New Mexico In Winter.

On December 31 we flew West over never ending Texas. We ended up in Albuquerque's very good looking airport. Seriously, the ambiance is top drawer. All natural wood and Navajo decor.
Bonus: I didn't see one florescent light.

We didn't stick around though. After a minor issue we were en route to Santa Fe for a lunchtime rendezvous at Cafe Pasqual's. Well known for their healthy and fun New Mexican menu, we weren't surprised by the 90 minute wait. When we sat down at a community table in the center of the warm and friendly room we were pretty happy. I'll just say that it was worth it!

Next stop: North to Taos as the sun was descending, the roads were twisting, and the snow was increasing. The first thing we did once we arrived was wander 50 feet from our snowy inn over to the Love Apple. Since it was 6 pm on New Year's Eve I expected to be turned away (we had no reservation). Instead we were welcomed into the warm, twinkling room of the adobe building. It was very romantic. We loved:

-Buttermilk yellow and wheat free blue cornbread
With sweet maple cinnamon and savory sage orange herb butter

-House smoked Trout Pâté
Meyer lemon relish, avocado and home-made crackers

-Local Chèvre Apple Stuffed Mushrooms
Served with celery, pear, fennel, piñon and parmesan salad drizzled with truffle oil

-Piñon Soup
The Southwest version of chestnut soup…with vanilla and Bay Leaf

The Piñon (pine nut) grows all over northern New Mexico and we sampled it in a variety of dishes on our trip. You could also smell the Piñon wood burning everywhere from the bonfire in front of the restaurant to the kiva fireplace in our room. The people at Love Apple were very gracious to not only make room for us on a busy holiday night, but when we realized it was cash only and we had none, they let us leave with a promise to pay our bill the next day. Incredible!

The next morning, the first day of 2013 and possibly my favorite day of each year, we set out early toward the Taos Pueblo. The pueblo there has been continuously inhabited for 1000 years.

Stunning! Ansel Adams took many photographs at the Taos Pueblo.
Since we weren't allowed to, I present Adams' photo from 1941.

Ice cold at 0 degrees, covered in snow, and absolutely magical. The first thing I remember was the scent. It was that piñon wood burning. There are several kivas (corner fireplaces) on the pueblo. Then I noticed the breathtaking mountains behind and then I noticed music, a kind of low chanting. We ran excitedly toward the source. There we found two dozen men, teenage to old age, lined up, bare chested and wearing crocheted white leggings with brightly colored ribbons tied around the legs. When they turned around during the chanting, we noticed that they were each wearing an entire duck around their necks, so that the duck was hanging in the back, and an entire fox around their waist, again hanging in the back. Each outfit was topped with an array of stunning bird feathers.  I'm totally stealing this look, by the way (sans the topless part).

Taos Pueblo church, Ansel Adams, 1941.

The chanting and slow dance movements were mesmerizing. Along with the wood burning, all of our senses were lit up. This experience, which I truly value as one of my most important, was very similar to the spirituality that I feel in certain churches. This ceremony is called Turtle Dance and it takes place on the first day of the new year.

As we wandered around the pueblo we found this sweet little adobe church. We had a look and pondered over how wonderful it is that this community continues the rituals of their cultural heritage, which must be considered pagan, but also practices Christianity. I love this. Despite the frigid temperatures, I could have stayed at the pueblo for hours. But we had an appointment on a mountain.

We drove up to the famous Taos slopes, mingling with good looking skiers and hippie snow boarders. However, we were there to snowshoe. This four hour adventure took us high into the mountains away from people and sound.

Our small group of six climbed through fresh snow up to the high altitude of 13,000 feet. That was a strange feeling for me. Although the workout was not overly strenuous and I'm generally fit, I was out of breathe and slightly dizzy.


Exhilarating! Another spiritual event. We communed with nature in a way that I rarely get a chance to.

As we made our way down the valley and back into town we stopped by Taos Mesa Brewing for a beer and some Piñon fritters. About five miles away is the incredible natural wonder, Rio Grande Gorge. Now, I have never been to the Grand Canyon, never cared. Totally changed my mind after seeing this gorge. Whoa. The timing was perfect too, that magical twilight hour enhanced the ruddy tones and the snow sparkled all over. I even walked to the center of the bridge. Pretty daring for me (but this summer I took part in many daring events including a two hour tour of a Hittite era city, eight stories underground!). I'll take any challenge!

Rio Grande Gorge.

So. This was the best first day of the year ever.

Rio Grande from the road (the next day).
Back To Santa Fe:
We usually do Airbnb, but we went a little deluxe this time. I'd read about this Japanese spa hotel place more than five years ago and have been dreaming of it ever since. They have wooden Japanese hot tubs outside!

Ten Thousand Waves
It's a little out of town, but still do it. You'll find a harmonious blend of Japanese and Southwestern style. After a full day of site seeing, we raced back to the Waves just in time for our 8pm tub appointment. The place is like a campus, with rooms and spa things scattered all over. You can walk from your suite to the heart of the spa and its tubs by taking a variety of wooded stairs and paths. We did this, in the dark, while wearing two kimino (a lighter one and a heavy one) and sandals. Nothing else! It was very, very dark and clear. The sky was stunning with stars, really breathtaking, and the path was covered by more glittering snow. The short trek to get there combined with the outdoor tub was intoxicating. I can't describe it any better. So amazing.

Southwestern food is great. Dives and fancies alike. Get as much of it as you can and get it spicy. La Boca was really great for Spanish tapas. Also Plaza Cafe, get the tres leches, sooo good.

Santa Fe.

I mentioned it before and I'll say it again, The International Museum of Folk Art alone is worth a trip.

Pretty excited as we enter.

Other things spotted around town:

The Virgin of Guadalupe and our holiday card muse.
Back at home in Texas: Goose helping us hand paint our collaborative masterpiece.

I've heard that New Mexico is like a suburb of Houston and I am perfectly all right with that. Next time we go I want to experience the summer desert and the textile and turquoise trail. I love New Mexico!

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