As we suspected, and as is typical, we were up way too early. Mireille woke up around 7:00 the first time, Quinton followed about 7:30. While Mireille was able to fall back to sleep for a bit, Quinton was screaming for food by 8:00, so we were up! We left Ethan to sleep while the rest of us went down to one of the dozen or so restaurants the hotel had to offer for a nice buffet breakfast. It was at breakfast that I learned that New Mexico is the only state in the union that has a “state question.” That question is, perhaps predictably, “red or green.” They are referring, of course, to what color alien they keep at Area 51! OK, they don’t mean that - it refers to chili peppers, where New Mexico is the “world leader,” whatever that means. At breakfast and restaurants it means that you basically get chili with anything you order, and you can order red or greeen chili to your liking. I typically choose green since I am now a Denver native, and that’s what us quirky Denver natives like.
After breakfast, we went back to the room for showers and to get ready for the day. By 10:30 we were out the door, but not before we took a few pictures outside of our second story room, which happened to be at ground level, mysteriously! It looked like it was going to be absolutely beautiful. The sky was blue, there was very little wind, and it was cool, but not cold, in the mid-50s.
We travled the 15 miles south on 285 until we got to Guadalupe street where we headed east towards “downtown” Santa Fe. I put downtown in quotes because Santa Fe is not what you would consider a big city. At around 85,000 residents, it is in fact smaller than our home town of Aurora, CO. What is also interesting about Santa Fe is that it is the oldest inhabited state capital in the United States, having been inhabited by Native Americans since the mid 11th century, then “cohabitated” by the Spanish in the 1600’s.
After parking the car on Alameda Drive, the first stop on our walking tour was the Loretto Chapel, a famous little church on the outskirts of the Plaza, which serves as the focal point of all things in Santa Fe. The Loretto Chapel is a tiny church which is famous for its spiral staircase. And it didn’t disappoint. Sure enough, after paying our entry fee, there was indeed a spiral staircase! Not only that, it was a very cool little church to boot.
While observing the wonder that was the staircase, I had the opportunity to listen to the recorded story of the stairs being played on speakers in the back of the church. From what I can remember, when the church was first built, there was no need to have a staircase to the choir loft, since mostly men were in the choir, and the men could just climb ladders to get into the loft. Towards the mid 1800’s, however, the chapel’s inhabitants changed to nuns. Since nuns don’t wear pants, and presumably can’t have people peeking up their habits, they could not climb the ladders to get the the choir loft, and the church was so small that a traditional staircase was not practical or possible, so they were stuck. To solve their problem, they decided to say a Novena to St. Joseph, patron saint of Carpenters (I didn’t fact check that, and I’m doing this from memory, so it could have been a different saint) to pray for guidance. On the ninth and final day of the novena, a mysterious carpenter showed up at the chapel. He immediately began working on the stair case and didn’t cease work for 6 months (I presume he slept and ate, but that wasn’t part of the story), using only a saw, a carpenter’s square, and a bucket of water which he used to help shape the steps. After six months, he completed the stairs and disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared, having not asked for any compensation for time or materials, and the nuns now had access to the choir loft at long last!
Years later, either the nuns or the city historical society commissioned another carpenter (this time paid, I believe) to add balusters and railings to the stairs to cut down on falls and injuries. The stairs were pretty cool, honestly, and if I’m to believe the recording, they are structurally remarkable in that they have no center support nor any side supports, relying only on the detailed perfection of the assembly and construction to stand, which is quite frankly pretty impressive.
Of course, the kids were thrilled to be at this church, much like I’m sure I was when my parents took me to similar sights in my youth, so we moved on pretty quickly, exiting, as you might expect, through the gift shop.
We walked around the Plaza for the next hour or so, stopping by to look at Native American art that was on sale at the various road-side kiosks. Santa Fe has a particularly artistic gentry, and the town itself “feels” very artsy. None of the buildings were higher than five stories, most were built with the Santa Fe aesthetic/pueblo/adobe style, and the people themselves were equally interesting and engaging. We were most amused and amazed at the one guy we saw who was walking in the opposite direction as we were with a cat standing on his shoulder.
After seeing the guy with the cat on his shoulder, and finding some cat-themed art in town, Mireille decided that she now wanted a pet cat. I told her we couldn’t have one because Ethan and I were allergic to cats. She thought about it for a minute and said, “so you will sneeze if you see a cat?” I’m always amazed at the things that she picks up. I don’t remember ever talking about allergies with her, but clearly she picked up details from somewhere and was able to fold it into her greater knowledge.
