Happy 400th Birthday, Santa Fe

Image: CC/Swotai/Flickr

Consider this recipe: rich history, distinctive past and present culture, striking landscapes, diverse wining/dining/lodging, heat (dry weather and spicy chili), affordable airfare, art and artisans and much more (OK – no sea, but travel, like life, means a bit of compromise after all!). Little wonder New Mexico and Santa Fe (the royal city of the holy faith) is one of my favorite destinations between America’s two coasts. And this year is its 400th birthday. Worth a detour, anyone?

For a French person and a history buff, it’s hard to beat America’s oldest European settlement and the area around The Five Graces Hotel, which takes you to cobblestone alleys and ancient living. A walk to the 400-year-old Plaza and its surroundings will expand your perspective on America’s robust and distinctive history. Plus the signature handmade pottery and jewelry laid out on blankets there and sold by Native Americans is nicely executed and colorful. A few private guides are available for tours and are highly recommended to show and tell all the little things easy to miss on your own.

Photo courtesy of fivegraces.com

If you go in July or August, a night at the opera is pure magic. I had only been to an outdoor opera at the Roman amphitheater of Orange in Provence, but the New Mexico sky and the Opera House setting make opera here a world-class experience. An amusing sidelight to me was running into so many acquaintances from New York enjoying their summer visit to their second homes. This operatic season will start with Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The full details are at SantaFeOpera.com

CC/Flickr/Johns Never Home

Visiting a few private houses/adobes provides exposure to local art – some bad and some good and some very good – especially sculptures and oil landscapes that depict the culture and history of the area. Of course, Santa Fe boasts art galleries galore. And then there’s Georgia O’ Keeffe’s art, some of it now on view at the museum that bears her name. She managed to grasp it all, whether in her flowers or sky landscapes. One simply can’t stay insensitive to her expression of New Mexico beauty and uniqueness.

For a special stay, the top place in town is the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, not only for its prime location but for the comfort and serenity of the rooms, the wonderful Southwestern meals

Courtesy of the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

offered in the cozy dining room and the exceptional service. There are plenty of other fine lodging choices, including B&Bs and home rentals that can be a good deal for families.

As for restaurants, the choice is awesome with plenty of inexpensive fares around the Plaza area and a few classic establishments not to be missed – from the casual and cozy Santacafé to the classic American Southwestern fare of La Casa Sena (and its superb wine list) to the New American bistro cuisine with chilioffered at the Coyote Café. At the high end, a meal at Geronimo or at the Compound is bound to impress you gastronomically. And if romance is on your list, head to Amavi and its Mediterranean fare. For my recent restaurant review roundup see, click here.

Should your stay allow for a little exploration, a drive toward Taos will

Taos Mountains © Shutterstock

transport you to the high desert landscape, miles of scenery without cars or people, gorgeous golf clubs and the most dazzling landscapes. Five hundred words cannot do justice to this gem, but is sufficient to wish it a happy birthday.

Editor’s Note: Mireille Guiliano is the internationally bestselling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. Her latest book isThe French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Born in France, she now divides her time between New York City, Paris and Provence. She can be reached at mireilleguiliano.comand frenchwomendontgetfat.com.

For more information on where to stay and what to do in Santa Fe visit uptake.com

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