Santa Fe, like Montana, was someplace I'd never been but was really looking forward to. I'm not even sure why, if it was because so many people said we'd love it there, or because I'd read about all the good shopping and dining and sightseeing in the guidebooks, or maybe because we'd been visiting a lot of national parks and had just stayed in a wigwam and I was ready to just relax and be, you know, civilized. I decided from the start we weren't going to do anything that specific or plan anything that major while visiting Santa Fe. I explained to J that I'd go shopping or sit and drink coffee if I wanted to, and if he came along, fine, but I wasn't going to be deterred from whatever non-taxing activity I chose to partake in. If he wanted to get up early and check out the local wildlife, cool. I'd be just fine sleeping in.
Luckily this sort of toned-down, non-frantic lifestyle was very easy to adapt to the two nights we were there.
We chose to stay in an adorable bed and breakfast called Hacienda Nicholas. We couldn't get over the place. After many nights in cheap motels, staying in a little guest room in an adobe building built around a courtyard was so thrilling it's a wonder we made it out into the town at all. Every evening, around five, the innkeeper (a very nice and talkative local woman who gave us all the info on the good restaurants nearby) would pour the guests a big glass of wine, put out cheese and crackers, and we'd all sit around the fire blazing in the cozy common room and talk about what we'd done that day, and what we had planned for that night. This was a very pleasant departure from our normal nightly course of action (get the key to the room at a cheap place in the area, but one that's not so cheap we feel scared or grossed out, fall into bed and watch "Law and Order: SVU").
Santa Fe's elevation is roughly 7,000 feet. The town is situated around a central square, where local Native Americans come each day to sell handmade jewelry, belt buckles, money clips, bookmarks and tons of other crafts. Shopping is the most notable activity. Honestly, the amount of shops selling turquoise and handmade blankets and wooden carvings and God knows what else - it's amazing, and pretty overwhelming. When I asked my mom, who has been to Santa Fe a few times, what it was like there, and what we should do and see, she told me that Santa Fe is really touristy, but somehow it gets away with it, and I got what she meant when we arrived and went exploring.
We ate good food - Italian the first night, Tapas the next and New Mexican fare at Cafe Pasqual's for lunch because everyone said we had to try it.
Before we left we had massages at the Indonesian spa connected to our hotel. Afterwards we had this rose petal bath (exactly what it sounds like, a hot bath filled with rose petals), which is an Indonesian tradition, apparently. It was so cold outside, and there we were, so warm in this bath with rose petals surrounding us drinking ginger tea and eating the fruit and cucumbers they'd put out for us and after I got over laughing about how ridiculous it was, I decided Santa Fe was my favorite place in the world. Or, it was my favorite place in the world at that moment, anyway.
So, we accomplished our goal. We relaxed and, while we did enjoy checking out the awesome New Mexico landscape on our way in and out of Santa Fe, we didn't spend that much time driving around trying to take in all the natural beauty. We took a few days off from that and it turns out that even when you're not looking for it, you tend to find all the good stuff a particular area has to offer anyway.
My favorite part of our stop in Santa Fe, though, was talking to the people staying in the inn, over wine in the evening and homemade breakfast in the morning. We talked to a lot of people on the road, but this was the first time we really had the time to talk extensively with anybody, simply because we weren't in a hurry to get somewhere else. We talked to the other guests about so many things, from our trip, to the local attractions to careers to the environment. The fact that it was winter made it all the better because staying inside for a few hours and socializing by the fire seemed the best option, and I think much like I will remember other places not only for the scenery and local culture but for our own specific experience there (that unending hike in Missoula...the ham and cheese sandwich in the roadside cafe in South Dakota), I will remember Santa Fe for its effortless ability to foster such intimate conversations as the meteorologists threatened snow and our car sat outside in the gravel parking lot enjoying a few days of respite during a long trip. Resting, like us.