When I first moved up to San Francisco and away from my few close girlfriends, I started writing them each these super long and detailed emails as my way of expressing how desperately I wanted to stay close with them and remain in their minds as often and as much as they make appearances in my own thoughts. I still write these emails, but it has been a busy time recently. Sometimes when you’re busy rocking one part of your life, you might let others slide a little.
Luckily, way back when the email correspondence first started, my friend Chiara suggested that the best way to stay close with your girl friends when you live apart is to meet in new locations and have girls’ trips. I love to travel and have never traveled just me and a friend, so I immediately grasped on to this idea.
This past weekend, Chiara and I met up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we ate green chili EVERYTHING and fell in love with Aspens. It was an unforgettable weekend and experience and it allowed for the most amazing closeness with such a dear friend.
We flew into Albuquerque because direct flights into Santa Fe are stupid expensive and Albuquerque is only about an hour’s drive. Besides that, having a car in Santa Fe is great if you plan on leaving the town, which we did. However, if you aren’t, it should be noted that the entirety of Santa Fe is totally walkable, and at this time of year, all you want to be doing is walking around outside. The air is crisp; it just smells different; like mountain air because, guess what?, you are actually super high up in the mountains. For some reason, we both thought it would feel more like a low desert a la Palm Springs.
Chiara takes the wheel in Albuquerque.
On the road-already quite pretty.
Thanks to Travelzoo, we were able to stay at the most incredible hotel, The Inn and Spa at Loretto. Basically, celebrities, wealthy old people, and us. The hotel was, in fact, so luxurious and wonderful that we made it a point to spend as much time there as possible while still, ya know, seeing what Santa Fe has to offer. The Inn and Spa at Loretto is, in my opinion, the most gorgeous place in the city.
The inside of the hotel was so tasteful. It was very stylized in that Santa Fe style, but it did not cross the line into tacky, which Chiara and I both really appreciated. It felt expensive and special.
Our bear friend!
Santa Fe truly glows at night. Our hotel was no exception.
The night we got in we enjoyed cocktails in the hotel lounge with a fire roaring. Chiara had a green chile cocktail that was delish, thus kicking off our Green Chile Tour 2015. The the tour continued at Coyote Cafe.
Green chile cocktail
Chiara wanted to go there because she has had the Coyote Cafe cookbook in her house all her life. It is also the first place everyone asks about when you mention you are headed to Santa Fe. “Are you going to Coyote Cafe?”
I think we screwed up slightly by not ordering the elk that every Yelper raves about. I tend not to take Yelp very seriously, but in this case, I actually think that would have been the right move. Meat is the speciality of the house at Coyote Cafe, but we were both feeling like a huge plate of red meat was going to be a bit much for us, so we opted for lighter fare. Our meal was great and we were so thrilled to be there, but if you make it out to Coyote Cafe, please order the elk and let me know what I missed.
First of all, I should mention now that traveling with Chiara is a true delight. She acted as our own personal travel agent. She literally arrived with a folder with all of our confirmations, directions, and plans printed out. Also, she had hit up her friend from high school, Bella, who was incredibly sweet and gave us the most amazing suggestions on what to do in Santa Fe. Listed as a “must do” was a visit to Ten Thousand Waves Spa. Our hotel also had a spectacular spa, but with slightly cheaper prices, we were able to enjoy more than one treatment at Ten Thousand Waves.
We both found this sign hilarious!
I suppose it is technically a Japanese spa experience, but the treatments were the same as those you’d find at any traditional spa. We soaked in the communal tubs and then enjoyed massages and salt scrubs. It was my first time having a salt scrub (I always choose massage when given the option because massages are about as close to pure bliss as I can imagine), and it was so cool! When the salt is sprinkled on you it feels like a cool rain, and I instantly got goosebumps. After we rinsed off, we couldn’t stop stroking our forearms, remarking at how baby soft our skin was. I mentioned Max would have appreciated my soft skin.
Foot bath at the edge of the koi pond and footbridge.
After the spa, we lunched in town at Cafe Pasqual’s. I had my first green chile burger! (But the best one was at The Bite where we stopped on our way out of town). The wait was lengthy, so we walked around the town a bit and ended up at small shack of a store that sold “festishes”, so obviously we went there. So-turns out fetishes are these small animals carved by the indigenous Zuni tribe out of different stones. Every animal is imbued with different powers or attributes and they are used for healing or strength. Chiara decided she needed an eagle. I needed a Raven.
