This week marks 40 years since my first visit to New Mexico (other than pass-throughs, during childhood). How do I know that? The life-changing trip took place several months after I met my now-husband. A friend and I had also planned our visit to coincide with Cinco de Mayo. It would be my first long-distance road trip in nearly a decade.
But plans changed about two weeks before departure. My friend cancelled and my then-boyfriend couldn't reschedule his life on such short notice, to go with me. I wasn't ready to drive that far by myself so I booked trips to and from the state with Amtrak, and then rented a car in Santa Fe.
For the next week, I explored the area near Santa Fe and Taos, from Bandelier National Monument (currently closed due to the Cerro Pelado fire) and El Rancho de las Golindrinas (closed, until June 2022) to Philmont Scout Ranch BSA and Santa Fe's Plaza.
I gritted my teeth and gripped the steering wheel as snow fell during my descent from Philmont. I marveled at ancient homes built in formidable rock walls, at Bandelier. An unexpected festival and parade met me, at El Rancho de las Golindrinas. I bought a small rug from Ortega's Weaving Shop, in tiny Chimayo, before visiting the holy site of Santuario de Chimayo.
In Santa Fe, I purchased a delicate silver ring, decorated with three-pronged bird 'tracks,' from a Native American vendor at the Palace of the Governors, before visiting the remarkable 'floating' staircase inside the Loretto Chapel. And I savored New Mexico flavors in what was then the open hotel courtyard and restaurant at La Fonda on the Plaza.
The Rio Grande rushed by, to my left, as I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, where a massive breakfast awaited, at Michael's Kitchen Restaurant and Bakery. My next stop was Taos Pueblo (closed until further notice, per COVID concerns).
Four decades ago, visiting the Pueblo was a completely different experience from my later visits. There was no ticket to buy or entry gate and no photography fee. No doors opened to individual craftspeople and their wares. And I saw no other visitors on that chilly spring weekday morning.
But as I set foot onto Taos Pueblo land for the first time, an odd thing happened. From somewhere deep inside, I had the sense that I had literally lived here, in another life. On May 5, I raised a glass to northern New Mexico in a local restaurant, declaring, "I'll be back." And I have - at least eight times.
Stay tuned to Visual Traveler throughout May, for more stories about this place that has thoroughly touched my heart.
Please note: As is common in the travel industry, I may have received accommodations and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this post, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
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I love crafting stories about fantastic food & beverages, must-visit destinations & eco-friendly topics. I wrote a 350+ page book about Kansas. And I've worked with dozens of additional clients - from Fodors.com & AAA magazines to USAToday.com & WanderWithWonder.
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