The 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. We 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! :))Other 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. The 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. 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!