Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sightseeing In Santa Fe

The Palace of the Governors

Work on a Habitat for Humanity build brought Tim and I to Santa Fe, NM; sightseeing in the city was a side benefit.

Our sightseeing centered on the Plaza where the famed 19th-century Santa Fe Trail terminated.  Being from Kansas, I've seen the ruts left in the prairie by the wagon trains as they traveled the trail.  But, standing on the Plaza where the Trail ended, I could picture the excited townspeople who greeted the wagons' arrival and the eager hands that reached to unload the goods.  It made that piece of history come alive for me.

Last Sunday afternoon we rode our bikes five miles to the Plaza on a modern day urban trail, the Arroyo Chamisos Trail, which runs right behind the Rodeo de Santa Fe fairgrounds where we and the rest of our Habitat team of Care-A-Vanners were parked.  

Arroyo Chamisos Trail

The Arroyo Chamisos doesn't go all the way downtown; instead, it intersects with the Santa Fe Rail-Trail which follows the old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe rail line.  Taking that turn will bring you to the railroad station just blocks away from the Plaza.  Both trails are paved with asphalt, making it an easy ride.  When we arrived at the Plaza, there were no bike racks in sight so we did as the natives did and chained our bikes to a streetlight.

Lowrider Car Show

Parking at the Plaza is always at a premium, but even more so when there are special events and fiestas.  We happened to chose the Sunday of the Lowrider Car Show when 100+ cars paraded from Fort Mercy to the Plaza.  The springs in these cars are shortened so the chassis rides low to the ground.  Who knew that such cars were so popular in New Mexico?  We enjoyed viewing them and found it even more exciting when a demonstration of passengers car hopping from one to another began.

The Palace of the Governors
Under the portico of the Palace of the Governors, Native Americans artists rolled out blankets and covered them with beautiful jewelry for sale.  Regulated by the city to ensure the highest quality and authenticity, these vendors are there every day, even in summer's heat and winter's cold.  I admired their work but I didn't buy any.  I wasn't sure the stunning pieces I saw would go well with my wardrobe of T-shirts and jeans.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Easily seen from the Plaza, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi sits majestically at the end of San Francisco Street.  Constructed from 1869 to 1886, it is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  

Interior of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Inside, the stained glass windows, including its rose window, bathe the sanctuary in colored sunbeams.  If you've read the book, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, then you know its setting is this cathedral.

Loretto Chapel

Just down the street from the Basilica is Loretto Chapel where a mysterious carpenter built the Miraculous Stairway, a spiral staircase that seems to have no visible center support.  Realizing that a staircase was needed to reach the choir loft, the Loretto Sisters prayed for nine straight days that St. Joseph would intercede for them.  The next day, a shabby-looking man appeared at their door and said he could build the stairway if he had total privacy.  So he locked himself inside the chapel for three months until the stairway was completed.  The nuns believed the carpenter was St. Joseph himself.  Do you believe in miracles?  This might just be one!

San Miguel Mission

The oldest church in United States is the San Miguel Mission, built from approximately 1610 to 1626.  It's located a block away from the Loretto Chapel.  Mass is held there each Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m.  We wanted to attend but we were dressed in our biking shorts which I felt was not appropriate for the occasion.  We'd hoped to return the following Sunday, but knowing that we also wanted to visit Bandelier National Monument, we decided to save that for our next trip to Santa Fe.

Tim and I with Pat and her husband Mike

Our calendar was filled with social hours and dinners the rest of the week, including a dinner with my college roommate, Pat whom I hadn't seen in ages.  We ditched our husbands and caught one another up on our life stories over a glass of wine and dinner.  Yay!  Girls' night out!

The Palace of the Governors

Friday evening we found ourselves with nothing scheduled.  Luckily for us, that coincided with free evening admissions to the New Mexico History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art.  Sue and Don, fellow Care-A-Vanners, joined us.  Sue and I discovered we have something in common; we both majored in history when we were in college.  Dragging our husbands along, we made the New Mexico History Museum our first stop.

The New Mexico History Museum

The New Mexico History Museum begins in the Palace of the Governors and continues in an adjacent building.  All the exhibits were interesting to me, but the one I especially enjoyed was the information about the Fred Harvey Company. 

Upper left: Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey, an impoverished English immigrant who first found work washing dishes in New York City, formed a family business that built a string of Harvey Houses at major stops of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad throughout the Southwest.  There Harvey Girls served food to weary travelers.  American humorist Will Rogers once observed that "Fred Harvey kept the West in food--and wives."  Looking at the sterling silver tea service and the Harvey Girl uniform, I couldn't help but think of MGM's The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland.  I love old movies almost as much as I love history!

The New Mexico Museum of Art

Just across the street from the Palace of the Governors is the New Mexico Museum of Art.  Its permanent collection focuses on regional artists, but a current exhibit called Con CariƱo: Artists Inspired by Lowriders delighted me.  Taking an abandoned car and turning it into a one-of-a-kind sculpture on wheels was an aspect that I did not fully take in when we experienced the car show on the Plaza the previous Sunday.  But seeing the paintings, photographs and even furniture artistically replicating the driver's seat gave me a greater appreciation for the cars and the artists who celebrate Lowriders in their works.

Cross of the Martyrs

To complete our Friday evening tour, the four of us hiked up the hill to Fort Mercy Park where the Cross of the Martyrs stands.  The cross commemorates the 21 Franciscan Friars killed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, a mass insurrection by the native people against the Spanish.  Overlooking the city as the cross does, it was the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset, a view that reminded me of Psalm 113:3,  "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised."

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