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Published October 1st 2016
Saddle Up And Head Down To Santa Fe
This stunning city is the oldest state capital in the US, dating back to 1608. The city's Sunday name is La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de la San Francisco de Assis, which translates to 'royal city of the holy faith of Saint Francis of Assisi'. Let's face it, though, no one writes to relatives in the area using the full title on envelopes for fear that they'll develop repetitive strain injury. Santa Fe will do nicely, thanks.
Anyway, as the city stands at a height of 7000 ft (no, really), it may take a day or two to acclimatise, so you don't need a tongue twister name to be worrying about on top of feeling a wee bit tired, do you? Standing 7000 ft above sea level makes Santa Fe the highest of all 50 state capitals. And, as we've already discovered, possibly also the one with the longest name.
The city is a beautiful and colourful mix of cultures, all drenched in South west charm. If you have a couple of days to spend in the area, these are some of Santa Fe's leading attractions:
Located at Palace Avenue on the Plaza of Santa Fe, this adobe building is the oldest continually occupied building in the USA. That's quite a feat considering America has, well, a LOT of buildings.
However, does this mean there are people there round the clock, or just between office hours? I must know. Imagine finding out you hold the record for longest continual occupation and then getting sick when you're the only one on night shift. What a dilemma.
Lew Wallace, who served as Governer of the NM territory for a while, wrote parts of the book, Ben Hur, in the building. The book outsold Gone With The Wind and is the most famous of Wallace's novels. Lets face it, it's a story (or movie), we've all heard of, even if we haven't actually managed to sit through it. That makes it pretty famous in my book (pun intended)
Anyway, The Palace of The Governors sits on the National Register of Historic Place and is also recognised as a National Historic Landmark; one of 7 in the county. It is a very special building of massive significance to Santa Fe.
El Santuario de Chimayó This is a Catholic shrine and place of worship just outside Santa Fe and is often referred to as the most important pilgrimage site in the US.
Previously a privately owned building, this fabulous adobe building was purchased by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and gifted to the city of Santa Fe in 1970. Nice work, guys.
This sanctuary is a haven for pilgrims from across the state (and further afield), who will often walk massive distances to visit the holy site. People are drawn to the history and alleged healing powers of the Santuario, with many visitors rubbing themselves with the 'holy' dirt found there. This is believed to have miraculous properties.
Upwards of 30,000 people flock to the site each year and there's no doubt that Santuario de Chimayo is a hugely important location in the state of New Mexico. It's also stunning, so even if healing dirt and miracles 'aint your thing, you can't really go wrong with checking it out.
Prior to 2005, this place of worship was just a plain old Cathedral until it was elevated to the level of Basilica by the then Pope, Benedict. I think that might be like getting promoted to manager after being a customer services adviser, but obviously way more important.
My favourite part of the Basilica, bar the gorgeously colour coordinated interior, was the statue of Kateri Tekakwitha that stands to the left of the main doors. Unbeknownst to me, she was the first North American Indian to be Sainted, and she stands proudly in the grounds, with her turquoise jewellery sparkling in the sun.
Santa Fe Plaza
This is yet another landmark to make the Historic Register in the United States and walking around it makes you feel like you're in the Old West. With the adobe buildings and old fashioned shop signage and decor, it really is a special place.
It is here that you can shop for authentic New Mexican clothing, jewellery and art, as well as enjoying the odd margarita or two. Or three, you know, because you're on holiday. There's no judgement here.
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Georgia O'Keeffe was an American painter who was born in the mid west state of Wisconsin. Later in life, she moved to New Mexico, living in Taos and Santa Fe. It was in Santa Fe that she died in 1986.
O'Keeffe's work is considered to be American Modernism and she is famous for her well known paintings of flowers, bones and landscapes, amongst others. O'Keeffe was a major artists in all respects and garnered fame from the mid 1920s until her death. She is widely considered to be the one to push the boundaries of the modernism movement and of what the style came to represent.
The Museum is located on Johnston Street, which is a few blocks from the main Santa Fe Plaza, and houses more than 3,000 works by the artist, including sketches, oil paintings, and the cityscapes of New Mexico. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum offers various exhibitions throughout the year which celebrate the life and works of the influential artist.
Georgia O'Keeffe's personal residence is also available to visit, but this is located outside Santa Fe. One of the artists' most famous paintings sold at auction in 2014 for more than $44,000,000. That's Forty Four Million Dollars. Clearly, the lady was PROPERLY talented.