Our 8 Day Trip to the Southwest (Part 3 of 3)

Days 6, 7 and 8

For the final leg of our Southwest adventure we head to Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

The path took us along two lane highways through hills and flat plains in full purple splendor from the spring wild flowers while being flanked by snow capped mountains in the far distance.  

But before we leave Arizona, we make a stop at the Petrified Forest National Park, and take a leisurely walk on the Giant Logs Trail.  The fact that this was once a forest of trees will require much of our imagination as the forest is long gone and all that remains are the logs left where they fell some 216 million years ago. What remains are the fossilized versions of the trees which are now solid mineral rock. It’s a mind boggling process to think about it.

A quick lunch–provided by a local supermarket deli in the nearest town of Holbrook–and we head out on our journey to Santa Fe. A quick historical note about Holbrook. It was first inhabited by Anasazi Indians and then later (in 1540) visited by Coronado while he searched for the Seven Cities of Cibola. They found the area they called “El Desierto Pintada” – The Painted Desert which isn’t far from the Petrified Forest park. There is truly a wealth of history and scenery to take in but we were short of time and had a long way to go.  Maybe next time.

Our Journey Across New Mexico

Day 6: In Santa Fe

We arrive in Santa Fe in the late afternoon which allows us just enough time to check into our hotel, relax a bit and get ready for dinner. Our hotel, The Hotel Santa Fe, is, according to their literature, a “Sanctuary for the Cultural Traveler”. As a Native American owned and operated hotel, it embodies the cultural feeling and spirit of Native American art and architecture of the Pueblo people. I would highly recommend staying in this conveniently located hotel on your next visit to Santa Fe. Also, take advantage of the Cultural Pass package which allows entrance to most of the major museums in Santa Fe.

Since our first night in Santa Fe is to celebrate Lowell and Judy’s 45th wedding anniversary, we put on our best (and cleanest) ‘business casual’ attire and dine at Santa Fe’s premier award winning restaurant ‘Geronimo‘. (Note: Geronimo is not named for the famed Apache Indian, Geronimo, but for Geronimo Lopez who, in 1756, built the adobe structure that still houses the restaurant today.) 

Geronimo’s chef, Sllin Cruz describes his style of menu as “Global Eclectic”. I would say that description is accurate. Our meal started by sharing with my wife a soft shell crab “BLT” appetizer along with a fresh Wasabi Caesar salad. From there I had the Green Miso Sea Bass served in a lobster miso broth and a citron rouille. To enhance the Asian flare, the chef added tender young bok choy and soft ramen noodles. I can still taste the dish from memory. 

I would easily rank this the #1 way to serve Sea Bass…or any type of thick flaky white fish, for that matter. O.K. But, enough about the food–the service was impeccable as well. Try it out but make reservations weeks (or months) in advance if you can! 

Our First Night in Santa Fe

Day 7: Culture Day!

Our first full day in Santa Fe started off with breakfast at the hotel and then off to explore the downtown areas and as many of the museums and churches that we can fit in before…DINNER!…not that we’re hungry…yet…but planning ahead is a good idea in my book!

Our choice of museums (with our Cultural Passes in hand by the way) were the New Mexico History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art. A third museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is not on the cultural pass but definitely worth visiting. 

New Mexico’s history is explained through the displays of artifacts and art found in both museums spanning 500 years. The stories and images that shaped the American West are all found inside each museum and it is entertaining for both young and older people interested in the history of the area. I certainly learned a lot about the hardships that native people experienced while their culture was constantly under attack from Spanish and Mexican invaders over several hundred years prior to establishment of the state of New Mexico.  

Photos From the Day

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

For me, the highlight of our museum hopping was a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum which houses many fine examples of her art that she painted while living outside of Santa Fe. This visit built upon our previous visit to the Wichita Art Museum to see an exhibit on O’Keeffe’s art and her clothing. Our appreciation for her modernist approach to painting the landscapes of New Mexico while being in the actual area where she lived and worked grew to new levels. Seeing her work, never gets tiring! We plan a return visit to Santa Fe this fall and will visit her private home, Ghost Ranch, which will add to our expanding appreciation for her as an artist.