We were also able to visit the Cathedral of St. Francis (San Francisco) on our jaunt around The Plaza, which was quite impressive itself. There definitely seems to be a large focus on religion, particularly Catholicism in Santa Fe - more on that in a bit. the Cathedral was quite beautiful, but Jenny and I were both struck at how much Native American folklore and images were included with all of the typical European statues and images in and around the churches. On the one hand, it was refreshing to get some real local flair along with what is usually just a bunch of white men plus Mary. On the other hand, we had to wonder how willing these natives were to convert to “The Church” at the time. Sometimes I wish I read less…
Given the early start, the lack of sleep, and the general disinterest by our children in our morning activities, we decided to go back to the hotel for a little nap and some swimming after lunch. The hotel had a nice indoor pool which we enjoyed for around 45 minutes, after which we laid down and read for a little bit - Jenny and I spent our time on the patio doing some reading, which lasted a blessed 10 minutes or so before we were being pushed to “do something else.”
Pilgrimage to Santuario de Chimayó
On our first trip to and from Santa Fe, we encountered some things that just didn’t seem like they belonged. There were a number of signs up along what was essentially a freeway that had the “walker” person on them indicating that you may see pedestrians on this road. That’s strange in and of itself, but in Colorado, bikers are able to use the freeway, so not completely out of the ordinary. Then we started actually seeing people walk along the side of the road. Not hoards of people, but a large number of small groups of people.
During our afternoon siesta, Jenny came across a story in one of the tourist brochures that talked about the Pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayó. So, it turns out that every year during Holy Week, people make a pilgrimage to this Holy Land near Chimayó, a small town about 30 miles north of Santa Fe. It is said that the ground around this area has healing powers, so people over the years would go there to get some of that healing dirt! Over time, they built a chapel on the site of the holy dirt, and people continued to do a Pilgrimage to the site on Good Friday, sometimes walking there from as far away as Albuquerque, which is about 90 miles from Chimayó.
Since we are here during Holy Week, we decided we had to go and check it out. It also helped that being in the car and traveling made our two youngers take a much needed nappy.
It took almost 30 minutes to get to Chimayó from our hotel, during which time Quinton and Mireille napped. We encountered probably around 100 people walking on the way. We’ve read that as many as 40,000 make the pilgrimage on Good Friday (which is tomorrow), some of whom carry a cross with them to the site. Along the way, porta-potties and aid stations were setup to assist the walkers on their journeys. It was striking to us that many, if not most of the walkers seemed like this would be a grueling affair for them. They weren’t super in-shape people. Many of them looked like they even had difficulties walking, and most of them were walking a minimum of 15 miles to get to the shrine, probably most of them were walking the full 30 or more!
Since Quinton was sleeping, I waited in the car while Jenny, Ethan, and Mireille checked out the shrine. To pass the time, I was going to do some map study on my phone, but lo and behold, miracle of miracles, the cellular signals of the area were inoperable! Praise Jesus!!!
When the returned, I took my turn touring the grounds. It was a pretty impressive setup. Only a couple of gift shops… I stopped by in the chapel where some men were doing some chants. I couldn’t tell what language they were chanting in, but it was definitely not English.
In all seriousness, it was a pretty interesting and perhaps even inspiring site. In these days of church scandals and doubt, this seemed a “pure” expression of faith for these people, and I was even a little proud of my religious association with these people, even if I did think they were just a little crazy!
After our trip to Chimayó, we headed back down to the Plaza where we had dinner at Del Charro Saloon. The food was wonderful, but it was almost as much fun to listen to the locals getting slowly sloshed at the bar, each buying the next round and just having a good time.
By 5:00 we were walking about again. Since I have a problem, we have to visit a brewery in each town we go to. Today we visited Santa Fe Brewing Company near the New Mexico State Capital. I’m pretty sure it’s just a tasting room, since there is no way they could brew beer in quantity in that tiny brick house. To be truthful, it was difficult to find the place because it just looks like a house in a neighborhood, and a small house at that! Nonetheless, the beer was good and the atmosphere was even better. We spent about an hour there trying the local faire and playing Uno - Jenny (who cheats) won once, Ethan (who is a bigger cheater than Jenny) won the second game, and Quinton (the biggest cheater of all) won the third, leaving poor Mireille and I the sole losers of the evening! Heartless turds!
We turned in after that, heading back to the hotel and into jammies by 7:00. Jenny and I checked out the casino (still not impressed) and had a little drink in one of the hotel bars, but other than that, it’s time to turn in for the night and rest up for what will hopefully be a fun-filled second full day of Spring Break tomorrow!