Monday, June 20, 2016

Old Town Santa Fe, New Mexico

On Wednesday, Ed Helvey and I decided to go to Santa Fe for the day. It is only about an hour northeast of Albuquerque. From there, the most logical route would be I-25, but since we are already a good 20 miles east, we decided to go east a little more and take State Highway 41. It is a decent two-lane road (for most of it) through rolling hills, and gets us off the interstate.

Since Sharon and I didn't have a chance to get into the Old Town when were up there a few weeks ago, this was all new territory for both Ed and me. We didn't know what to expect, but at least with Ed's normal sized conversion van, we were confident we could not only maneuver through tight streets, but find a place to park it.

Once we got into the Old Town section, I was extremely glad I didn't try to get in there with the 44-foot combined length of our RV and trailer! What little parking there was is definitely not designed for RV's of ANY length! Below is a typical street in the Old Town area. They are very narrow.

A typical narrow street in Old Town Santa Fe.

Ed attempted to get into the first municipal parking lot we found, and it had a totally useless entry portal with a sign hanging from it that said 8-foot clearance. We weren't sure how tall Ed's van was, so I got out and guided him in. Actually he had about 4-inches to spare, but we couldn't see that from inside the van!

If we could have found a space on the street large enough, we could have paid our parking fare with credit cards! This was my first time for actually seeing a credit card parking meter, but with today's technology, it doesn't surprise me! By the way, they charge $2 per hour, with a two hour minimum. You can leave your quarters at home!

A parking meter that takes credit cards!
$2/hour with a 2-hour minimum!

Once we got parked, we asked about good places to eat, and settled on a place called "The Shed" which had very good reviews. Finding it was something else. It is tucked back in an alcove in the next block from the square. The alcove itself was an outdoor seating area. Although it looked like there was a line waiting, we went up to the host station and when they found out there was only two of us, they seated us immediately at a small table in the outdoor cafe.

I chose a lighter plate, with two open beef patties covered with cheese, and a few chips plus two different sides for dipping. They served garlic toast with it.

My lunch at the Shed Restaurant, Old Town Santa Fe.

Ed chose a smothered burrito, and it was literally HUGE! I was actually surprised he was able to finish all of it! He got some French garlic bread with his meal, too. Everything was delicious, and filled us enough that we didn't need to eat dinner that night!

Ed Helvey's smothered burrito at the Shed Restaurant, Old Town Santa Fe.

After lunch, we roamed around Old Town Santa Fe for a couple more hours. Some of the other alcoves displayed works of art, but we didn't stop to read all the details. This piece below was at least as tall as I am.

One of many sculptures within alcoves along the streets of Old Town Santa Fe.

There was a lot of handcrafted items for sale everywhere we looked, such as these rugs, blankets, handbags and pottery.

There are always many beautiful handicrafts for sale in Old Town Santa Fe.

It was easy to tell the tourist stuff, and the truly expensive artwork. One museum across from the church had beautiful displays outside... all priced beyond our range!

A bronze Elk stature at the Santa Fe East Gallery in Old Town.

More bronze statuary at Santa Fe East Gallery in Old Town.

A bronze horse and dog at Santa Fe East Gallery in Old Town.

Another store had huge pieces of driftwood, from which other artists could create something artistic using their own imagination... as though the driftwood itself wasn't artistic enough!

One of several pieces of large driftwood at one art shop in Old Town Santa Fe.

We did see some of the famous landmarks, but certainly missed others. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is probably the most famous building in the city, but we only saw it from across the street. We have seen many other blogs with close-up photos of the statuary and artwork around the grounds and even inside.

The Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi in Old Town Santa Fe.

There was also another church nearby, (I think it was the Loretto Chapel) and again, we saw it only from across the street, and it even had vendors right on the grounds.

Loretto Chapel in Old Town Santa Fe. 

Besides churches, there are many historic and impressive buildings still being used, such as the one below. We also saw many newer buildings that are still being built in the Santa Fe architectural style.

The historic La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel, Old Town Santa Fe.

An old theater, now named the Lensic Performing Arts Center, caught my eye as we walked past, because the architecture was very impressive, and still in excellent shape for its age.

The Lensic Performing Arts Center in Old Town Santa Fe.

A date on a sign in the corner of "The Original Trading Post" caught my eye, also. It has been operating in this location since 1603, when it started in a tent! That's seventeen years before the Mayflower landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts! Wow!

"The Original Trading Post", in continuous operation since 1603!

But Ed and I both came up with the same impression. Although there is much history in this town, it is overshadowed by a high-priced and "touristy" atmosphere. No matter what you wanted to do, from eating to window-shopping, the prices were all extraordinarily high. For minimalists such as Ed and I, that have long since seen the fallacy of the "buy, buy, buy" mentality, it held no charm for us. It was just another busy, overcrowded tourist trap trying to milk the money out of anyone who falls for such things.

Oh yes, much of the artwork is astoundingly beautiful, and many would see value in that. For Ed and I (and Sharon if she were not in Alaska at this time), we look at it and can appreciate the talent and work that went into it, but we realize that it serves no practical purpose in our lives! The more of that useless stuff that people buy, the less they can spend on experiences, travel and memories. But as they say... "everybody has to be somewhere". If collecting art is their passion in life and they have the money to do it, and are willing to sacrifice other things in life for it (if they have to at all), then more power to them. It's their lives to live as they choose.

