I have to stop going to places they write songs about. I’m always disappointed. Jimmy Buffett painted a marvelous picture of sundrenched life in Key West with his classic Margaritaville, but the reality is that the island at the end of the road is crowded, over-commercialized, and all about separating tourists from the almighty buck.
I grew up listening to Patti Page sing about the sand dunes and salty air in the quaint little villages of Old Cape Cod, but when we visited last summer, all we saw were long lines of bumper to bumper traffic inching past tourist traps the length of the island.
And I’ve stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. I even owned a newspaper there for a while. No matter what the Eagles say, Winslow is the hairy armpit of the world.
So I should have known that the turquoise skies, Indian heart, and Spanish soul of Santa Fe that the Bellamy Brothers sing about exists only in the lyrics of their song named for the old city.
We were looking forward to our trip to Santa Fe yesterday, but were dismayed to find that just like Key West and Cape Cod, the ghosts of ancient Indians, Spanish explorers, fur traders, and cowboys have been pushed aside by profiteers.
Our first stop was a few miles south of town at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum that said on its website they had weaving demonstrations on Fridays. But when we arrived it was closed, and when I called to see when they opened, the lady on the other end of the phone said they were on a short schedule until June 1st (today).
So we drove a few miles into Santa Fe, where we found heavy traffic, construction on every corner, limited parking spaces, and an attitude that if you aren’t there to spend a lot of money in the upscale shops and galleries, please move along.
We wandered around town for a couple of hours, and the most inviting places we found were a nice fiber shop called Miriam’s Well Santa Fe School of Weaving, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, more commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. Built between 1869 and 1886, the cathedral sits on ground occupied by two other churches dating back to 1626.
The cathedral’s interior is beautiful, with ornate columns and wonderful old stained glass windows.
I have always wanted to see the mysterious staircase at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. The story says that back when the chapel was built in the 1870s, the architect omitted a way to access the choir loft. The Sisters of Loretto prayed for help to solve their dilemma and a mysterious stranger arrived and set about building the spiral staircase, and when the job was finished he left, refusing any payment. Supposedly, the staircase is built without any nails and engineers claim it stands without any support, defying the laws of physics.
Today the chapel is privately owned and visitors have to pay to get inside and see the staircase. Though I had made contact before our visit and was told we could come in and take pictures during our visit to town for a story in the Gypsy Journal, the rather rude man on duty when we arrived turned us away and basically told me I was a liar. I guess they don’t want people like us visiting. No problem, there are lots of places in this country that want the kind of publicity we can provide. Besides, according to an article on Snopes.com and other resources I researched, it looks like the staircase is more myth than fact. In those days nails were scarce and lots of things were built with wooden pegs, and several websites say the staircase is supported by an inner stringer. So much for that miracle.
We wandered around the Plaza for a while, checking out the vendors along the sidewalks and the Indians under the covered walkway alongside the Palace of Governors selling high priced but cheaply made jewelry and trinkets.
After a couple of hours I asked Terry if she was having a good time, and she said no, she was more than ready to go. Well, alrighty then, me too. I don’t think we’ll be returning to Santa Fe anytime soon.
Earlier in the day, as we were headed to Santa Fe, we had seen a spiral of smoke in the mountains north of town, and by the time we left it was a massive plume. Terry took a couple of pictures out the back window of our Explorer (the lines are from our rear window defroster) to give you an idea of the size of the wildfire. As it has been for the last few days, the wind was horrendous, no doubt spreading the blaze rapidly. The evening news said that ranches, cabins, and campgrounds in the blaze’s path had been evacuated and it covered over 1,500 acres.
Back in Albuquerque, we stopped at another fiber shop, called Village Wools, where Terry browsed for a while and asked about their weaving classes. We had not eaten all day and by the time we left there, food was our next priority. I checked Yelp and found a neat place called Pizza Castle that didn’t look too impressive from the outside, but served one of the best pizzas we’ve had in a long time.
The wind never let up all evening and it looks like it won’t any time soon. No problem, I plan to spend the weekend working on the new issue of the paper and Miss Terry says she is looking forward to cooking at home for a change instead of having me drag her out to dinner every night. I almost feel sorry for her sometimes.
Thought For The Day – Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it.