Santa Fe Finally!

Today, by about noon, we began to feel better and decided to give Santa Fe a chance to welcome us. It was a tentative start, just drive around a bit to get a feel for the town, then back to the rig. On the way in, alongside the road were a cluster of vendors selling all kinds of tiles, pavers, balled trees, and other building materials–sort of a roadside Home Depot.

Off to the left, in the fine arts department, we discovered Dennis, a sculptor working in wood and, of all things, barbed wire. He bends and welds lengths of barbed wire into some really nice representative forms. He’s also proficient at chainsaw art. A barbed-wire heart made a good souvenir of a pleasant conversation.

Still feeling OK, we headed into the center of Santa Fe and found a lucky parking spot only a couple blocks from the Plaza and began touristing. We happened by the Loretto Chapel, famous for its miraculous spiral staircase, and stopped in (had missed it 40 years ago.)

This chapel, like many of its time (1870s), had a high choir loft accessible only by ladder, which was OK for monks, but nuns needed some other way up and there was no space for a set of stairs. The Sisters, seeking an answer to their architectural design dilemma, made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Legend says on the ninth and final day of a novena, a man showed up at the chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Six months later the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or waiting for a thank you. Some believe that he was St. Joseph himself.

Whoever the carpenter was, the staircase is a wonder. Some of the design considerations are said to still perplex experts today. Built with a few hand tools and without nails (only wood pegs) the staircase has two 360º turns with no central column or other visible means of support – a kind of double helix design–and without handrails. It must have taken an act of faith just to climb its 33 steps. It was not until 1887 – ten years after the staircase was completed – that an artisan named Phillip August Hesch added the railings.

After stepping back out into the bright day with its denim-blue sky, we wandered over to the Plaza, flanked on one side by the Palace of Governors, famous for its museum and many Native American craftspeople who sit under its Portal with their work (mostly silver and turquoise jewelry with some pottery) on blankets at their feet. There are over 900 registered artisans, who obtain one of the 60 available spots by lottery.

One block over, we found The Shed, a wonderful restaurant we’d loved 40 years ago, still family owned, still thriving, and into its third generation. With tummy still tender for Mexican, we decided to come back tomorrow.

Still going strong, well sort of, we strolled in and out of galleries and shops until they closed and the late afternoon sun slanted across the beautiful plaza. A few musicians sat here and there and their guitars or flutes, added to the birdsong in the quiet of the day.

Satisfied and happy that we’d survived and finally had a Santa Fe day, we came home, Bruce collapsed on the bed, and I made a big pot of soup with turkey, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, leeks, onions, zucchini, celery, basil, and parsley. Just what our tired bodies needed! Sprocket especially liked the turkey part.

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