Tag Archive | Santa Fe New Mexico

SW National Parks Trip: Loretto and an Old House

In my last post, we rolled into Santa Fe, checked out the historic downtown and got dinner before settling down for the night.  We got an amazing night’s sleep on our first night at the Hotel Chimayo, and headed out into a cold Santa Fe to find some breakfast and start the day’s sightseeing.  We wandered around for a little while, checking out our options, before deciding on the Plaza Café.  It was super-convenient, because as the name implies, it was right off the main square.  It has been in business since 1905, and has been owned by the same family since 1947!

At the Plaza Café, Jon enjoyed the egg white omelet with a side of fruit, and I had the huevos rancheros (it seems to be a theme with us – he orders the more healthful meal, and I pig out.  He eats more snacks – so it must even out!).  The service was fast and friendly, and our server seemed to know many of the customers that came in.  That says a lot about a restaurant.

We got on our way after breakfast, and our first stop was the Loretto Chapel. The Loretto Chapel was built by the Santa Fe Archdiocese as a convent chapel.  Construction began in 1872.  The architect died suddenly during construction, and it was discovered that due to the narrow design of the church, the choir loft could only be served by a ladder.  The nuns weren’t comfortable with having to climb the ladder up to the choice loft in the long habits they wore, so they prayed for someone who could design and build a staircase that would fit into the space.

The Altar at the Loretto Chapel

The Altar at the Loretto Chapel

As the legend goes, on their ninth day of prayer a mysterious man showed up and announced that he was the man for the job, but that he needed total privacy during construction. He locked himself into the church and wouldn’t allow anyone to watch him work.  Three months later, he finished the staircase, would not accept payment and disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived.  Further inspection showed that the staircase is made from non-native wood, and is completely free flying – it is not connected to any of the walls.  The theory is that the staircase is narrow enough for the center pillar to provide enough support.  The staircase is also made without nails; instead it is completely constructed with wooden dowels.  It does two complete spiral rotations.  The nuns believed that the staircase was a gift from God.

The Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel

The Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel

Although the Loretto Chapel was once a Catholic chapel, it has since been deconsecrated and sold to a private museum, which runs it as a tourist attraction and wedding chapel.  The setting is a little cheesy, as there is an audio loop playing some corny religious music and a voice over explaining the story of the miraculous staircase. That said, admission was only $3 per person, and it was neat to see the staircase. When we were there, it was fairly quiet inside, so I could get some photos without people in them. However, shortly after we arrived, a large group of tourists arrived, so we made a hasty exit through the gigantic gift shop and back out to the street.

A beautiful stained glass window in the Loretto Chapel

A beautiful stained glass window in the Loretto Chapel

You should know that after construction, the staircase was attached to a support beam to help stabilize it, and the railings were added about 10 years after the original construction.  So, it isn’t completely original.  And in case you are absolutely enthralled with the story, there is a TV movie called The Staircase starring Barbara Hershey, that roughly depicts the story.  I haven’t seen the movie, so if you have, be sure to let me know how it is, but don’t tell me how it ends…  Ha!

After the Loretto Chapel, we made our way over to the “Oldest House in the United States.”  The “house” is now a real estate office, but the sign outside indicates that it was built in approximately 1646. A quick search of the internet however, reveals that if this house was built in 1646, it is nowhere near the oldest house in the U.S.  That distinction belongs to the cliff dwellings of the Puebloan people (now abandoned) or the homes of the Taos Pueblo (which are still occupied); they were built between 1,000 and 1,450 C.E.  Or the several homes on the East Coast that are older.

The sign marking the Oldest House in the USA

The sign marking the Oldest House in the USA

This home makes the claim that it is the oldest because it was built on a pre-Spanish foundation thought to date to about 1,200 C.E.  So, it is up to you to decide what really holds the title for “Oldest House in the United States.”  You can go inside and see it, but we just took a look at the outside.  We posed for photos (I even got Jon to pose!) and will just consider it to be the oldest house that we have ever seen in person. Until it’s not.  Unless you are counting homes that are now ruins – then the ruins at Mesa Verde are the oldest homes we have seen in person.  It’s all so complicated…

This humble home was built around 1646

This humble home was built around 1646

Have you ever been to Loretto Chapel or the “Oldest House in the U.S.”?  What did you think?

SW National Parks Trip: Santa Fe Evening

After the C&C, we made our way to downtown Santa Fe, where we would be staying the next two nights.  To be honest, I was pretty excited about having two nights in one place!  Our home away from home was Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe, a locally owned hotel right in the heart of downtown, just around the corner from the main square and the Palace of the Governor’s.  Awesome location!  And a percentage of the proceeds from your stay go to the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association (CCPA), a group dedicated to historical preservation of the nearby community of Chimayo.

Hotel Chimayo Lobby

Hotel Chimayo Lobby

We got checked in just before 5 and were delighted with our room, just off a courtyard with bistro tables and hanging ristras (strings of drying peppers).  Our room was very spacious, with a living room and a bedroom.  The only drawback was that the bathroom was tiny, but the vanity was outside in a little alcove off the bedroom anyway, and how much time do you really spend in the bathroom?

The Courtyard of the Hotel Chimayo

The Courtyard of the Hotel Chimayo

We set our bags down, relaxed for a few minutes, and then set out to see some of the city before the light faded into evening.  The downtown historic area of Santa Fe is quite compact, and easily walkable, so we checked out some of the places that we wanted to visit in the next two days.  I just kept getting more and more excited as we wandered around and peeked in closed shop windows, and saw the historic Pueblo style abode buildings.  This was Santa Fe!

Jon was excited about our dinner; he had picked out the Blue Corn Cafe for our meal that evening.  A friend of his back home had told him that it was really good, so we checked it out.  I was surprised to see it so empty when we arrived, but that became a theme for our whole visit to Santa Fe – apparently late April is still the off season, because it can be so cold (and it was, but we didn’t let that stop us).  The Blue Corn also brews its own beer, so of course we had to try it.

The Blue Corn Cafe

The Blue Corn Cafe

Jon had the Southwest Cobb Salad, with a Roadrunner IPA.  The IPA has a medium body and a long, bitter finish.  It contains 8 hops varieties.  He also enjoyed their Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, made with rolled oats and possessing chocolate and coffee flavors.  Yum!

I had the Atalaya Amber, which is described as a well balanced beer with a hint of citrus, brewed with Cascade and Mt. Hood hops.  Hops from home!  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because Washington state produces over 77% of the United States’ hop crop (say that 3 times fast!).  I paired my beer with the Steak Fajitas.  I liked the fajitas, but I was a teensy bit disappointed.  You see, they were served with green and red peppers and onions, but I don’t like onions.  Normally I just ask if they can substitute the onions for something else.  Mushrooms, carrots, cabbage… I’m not picky.  But apparently the Blue Corn didn’t have anything else they could throw in.  Really?  That seemed surprising.  I ended up getting more peppers.

But still, we were both pleased with our meals and our beer, and we left full and happy.  And I forgot to take a picture before we both devoured our meals.  We walked back to the hotel for a nightcap at the very empty (low season again) hotel bar – an Amaretto Sour for me and a Gin and Tonic for Jon, before heading back to our room to watch TV.  What a great day!