A Travellerspoint blog

Desert Wanderings - Santa Fe

sunny 32 °C

This travel blog is titled Quest For Nature but once in a while we do visit cities. Our destination in New Mexico was Santa Fe. Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the USA dating back more than 400 years. Its economy is now clearly built on tourism, culture and history. There are several main streets in the downtown area that are primarily gift stores and restaurants. But all the sights are all close by and within walking distance.


We began our day early to avoid the crowds and get a good parking spot. Parking was cheap but the spots filled fast so we were happy we went before 10:00am. We began our exploration at the Oldest Church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. The chapel was first mentioned in recorded history in 1628 but is thought to have been constructed in 1610. The adobe wall construction is very typical of the Santa Fe style for which almost all other buildings are styled after. It is beautiful in its simplicity.


Right across from the chapel is the Oldest House Museum. It is a house that has been preserved and was originally built upon a Native American pueblo built in 1200.


The shops in the are are plentiful and boast everything from keychains and t-shirts to $25,000 original Native American artwork. There were 10’ tall metal transformers as well as bronze sculptures like the ones depicted here.


Loretto Chapel was within 3 blocks of the San Miguel Chapel and is the home to the miraculous staircase. It was built in 1873 and certainly stands out against the adobe structures in Santa Fe. It was built with a choir oft but the engineer died before he had contracted a way to access the loft. Because of its height and the closeness of the walls, a staircase would have taken up too much room. Rumour has it that the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine day novena to Saint Joseph, patron saint of carpenters. On the final day of the novena a carpenter appeared with only your hammer and a carpenter square. He built what is known as the Miraculous Staircase with simple tools and wooden pegs. The wood is not native to the American Southwest and when the staircase was complete it is said that the carpenter disappeared. The staircase has two complete 360° turns with no centre pole for structural support. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair. The bannisters were added later due to the difficulty of climbing the stairs with no railing.


Beating the lunch rush, we found The Plaza Cafe which is the oldest cafe in Santa Fe, opening its doors in 1905. There we had a delicious lunch with authentic New Mexican cuisine. I had an enchilada and Bud had a Quesadilla. When the waiter asks you ‘Red, Green, or Christmas?’’ He wants to know if you’d like red chilli sauce, green chilli or Christmas (both!). I opted for red.


The Plaza Cafe sit in front of The Plaza. The Plaza is a place where history has been made for centuries. It has been the site of 2 major liberation battles 1680 and 1821, and the place where New Mexico was proclaimed as a United States territory in 1846. Now it is a gathering place, a shopping place and a cultural hotspot.

Thoughts about Santa Fe: It is a nice place to do some shopping for Spanish influenced, SouthWestern American, and Native American treasures. It has such unique architecture and an ancient history that it needs to be seen to be believed.


We have taken our leave of New Mexico and have travelled into southern Colorado and found a dispersed campsite on BLM land north of Chromo, Colorado. We will spend only one night here, leaving in the morning for our first National Park at Mesa Verde.


Posted by blgracey 23:12 Archived in USA

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That staircase is incredible! I can’t imagine it without railings.
Hope you’re finding ways to stay cool.

by Helen

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