Not an ordinary stop on the way

Driving in New Mexico from Santa Fe to Taos (or going in the other direction, of course) you can choose to pass through Chimayó. Do! And take the time to make the very little detour to visit El Santuario de Chimayó. This little gem, a  National Historic Landmark, is an important pilgrimage site and I read that it gets some 300,000 visitors every year.

The morning I was there it was virtually empty (the figure on the left in the photo is a statue, not a visitor).

It was so peaceful.

There were many indications that this peaceful morning was an exception: the area was lined with little shops and stands that sold rosaries, candles, crucifixes, religious art work of various kinds etc.

But somehow I’m sure that the charm of the little church and its surroundings is still there even when the place is full of tourists and pilgrims.

My stop was meant to be a short one, an extended coffee stop with some culture on the side, but it turned into an uplifting cultural stop with some coffee on the side. The coffee, by the way, was enhanced (?) with chili powder. Not quite to my taste but maybe to yours?

Please stay with the group!

Before visiting the US Southwest, I knew very little about pueblos, Puebloans or ancient pueblo cave dwellings. In brief:  Puebloans are Native Americans who share agricultural, material and religious practices. There are currently 19 Pueblos that are still inhabited.

The Puye Cliff complex, not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is situated on Santa Clara Pueblo land and comprises cliff dwellings and, on the mesa top, the ruins of a big village.

These dwellings were inhabited roughly from 900 to 1580, and the site makes for a very interesting glimpse into ancient pueblo culture.

The location is beautiful, with stunning views of the Rio Grande Valley and mountains in the distance.

The two levels of cliff dwellings and the mesa top can be accessed by paths, stairways and ladders. Since I’m afraid of heights, I didn’t feel particularly attracted by the prospect of having to climb tall ladders, so I was very pleased to hear that the guided visit that would suit us best time-wise started with a jeep ride to the mesa top.

The first thing our guide said was “Please stay with the group!”

It seemed quite difficult to get lost on the flat mesa top, so someone said something witty. “We have quite a few snakes up here”, the guide continued. Everybody stayed with the group.

We didn’t have to climb any ladders to get up, but we were supposed to use the ladders to get back down.

I had taken it for granted that transport would be provided also downhill, so I panicked a little. You can see an example ladder in the photo below. This is one of the least scary ones, and had it been only for this one, I wouldn’t have hesitated.

But I did get a ride down and I wasn’t alone in the jeep either.

Whether you are fond of climbing ladders or not, I warmly recommend a visit to the Puye cave dwellings to learn about ancient pueblo culture and to marvel at the vistas from the mesa top. But remember to stay with the group!

 

The Swedish connection in Taos

Walking around historic Taos, New Mexico, with a tourist map in my hand I was surprised to spot a Swedish flag, no two!, outside one of these lovely adobe houses that Taos is full of.

Being Swedish I felt a pang of nationalistic nostalgia (normally I’m neither nationalistic nor nostalgic). It was clear that it was an artist’s house, so I was curious not only to find out what the Swedish flags were doing there but also to see the art.

The artist herself, Inger Jirby, gave me a warm welcome and explained that she was born in the very north of Sweden, in Lapland, but that she had lived abroad for a great number of years.

Inger Jirby at her gallery

Find out more about Inger and her colourful and inspiring art: https://ingerjirby.com 

Taos is full of art galleries, art tourists and of course artists. Even though it is a small town it can be a little tricky to get an overview of all there is to see and experience, but brochures and magazines are distributed here and there and give guidance. 

In one of these magazines there was a photo of a painting that caught my attention. It was to be found in a very centrally located gallery, The Sage Fine Art Gallery, http://www.sagefineart.com 

I headed there without further delay. 

Unsurprisingly the painting was even more attractive in the gallery than in the magazine and its modest size would actually make it possible to bring it back home.

It so happened that the painter herself, Carrie Schultz, was the artist on duty on that particular day. Inevitably, when we started talking, the question “Where are you from?” came up at an early stage. When I replied “Sweden“, Carrie started talking perfect Swedish with me! It appeared that she had lived and studied in Sweden and had kept up her Swedish since then. Hats off! 

Carrie Schultz with two of her paintings

We concluded that the painting I liked had been waiting for me to step into the gallery, so I bought it without any further ado. 

It travelled safely with me during the rest of my trip in the US and back to Europe, and it now waiting to be hung. This will happen shortly.

Find out more about Carrie and her art: https://carrieschultzfineart.com