first inhabitants, the Anasazi ‘Children of the Light.’ Seated at tables built from reclaimed Ayacahuite barn wood, we relaxed in plushly-cushioned wicker chairs, warmed by the flickering of the kiva fireplace: heaven. We were tempted to linger, but nearby Canyon Road and its treasures awaited!
Often referred to as “The Art and Soul of Santa Fe,” Canyon Road owes its legacy as an artist colony to Los Cinco Pintores, five young painters who in 1920, vowed to “bring art to the people.” World renowned for its art galleries, restaurants and boutiques, we found the gently winding Canyon Road itself enchanting. Smooth adobe walls in earthen colors seemed unable to contain the blooming lilacs cascading lushly over them; carved wooden doors whitewashed in blues and greens stood in rustic contrast against the sensual terracotta, and everywhere, the ever-present ristras–long bunches of crimson chilis gracing the entrances and portolas of both shops and homes.
Not too far up Canyon Road, we stopped for a coffee at Café des Artistes, whose charming French-born proprietor Jean-Jacques will add a dash of European panache and the perfectly prepared latté to your day (Jean Jacques also owns the adjacent Elysee Gallery) Up a bit farther and across the street is Nathalie’s, a must-visit boutique and a new COWGIRL favorite! Owner Nathalie Kent is a former editor of French Vogue who aims to be the “Hermés of western style.” Mixing “classic cowgirl” with a Parisian twist and the inimitable Santa Fe flair, Nathalie’s offers a breathtakingly displayed array of beautifully crafted western wear along with hand-selected furnishings, impressive original artworks, and elegant gift ideas. We loved everything from the small artisan armchair upholstered in the colors of the French flag to rustic crosses and crystal chandeliers to the sterling silver bit horse’s bit shaped like a pistol. Or pick up a gorgeous Tasha Polizzi suede pillow with turquoise beading, a striking fine art painting by Antoine Tzapoff, a pair of turquoise chandelier earrings or a coffee-table worthy collection of books featuring renowned photographer Jim Arndt’s classic works, such as The Art of the Boot or 100 Years of Western Wear. Large and small treasures abound; don’t miss the colorful Navajo blankets and the classic room fragrance Fir Balsam by Geodesis.
Bidding Nathalie “adieu,” we soon discovered the perfectly proportioned Harry Beguelin sandals in the window at Desert Son of Santa Fe just up the street. Inside were buttery soft, laser-cut lamb suede shawls and woven horse hair belts, made especially for Desert Son owner Mindy Adler by artisans in Colorado. Desert Son specializes in fine, upscale leather goods and jewelry that are at home in a variety of lifestyles, both sophisticated and edgy, urban or rural. Take your shopping bags and enjoy a snack and a cup of tea or cowboy chai at the Tea House before meandering back down Canyon Rd., stopping in Santa Kilim (a favorite of professional interior designers) to check out the exquisite rugs, exotic textiles and artifacts from India or Morocco on the way.
Day 1: Afternoon
Back at the Inn at Loretto, a late afternoon spa visit is in order. The Sacred Stone Massage features the healing warmth of smooth volcanic river stones that are placed upon the body, deeply relaxing muscles tight or tired from walking. For extra pampering, indulge in a massage Dos Milagros, “four hands equals nirvana.” A Desert Glow Organic Facial and a Desert Quench Shea Butter Hair Treatment go hand in hand to offset the dryness of the high desert and reveal both inner and outer radiance. The staff at the Spa at the Loretto (and throughout the Inn) are among the very best we’ve encountered. Courteous, efficient and friendly, they consistently embody the four star rating and world-class service the Inn & Spa at Loretto both promises and delivers.
Twilight is the time for a short stroll to the nearby Coyote Café. Watch the liquid gold sunset bathe the Jemez Mountains from the rooftop Cantina, nibbling Poblano poppers and sipping a Signature Senorita Margarita with salted lime cream. Feel like hanging with the locals? The Cowgirl Café in the historic “Rail Yard District” is the place for raucous revelers and local “color.” A little dancing and the walk back will work up your appetite for an unforgettable, late night alfresco dinner under the stars at Luminaria, the fine dining restaurant at the Inn at Loretto. Choose a table indoors or out, where the rustic veranda is tented and draped with opulent, flowing fabric lit by hanging chandeliers, creating an unforgettable and romantic ambiance. “Conscious Cuisine” is the guiding premise of Chef’s approach and the unique menu blends classic and indigenous culinary training with the East Indian influence of Ayurveda’s wholesome yet sensual nourishment. A pinch of inspiration from classic French cuisine, mixed with contemporary American ideals and the unmistakable southwestern flavors make each meal a surprising and subtle celebration of flavors. You can’t go wrong with the Green Chile Corn Bisque, Seared Sea Scallop and Chile Roasted Peanuts, followed by the Blackened Salmon “A La Plancha.” Or choose an impeccably prepared filet mignon, served with a savory red chili sauce. Afterwards, there is always room for the Panna Cotta Brulee, brilliantly flavored with Madera and Lemon Lavender. A comprehensive wine list ensures the perfect libation to complement every course. Sated in soul and stomach, head back to your guestroom and its sumptuous, lovely turned-down bed for the sweetest southwestern dreams.
Day 2: The Plaza
No visit to Santa Fe is complete without a leisurely walk around the historic plaza. Dating back to 1610, it is the very heart of Santa Fe. Stroll the sidewalk Portola where Native American artisans display their exquisite silver and turquoise. Here, you’ll find original and imaginative pieces not found elsewhere, as well as the opportunity to chat and transact business directly with the locals whose vivid culture and friendly smiles are treasures unto themselves. The plaza also boasts the shops, boutiques and galleries a cowgirl won’t want to miss. High on the list is Cowboys and Indians, owned by Andreea and Freddy Bruckner. Here you’ll find the dazzling designs of Patricia Wolf and Marrika Nakk among other designers, as well as quality cowboy (and cowgirl!) boots, stylish handbags and a stunning collection of jewelry. The upper level features fine furnishings and home décor. You won’t leave empty handed! Nearby, ACC offers an elegant spin on western home design; think rustic Tuscan pots in the washed lilac hues of a lingering sunset and beautifully woven rugs in muted shades of coral, rose, cocoa and sand. Both blend seamlessly and stylishly with traditional southwestern and rustic western décor. The Lucchese store is also right on the Plaza and stocks the brands newest boot styles as well as classic cowboy footwear that never goes out of style. As you wander the endlessly enchanting Plaza shops, make a detour to find the Worrell Gallery–just off the plaza–and step into the world of painter Clarence Medina. Medina’s images magically capture the clarity of light and spiritual ambiance of the area…allowing you to take a bit of Santa Fe magic home with you!
(Photography by Lucinda Amorosano).