SANTA FE, New Mexico – I can smell the piñon-infused air when I arrive. I have a spectacular show on the ride from the airport, a distant storm pouncing over the terrain, blowing dust and fueling lightning strikes and, finally, creating a beautiful double rainbow.
I arrive at on Canyon Road and feel instantly relaxed. Maybe it's the change in altitude. Or the scent of the apple shrubs, pear trees, and wild lavender dotting the property. Or the wind chimes and shadows on the porch.
It's quiet and peaceful. Locals are getting in their jogs, walking their dogs. I stroll up Canyon Road to for a Green Mist tea. On another morning, I have an espresso and read the paper at Downtown Subscription (376 Garcia St.), and try to catch sight of Santa Fe resident Tom Ford. No luck.
I get my bearings and adjust to the altitude with a run by , moving along Upper Canyon Road to the . It's a stellar workout. Ditto the various (bicycles can be rented from ). A dip in the tubs at can really help a girl adjust to the new terrain (read the Gentedimontagna postcard all about it).
A DRINKING LUNCH
My table runneth over. I have lunch at : a glass of rose and shrimp tacos (the Cubano looks mighty good, too). Then over to , which is bustling outside. I do some people-watching through my Ray-Bans. The courtyard is a busy stage of waiters pacing quickly as glasses clink and forks clank on plates of their famous calamari. is a mainstay, but the locals like to hit for potent margaritas and blue corn enchiladas (double the hot sauce). Around the bend sits the stellar , home of the former chef (another must-try for breakfast and coffee).
Santa Fe is a 400-year old town of adobe architecture and stark, clear blue skies. You know why the artists came to paint. I visit the , where Native American artists congregate to showcase their pottery, jewelry, art and wares. houses handmade Native American jewelry, woven items, and souvenirs, as does the . carries a selection of local, handmade soaps, folk pieces, and incense. For books and postcards, is a real treat.
I graze the stellar local book selection (with a bargain bin to boot) at . Serious art and photography collectors already know to visit . Of course has art. But the feels newly charged with its edgy, contemporary galleries. It's a nice place to explore after the Saturday .
A number of museums offer respite on Art Hill. I love the and the trading post in the basement of the for a thorough sampling of native art and wares.
For a splurge:, which serves up large portions of elk, scallops, lobster, and tuna. The bar menu at is elegant and sophisticated, yet easy. serves up miles of thick, freshly cut corn chips with creamy avocado tomatillo lime, pico de gallo, and something called Fire-Roasted Cantina. Outside seating is the perfect place to rest and sip a Lava Lamp, an effervescent mixture of frozen margarita and bold beer. It is very refreshing.
is an old mainstay where locals and tourists cohabitate. I like a margarita at while watching the sun turn a purple-orange hue before slipping away. On a perfect night I have tickets to the , and tailgate with the Sangre de Christo and Jemez Mountain ranges in the background.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are planning to spend a week or more, think about renting from vacation dealers, which use Frette linens and Molton Brown products at their properties. is a perennial hotel favorite, while the and are very fairly priced. The Four Seasons recently took over with sweeping mountain views.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ) is about 60 miles from Santa Fe (1-25 North). The Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF) is open to private aircraft and , which offers two nonstop daily flights between Dallas and Santa Fe and one nonstop daily flight between Los Angeles and Santa Fe. can get you to and from the airport and Santa Fe. The is also an option. But you'll want your own wheels for your first joy ride.