Restaurant Martin

Now, for dinner!

We did not have reservations for our second night in Santa Fe but were fortunate to discover a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel called ‘Restaurant Martin‘…pronounced “Mar-tan”. And what a fortunate discovery for us! 

Owned and operated by Chef Rios, his accolades include being a three time finalist and seven time semi-finalist over the last 7 years for the prestigious James Beard Award for the “Best Chef of the Southwest”. His list of other accolades are too numerous to include here but I would encourage you to visit the restaurants website for the complete list. If you watch Bobby Flay on the Food Network Channel or read Bon Appetite Magazine, you might already be familiar with his restaurant. 

His wife and business partner, Jennifer Rios, has also been recognized for her business skills in keeping the “boat afloat” as some say.  Again, make sure you get a reservation ahead of time unless you are lucky as we were on a Sunday evening! And definitely try the Pea Soup for a starter. Even split between two people, it was more than enough to convince me to buy the chef’s cookbook (on sale at the restaurant) so we can make it at home! Oh, and the deserts are over the top–creative and delectable. Bon Appetit!

Day 7: Our Return Home

Via Denver!

Our return home will take a couple of days so we plan to make the most of it! 

Our path home will take us along the “old road to Taos” to Taos, New Mexico, and then up Interstate 40 toward Denver. We are staying in the downtown area at the Hilton Denver City Center Hotel which gives us easy access to many options for entertainment…which we were too pooped to take advantage of after driving through some pretty inclement weather.  

We were, however, very close to the best restaurant in Denver–Guard and Grace–which was conveniently just across the street. Since it was rainy and SNOWING, we were very relieved it was so close. And they even carried wine from our new favorite California winery–Walt Wines. A great road-induced stress reliever!!

Guard and Grace had one additional major significance to Lowell and Judy.  Their great-nephew, Peter, is a young line chef at the restaurant and he is learning from the ground up what it takes to operate a class A restaurant. Based on what we saw, he is extremely fortunate to be trained in such a high-end environment.  

Known as a ‘Steakhouse’, it is much more than your classic steakhouse with heavy handed, dark wood and old grizzled waiters. You’ll find it to be a vibrant and hip restaurant with a (somewhat) fast moving and noisy environment.  They served fresh seafood–we had three types of raw oysters–house made pasta and local farm-to-table small plates that are perfect for nibbling while sitting in the bar. (Note: If you don’t have a reservation in the main dining room–like us–you might be lucky to get a seat in the lounge–like we were). 

My advice is: plan ahead and get your reservation in early.  We were lucky but I need to say that sitting in the bar was an enjoyable and memorable experience since the service, wine and food were all excellent from beginning to end–even in the bar!

 

Day 8...Final Thoughts

From Denver, we head out for home and in spite of the rain and snow our spirits are not “dampened”.  We’ve had a great time with our friends traveling through some amazing scenery of the Southwest. We’ve chalked up four more National Parks for our “bucket list” of American travel and enjoyed some magnificent times along the way.  Oh, and for those of you who know us, we didn’t quite get through the two cases of wine that we stowed on board but we did our best!  Just be careful and don’t get pulled over in Utah!! (They purportedly don’t allow you to bring in your own supplies…we’ve heard.)

Road trips can be great fun and memorable and we plan on doing more in the future.  My advice: take advantage of the beautiful National Parks that past stewards of the wilderness have set aside for us to enjoy. If you do, you will see for yourself what an amazing country we have and will hopefully have for generations to come. 

A note of thanks to anyone who has slogged through another epic adventure of ours.  Let me know your comments and about anything that you would like more information on.  

Until next time!

Greg and Shelley 

 

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