We did find a well-hidden plaque in the back of one of the alcoves that says the building there was the meeting place for the people who designed and built the atomic bomb. Apparently they met here and were bused up to Los Alamos to the northwest of the city, where the actual labs were.

A plaque at the building where the people who designed the atomic bomb met
before being bused to Los Alamos Laboratories.

We also found a plaque on another building a few blocks away that said the original building on that site was where they held Billy the Kid for his trial. Click on the images to get a larger picture that maybe you can read, and then close out of it to return here.

A plaque on the site of the original Santa Fe Jail
that held Billy the Kid before his trial.

We also wandered around the town square for a bit, which has the iconic marketplace on the porch of the Palace of the Governors building across the street. Vehicles were only allowed on two sides of the square. There were barricades in place to direct vehicles away from the marketplace on the east side and stores on the north side.

The Palace of the Governors, with it's famous marketplace on the porch.

We saw the Santa Fe Obelisk in the center of the square, but didn't read all the plaques around the bottom. Basically it is a war memorial "To all the heroes who have fallen in various battles with Indians in the Teerritory of New Mexico" and dates back to 1868, when it was erected.

The Santa Fe Obelisk in Santa Fe Plaza.

Only one plaque served as a disclaimer because of derogatory terms used in the other plaques... created at a time of much less "political correctness". They have since removed the word "savage" (before the word "Indians").

The "disclaimer" plaque on the Santa Fe Obelisk.

On the north side of the monument, a group of three musicians entertained the passers by, and from what we heard of them, they sounded pretty good!

A musical trio playing in the Santa Fe Plaza.

Other than a wrong turn due to street construction near the downtown area, we made our way back out of town pretty much the same way we went. The traffic was extremely heavy, and we didn't care to fight it at their normal quitting time for the day. We saw what we had come to see, and we were ready to get out of the madhouse.

Some day I would like to come back, but with a small car that can get around easily and be able to park anywhere easily. I am into history as much as the artistic culture, and what we discovered on this day was only a very small fraction of what this city holds. I'm sure I could come back and spend a week here... as long as I could avoid the expensive hotels while I was there!

Normally, I would research all the proper names and details of everything I saw, but this post already went online once without the photos because I couldn't get to it in time to over-ride my scheduled publication time. I had to copy it, delete the original and then paste the content into a new post, with a new schedule! I hate when that happens!

We are currently stationary for a week. We are at our planned destination to get our vehicle tags and licenses up to date. But we also have had a minor problem on the way here, and now, a new problem.

First, we blew out the right side exhaust manifold "donut" on the way here and had to put up with noise all the way from just west of Post, Texas to Breckenridge. That was the first town large enough to have a garage that could make the repairs. I called the Chevy dealer as soon as we arrived, and they got us in the next morning. An hour later and $108 lighter, we were on our way again, and actually earlier then we would have been if we had not had an 8 AM appointment! Ah... quiet at last... more so than when we bought the RV!

But that wasn't the end of the problems. We started the air conditioner on the way here at a lunch stop (using the generator), and I immediately smelled burning plastic. Then the air conditioner suddenly stopped dead! I think it's an electrical connection, but it's not in the ceiling part. It must be up on top, on the roof, and I don't even have a ladder long enough to get up there. This RV didn't have a roof ladder on it when we bought it, and I only have a 6-foot step ladder. So I called an RV parts and service place about two miles away, and we have an appointment for two days from today.

Meanwhile we are trying to tolerate temps between 86 to 94 degrees with high humidity. Thankfully, we seem to be getting very mild afternoon monsoons that cool things off a few degrees, and lower the humidity. We have three fans, plus the Fantastic Fan in the bedroom, so we have been getting by nicely. If it doesn't get much worse than this, we can tolerate it.

Sharon and I both grew up on farms, and neither of us had any air conditioning at all, but we could tolerate the heat and humidity much easier when we were younger... and "had" to. Now, we have the freedom to just drive out of it and go to higher elevations... which we plan to do as soon as we leave here!

Another thing I noticed about this RV is that the front shocks are nearly worthless. Since we have to have it worked on anyway, I have told them I want a good grade of shock absorbers for the front end. I was once told by a well-educated auto parts factory rep that you can't possibly buy on the open market, a shock absorber that is as cheaply made as what comes on vehicles as original equipment from the factory. Having already been forced to change shocks on a brand new Dodge Maxi-van, and seeing what a huge difference going to Monroe Gas Magnums made... I believe it!

This RV has about 59,000 miles on it now, and even good shocks only last about 60,000 miles, so it's time that these were replaced with something that will undoubtedly be MUCH better!

But in the meantime, I still have one more post to write about a trip to the top of Sandia Peak... and no... we didn't take the tram. We drove to the top!

After that, I am still determining how much I want to say about the place that we parked with Ed, while Sharon went off to Alaska on her cruise with her sister. As the old saying goes, if you don't have anything good to say about it, it's probably best not to say anything. That's about where my mind is... it was that bad.

So as always, thank you to those who have used our links to make online purchases. Every little bit we make helps to offset the surprise expenses like we have had on this leg of our journey.

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