Santa Fe, Springtime and the Mariposa at Two Casitas

Springtime in Santa Fe.  Forsythias blooming on side streets, sunshine on Canyon Road patio bars in the early afternoon, high school kids playing hacky sack on the plaza, Georgia O’Keefe poppies in front yards, hiking at Bandelier National Monument . . .It’s an amazing time to be in the Capitol city, and I was fortunate enough to spend the first weekend of spring at Wendy Kapp’s Mariposa, one of Two Casita’s two bedroom homes.

It’s a recurring theme in what I write here, but this weekend really brought home the fact that if you choose to stay in a hotel, you’re going to miss out on an amazing Santa Fe experience.  I know.  I’ve done it.  Compare waking in a sterile room with a couple of double beds and making coffee with a tiny little two cup Mr. Coffee to waking up in a 100 year-old adobe casita with hardwood floors and coved ceilings, taking your slow-brewed coffee out to your backyard and sitting under a budding cottonwood tree.

The Mariposa is tucked back off a side street close to the intersection of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta.  It’s charming, cozy and very comfy.  And quiet.  Incredibly private and quiet.  On Sunday we all slept in until the crazy hour of 9:00 a.m.  Talk about taking it easy!

I stayed there with my daughter, a cousin and his wife, and their son.  We spent plenty of time out on the town, the guys snow skiing, the girls going to estate sales and shopping at the Railyard.  But we also spent plenty of time around the kitchen table playing cards and visiting, in the front room on the couches, visiting some more while the college kids played on their computers.  And we spent time in the backyard under the ancient cottonwood and in the hot tub, relaxing and planning our next fabulous meal at a local restaurant.

The Mariposa would easily sleep another two people in addition to the five that we were last weekend.  Add the Milagro next door and you have room for up to ten.

Within walking distance to Canyon Road and the Plaza, the Mariposa is, in my opinion, about 100 times better than staying in a hotel.  Staying in any of Wendy’s properties is.  We didn’t want to leave and come home.

If you’ve never tried a weekend in Two Casita’s property, consider it.  I can almost guarantee you’ll never go back to that sterile hotel room!

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Santa Fe Breakfast Battle (with myself)

One of the absolute best things about going to Santa Fe is the eating.  I agree that it’s not the only thing worthwhile about visiting – there’s the Opera and the Lensic and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and the Plaza and the Railyard and the hiking and the skiing and Ten Thousand Waves and music at El Farol on a Saturday night. . . There are a lot of good reasons to visit Santa Fe. But the food. . .just thinking about the amazing food we eat when we’re there makes my mouth water.

I love a great breakfast. In fact one of the most difficult things to face each time I visit Santa Fe is that IF I’m going to branch out and try a new breakfast place, I’m going to have to give up one of my old favorites.

Trying something new means I won’t get to taste the incredibly delicious red chile sauce or the queso eggs benedict at the Guadalupe Cafe on Old Santa Fe Trail, or the bakery basket and the huevos yucatecos at the Tecolote Cafe or the griddled polenta with chorizo and red sauce at Pasqual’s. But sometimes you have to make a great sacrifice in order to feed your soul. Or at least your panza.

The last time I was in Santa Fe, I tried a couple of new breakfast places, based on reviews I had read elsewhere (thank you Yelp) and recommendations I had received from fellow travelers. I put away my hankering for the goat cheese and green chile on the eggs at Tecolote, promised myself a visit there soon, and then checked the web for the addresses of my two new potential eateries: Tia Sophia’s and The Pantry.

Little did I know that I had located a new place for my top five (or two. . .) with Tia Sophia’s. There was a wait, as there always is on the weekends, but when we were finally seated, the chorizo burrito was well worth the time we spent standing on the street waiting for our name to be called. Robin had huevos rancheros, Johanna had carne adovada with eggs.

