I get asked all the time, how do I find the places I go to during my travels. I mentioned previously in my Santa Fe post (read here) that I do basic research of the destination city but the most invaluable source of advice is from the locals; from the people who live and work there. While I’m discovering the new city, I will talk to anybody I meet along the way like shop employees/owners, servers at restaurants, and bartenders. We met Antonio, a transplant from San Francisco with impeccable style, at Santa Fe Vintage. He told us that we had to drive up to Bandelier National Monument to check out the cave dwellings. Then, drive the High Road to Taos, visit the Taos Pueblo and end the day with a margarita at Doc Martin’s in Taos.
My mom and I started the day super early because we had a lot to see and a full day of driving. We stopped by Chez Mamou French Café and Bakery since they were one of the few breakfast places open at 7:30am. We both got the egg and cheese on a croissant and it was so damn good. We drove 1 hour North to Los Alamos, NM where the entrance to Bandelier is located. Going right when it opens is the way to go because we virtually had the park all to ourselves. When we were walking out, we saw school buses full of children just arrive so we felt pretty fortunate to have avoided that situation. Bandelier is a national monument preserving the homes and territory of the ancestral Puebloans. I know this sounds cheesy but it was just so awesome to be able to climb ladders and go inside their homes which were basically caves. These structures date back to thousands of years ago and to be able to still depict pictographs on the rock was awe inspiring. The main loop is 1.2 miles which is an easy stroll. If you’re willing to walk the extra 1 mile round trip to the alcove house (ceremonial cave), it’s definitely worth the trek. It’s 140 feet above the canyon floor and 4 wooden stairs to reach the top. I was a little concerned for my dear mother who’s not an active person but she made it like a badass mom that she is. Learning about the ancient Puebloans, climbing the ladders and getting to the top of the Alcove House was by far the highlight of the entire trip and should not be missed.
After Bandelier, we drove about an hour and a half on the High Road to Taos which is a scenic route to get to Taos, NM. The winding road takes you through desert, mountains, lovely Spanish colonial villages as well as Pueblo Indian villages, and farms. We stopped in Chimayó to check out Sanctuario de Chimayó which is a cute little church built between 1811 and 1816; it literally looks like it was pulled out of a fairytale story. When we finally arrived in Taos, it looked almost like a mini version of Santa Fe. We headed straight to Taos Pueblo because it was closing at 5pm. Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo where the Tiwa speaking Native Americans inhabited and continue to inhabit to this day. Taos pueblo is designated a UNESCO world heritage site and is breathtaking to see in person. The most recognizable feature of the pueblo is the multi-story adobe structure. Our tour guide walked us through the pueblo and told us about the history from when the Spaniards arrived to when President Nixon returned the land back to the natives in 1970. The history of the pueblo was so interesting to hear and it’s amazing that it’s still being inhabited by its people today.
After a whirlwind day of climbing ladders, driving winding roads and immersing ourselves in culture, it was margarita time. Our friend suggested Doc Martin’s located in the Taos Inn right in town. It was unfortunately not open yet for dinner so we went to the bar that was just off the hotel lobby. We had nachos and margaritas which couldn’t have been a more perfect snack and way to end our day in Taos. We drove home in the rain but caught the sun setting over the Low Road back to Santa Fe. I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have been able to experience all that we did that day and with my best friend, my mom, no less. I’m a bona fide New York City gal who loves to discover new places like Santa Fe and Taos. It’s so different than New York but that’s why I love to travel because it gives you perspective on other places, times, people and events. Of course, no road trips would be complete without my incessant sing-a-longs.