We decided to take the kids to Santa Fe for the latter part of their Spring Break because Mike saw a Groupon for two nights at the Inn at Santa Fe. How did we live before Groupon? I’m not sure besides thinking that paying full price for things was normal. In fact, the night before we left for Santa Fe, we ate at Cool Water Fusion before our Groupon expired. Our waitress recognized us because we dined there months earlier thanks to yet another Groupon. Afterwards, I almost said, “See you next Groupon!”
Yes, we only live an hour away, but spending the night makes us feel like we are on vacation. Ethan said, “This is the smallest hotel room ever!” Up until this trip, we had made it a policy that we would have a separate sleeping area for the boys to ensure that we all got a decent night’s sleep. They are finally old enough that we can share one standard room, get them to go to sleep while we read in the bed next to them, and then even watch FNL episodes on the laptop once they are snoring. This hotel was conveniently located next to the outlet mall which we hit right after check-in. The Groupon also included a dining credit, so we ate dinner there and called it a night. For you pet-owners, the inn is pet-friendly.
For you non-pet owners, that means do not stay there. Sorry, but our only dogs are stuffed. When we arrived, we noticed some wet spots on the carpet. It was not until later that we realized those spots we had been walking on were animal urine. Yes, we got an awesome deal and ate for super cheap that night. Yes, we could walk to the outlet mall. Yes, it is a great value with free full breakfast every morning and a heated pool. Yes, we were able to get free popcorn and DVD for a family movie night watching Charlotte’s Web. But urine on the carpet cancels all that out. Plus it is on the outskirts of the city.
After breakfast when we conversed with a delightful retired couple from Texas, we headed an hour out to Bandelier National Monument. Over a million years ago, two volcanic eruptions created the deep caldera and high rocky tuff which is the result of hardened ash. It is incredibly beautiful and the area allows for miles of untouched wilderness. We hiked over two miles on the Main Loop Trail including the side trip to the Alcove House. The boys did great and went beyond my expectations. Their favorite parts were climbing into the cliff dwellings of the Ancient Pueblo people and the 140 feet vertical climb up to the Alcove House that I had doubted they could do. The remains of these permanent living quarters were built almost a thousand years ago.
I hated leaving Chicago and the city. I get goosebumps around urban skyscrapers. I consider the Magnificent Mile my dear friend. However, I have to say that being at this place made me appreciate nature in a new way. Human accomplishments of architecture are definitely admirable. Yet they cannot compare to the awesome works of millions of years of creation. It felt like church out there listening to nature and surveying the horizons of green forest, blue skies, and variation of terrain that wildlife call home. Is this the conversion of a city girl? I still feel most alive in the concrete jungle, but I feel at PEACE in the wonderful world of God’s vast creation.
After lunch, a video on the area, and bookstore purchases, we left Bandelier and stopped by Overlook Park in White Rock. We enjoyed more stunning views and an informative conversation with a retired local man who volunteers his time in the area. I have decided that we should all live like retired folks. The three that we encountered on this trip were friendly, humorous, and reminders that as humans we are meant to connect to one another. We just do not often take the time to do so until time is all we have.
That evening we rewarded our sore muscles with dinner at Shibumi, a Japanese Izakaya. (Thanks for the recommendation, Bauman’s!) We enjoyed every bite, slurp and sip to the point that Mike had to go out for more cash since it is a cash-only establishment. What can we say? We love our food and drink! We all feasted on uni sashimi, eel & cucumber salad, spicy pork gyoza, chicken and bamboo dumplings, grilled squid, yasai ramen, and curried gizzards.
The next day we ventured to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Last fall when we came to Santa Fe, we spent all day at the Children’s Museum. This time, I was selfish and chose what I wanted to do, trying to make it appealing to the boys by banking on the fact that Ethan’s elementary school is named after her. Taking kids to art museums involves risk, but I was emboldened after a successful trip to the Art Institute. I still tried to prep the boys by telling them to find their favorite painting within each gallery and see if they could learn two new things after our time there. Yes, my time was distracted with making sure the boys did not get us kicked out. Yes, they rushed us through it all. But I still loved the time we spent and hearing each of their favorites and why. Ethan liked that this favorite of his had what looked like fire inside the top flower.
One of Connor’s favorites was this one; he liked the bright colors within the petals.
As for what they learned that was new, Ethan said it was hard because he already knew 1) she was a famous artist, 2) she lived in New Mexico for some time, and 3) she liked to paint flowers. The only new information he could remember was that 1) she was married and 2) Annie Leibovitz. The special exhibit was a collection of photographs by Leibovitz. Connor’s favorite was of a rattlesnake skeleton while Ethan enjoyed the one of Annie Oakley’s bullet through a paper heart that she could sharp-shoot from 40 feet away. We stepped back approximately 40 feet from the photograph and were amazed at her skill.
We then walked to Clafoutis in search of my treasured French macarons. The busy little bakery and restaurant delivered! The boys and I chose chocolate, lemon and coffee macarons, the delicious cookies that we had not had since Chicago time. We savored every tiny bite since their high costs prevented us from getting any of the other outstanding-looking morsels for sale. Mike did get an almond meringue pastry that was equally scrumptious. Maybe the lack of these costly cookies is divine intervention for our budget and waistlines, but we sure do enjoy them when we can.
We walked to the Plaza to eat lunch at the Rooftop Pizzeria again. The boys have gotten into the habit of dancing to restaurant music when the establishments happen to have good tunes. I guess they thought Sting and Kelly Clarkson qualified.
We chilled at the Plaza for a bit where Mike tried to nap and I people-watched. Connor’s book purchase from Bandelier was on Peregrine falcons, so of course he became one, hunting for prey with his upturned jacket providing a wingspan when he flew.
Ethan decided to climb a tree which made me wonder if we would get kicked out. Then I thought of The Sound of Music and preferred Maria’s “and having a marvelous time!” assessment to the Captain’s initial horror.
Our last stop was at Kakawa Chocolate House. We sampled many rich liquid elixirs until Mike settled on the American. The boys had homemade chocolate ice cream with cocoa nibs. We got a couple of the truffles to take home as well as a slice of the Irish Car Bomb cake (chocolate Guinness cake baked with Bailey’s, need I say more?).
We drove back to Albuquerque a few pounds heavier, but with blissful exhaustion from hiking, basking in natural beauty, cultural education, tastebud extravaganzas, walking around a charming city, heavy doses of quality family time and more hits crossed off our regional exploration list. Life is sweet, and we are thankful for the gift it is.