We all passed our plates around (I’m just going to go out of a limb right here and say that if you’re not a sharer of great food, if you balk at allowing your friends to sample what’s on your plate, you’re probably not going to enjoy a meal with me) and I secretly wanted to take Johanna’s plate away from her. Not because mine wasn’t delicious – it’s just that in my lifelong search for the best carne adovada in the world, Tia Sophia’s may have been close to number one. . .

That was Saturday.  On Sunday, five of us headed to The Pantry on Cerrillos Road, a place that’s been in business since the late 40’s. I had heard raves about the red chile, so of course I had to try the carne adovada.  It was so perfect I carried out a pint of red chile to eat on my eggs at home on Monday.

The best part of the meal, however, was TJ ordering the corn-flake encrusted, blueberry and whipped cream stuffed French toast.  It was his birthday, so he decided that delicacy would be a good substitute for cake.  Sitting in the middle of the table, it was better than birthday cake. . .even though we all had entrees of our own, we ate every bite.

The Pantry has long been a favorite of locals and it’s clear that the crowd this Sunday morning was familiar to the wait staff.  It made me want to be a local. . .it made me want to eat there every single weekend.

It’s always a battle to figure out where to eat breakfast in Santa Fe. I lie awake early in the morning, while the rest of the house sleeps, thinking about where I want to go next. If you’re like me, I suggest you put at least ONE of these new favorites on your list. Or just stay a week and try them all.

And as always, if you’re going to stay in Santa Fe, you’re going to want to stay with Wendy Kapp at Two Casitas. Wendy’s houses are an easy distance from every restaurant on my list, and if you really want to go right to the source for great vacation homes, skip the VRBO Santa Fe search and go right to Two Casitas. And then start making your plan for breakfast eating. . .I can’t wait to hear what you discover.

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La Casa Sena – Historic AND Delicious Santa Fe

For me, Santa Fe’s vibrant history has always been one of the best reasons to visit.  It’s no secret that you don’t have to spend an afternoon in a Santa Fe museum (although those are amazing) to get a glimpse of how life was in the city hundreds of years ago.  One of the best examples of Santa Fe’s rich history is La Casa Sena.

And then there’s the food.  I’m here to tell you that the vegetarian lasagna is to die for.

But I’m always talking about food.  What I really wanted to share is the history of the building, and then I urge you to check it out for yourself.

Sena Plaza sits just one block east of the Plaza, and directly north of the St. Francis Cathedral, in the heart of Santa Fe.  The land Sena Plaza was built on was originally a reward granted to Conquistador Alfrez Diego de Guiros in 1692 for his assistance in the reconquest of Santa Fe following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  Alfrez Diego built a small adobe hut on the land, a hut that would grow to a hacienda many times its original size.

A hundred years later, while Santa Fe was still part of Spain, Don Juan Sena, a successful local merchant, came into possession of the land.  In the 1830’s, Don Juan and his son, Major Jose Sena started building the structure that still stands today.  Santa Fe was now part of newly independent Mexico.

Eventually, Major Jose Sena and his wife would add 33 rooms to Diego’s original hut, mostly to accommodate their 23 children, born in what had now become a US territory.  The Major was a colorful member of Santa Fe society, and entertained dignitaries of the day.  Kit Carson even stopped by a time or two.

There was a ballroom on the second floor of the west wing that served as a perfect place for music and dancing during the day long feasts that marked Spanish society at the time.  The Ballroom even temporarily hosted the state legislature for a time when the original capitol building burned in 1892.

As long ago as the late 1890’s, Sena house served fine cuisine, including buffalo, venison, rabbit and lots of green and red chile.  The hacienda included servants’ quarters, a chicken house, storerooms, and a couple of wells, one of which still stands today.  The main dining room of La Casa Sena now stands where the stables once were.

The property eventually changed hands, and a Tea Room was built where the stables stood in 1927.  Many of the rooms were turned into stores and offices, one of which housed the offices of the Manhattan Project in the 1940s (which, for those of you who didn’t pay attention to high school history, developed the atomic bomb in Los Alamos).  It was finally purchased by artist Gerald Peters in the 80s and he immediately went to work renovating the Plaza to its original glory.

