Judging by how busy the travel industry is at the moment, many of us seem to believe that 2022 is a year to make up for lost time and schedule all the trips we had to postpone during the pandemic. So earlier this month, I went on a long delayed “girls’ trip” to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Although I have been to Texas and Arizona and loved them both, somehow, I had never been to New Mexico, nestled in between the two. Every time I travel within the USA, it blows my mind to be reminded once again just how very large this great nation is. The 48 contiguous states are just under 3.2 million square miles, and 3.8 million including Alaska and Hawaii…. more than twice the size of the European Union. That includes almost 200,000 square miles of lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. The USA is the third-largest country in the world behind Russia and Canada. Remember that the land of my birth, the United Kingdom, is just 94,000 square miles – about 75% the size of the State of New Mexico.
Coming directly from beautiful Coastal Georgia, the first and most striking thing one notices in New Mexico is the lack of humidity, rainfall and outdoor water in general. However, because the state is geothermically active there are a number of fantastic hot springs – discovered centuries ago by native Americans and later Spanish settlers who found them to be very soothing to mind and body. The extremely dry climate also contributes to a massive problem in the area – wildfires! We could see them on the horizon, smokey and raging outside Santa Fe. Luckily, they were being contained in the area around us, but it was heartbreaking to see. The state’s national parks were closed during our visit, and it was rather unnerving to be within a dozen or so miles from the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history. Coastal Georgia gets about double the rainfall of Santa Fe, so it did make me appreciate our Low Country climate, the Ogeechee River, and our proximity to the coast. Even the Georgia humidity seemed to be put into perspective for me.
New Mexico is known as the ‘Land of Enchantment’ and Santa Fe is its state capitol, famous for its extensive art galleries mostly situated on Canyon Road. Advertised as “more than a hundred galleries, boutiques and restaurants in one half mile”, we spent a lovely afternoon exploring the nooks and crannies of Canyon Road, and resisting the temptation to purchase paintings, photographs, sculptures, jewelry, and knick-knacks.
Santa Fe, which translates as “holy faith” in Spanish, was founded in 1607. It is the oldest capital city in United States, the oldest European community west of the Mississippi, and the second-oldest surviving US city founded by European colonists on land that later became part of the United States (St Augustine Florida is the oldest). While Santa Fe was inhabited by a few European people earlier than 1607, it became truly established as a city few years later by the Conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta, a lawyer sent from Spain who was appointed Governor of New Mexico while the territory was still part of the Spanish Empire. In fact, Santa Fe had been colonized 25 years before the colonials set foot at Plymouth Rock.
Santa Fe is the highest large city in the United States at about 7,000 feet above sea level and became an important trading post for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
I was enchanted by Santa Fe’s adobe houses and the narrow winding streets, which reminded me of southern Europe, and was pleased to learn about the city’s historic preservation efforts focused on preserving the Spanish-Pueblo architectural style even in new construction.
New Mexico became the USA’s 47th state in 1912 and is an interesting place. The state bird is the roadrunner, and the state tree is the pinon pine. About a third of the residents speak Spanish as a first language. The state’s largest city, Albuquerque (which we flew into from Atlanta) is the hot air ballooning capital of the world and is also the hometown of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The state is home to a lot of research facilities and laboratories and is also known for a disproportionately large number of reported UFO sightings. And here is my favorite little-known fact about New Mexico – it is illegal to dance while wearing your sombrero hat. We didn’t do much dancing or sombrero wearing while we were there, but it was good to know just the same!
There is a lot more information at www.santafe.org
I will leave you with a quote by the great 19th century American author who achieved international acclaim for his travel narratives, the ever-witty Mark Twain. “Until I came to New Mexico, I never knew how much beauty water adds to a river”.
God Bless America!
– ENDS –