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Santa Fe, a friendly, artsy town

December 18, 2011
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What should a visitor in Santa Fe, New Mexico (population 144,000), see if she only has a few hours to sightsee? I posed that question to several people last month.

As a result, I:

• toured the Palace of the Governors history museum (an early 17th century adobe building) and the Georgia O’Keeffe (artist) Museum

• walked around downtown, which has a small town and Southwest feel, and ordered tamales wrapped in corn husks from a Mexican street vendor (I confess I asked the vendor whether I should eat the husks just to see how he would respond. He was polite despite my apparent ignorance.)

• browsed in lots of artisan shops on Canyon Road, chatting with friendly shopkeepers and artists

• flagged down a tour van on Canyon Road and rode through some upscale neighborhoods and past historic churches

I was disappointed that other museums, especially the folk art museum, were closed.

I had some enchanting strokes of luck in Santa Fe. Examples:

• I happened to get to the Palace just as a fabulous volunteer guide who makes Southwestern history come alive was starting her tour.

• The tour van came along just as I was tired of walking and browsing.

• In a downtown store, I had a great conversation with a Kentucky native (like me) who was buying herself some fancy cowgirl boots on sale for $500 (not like me!).

• Amazingly, the history museum had an exhibit I’d been wanting to see on the St. John’s Bible project. (A group of calligraphers spent a decade copying the entire Bible and did some amazing artwork, all with quills and handmade inks. St. John’s University, which funded the project, is near St. Cloud, MN, where we used to live. I met the head calligrapher, who is the calligrapher for the British royal family, when I wrote a news release about the project maybe 15 years ago.)

Santa Fe is known as a mecca for artisans (one in six residents is an artist), foodies and natural health practitioners (Santa Fe is the number two U.S. destination for spas). Even my hotel van driver, a former yacht racer from Down Under, was drawn to Santa Fe because she was born with a gift for healing.

I didn’t get a chance to explore the mountains around Santa Fe and the high desert landscape. But I at least got to see some countryside on the shuttle ride to and from the Albuquerque airport. There is something beautiful and haunting about the shapes and the hues of the hills and the juniper and sagebrush. Something that makes me want to go back. Maybe the same elusive something that called to Georgia O’Keeffe and other artists.

Yes, Santa Fe depends on tourism, and the townspeople should be friendly. But nobody says they have to be as genuinely caring as they are. My hotel van driver, who shared life stories with me, gave me a heartfelt hug as we parted. The hotel’s front desk gal, leaving for the day, came back in the hotel just to assure me that she saw my (slightly late) airport shuttle bus coming. The tour bus driver charged me even less money than he’d quoted when I flagged him down mid-tour.

More than the art and the sights and food, I will always remember Santa Fe as a town of incredibly friendly people. I will especially remember my new friends Gwen and Clyde, friends of friends who shared their evenings with me twice.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gwen permalink
    February 14, 2012 4:03 am

    It was the other way around, Julie shared two of her evenings with us. When we first met Julie, she was waiting on a corner downtown Santa Fe for us to pick her up. The light changed so we had to turn away from that corner and park. I jumped out and yelled, “Julie”.
    Julie came running across and jumped into our car. She said, “how many people would run and jump into a car with people you have never met before”. Well, for us it is not a secret it is just marvelous. Another marvel, I have been lonely, so when I opened my email today, here were all of these wonderful reads. Thanks Julie, come again and again.
    LOVE GWENnclyde

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