In addition to its colorful history, La Casa Sena houses a list of original artwork that rivals any gallery or museum.  The Garden Room displays seven Gustave Baumann paintings or woodcuts – and Baumann is one of my absolute personal favorites.

And there’s the Cantina, where you can catch live jazz, blues and other local favorites while sipping their amazing margaritas.  I’m so going back there for more!

If you’re looking for a place to stay while you explore Santa Fe’s rich history, please consider Two Casitas.  Wendy has several homes within walking distance of La Casa Sena that would be perfect for a weekend away, like the beautiful 3 bedroom Puerta del Sol, located at 604A Sunset.  Let Two Casitas be your home away from home while you enjoy Santa Fe!

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Santa Fe, Canyon Road and Two Casitas

I’ve been going to Canyon Road since my childhood, when my Aunt Margaret led me there on a wintry Christmas Eve to view the farolitos and visit with one of her Santa Fe neighbors.  I love it still – the galleries, the sculpture, the narrow street, the restaurants and patios.  I love the general feel of Santa Fe history mixed with the excitement of creativity.

But I never took the time to learn the history of Canyon Road.  Quite a confession from someone with a history degree, but I unjustly assumed it had always been sort of a chichi fancy little street in Santa Fe where the artists hung out.

It’s actually quite the opposite.  I found that some of the oldest houses on Canyon Road date back to the 1750s.  Mere blocks from the city’s center at the Santa Fe Plaza, Canyon Road was a tiny rural neighborhood built on the south banks of the Santa Fe River along an old Indian trail that led to the Sangre de Cristos.  Every house was part of a family farm where corn, wheat and vegetables were raised on patches of ground near the river.  So pastoral that it was unusual not to see sheep being herded up Canyon Road to higher pastures.

Canyon Road was the road that led to the mountains – It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see a burro led up the road to the mountains by a smart local planning to cut and sell firewood in Burro Alley.  After the US Army arrived in 1846, a sawmill was built in the canyon and the wood from it carted down the road into down to build Ft. Marcy.  Canyon Road has seen some varied history, from Spanish settlement to Mexican independence to U.S. takeover.

And then the artists came.

Drawn here for various reason, the first artists showed up as early as 1904 looking for a tuberculosis cure in the high desert air and sun-filled days that are Santa Fe trademarks. You can find an exhaustive history of Canyon Road and the Santa Fe Arts Colony here.  Be sure to read the hilarious story of Los Cinco Pintores (the five painters) attempting to build their own adobe homes on land near artist W.P. Henderson’s atudio – they were artists, not builders. . .and you know how mud behaves. . .

The artists in turn attracted a vibrant, interesting and varied stream of houseguests that included folks like Robert Frost, Mary Austin, Mabel Dodge Luhan and Tony, Willa Cather, Thornton Wilder, Edna Ferber, Ernest Block and Martha Graham. I’m pretty sure we need an entirely separate post just to talk about the list of artists that showed up on Canyon Road in the 20th century.

At the end of WWII, Canyon Road was still a rural neighborhood, but now descendants of the original families lived side by side with an avant garde group of writers, musicians and artists, many from the East Coast and trained in Europe. Houses that had been in Spanish families for generations stood next door to houses filled with people like Will Shuster.

For example, typical of Spanish families, Geronimo Lopez bought a farm on Canyon Road in 1753.  Within a few years, he had purchased more land, another house, 14 trees, crops, pastures, field. . .The Geronimo Lopez house is now the home of Geronimo Restaurant at 724 Canyon Road.

And then there’s El Farol, one of my personal favorites.  Considered possibly the city’s oldest restaurant and bar, El Farol has been in business since the 1830s. Every time I go there, I have to take a minute to admire the murals.

