I am seriously running out of vacation energy, and still feeling like I will have regrets about all of the things we were not able to see/experience on this too-short vacation. Why didn't we stay longer? you might ask. Ah, it's a long story, trying to get carve out a little time together at the same time. But I digress, and I'm already behind.
Yesterday, we spent the day in Santa Fe, which was a deeply ambivalent experience for me. I remember stopping there briefly in 1993, on a road trip from Denver to Phoenix to see the baby niece (same one who was on the North Shore with us 14 years later). It was the end of the day, we drove down the Old Santa Fe Trail, and walked around and looked in a few closed shop windows. But mostly, I enjoyed going into the old churches and missions, and hearing their stories. The oldest church in the U.S. (San Miguel)! The oldest home in the U.S.! The staircase at the Loretto church! Who knew they were all in charming Santa Fe? I was sad that we didn't get to go into the Palace of the Governors, and hoped to return someday.
So we returned.
We spent a good two hours at the Palace of the Governors, listening to an entertaining but somewhat meandering lecture on the history of New Mexico (imagine going from the 17th to the 20th century in one sentence!). It was worth the price of admission just to find out the real name of Santa Fe (the Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi), and to find out that most of the native "art" you find was made in China, or Indonesia. Except what is sold out in front of the Palace. We enjoyed the exhibits, especially those of ancient Native history and the one on devotional folk art -- so colorful, with bright yellows and reds and oranges. Many of these pieces of art were originally done as thank offerings or for home altars.
We ate at a cool 50s style place called "The Plaza Cafe." They have the phone numbers of all of the appropriate elected officials on the wall, from the local mayor and police chief, to Governor Richardson and President Bush. Almost bought a T-shirt. Thankfully, I restrained myself.
Looked in the windows of St. Francis church in the afternoon, where they were actually having a funeral. Then wandered down to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, on the advice of Jan. This was dubbed "Best Experience So Far" by artistic step-son. We didn't know much about her abstract art, or her life, for that matter. As for me, I was most taken by a photograph by her husband, a famous photographer named Alfred Stieglitz. It's called, simply, "Steerage", and if I can get up the energy to find it, I'll link to it.
For all that, Santa Fe did not seem as charming this time as it did for me the last. Maybe it's never as good the second time around. But I noticed more this time the Coldwater Creek, the Starbucks coffee, the exclusive and trendy shops catering to those who have money, and tempting any who don't. The city seems to be trying hard to sell itself, and I wondered, after all, how much substance is behind the beautiful facade.
Maybe I'm just getting tired of being a tourist, and longing to be a pilgrim again. But then, what sights would I see if I were a pilgrim instead of a tourist?