Taos was the first place I’ve visited where I could see myself moving to. It’s a small town, but cultures blend here respectfully as if it were a big city. There’s art, there’s amazing food, there are interesting people, and there is an obvious appreciation of nature everywhere. The days start with the sun coming up from behind the mountains, pushing gorgeous colors along with it, then end with sunsets that illuminate the western slopes with a beautiful golden glow. It’s easy to to see why so many artists live here. This is also where I encountered a phenomenon that was new and very amusing to me, which I call, “Just wait until tomorrow evening!” where people seemed a little disappointed when the sunset wasn’t spectacular enough. Seriously, it was hilarious. “It’s usually so much more colorful! Oh, this is nothing. We’ll have to wait and see tomorrow night. Trust me, they’re usually amazing!” I encountered some version of that in every place I visited in New Mexico, even though I thought the sunrises and sunsets were beautiful. Something is up here. I did actually point this out whenever I found it, and everyone laughed with me about it. We know where the blessings of our lives are.
I only had two days here, so I was able to just hit a few high points. I headed to the famous Taos Pueblo first, which has the distinction of being the only place in North America known to have been inhabited consistently for nearly 1,000 years. Visitors are asked to register and pay a fee, which helps to fund projects within the Pueblo. A guide takes you through the community while providing history and pointing out customs. Photographs are allowed, but not of the people who live there without permission. I decided to keep my photographs to just a few and to focus instead on the experience of being there. This is a photo of the largest structure (and is probably a well known image to most people):
Our guide also told us the history of the pueblo’s loss of the land encompassing the mountain behind the area where we stood, including it’s sacred lake, and the eventual return of the mountain to the people by President Richard Nixon, who is regarded as a hero here (I know, right?)
The forced conversion of the people to Catholicism during the period of Spanish colonialism was also discussed, including efforts to resist, and it explains why there is an active Catholic church in the community still today.
I found the local cemetery to be very interesting, and the rugged image of wooden crosses to be beautiful. Family of deceased family members are allowed to enter only once each year to make repairs to grave sites, so as not to disturb the spirits of those within.
After the tour was over, we were all invited to walk around the pueblo, with the exception of a few carefully marked areas. Many residents have set up shops that carry a variety of traditional crafts including jewelry, pottery, and several snack shops as well. I found the people within to be very gracious and willing to share their history and to explain the meaning of the symbols embedded in their crafts. I bought several items here, which were lovely, and also because I try to be very intentional about where I buy things when I travel, and to support local artists and businesses, rather than to pick up things made elsewhere that just appropriate cultural symbols. This is something my mother drilled into me, and I am grateful for her perspective.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Every local I spoke to said I should go check out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, so I headed over there. The bridge crosses 250 feet above the Rio Grande River, with a center span of 600 feet. It is the fifth highest bridge in the U.S. highway system, and since I’m not particularly afraid of heights, I decided to walk across. Unfortunately, I tried walking across when it was extremely windy to the point where it was impacting my balance and since I have balance issues anyway, this made it challenging. I got about halfway and took a few pictures before I decided to head back. I would definitely recommend checking it out, but maybe try early morning when the winds are calmer. There are also trails that head off from the visitor’s center that I found highly recommended by the locals (I just didn’t have time to explore those).
Millicent Rogers Museum
On the same end of town as the gorge is the Millicent Rogers Museum. Millicent Rogers was a New York heiress of Standard Oil wealth who moved to Taos in 1957 after having her heart broken by Clark Gable (that dreamy bastard!) Rogers used her grief and her creative instincts to build a collection of southwest jewelry, pottery, textiles and other artwork. She had a keen eye, passion and importantly, the resources needed to provide support for both the Hispanic and Native American communities, and enough fame to draw attention to the area as a cultural treasure. Both Millicent and her mother left behind extensive collections, which are on display at the museum. I found them to be fascinating.
One of the most poignant items at the museum was a copy of a letter written by Rogers to her son about Taos. It captures beautifully the draw of this place.
The other woman that is super famous in Taos, is Mabel Dodge Luhan. I had every intention of looking into her story while I was there because she is credited with creating the salon culture that established the Taos arts colony, and by all accounts was a big personality and force of nature. Unfortunately, I underestimated Taos and ran out of time to investigate her. The good news is I have plenty of reasons to go back!
Dining on Chilis
At the recommendation of two friends, I ate a lot of chilis while in New Mexico, and especially in Taos. I tried three restaurants, all of which were high on flavor and low on pretension (which I consider the highest standard for any restaurant), so they excellent! One I stumbled across, and it didn’t look like much but since the parking lot was full, I decided to go in. La Cueva Cafe is on the main drag on the way into town, and the chile rellanos are excellent. This was my favorite restaurant. If a restaurant has a full parking lot and it’s not peak dining time, that is always a cue to me that I need to check it out!
I also tried Orlando’s, on the other side of town towards the Taos Ski Valley, and had the added treat of meeting up with friends from my hometown who were also in the area. I tried their signature dish of enchiladas prepared with three different chili sauces, which was also excellent.
The final restaurant recommended to me had the vibe of a Mexican diner. Guadalajara Grill has two locations in Taos. I tried the one on the south end, and had a dish that I don’t see on the on-line menu, but I think was called Chicken Monterrey. It was tasty and enough for two meals.
So there were my two days in Taos. I enjoyed walking around and the funky vibe of the place, and the people I met there were so much fun. They were very welcoming, and happy to share this beautiful place with me.
Overall impression: This entire community feels like a creative retreat. I loved it and will definitely go back.
Costs: Admission to the Millicent Rogers Museum is $10 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students and military. The walk across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is free. Restaurants in Taos were slightly more expensive than I would find in New England, but I posted links to their web sites above, so you can check out their menus. Adult admission to the Taos Pueblo is $16 for adults, and does not include a tip for the guide (these people are not paid by the Pueblo, but are compensated through tips only, so definitely fork over something!) I stayed at the Taos Valley RV Park where rates for full hook up pull through sites are $48.29 (I received a 10% discount for AAA). I was very happy with my accommodations, the service, and the location.