I recently learned that the first artist to paint one was Alfred Morang.  Already an established artist when he found El Farol, Morang painted my favorite (on the west wall of the bar) and the one behind the bar sometime between 1948 and 1952.  His reason?  To settle his tab.  I love that story – sometimes when it’s time to leave El Farol, I wish I could come up with a trade. . .

Today Canyon Road is no less entertaining or interesting than it was in the early 1900s or in the 50s and 60s.  One of my favorite galleries is the Waxlander, home of the founding and featured artist, the amazing Phyllis Kapp.

I love color, and I love the Southwest, and I think Phyllis is, to borrow a phrase from the website, “the Southwest’s most delightful watercolorist.”  She says she loves to play when she paints, and she loves to make people laugh.

The Waxlander sits back from the street, fronted by a sculpture garden that invites you to sit for a while after that margarita you just enjoyed at El Farol.  It’s a beautiful gallery, home to more than thirty artists.  I’m going to take a minute and write a longer blog post about the gallery in a couple of weeks, but while I’m writing about Canyon Road, I have to give you one fabulous gallery to visit.  This is it.

Canyon Road.  Home to bonfires and farolitos on Christmas Eve.  Home to El Farol.  Home to the Waxlander Gallery.  But more than that, home to a history that’s rich, at times very funny, and totally Santa Fe.  I can’t wait to go back.

And of course when I do, I’ll stay in one of Wendy’s homes at Two Casitas Santa Fe Vacation Rentals.  She has several that are a short walk from Canyon Road – the perfect location for me. . . and for you, if you’re wanting to explore!


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The Civil War, Santa Fe and Las Golondrinas

When you think of the Civil War, you probably think of Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Atlanta. . .Southern locales where the fighting was heavy and rivalries between neighbors and families were heated and angry.  People don’t usually think of New Mexico as being associated with the Civil War.

But we had battles here, two of them fought in 1862 near Santa Fe at Glorietta and in Apache Canyon.  This year marks the 150th anniversary of New Mexico’s Civil War battles, and this weekend you can get a glimpse of what those battles were like at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, where living history actors and Civil War buffs will reenact both battles.

Union and Confederate camps will be recreated, as will cannon fire, military drills, and of course, skirmishes and battles.  The Territorial Brass Band will provide period music and local historians and docents are scheduled to give talks on Civil War medicine and surgery.

Battlefield New Mexico :  The Civil War and More is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. , with battle reenactments to take place at 2:00 p.m.

Las Golondrinas is located south of Santa Fe, near La Cienega, at 334 Los Pinos Road.   Admission is $8 for adults, seniors and teen $5, and children under 12 get in free.  You can download the event poster here.

Las Golondrinas is one of my favorite places in New Mexico.  If you’ve never been there, you have to put it on your bucket list.  Even if you can’t make it this weekend, plan to go there sometime soon.  “The Ranch of the Swallows” dates back to the 1700s and was an important place for travelers and merchants to stop along the famous Camino Real, the Royal Road that ran from Santa Fe to Mexico City.

It’s a living history museum located on 200 acres just south of Santa Fe.  Volunteers/villagers dressed in authentic period costume demonstrate how life was lived on the frontier in New Mexico.  Las Golondrinas has a full event schedule .  In July they host the Santa Fe wine festival . I definitely plan to be there again for that.

Santa Fe is a living city with lots of history.  Las Golondrinas is the perfect place to steep yourself in that history, and this weekend’s Civil War activities will be unique to anything else offered in the state.  Check it out.  I’ll see you there!

And if you need a place to stay in Santa Fe, consider Two Casitas.  With locations all over the city, Wendy Kapp and Two Casitas can put you up in the most historic of districts, but in incredible luxury.

My recommendation this week is the Hummingbird at 1130 Camino Delora.

With it’s amazing views of the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the Jemez Mountains to the west, you may end up doing all your sightseeing on the deck. . .It’s a gorgeous setting, just like El Rancho de Las Golondrinas!

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