I think it is safe to say we all slept very well last night. After a quiet morning Will drove the RV into Santa Fe to Garcia’s Tire before our day started. While he was there getting our tire checked out again before we continue on our journey, I made sure everyone was up, fed and ready for a day of exploring as soon as he returned.
Tire update: Tires all good! Nothing is wrong with the tires. Will got a more in depth lesson on RV tires and pressure levels so he is prepared for the miles ahead!
When we first decided to come to New Mexico, we thought we would explore Albuquerque and Santa Fe. However, once we started reading more about the area and getting recommendations from friends who have gone before us, we decided to skip Albuquerque. Remember from an earlier post I mentioned the extremely long and in depth email my aunt’s friend, Eileen, sent to me. Well, it was her email that changed our course for exploring in New Mexico. I am SO happy we listened to her advice!!!!!
There are two ways to get to Santa Fe, one is I-25 and the other is called the Turquoise Trail aka NM 14 which is the scenic route. There are several old mining towns along the way, one being Madrid which is known as the most eccentric town in New Mexico. It used to be a historic coal mining town and ghost town before turning into a creative community. The village is nestled in a narrow canyon in the Ortiz Mountains. It was a short drive to Madrid from our VRBO and since it was close to lunch we decided to go there first. The fact we also needed to go to the grocery store in Santa Fe we decided Madrid would make more sense to go to first.
Imagine driving along a two lane country road with nothing but views of mountains and all of a sudden you come upon a speed limit sign for 15 mph and the street is now filled with people, parked cars and motorcycles, shops and restaurants. It was wild to see such activity come out of nowhere! We ate lunch outside at the Mine Shaft Cantina and it was delicious!!! After lunch we explored the little town which is known for their art shops.
Will and I decided years ago any art we purchase for our home has to have a special meaning to both of us. Whether it is purchased on a trip we take together or purchased by an artist who also happens to be a friend, it has to be both mutually agreed upon and have a story we can tell to go along with it.
There was this little store I just knew I was going to love. Between the adorable white cottage and the peaceful sound of the fountains outside, I could have stayed all day. The owner, Kathleen Casey, came outside to talk to us. I explained how I love the sound of fountains (and have been looking for years for the perfect one) and was admiring how gorgeous the ones she had displayed out front were. She said her husband, Joshua Gannon, was the stone artist. Thirty minutes later we walked away with stone art from New Mexico! I can not wait to sit on my back porch and listen to the sound of our new fountains.
Kathleen, was bummed her husband was not at the shop, but at his studio working as she really wanted us to meet him. We learned so much about the town of Madrid from Kathleen too! Madrid is home only to 300 people and if you own a business in the town you must also live in the town. Before the pandemic, they would receive 8000 visitors a month! She said in the last week business has picked back up. The children who live in Madrid travel 28 miles to school in Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s population is roughly 70,000 while Albuquerque is around 750,000. Every person we spoke with who lived in Madrid was incredibly friendly. The entire vibe of this little town was so relaxed you didn’t want to leave!
On our way to Santa Fe, we swung by the house to let Pawley out (and to use the bathrooms as I am not too ready to use public ones yet!). This also allowed us to drive out the back way to Santa Fe taking us through the little town of Galisteo.
Santa Fe’s main town area was much smaller than I was expecting. Kathleen (our new friend in Madrid) had mentioned that most people think Santa Fe is much bigger than it actually is. Seeing as it was close to 4:00 pm when we arrived to Santa Fe Plaza, the town square, I was worried between Covid precautions and the time we would be running into places not being opened. Fun little note: As I am typing this on the road, Will just announced we are one third the way through our trip mileage wise…..we have hit 2365 miles driven!
We walked around the town square, grabbed an ice cream and walked to see two churches. Unfortunately both churches were closed. The first church was The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It was beautiful. The church is positioned at the end of the street making it the focal point when you are on this one way street. My favorite part of the church was The Labyrinth they had. I love walking Labyrinth’s including the one in our neighborhood at home (yet, I need to do it more often!). On the sign it read, The Labyrinth’s path is like the path of life. There are twists and turns, feelings of being lost, encounters with others on your path, the thrill of accomplishment at the center, and sometimes a flash of insight before returning. How lovely!
Also at the Basilica was a statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the First Indian of North American to be promoted a Saint. One of my favorite parts of traveling is everything you learn along the way. The world is a classroom and there is so much to see and learn!
Across the street was a gorgeous hotel with a rooftop restaurant I know had amazing views without going up! Behind the hotel was the second church we wanted to visit, The Loretto Chapel. The chapel is known for their miraculous staircase, which has two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair. I love the story of how the staircase came to be. This is taken directly from the church website: Our Story begins in 1850 when the Vicariate of New Mexico was established under the first Bishop of the Territory, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. Seeing a need to educate the girls of the Territory, Bishop Lamy sent a plea to Catholic teaching orders to open a school for girls. The Sisters of Loretto responded and sent six sisters to open the Loretto Academy. Having been recently under Mexican rule, the Territory of New Mexico was full of Spanish-speaking citizens, so the six had to learn the Spanish language and, after an arduous trip during which the Mother Superior died, finally arrived in Santa Fe and opened their school in 1853.
By 1873, the Sisters were able to start the construction of a Chapel. Using the same French architect and builders as Saint Francis Cathedral Basilica, the Chapel of Our Lady of Light (as it was then known) was patterned after Archbishop Lamy’s favorite Sainte Chapelle in Paris. With its gothic-style architecture, the Chapel certainly would have stood out among the small adobe homes surrounding it at the time.
Unfortunately, the architect died before access to the choir loft was built. Given the height of the loft and the small size of the Chapel, a staircase would have taken up too much floor space, thereby reducing the seating capacity to an unacceptably small level. Legend states that seeking guidance and help, the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine day novena to St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters. A novena is a special prayer said for nine consecutive days. On the final day of the novena, a carpenter appeared with only a hammer and carpenter’s square. He built what is now known as the Miraculous Staircase with simple tools and wooden pegs. The rare wood is not native to the American Southwest. When the Staircase was complete, it is said that the carpenter disappeared without receiving thanks or payment. The Sisters tried all local lumber stores but could not find accounts open for supplies for their stairs. Some believe the carpenter was St. Joseph himself while others believe that is was someone sent by St. Joseph. What is known is that the Sisters of Loretto prayed, and their prayers were answered.
I know the above was a lot, but I wanted to share the story behind the staircase. The other reason I really wanted to go to this church, was for the fact the same French architect and builders who built my favorite church I have ever been to, Sainte Chapelle in Paris, built this church!
The day ended with a shopping trip at Wholefoods to get ready for the next six days on the road and a pizza dinner back at the house. Our time in New Mexico was loved by everyone!
Where RV going next? You’ll find out tomorrow!
Side note: Some friends have said Day Nine’s post didn’t load all the way and they didn’t realize there was more if you continued down (like our tire story!). I just checked and it seems to be fine, but if you didn’t see the whole post try again.