Santa Fe is a cute town about an hour's drive north of Albuquerque, which is not cute at all, but a sprawling city. We've been to Santa Fe before and had fond memories of attractive lanes lined with stucco buildings and southwestern art for sale. We explored Albuquerque rather thoroughly when we spent lots of time here during the Hot Air Balloon Festival, so we spent our free day today in Santa Fe. The city's high altitude (about 6,000) feet makes it a temperate spot to visit, especially when temperatures in Albuquerque are in the 90's.
Our first stop was Mission San Miguel, built in 1610 and one of the oldest buildings in the United States still in use. The Spanish missionaries relied greatly on the local indians and their building techniques to get this church erected. They chose the site because they observed that the locals already regarded this area as a holy place. San Miguel Mission can seat about 250 people in the pews that are there today. In earlier days the mission didn’t have any pews and the people attending services stood inside the building or would kneel on the church floor. It cost a big $1 to go inside and the ticket salesman enthusiastically shared stories of all the ghosts visitors have seen there over the years. While we didn't see a ghost, we enjoyed the native style religious decorations over the altar and on the side walls.
Then we strolled up Canyon Road, almost a mile of art galleries and restaurants. The galleries are in small adobe buildings and are decorated inside and out with a unique southwestern approach. The art for sale here is gorgeous and mighty pricey. It appeared that the galleries are still doing all right, despite the current decline in our economy. Much of the art was southwestern as one would expect, but some baskets I especially admired came from Panama. They did look like they could have been made locally.
Those who know us well would be surprised to hear that we actually spent some time in the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Although O'Keeffe is from the midwest and spent many years in New York City where her husband Alfred Stieglitz had his photography studio, she is known today as an artist whose most important work features the countryside of New Mexico. She bought a rural home north of Santa Fe where she spent summers while she was married and lived full time once she became a widow. She had a long and productive life, dying at her New Mexico ranch at the age of 98. Although Stieglitz gave her career a boost when she was a young artist, the fact that her work remained popular and well received throughout her long life is an amazing accomplishment, especially for a female artist.
We had lunch on the Palace Square, sided by the Palace of Governors, also built in 1610. It was the seat of government for the Spanish, Pueblo Indians, Mexicans and US territorial rule until 1909. The porch out front is a gathering place for Indian artisans today. They managed to get a few dollars out of us, just as they did the last time we were here. Santa Fe has done such a good job of treasuring its historic buildings and requiring new construction to fit in. It truly is a special place.