travel guide: santa fe

Here is the thing you need to know about Santa Fe: It is very empty and filled with old people. That's not a bad thing, but definitely sets the tone if you are under the age of...oh, 65. My mom and I spent three days eating tacos and looking at rocks, and it was a straight up good time.

New Mexico is one of those places that you always want to go, but can never find a concrete reason to visit (unless you're hunting aliens. or fake turquoise jewelry.). That is, until my mom realized I had three spare days at the end of the summer, and Southwest was having a sale. Just like that, we were booked and on the way to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I'll admit that I did very little of my usual research and itinerary planning - basically I did a cursory google search and watched the "New Mexico" episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations (rip).

What We Did:
1. Rented a car - this is an absolute necessity, especially if you plan on going to Santa Fe or the surrounding areas. It's about an hour drive from ABQ to Santa Fe, and 2 hours north to Taos. It also made it easier for us to get around town! If you want to see stunning sunsets

2. Went to the Santa Fe Square - this is the core of Santa Fe's cultural scene, and has a pretty central square as well as plenty of little galleries and shops to poke around. Honestly not hugely interesting to me, but I don't think I'm the target audience. A big draw is the historical Cathedral, which you can enter during their opening hours.

3. Ate a ton of tacos - my mom and I decided to eat at a new taco truck every day, and I was never disappointed. Make sure to try all the varieties of chile salsa.

4. Drove the Turquoise Trail to Taos - this is a freeway that winds north of Santa Fe, it's the long route to Taos but takes you through some sweeping views and clusters of art galleries.

5. Visited Santuario di Chimayo - this is a sacred space, a pilgrimage site and a Roman Catholic Church. It's an interesting experience, but I would definitely smudge myself and roll in some crystals afterwords, because there is some tough energy.

6. Got Sized for a custom hat - it takes 10 months and anywhere from $500-$1000 to make a custom beaver hair hat at the O'Farrell Hat Company! They use this nifty torture device to map the exact shape of your head so your hat fits comfortably and doesn't cut off blood supply.

7. Bought some nice rocks - there was a stand off the square in Santa Fe where a woman had baskets and baskets of  ~healing crystals~ and while I don't think they'll necessarily cure everything that's wrong with me (what could) they are nice to roll around in my hands.

8. Visited the Kuana Pueblo (and took a tour) This is a recreated pueblo built on top of the reconstruction of a traditional pueblo village, and it features a kiva (which is a spiritual building used to ceremonies) that you can enter as part of the tour. Shoutout to our tour guide Paul O, with whom I had a fascinating conversation about the weapons the Spanish rode in with when they ruined everyone's lives.

9. Walked around Albuquerque's town square - honestly, I liked this square a LOT more than the one in Santa Fe. Parking was easier, shops were more lowkey, and it generally had more of a ~small town feel~. I met a couple who had eloped that morning and ended up shooting their wedding portraits, which was a fun little surprise. Even if you're not religious, check out the Roman Catholic church to the right of the square, and GO IN THE GIFT SHOP. Lots of nifty little things.

What We Ate:

1. El Pinto 6/10  but 9/10 if you like formal dining 
This place came highly recommended by everyone, and if you like to eat at ~a real restaurant~, this is a good option. Not really my vibe food-wise, but very pretty.

2. Little Bear Coffee Co. 7/10 for the matcha, 10/10 for vibes. 
A very cute hipster shop with good stickers.

3. El Querentano 10/10 and off the chain for aesthetic
This was my FAVORITE place that we ate the entire trip - the asada tacos were incredible (and I don't like asada). I strongly recommend snagging a cold coke to go with whatever you order. Bonus points: they're open late.

4. El Chile Toreado - 9/10, but my mom's favorite (she's the most recent yelp review) 
These tacos were also really good - but I'm taking a point off because they close at 3pm, which is very strange. My mom recommends the barbacoa and the green sauce.

5. Five & Dime - 2/10 for taste, 10/10 for anthony bourdain tribute
The frito pie was...disgusting. Truly. But $5 is worth paying homage to one of my favorite celebrities of all time.

6. Humble Coffee Co. - 10/10 for design + nice barista, 8/10 for cold brew so strong it made me ill
That's pretty much it, but the interiors on this place are crazy.

Things to remember:

1. You need a car, it's not a "walkable" place.
2. Most of the shops in Santa Fe town square close at 5, and after that, it's practically empty.
3. The art galleries and shops in Santa Fe are set up for people with a LOT of money, so if you're not looking to spend as much on souveniers, Albuquerque is a better bet.
4. Many historic and religious sites in New Mexico are open to visitors, but they are sacred spaces and should be treated with respect - even if it doesn't align with your beliefs. (@ every old person I heard trying to dissect native american culture)
5. Be very shrewd about what you're purchasing and where it was sourced - claims of "made by a native artist" can raise a price quite a bit, which would be totally find if the piece in question wasn't made in China.
6. Don't actually eat the whole frito pie.

Honestly though, massive disappointment that I didn't see a SINGLE alien the ENTIRE time. 

x Justina 

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