“The City Different” – Santa Fe

Santa-FeThe city different indeed! The oldest state capital in the United States is quirky, eclectic and definitely a must visit place for anyone who has the slightest bit of interest in art and architecture. Santa Fe became an artist’s colony in the early 1920’s and continues to attract artists from all over the world. The city had been on my radar for a while and the Labor Day weekend seemed like an opportune time to visit. After a short drive from Albuquerque, we arrived at the quaint town of Santa Fe.

The stucco pueblo exterior on the buildings is an immediate draw! The adobe style architecture is consistent throughout the town and lends to its quirkiness. One can immediately see why it appeals so much to the artists. The unique architecture and the pretty landscape make for quite an enchanting view.  Santa-FeWe spent a lot of time just exploring the city on foot. The essence of this historic town is centered in the lovely town square, also known as the Plaza. The native american influence is also quite evident as you walk around the square, where a large number of jewelry vendors display their lovely hand made creations.

Among some of the attractions, were the oldest house and oldest church in the country. De Vargas Street House is one of the oldest buildings in the USA and dates back to 1200 AD. It is a small adobe structure with just 2 or 3 rooms, but quite interesting to visit. The San Miguel Chapel is deemed the oldest church in the United States,  and said to be built in 1610. It was partially destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The present building dates from 1710, although it has undergone significant structural changes. As we entered the main building, we immediately saw the famous bell of San Miguel. It is believed to have been cast in 1356 in Spain and brought to Mexico in the early seventeenth century and later on to New Mexico. There is a mallet provided to ring the bell which was cast from all the gold, silver and household items of the devout Spanish Catholics. Legend has it that if you ring the bell, you always return to Santa Fe! (Of course I rang it many times! :))Santa-Fe-art-churchOther than the Plaza and the art markets around the city center, we really enjoyed our stroll through all the art galleries on Canyon Road. It truly is an art lover’s mecca! From contemporary, abstract, modern, expressionistic, figurative, photorealistic, traditional, western or Native American art, it’s all here. The unique melange of diverse art galleries, outdoor sculpture gardens and the rustic adobe homes all add to the charm of this historic street. BandelierThe Bandelier National Monument was another highlight of our trip. The park contains some of the most unusual and interesting ancient ruins, lots of petroglyphs and pictographs, steep narrow canyons and mountains rising up to 10,200 feet. You can walk up on the side of the cliffs and ancient structures or climb up inside the cave dwellings and try to imagine life back in the day. We spent about half a day exploring the caves and even climbed up to see the Alcove House which is 140 feet above the floor of Frijoles Canyon.  This elevated site is reached by 4 wooden ladders and a number of stone stairs and once was home to 25 ancestral pueblo people. Tent-rocks We wrapped up the long weekend trip with a hike on the Slot Canyon trail at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The cone-shaped tent rock formations were formed due to volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. The views along the trail are almost surreal, and getting to the summit involved going though tunnels, up ledges, and a steep climb to the mesa top. The views from there were just spectacular and well worth the long hike!

The variety of cultures, vivid colors, interesting geological features and the company of great friends made it one hell of an interesting trip. I know I will be going back to Santa Fe someday to immerse myself in all the art and color and of course to hear that beautiful gong again!

Oh Yellowstone!

yellowstone-national-park

Colorful hot springs, clouds of sulphuric steam rising out of almost every inch of the park, magnificent Bison just strolling around and hissing fumaroles make Yellowstone National Park a very alluring place to visit. Without a doubt, it is one of the most exotic and pristine National Parks in the country and it also happens to be the oldest! During our short long weekend visit, we only managed to cover most of sights on the West and South sections of the park. It was certainly not enough time to take in all the spectacular geothermal features.

