After nearly 20 years, my family and I returned to Santa Fe in February 2015, this time to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. The mystique of the southwest (and the unique jewelry of this region) has always fascinated my mom, and thus we thought it a great destination for her birthday. We were not disappointed.
We stayed in an elegant, south-western themed house at the intersection of Sunset and Artist. Built by a local architect, our house location allowed us to walk into the town, which we did on several occasions.
Santa Fe sits at 7,100 feet. As such, we were light-headed in our first few days here. It’s not as bad as say, Cusco, Peru, but walking uphill for 5 minutes leaves you winded. Towards the end of the trip, however, we adjusted.
Santa Fe is a town for artists and craftsmen. In that respect, I think the city is similar to Portland, Oregon. Santa Fe also became the home of Georgia O’Keefe, the famous American artist who moved here from New York (just like the owner of our house, Justin).
On Saturday, part of our group went to Taos to the Hanuman temple. My mom and I went into the town of Santa Fe to do some (window) jewelry shopping. We scoured the plaza for stores and visited the row of Native Americans who were selling their jewelry. Twenty years ago, I despised jewelry shopping – or waiting in the stores or outside for my mom to do her shopping. This time around, I had more fun. In the last several months, I have watched various gem shows that have taught me that there’s a whole world of gems beyond the most recognized diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. It’s a painstaking process to unearth these minerals, and the selling process is fascinating. Many of the rarest gems don’t make it to the retail market – instead, as soon as they are discovered, discerning buyers send emissaries to bid on them.
What really struck me on this trip was how our trip planning and execution differed from our earlier trips when I was growing up. In those days, we would leave the hotel / motel by 9am and drive 2-4 hours to our next destination. In a city, we would have at least 3 sites to see. Our trips nowadays are more about leisurely waking up, relaxing, and minimal car journeys. I think a balance between the two is best, but the issue with the latter approach is that you can’t learn about a place if you’re spending most of your time at home. Unfortunately, most of us got sick on this trip (stomach bugs or colds) so we were limited in how much we could explore.
Still, just before leaving, I walked down to a memorial structure in Hillside Park to try to learn something about this city. The monument is a winding upward path with brief descriptions of key periods in the history of Santa Fe, from the 1500s onwards. From reading these signs, I gathered that the city is a mix of Native American, Spanish, European-American, and Mexican influences. Interestingly, the Spanish influence seems stronger here than it does in California, where there is more Mexican influence.
Despite the sickness issues, we had a good time in the alluring city of Santa Fe. It was nice to return to a city that captivated our imagination 20 years ago.