Friday, July 20, 2012

In The Land of Enchanment The Inn of The Five Graces Is Where You Must Sleep

It's Not The Heat, It's The Humidity

As we began our ascent into Albuquerque for our Annual Anniversary Nomad and Nomadess Extravaganza Celebration, I was already enchanted with the desert from 20,000 feet. We had fallen in love with the great Southwest some years earlier when we had purchased land in an unknown corner of southwestern Utah near Kanab, about three hours from Las Vegas - not an enchanted land, city or anything else at all! We both grew up in North Florida which has enough heat and humidity to drive all of the annoying tourists  that venture down the interstates to Disney and other Central Florida attractions back to their hometowns in Poughkeepsie and Cleveland. We Floridians refer to our summers as baseball weather. A close friend recently returned from Phoenix to my home town, Tallahassee, for a visit, after some time away. When I picked him up at the airport he observed that he knew he was in Tallahassee when he stepped off the plane and all of the air was sucked out of his body. One of the great things about travel is the change from our day to day to a new environment, weather wise and otherwise, even if for a short while. And since we were visiting the "Land of Enchantment" for the first time, we were both filled with excitement to see what the great southwest, the storied Santa Fe and surrounds had to offer.

Purple Mountain Majesties

One of the attributes of this great country is its diversity. Geography, culture, food, people. From Miami to Seattle to San Diego to Maine, no country possesses so many different ways for people to enjoy travel and experience different aspects of the melting pot that  is the USA. Santa Fe and New Mexico are at the top of the Nomad's list when it comes to travel that is unique, regional and, as yet, not taken over by the banality of "tourist" oriented travel. The Turquoise Trail (Highway 14) takes you the forty five minutes from Albuquerque to Santa Fe through several small, off the beaten path towns and some of the most beautiful desert you will ever see. And the mountains really are purple. As we pulled into the small parking area just off the central plaza of New Mexico's capital city, I was struck by this "real" town of southwestern adobe architecture, its small streets and color everywhere. Best of all, this unique place has a population of only 67,000! Any time you happen on a town that small with an international reputation for interesting culture, great food, fabulous art and amazing history, you have, indeed, landed in a place that any Romantic Nomad can drop anchor.

The Inn of The Five Graces Indeed

Few hotels are as intensely committed to its vision as the Inn of The Five Graces. The very name itself is music to the ears of any Nomad seeking a place to not only lay their weary head but to embrace the exotic environs of a place like Santa Fe. The Five Graces are the very essence of our personal experiences as Nomads of every ilk. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. These are the portals of experience we embrace, without thinking, that give our lives meaning. They also are the essence of what unique travel experiences are all about. To say that the proprietors of The Inn of The Five Graces have sought to embrace their vision without flinching would be an understatement. So many phrases can be used to describe this amazing property located on the oldest inhabited "block" in the United States. East Meets West here in the land of the Anasazi. Imagine Ali Baba  meets Georgia O'Keeffe and you have a sense  of the aesthetic of The Inn. Replete with an eclectic blend of near eastern furnishings, tapestries, rugs and artwork, this retreat for Discerning Nomads feels magical and real at the same time. Each unit is unique, with no two repeated. We stayed in the Tourmaline Deluxe Suite complete with exquisitely mosaic tiled bath, comfortable living room and kitchen. As an added feature, just off the kitchen area, there was a small walled, shaded courtyard. This was a great place to be served an afternoon glass of your favorite beverage served by one of the many staff who's purpose in life seems to be to ensure your absolute enjoyment of this small twenty four room boutique sleepery

And the beds! Simply put, the beds are the most comfortable I have EVER slept in. At one time, you could purchase the "sleep system" used by the inn for a princely sum. It is clear that the inn is dedicated to the proposition that no expense should be spared to ensure your ultimate comfort when you retire for the evening. And what better way to enjoy the most comfortable beds on earth than to be surrounded by highly detailed and exotic headboards and fine Egyptian cotton sheets finished off with one of a kind comforters and afghan blankets of intricate designs in blazing colors? After a couple of days at this exotic boutique, we began to feel like the chic sheik and sheika of our domain. Sorry, I couldn't resist it!

Of course the true test of any hotel is, ultimately, service. The staff of The Five Graces is, in a word, fabulous. Friendly, always close by but never in the way. From the delicious breakfast served by excellent wait staff in the main courtyard to the wine and hors d'oeuvre served in your own courtyard every afternoon, the professionalism exhibited by every person at the inn is second to none. In addition, they know where everything is in Santa Fe. From the best eateries to the best galleries to the best day trips, no guide book is needed to enjoy all that Santa Fe and its eclectic environment has to offer. Just ask the concierge. They will have all the answers.

