Friday, August 3, 2012

Spectacular Santa Fe

We arrived in Santa Fe on Sunday afternoon, July 29, and in short order were set up in Space # 35 in Los Campos de Santa Fe RV Resort. This is the park where we stayed three years ago when we were here. It is small, with a friendly staff and congenial neighbors. It's not unusual for "regulars" to spend several weeks at a time here. The park has a nice area for walking dogs, plus a shady picnic area and pavilion. In addition, the Arroyo De Los Chamisos Trail, a paved biking and walking trail, runs from south of the RV park all the way to the plaza area downtown. 

A real bonus at the RV park this year has been the opportunity to observe up close four lovely juvenile hawks. (We think they are Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii). There are two other hawk species that are similar, but the Cooper's hawk is a year-around resident of this area while the others are not.)

The four must have been hatched nearby, because they are perfectly at home here.  They fly among the RVs at all times of the day, and often perch in trees or on the fences or power lines as close as 20-30 yards from our coach. The preferred prey of the Cooper's Hawk is small birds, and the adults are very agile in pursuing their quarry through trees and bushes. The youngsters, however, are recently fledged and often are anything but agile in making their way through the trees. Here is one of our large feathered friends dining on one of its smaller cousins in a tree adjacent to our rig.

The hawks aren't the only ones who have dined well during our stay. On Monday night we had a rare treat. We went out to dinner with good friends from Plano, Cindy and Sonny (aka Sandy) Sandell and their two grandchildren, Andrew and Sarah. In a stroke of luck, the Sandells were passing through Santa Fe on the way home from a Colorado vacation, so we were able to get together and catch up.  Cindy and I met in second grade, and have been fast friends for (gasp) over 60 years!  In addition, Cindy, Sonny and I all graduated from Hamilton High School together.  

The restaurant we chose, Vanessi, gets a high recommendation. It has a lively piano bar, and the food in the restaurant is very good as well. The pianist even asked Sarah (age 8) to play when he learned she is taking piano lessons. It was a real treat for all of us.

On Wednesday, Santa Fe friends Rob and Donna Pecherer introduced us to another delightful restaurant, Marisco's La Playa. They specialize in seafood with a southwestern flavor, and we enjoyed the margaritas as well as our dinners.  Then on Friday, Rob and Donna invited us to their charming 100-year-old adobe home for dinner.  It just doesn't get much better than this!  Here is Rusty, the resident cat, showing off for our visit.  She is quite a charmer.

Our stay here has been great. As usual, we have made frequent visits to the Frank S. Ortiz Park on the edge of town. On arrival there, we are greeted with the music of jingling dog tags and the ballet of a dozen or more dogs chasing balls or swirling in ever-widening circles of exuberance. The park offers 200 acres of high desert terrain, with many trails winding throughout. It is a fantastic off-leash dog area. Regular visitors to the park provide waste disposal bags and water for the dogs. It's a great asset to people traveling with pets, as well as to Santa Fe residents.

We've done some of the usual tourist things. Since this isn't our first visit to Santa Fe, we have already seen many of the most popular attractions. On our last trip, however, we missed seeing the lovely Loretto Chapel with its amazing spiral staircase. 

There are two mysteries associated with the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel, which is located near the Plaza on the Old Santa Fe Trail. The first is the identity of the builder, and the second is how it was constructed.

As the story goes, when the Chapel was completed in 1878, no one could find a way to access the choir loft from the Chapel except by ladder without interfering with the interior space. Legend says that the Sisters of the Chapel prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, for a solution. After praying for nine days, it is said that a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a box of tools looking for work. Months later, the elegant staircase was completed. One account says that the only tools he used were a saw, a T-square and a hammer. the entire staircase was assembled using wooden pegs rather than nails. However, the carpenter disappeared without a trace before the Sisters could even pay him or thank him for his work. His identity was never learned.

The staircase has two full 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Experts have also said that the wood used in its construction is not native to New Mexico, and where it was obtained.  We were told that when it was originally built, the staircase (and the choir loft) lacked railings and bannisters. Those were added sometime later, but just imagine what the staircase must have looked like at that time, and what a challenge it would have been to climb!

We wrapped up our first week with a visit to the Santa Fe Farmer's Market with our friends Geri and Bob from Granbury, TX.  Here they watch a demonstration chef preparing some amazing chili peppers we all enjoyed sampling. 

The market is held downtown in the Railyard district on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and attracts mobs of Santa Fe residents and visitors alike.  It's a feast for the senses.  Organic produce, beautiful flowers, growing plants, local honey, herbal oils and salves.....the list just goes on and on.  The wide variety of produce comes from the area around Santa Fe, and has been on our table almost every day since our arrival.


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