Yellowstone

In a barrage of thunder and hailstones, we drove up from Salt Lake City, Utah towards West Yellowstone, Montana where we were going to be staying. The landscape throughout the drive was quite mesmerizing. I happen to love rain and thunderstorms, so it was the perfect start to the weekend. As we got closer to Montana, the skies cleared up and the lovely crisp mountain air welcomed us. After checking in at the lodge, we immediately set out to the Old Faithful Inn to witness the dutiful Old Faithful. The park is big, it is also very busy and after parking at the Old Faithful inn, we began to wonder if it all the spots in the park were going to be as busy. The crowd sort of takes away from the charm a little bit, but as you hike deeper into the park, the crowds disappear and all is well again :)

1-yellowstone

The next morning, we started out early morning to make sure we were able to cover as much of the park as possible. The Bisons crossing the roads slowed us down a little bit, and caused a few traffic jams, but no complaints there! Just watching them calmly walk across was a treat. Apparently it is the only park where they have lived continuously since prehistoric times and roam freely, sublimely indifferent to the cars and people. We continued on to the Fountain Paint Pot, where we witnessed 4 hydrothermal features – geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. It was quite fascinating to just stand and observe these features. Boiling mud randomly squirting over the mud pot, creating interesting sounds as the gases bubbled through the clay and a constant stream of Sulphur laden steam, leaving us nearly soaked as we walked off the wooden walkway!

Yellowstone

One of the most remarkable sights was that of the Morning Glory Pool. It is about a 3 mile hike from the Old Faithful and the best part is that you get to see a number of other geysers and springs on the way, including the Castle Geyser. By the time we got to the Morning glory, the crowds thinned out and there were only a couple of other people. The gorgeous blue, green water and microbes that give it its characteristic orange-yellow fringe make it one of the most picturesque sights.

3-yellowstone

Spots such as the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest spring in the US, and the third-largest in the world seem to draw the highest number of visitors in the park. I would recommend visiting the popular spots early in the day and then heading out to the other less popular sights.

Having heard so much about the Grand Teton National Park, we decided to drive through the park on our way back to Salt Lake City. What a gorgeous drive it was! Since the direct road from inside Yellowstone was blocked, we had to take a detour, which turned out to be one of the prettiest drives I have done. Narrow meandering roads and lush green meadows leading us towards the snow capped peaks in the distance. Since this post is primarily about Yellowstone, I will stop right here and just add a few pictures of Grand Teton below :). Would love to go back and explore some more some day.

grand-teton-national-park

Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the most visually breathtaking hot springs, geysers and very diverse wildlife. It is one place anyone can fall in love with! On my next trip, I plan to cover Lamar Valley, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Mammoth Springs and of course, go back to all the spots we covered on this trip.

Mid-Week feel gooders #3

mid-week-feel-gooders

It’s been unusually cloudy this last week. No, I am not complaining. I couldn’t be happier, it is totally my kind of weather! I have been feeling so inspired and positive and ready to take on just about anything. A lot of grand plans are brewing in my head and I am really looking forward to the rest of the year. On that note, here are some beautiful things that have been adding even more cheer to my usually mundane week.

Mid-week-feel-gooders

1. Loving these mugs from India Circus! Can’t wait to get my hands on a few.

2. Stella Jean FW 2015 Runway collection is so eclectic, exotic, and colorful. 

3. I can’t stop humming Everyday by Buddy Holly since I heard it on one of the final episodes of Mad Men. It is SUCH a happy song!

4. Oh, I would love these blooms on my wall! Acrylic on canvas by Canadian artist Bobbie Burgers.

5. Such amazing Food maps! Just looking at them makes me hungry. Love the typography on the maps too.

6. Ride on, Nepal! This print was designed to support the recent earthquake in Nepal. All proceeds gained from this work of art will be donated to Red Cross Nepal Earthquake Relief fund.

7. This incredible project called Impossible City, run by Sawhorse Revolution – A group of enterprising teenagers have teamed up with designers and builders to create a moveable eco-village for Seattle’s homeless.

8. Tearable wallpaper by Znak! Looks so easy and fun to apply.

9. This immediately made me smile. SHAKE Puppies features over 130 full-page portraits of puppies photographed mid-shake: flapping ears, flying drool, adorably distorted expressions, and all.