After lunch, we headed to the center of town known as The Plaza. The stores that line the square are absurdly overpriced. This place is a tourist trap. With that said, we had a great time window shopping, looking at the antique Native American wool rugs, incredible pottery, and beautiful jewelry. And actually, there is one side of The Plaza that is just small vendors set up on the ground with their wares. Even those items run on the expensive side, but they are not out of reach, ya know?
Hanging out (haha)
We enjoyed walking around The Plaza, but eventually ventured a little further off the very beaten path. We walked to the arts and crafts district and took in a little art. Galleries lined the streets and at the end we found what we’ve been looking for-Kakawa Chocolate House.
Pretty proud of this picture.
Artisan chocolates and chocolate “elixir” are the specialities of the house. Since neither of us were (a) hungry or (b) super sure about drinking spicy liquid chocolate, we shared a cup of the Chili Rose chocolate elixir. It took some getting used to, but we soon finished our cup and realized we’d actually loved it. After our liquid chocolate snack, we each put together gift boxes of chocolates like “goat cheese and sage”, “green chile caramel”, and “lemon macaroon” for our significant others. Always bring home a souvenir for your loved ones. It lets them know that even while you were away adventuring, they were always on your mind. For me, anyway, that is a true sentiment.
A few more pictures from around town below:
Back at the hotel we freshened up for drinks and dinner. We met the wonderful Bella on the rooftop of La Fonda hotel. The hotel itself was a little “Disney-esque” for us. (Nothing against Disney! Love you, Disney, but we wanted something slightly more authentic). We liked The Inn and Spa at Loretto more. However, the rooftop bar at La Fonda was exactly what we needed. Chiara and Bella were reunited for the first time in many, many years and it was really cool to see. Bella was great, giving us even more suggestions for what to do with our last hours. We drank margaritas on the roof and watched the sun set.
Bella & Chiara
Santa Fe sunset
Next, we headed to The Shed. We decided we wanted authentic New Mexican cuisine for our last dinner, so even though we had to wait a significantly long time for a table, we really wanted to try it out.
While we waited, we shopped. Duh. There are two stores within a block devoted to Christmas all year long. How amazing is that?!
Christmas all year!
Bella says that Santa Fe is all the more stunning around Christmas time. Firstly, it snows. Secondly, the rooftops and sidewalks are all lined with paper luminarias that enhance the town’s natural glow. It sounds totally dreamy.
What did we eat at The Shed, you ask? Why, freaking green chiles, of course! We both had entire green chile enchilada plates and shared chips, salsa, and guac. You would think we had never eaten before the way we inhaled our food.
Sunday was our last partial day in Santa Fe. As I said, we wanted to make the most out of our hotel stay, so we ordered breakfast in bed and leisurely drank our coffee and watched cartoons.
Then we checked out and drove up the mountain, past Ten Thousand Waves, to Aspen Vista. Now, here is where it gets weepily good. (hmm-weepily is not a word).
When we booked our spa treatments, the reservationist had warned us to get there early because there might be a lot of tourists there to look at the Aspens. I’ll be honest, neither of us really knew what Aspens were at that point, but as we walked around Santa Fe and realized that Fall had arrived there and there was a noticeable change in the seasons, we figured we should go find some trees and check it out.
Aspens, we learned, are trees that grow in the mountains and turn amazing Fall colors. They are all connected to each other by their roots, so technically, a forest of Aspens is one living organism and the largest living organism in the world is a forest of Aspens in-can you guess it?-Aspen, Colorado.
I’ll just let you take a look at them for yourself, and honestly, pictures don’t do it justice. It was a moment in my life in which my breath was taken away and I just could not stop saying “oh my god-it’s beautiful” over and over and over again.
Sadly, after visiting and falling madly in love with Aspens, we had to drive back down the mountain and back to Albuquerque to catch our flights out.
When we parted, I hugged Chiara, and told her our trip was an experience I will never forget. And I won’t. I know I always talk about how much I love traveling and adventuring with Max, but our friendships with the women in our lives are priceless, as well, and we must remember to nourish them. Grab a friend and go to Santa Fe. Thank you, Chiara, for being the most excellent travel companion and for giving me this idea.