Day 4: October 2, 2015--Santa Fe, NM

Don't miss today's Gallery!

Click the map to enlarge. It's a little roughly assembled, as I scanned
it in sections. Numbers are referred to in the text and Gallery.
(Click to enlarge, then click again to enhuge)
What a day! Wandering on foot (mostly) through one of my favorite places on the planet, with the person I love the most. What could be better?

We left our room before 10 in the morning (according to the time stamp on a photo I took near the motel) and waited quite a while for the bus to take us just a mile to the Plaza. In retrospect, we should have walked.

Very appropriate mural between our hotel and the station where we arrived last night
(and would depart early the next morning). Surprise art is everywhere in Santa Fe.

A Bus Tour (and Lunch)

But if we had walked, we would have missed a Golden Opportunity, one of those serendipitous* things that happens when you travel. As we walked from the bus towards the Plaza, we happened on a reasonably-priced tour (Map 1)--$15.00 for an hour-and-a-quarter, eight-mile ride ("Fully narrated!"). It was leaving at 11--in just a few minutes--for far-flung parts of the city, places I knew well but could not have shown Lila without a car.

(*Do you know the origin of the word "serendipity"? It's quite appropriate for travelers. Wikipedia says, "The term was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had... by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were 'always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.'" Serendip, by the way, was an old name for what is now Sri Lanka.)

Ours was (sadly) the enclosed vehicle on the left, as the one in front was full when we boarded.

Aside from a number of sights we would later see around the Plaza, highlights of the tour included the art studios along Canyon Road; the exteriors of some world-class anthropological institutions on "Museum Hill"; and the magnificent Cristo Rey Church designed by John Gaw Meem in 1939. (Too bad we couldn't get out to see the stunning stone reredos inside that languished in storage from the time the Cathedral was built in 1888 until Meem built his church around it.) See the Gallery for pictures of some of the delights we did see.

Once we were back on the Plaza and out of the van, lunch was the first order of business. The Blue Corn Cafe (Map 2) is in the block of buildings standing to the southwest of the Plaza. Regarding her order, Lila wrote on Facebook, " I don't have words to describe what the veggie stuffed sopaipilla is doing to my sense of taste." (And no, there's no picture in the Gallery.)

Then our trek around the plaza started in earnest. Having stuffed ourselves, we more than walked it off. Again, the Gallery is the best way to follow us; here's a little background and some anecdotes.

La Fonda and St. Francis Cathedral

Heading toward the Cathedral, we first ducked into the opulent La Fonda Hotel (Map 3), located on a site that has hosted some sort of hostelry or other since 1609. The spot marked the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri, but the current building (in Pueblo Revival style, the same movement that gave us Meem's Cristo Rey) dates to 1920. Imagine what those walls have seen! Today they house tons of art, including the "D. H. Lawrence Forbidden Art Collection."

Then, on to the Cathedral (Map 4). Properly the "Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi," it actually stands one block east of the Plaza, but can easily be seen from San Francisco Street running along the Plaza's south side (past La Fonda on the southeast corner). I've plenty more to say in the captions in the Gallery, but let me say here that the Cathedral is all the more dear to me for my love of Willa Cather's masterpiece, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

Archbishop Lamy's stunning European-style cathedral sometimes jangles in a town of rounded adobe.

That fictional archbishop, Jean Marie Latour, is based on the historical Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the Frenchman who built this Romanesque Revival church in an otherwise adobe sort of town. Read the book; it's a tour de force that blends local folklore with high literature.

By the way, I mentioned yesterday that I would tell you about the name of the town of Lamy, where the railroad's main line branches off toward Santa Fe. Well, Lamy (the town) lies within an 18th century Spanish land grant given to "Bishop John [sic] Lamy" where much of the stone for the Cathedral was quarried. We would pass through Lamy as the sun was setting the next day.

Loretto Chapel

We encountered Archbishop Lamy again at Loretto Chapel (Map 5), just around the corner from the Cathedral (and behind La Fonda) on Old Santa Fe Trail. This gorgeous little gem of a church was built for the Sisters of Loretto, seven of whom came from France in 1852 in response to a call from Lamy. They had traveled down the Santa Fe Trail (the one that ended at La Fonda) with the Mother Superior dying of cholera along the way. Another nun returned to Kentucky due to illness.

Nevertheless, they opened a school in 1853, and the Chapel was completed in 1878. Today it is not an active church, but is rented for weddings and other solemn events. The former Academy is now the site of the swanky Inn at Loretto. But the best-known element of the Loretto Chapel is its "miraculous staircase."

Here's the story as I heard it. When the chapel was built, access to the choir loft was to be by ladder, as is typical for pueblo-style churches. But this was not appropriate for a girls' school chapel run by nuns. There was no room for a stairway inside, and one on the outside would mar the beauty of the exterior. So the Sisters said a novena to Saint Joseph (a carpenter) for a miracle.