 Eat, Drink and Be Merry With Georgia O'Keeffe!

One of the reasons Santa Fe is such an interesting place is its history. Native Americans built a settlement on the site that is today's central plaza around 900 AD. With a blend of many influences, including Native American, Spanish, Mexican and New World Settlers, Santa Fe is truly an exotic blend of cultures evidenced by its food, culture and architecture. At one point, it was even claimed as a part of Texas. With The Inn of The Five Graces as your base of operation, Santa Fe offers the Curious Nomad numerous opportunities for adventure, cultural discovery and sheer enjoyment of a truly unique place. To start with, the inn is only a couple of blocks from the main city plaza. The plaza is always busy with various vendors and local artisans selling their wares. There are also numerous places to grab a snack and sit and enjoy the day. As you walk around the city, you have access to some of the best restaurants in the country that serve both local and international cuisine. The Anasazi Restaurant is a sure winner. Serving a blend of fusion and southwest, it is all good with excellent service. And if you are an art lover, Canyon Road is just a few minutes by foot. This area contains dozens of art galleries featuring some of the finest painting, sculpture and other creations that rival anything found in any big city gallery. One caveat - bring your wallet. These people are serious about their work.

If you can't get enough of all that pricey artwork on Canyon Road, Santa Fe boasts a great museum featuring the works of one of the twentieth century's most important modern artists, The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, just a few steps from the plaza. A darling of the New York art world long before women were recognized in the rarefied world of the art elite, O'Keeffe became one of the leading proponents and creators of the modern aesthetic.  Her work produced while in New Mexico is know the world over. O'Keeffe is a must see while in Santa Fe.

Day Trippin' and The High Road To Taos

Because Santa Fe is at the center of interesting places, unparalleled natural beauty and some of the most innovative art studios anywhere, the world becomes your oyster, artistically speaking. One such place that is a must do day trip is the Shidoni Foundry & Galleries. Located about five miles outside of Santa Fe, Shidoni boasts an eight acre sculpture garden, an indoor gallery, the Shidoni metal foundry and the Tesuque Glassworks, where you can see artists in residence creating large and small works of bronze, steel and glass. We were fortunate to find an affordable piece that reminds me of the joys of being a Nomad in the magic land of the sun every time I see it on the shelf.

And of course, no trip to Santa Fe would be complete without an all day visit to Taos. Take the High Road up  to enjoy the history and amazing scenery. Plan to take about two hours each way, as you will want to stop often. The small high desert community (population 5,000) is another artists mecca for the Curious Nomad. In addition, it has the Taos Pueblo, a thousand year old Pueblo community that will give you insight into the history and life of the earliest inhabitants of the ancient Southwest. The list of modern architects that have utilized the design motifs of the Pueblo is long and varied. After lunch at one of many local eateries, and more gallery ogling, the Low Road is recommended for your return to Santa Fe for more panoramas. Some say to take the Low Road to Taos and the High Road back to Santa Fe. Either way, its a great way to spend the day.

And finally, for all Nomad Architects, The Loretto Chapel is an absolute must see. Just a few steps from the hotel, this former Roman Catholic Church is famous for its "Miraculous Stair", a wooden helix shaped spiral stair that has baffled architects and designers since it was constructed, allegedly, by French carpenter Francois-Jean "Frenchy" Rochas. Wikipedia states, however, that the Sisters of Loretto credit St. Joseph with its construction. Shrouded in mystery, this architectural construction, a wooden spiral stair with no central support, has developed a life of its own as to builder, designer. connection methods and source of  materials used. So much so that an episode of Unsolved Mysteries finally declared that it was, in fact, built by Saint Joseph!

So, if you want to see a slice of America that has been in our consciousness for decades through film, television, writing and art up close and personal, grab a Southwest flight to Albuquerque, hop in the car and plan to have sweet dreams with the one you love at  The Inn of The Five Graces. Your senses will thank you and your significant other will forgive you for all those mean things you said to the kids.

Memories To You All

D.L. Stafford

Video Artist of The Week - Rusted Root. Combining African, Latin, Native American and Indian influences with fusion, jazz and rock, this world music group combines insane percussion, great instrumentals and unique vocals that will get will get your mind right for The Land of Enchantment.

Travel Quote of The Week - "To put it rather bluntly, I am not the type who wants to go back to the land; I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel." - Fran Lebowitz

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