Continued from New Mexico Road Trip from Dallas – Day 2
The 3rd day of our trip was the big day of Christmas. Most of the national parks and other attractions in New Mexico, close down on the Christmas Day, giving their employees time, to be with their families. Hence we decided to take it easy on this day and instead enjoy a long drive to the beautiful City of Santa Fe and have the city all to ourselves.
Trip Date: 25th December 2016
Where we stay:
Just wanted to start off today with a little write up about our accommodation. Every City we visit, is almost always new to us, and we know nothing about the different neighborhood, facilities, etc. While a lot of info is available on the internet, still it is extremely difficult to choose the right kind of hotel for everyday of the trip. Based on our prior good experiences, we always blindly trust Choice Hotels for our accommodation needs. We either choose to stay at their Comfort Suites Hotels or the Quality Inn Hotels. They are always guaranteed to be economical, clean and comfortable. Also, 100% of the time, the location of the hotel is spot on. Very close to gas stations, restaurants, highways and we always feel quite safe staying there.
The reason I chose to talk about Choice Hotels is because, on the 2nd day of the trip we stayed at the Quality Inn Hotel in Alamogordo. And the next day we were waking up to the day of Christmas. While most of the businesses around was closed down, the Quality Inn arranged to have couple of kind folks at the reception. They chose to be away from their family on the Christmas day and instead chose to serve us at the Hotel. A big kudos to the 2 who were working on that day. And also, while we expected the free continental breakfast to be closed on that day, they kept it open, adequately stocked with a good spread of items.
Since we did not have much to do on this day, we decided to start in a relaxed fashion. We had a 3.5 – 4 hrs drive ahead of us before we could reach our next destination of Santa Fe.
Though it was a long drive sitting inside the car, the scenery around us always kept us entertained. I have never seen such vast, wide open spaces in my life. As long as my eyes could see, it was just plain grasslands, an occasional cattle and view of long distant mountains. It was such a relaxing and peaceful start for the day. And as soon as we crossed I 40, it started to snow as well. It did not snow heavily and hence driving through the snow was so much fun. It was my first encounter with snow, for this trip.
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and it was founded in 1610 by Spanish colonist and known as the oldest state capital in US. Santa Fe is famous for a number of things. First of all, the native people who have a lot of Pueblo villages in and around the city. Secondly, the natural scenery being located amidst the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Thirdly, all the constructions which follows the Spanish and Pueblo style of architecture. Brown colored walls with more of a mud like finish to the buildings, makes them so pretty and unique. And more recently, Santa Fe has a growing art scene with a lot of galleries and some unique restaurants serving delicious Mexican food.
Since we did not have any specific plans for the day, we decided to start from the Santa Fe plaza area and then exploring the surrounding areas by foot. The snowfall had made the city look extra gorgeous on the day we went there. I now wonder that winter is probably the best season to visit Santa Fe.
Once we had put our car to rest in one of on street parking spots, we decided to head to lunch first. India Palace, located close to the plaza area was our choice for lunch at that day. We started off with a order of mixed vegetable pakoras for appetizer and then ordered a plate of veg biriyani for main course. The batter for the pakoras had horribly gone wrong. It was very greasy and was not delicious. And the biriyani was certainly unique unlike anything I had eaten before. It tasted more like a gravy mixed with rice, rather than a well done biriyani. Also, this was the first place where they did not provide any sides with the biryani and instead we were made to order raita separately. Even more ridiculous was that they chose to add a 30% gratuity to the bill, without even asking. The service was extremely bad and it was just 2 of us. Probably they don’t even deserve to be in business.
Putting behind the bad lunch experience, we decided to roam around the Plaza area. Santa Fe Plaza is literally a Spanish style city square in downtown area. It is more like a mini park and a place of gathering. I believe it would have been more lively on any other day of the year, but on Christmas day it was basically deserted. We stood there for a short while for some quick pics and then moved on.
We then slowly walked over to the New Mexico Museum of art. It was again closed on that day. Since we were not particularly interested in entering the museum, we stood outside, admiring the architecture of the building and how gorgeous it looked in the now clad roads. When open, the museum houses more than 20,000 art work.
In a similar fashion, we just walked over to the Palace of the Governors. It was closed and mostly empty. All we got was a glimpse from outside. We just saw a couple of vendors sitting outside. I assume that there would be lot more on a regular day.
We then walked our way to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral built sometime in 1800s. We again stood there for a while marveling at the architectural beauty. I believe there were people inside participating in the Christmas Day mass. But from outside, it was again quite empty and peaceful.
And as a final stop around the area, we visited the Loretto Chapel. The chapel is said to be famous for the spiral staircase it houses, which had a mysterious construction story. The outside architecture here was again quite impressive. A worth stop while roaming around the Santa Fe downtown area. By now, we had already taken a circle around the plaza area. While there were a lot of gift shops, it was all closed. Without having anything else to do there and having started to feel the cold, we decided to head back to the hotel and have some rest. We warmed up nicely in the comfort of the hotel for a few hours.
We were actually waiting for the sun to set, so that we can again get a quick glimpse of the Santa Fe plaza along with the Christmas Day lighting. We drove back to the plaza area, parked on the road side and made a quick visit to the plaza. I have to say that the lighting was not very impressive. Just a few strands of light wrapped around mostly barren trees. We just spent a couple of mins and we were then right back in our car and headed for dinner.
We chose Thai Vegan, which was on the way to our hotel, to have our dinner. Since it was Christmas night, it took them a little while to get us seated. But once they got us a table, the service was top notch. They were very attentive and the food came out quick. We ordered a Tom Yum Soup, some dumplings and a tofu fried rice. Just learnt that vegan Thai food can be so flavorful. The Tom Yum soup was one of the best I have had. The flavors were well balanced and perfect on the chilly evening. While the dumpling was good, the fried rice was flavorful, aptly spiced and the tofu scrambled all through the rice made it extra delicious. Certainly a worthy dinner, after a sub-par lunch experience on the day.
With our tummy full, we then directly went back to our hotel and signed off for the day.
– To be continued (New Mexico Road Trip from Dallas – Day 4) –