One day in 1877 an old man appeared, and built a staircase that seems to defy the law of physics: It has a double-turn, and no central pole. There is no glue or nails in its construction. All that was holding it up was--God?

And to add to the mystery, the wood does not seem to come from any local source!

The old man asked for no pay, and when asked his name, answered simply, "Soy el carpentero"--I am the Carpenter. The Sisters believed it was Saint Joseph the Carpenter himself.

Beautiful as it was, the Sisters and the girls used it with fear, as there was no stair rail. (It's said they used to descend on hands and knees. There's a picture!) A rail was added ten years after construction, and a strut was added connecting the staircase to a nearby pillar--just in case. It seems the staircase worked sort of like a spring until the strut was added.

Never mind that nail-free joinery was a standard carpentry technique; that the wood has been identified as spruce; or that at least one investigator has identified a potential builder. It's a miracle, by golly, and that is that!

But it truly is gorgeous. See the Gallery for a picture.

The Inn at Loretto, built in the style of an Indian pueblo, has
stood on the site of the former Loretto Academy since 1971.

San Miguel Church and the Oldest House

Further south on Old Santa Fe Trail is San Miguel Church (Map 6); right next door is the "Oldest House in the USA." San Miguel isn't Romanesque, or Gothic, or whatnot. It's simple--as befits its claim as "The Oldest Church Structure" (though not necessarily the first congregation to be established) in what is now the United States. It was first built in 1610, and heavily rebuilt in 1710. See the Gallery for some of its interior features.

Next door is the De Vargas Street House (Map 7), which claims to be America's oldest house, though certainly some of the pueblo buildings must predate its alleged 1646 founding. Anyway, it's lovely to walk through, very atmospheric. One can easily imagine strolling out the door and across the street to mass--several hundred years ago.

UPDATE: Incidentally, we picked up a small piece of paper that told a great ghost story about the "Oldest House." Planning to reproduce the story here, I discovered it originated with an online writer. So instead of stealing his stuff (as has so often happened to me in China), I'll instead offer this link to his article, which--in addition to the ghost story--includes lots of other interesting background on the Oldest House.

Leaving there, we took a leisurely walk through the nearby neighborhood, angling toward the State Capital. But before we got there I tripped on nothing in particular.

The Statehouse, the Santuario de Guadalupe, and Merienda

By that time--nearly 4 PM--I was dragging my feet, I guess, and my toe caught a small, invisible protuberance in the asphalt. Usually I'd catch myself, but this time I kind of groggily stumbled forward--Lila behind me going "Ooooh! OOOHHH!" with a rising intonation like somebody getting ready to sneeze--then SLAM! down I went, cradling my camera to protect it. The camera was fine, I had a little asphalt in my palms, and nothing was hurt--except, as I told the passersby who called out to ask if I was alright--my dignity.

Here you can see that the Roundhouse really is--well--round.

So, the State Capital (Map 8). It's the only round one in the US, so it's cleverly called "The Roundhouse." The main attraction for me is the delightful bronze statues of Native Americans and pioneer kids around it. It was looking a little stormy, so the light wasn't so great, but we took a few shots nevertheless, then limped along (well, I did, anyway) to our next attraction--Lila dropping her new-ish phone and cracking the screen as we went. (My body recovered faster than her screen; after a few more dings it finally failed in 2017 and she had to replace the phone.)

Our next destination, sadly, was closed. We walked up Don Gaspar (next to the Capital) and then west on Alameda to the Santuario de Guadalupe (Map 9). Like the Loretto Chapel, it is no longer an active place of worship, but has been given over to arts and culture. I wish we had been able to get inside.

A 12-foot bronze of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands outside the Santuario.

After looking around we headed up Guadalupe Street toward the Plaza, when all of a sudden the sky opened and we were nearly deluged--until quick thinking sent us into a nearby restaurant, the Casa de Chimayo (Map 10) for what the Filipinos call "merienda," an afternoon snack. Though the date was only October 2, the place was already gearing up for "Day of the Dead" celebrations a month later, and we got to check out the very artistic decorations.

The Plaza Museums

On, then, to the Plaza. It was too late to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, but we had a decent consolation prize: it just happened to be the first Friday of the month, when the Plaza museums were open late--and for free. The "free" part was good; the "open late part" was a mixed blessing, as we were exhausted. Nevertheless we soldiered on through three (count 'em! three!) museums: the New Mexico Museum of Art (Map 11), the Palace of the Governors (Map 12), and the connected New Mexico History Museum (Map 13).

Rather than bore you with a lot of details here, I'll just send you to the Gallery (so I can bore you there), except I will mention that all three buildings are worth looking at even from the outside, and the Palace of the Governors is especially interesting, having been a government seat from 1610, and the building in which then-Territorial Governor Lew Wallace wrote the final parts of Ben-Hur in the late 1870s.

At last, then, a bus back to the area of the Motel 6, dinner (as I recall, we ordered something from an in-room delivery menu?) and early to bed, for another very early wake-up time.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

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