Have a lovely rest of the week! :)

xoxo

36 hours in San Diego 

Quick weekend getaways are all the husband and I are able to find time for these days. There is nothing I like more than to go out and explore new places, so I am a little bummed about not being able to just head out and see the world. However, I am trying to save up all the vacation time I can for a long holiday in the fall. Until then, weekend/long weekend trips will just have to do. Our weekend in San Diego was quite a welcome break after non-stop slogging since the year began. Obviously, I had a list of places I absolutely HAD to visit in and around San Diego (and no, it did not include the zoo and SeaWorld…I cannot bear to watch animals in that artificial environment). We mostly just relaxed, took long walks on the beach, ate a lot and savored every moment of that weekend in the laid-back, charming city of San Diego.San-Diego

Here’s a quick list of places you can visit in 36 hours:

(You could do a lot more as the distances are so short, but we decided to take it easy and not pack in too much!)

1. Scripps Beach – After landing early in the morning, we decided to head out directly to La Jolla to check out some of the not so busy beaches. Located just north of La Jolla shores is Scripps Beach and this was our first stop. We parked near the Lifeguard Tower and walked all the way to the beautiful and most photographed Scripps pier which is owned and operated by Scripps Institute of Oceanography.scripps-pier

2. The Salk Institute – Also in La Jolla, the institute was only a short drive away so we headed there next, in hope of doing the Architectural tour. The institute was established by Jonas Salk, M.D. and he selected Louis I. Kahn to design the facility. In December 1959, Salk and architect Louis Kahn began a unique partnership to design this facility. Salk summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling the architect to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” Kahn, who was a devoted artist before he became an architect, was able to respond to this challenge. I truly envy people who are able to work, live or study in these functional pieces of art! The Institute is overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is quite an architectural marvel. Unfortunately, they are only open for tours only on week days so we just walked around the campus for a bit.walk-institute-san-diego

3. Gaslamp Quarter – After stuffing our faces with some of the best tacos I have eaten at The Taco Stand, we drove back to downtown San Diego to check-in, shower off all the sand from the beach and explore the Gaslamp area. The entire strip is quite lively and fun. We walked almost the entire length of it and it is lined with a variety of restaurants and bars. There were also some art galleries and stores hidden between the food places. We stopped for dinner and drinks at The blind Burro. After dinner, we went looking for a popular speakeasy called Prohibition. It is nicely concealed behind a door labeled ‘Law office’. You knock at the door and are are let in. The rest of the night basically involved some great cocktails and bar hopping in the Gaslamp Quarter.Gaslamp-Quarter-san-diego

4.Old Town San Diego State Historic Park – This was my favorite part of the trip! I absolutely LOVED old town. I am a sucker for old buildings and love anything that has some history so I was instantly enchanted. Old town has a lovely old world charm, beautifully preserved structures and so much art. There is a theater, blacksmith, tin shop, a  few restaurants, the Cosmopolitan Hotel, a stage coach exhibit, candy shop, soap shop, teas and coffee shop, an olive oil shop and so much more to see. It was the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon stroll. old-town-san-diego

5. Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial – The drive up to Mt. Soledad is very scenic and on a clear day, you get to see clear 360 degree panoramic views of San Diego from the memorial. The wall of veteran plaques surround the foot of the cross on top of this hill. It wasn’t too crowded when we went up there so we were able to find a spot to park quite easily. We walked around for a bit, took in all the sights and then decided to head over to Coronado Island to relax by the beach. mt-soledad

6. Coronado Island – This was our last stop in San Diego. You can either take the bridge or a ferry to get across to the island. We took the bridge. The bridge itself is quite impressive! It is about 2.12 miles long and looks majestic as it gracefully curves around the connect the island with the mainland. The beach looked very welcoming and is definitely one of the widest beaches I have seen in California. From Coronado Island, we decided to drive along this sliver of land on the I-75, down south towards Mexico. Nothing spectacular like some of the other drives we have done in the south, but might be quite beautiful in the evening to watch the sunset! coronado-island

The Coronado Ferry landing is definitely one of the best spots to get a good view of the San Diego skyline. We decided to grab some coffee/tea, lay on the grass for a bit before heading to the airport to catch our flight back home. ferry-landing-san-diego