I feel I should write briefly about Santa Fe. Although it added about two hours on to my journey to Oklahoma, I thought that it’d be worth a visit (I’d spent the previous night reading literature about the Santa Fe art distrct and its numerous Native American stores). In my mind I saw Santa Fe as a windswept desert town with permanent blue skies and sunshine. This turned out not to be anything close to what Santa Fe actually is. My first clue should have come from the weather on the way over:
This didn’t bode well for my ‘desert with blue skies’ imagery. I stopped a few miles outside of town to take some pictures of the surrounding scenery:
This was better, but still looked a lot more mountain than desert. I headed into town and found somewhere to park. Santa Fe has quite a compact ‘historic old town’ which has not changed much since it was founded several centuries ago. In the US, ‘historic old town’ means that it’s somewhere that you can walk (rather than drive) around. However, if you really, really, don’t want to walk there is usually some form of themed heritage tram.
I walked into the centre of the old town and was greeted with the site below:
Snow, trees and a distinct lack of tumbleweed / cacti. Walking further out from the centre didn’t help much:
It had more similarities to a European mountain town than somewhere in New Mexico. I think the snow may have been shaping my opinions a bit but it wasn’t what I was expecting to see. There was some remarkable architecture and I think the library and information centre (below) came closest to my view of what I though Santa Fe should be like:
I suppose if you visited the place in forty-degree heat in the middle of summer it would be a different experience. But in my mind I will remember Santa Fe as a Swiss mountain town that was bizarrely full of shops selling stuff from the ‘olde west’.
There is one other thing I should note. There were some excellent Native American art and craft stores that you could spend a lot of time (and money) in but all of these paled in comparison to the coffee shop.
Yes, the coffee shop.
It was a very understated coffee shop, being located in the basement area of one of the covered malls:
You can see it hidden down the end there.
The people who owned it have lived in Santa Fe all their lives and were (I think) descended from both Native Americans and Mexican Immigrants. The shop had a Mexican feel to it but a lot of the photos on the walls were of Native American ranches. The reason I mention all this is because the coffee was something else! I only ordered a latte but I can honestly say that I have never had anything quite like it. The caffeine level was through the roof but there was something else going on – I don’t know if it had hints of jalapeños in or some olde Native American remedy but the effects were wide-ranging. I was more alert than I’d been in days but also thoughtful and reflective. I may have gone on a brief vision quest. The coffee made me gag when I first tried to drink it but then became strangely satisfying. It was so unique that I asked the lady behind the counter if she had a bag of it that I could buys to bring back with me. She just smiled, shook her head and said ‘family secret’.
Although I was dissapointed by this it was probably for the best. I have a distinct feeling that if I’d brought a bag back with me I would have had a nasty run-in with one of those Heathrow drug dogs…