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!


Have it raw!

“Are you having it raw?” I heard myself exclaim. I hardly meant it as a question since it was obvious that the girl who happened to be next me was biting into the ear of sweet corn she had just bought. It was Saturday market in the Santa Fe Railyard.

– “This sweet corn is fresh from the field, how many ears would you like, ma’am?”

– “But do you really eat it raw? Where I come from, in Europe, we always have to boil the corn.”

– “The ears you see here were all picked this morning. Put them in the fridge and they will keep for at least 3 days. So how many can I get you?”

I couldn’t resist this convincing man, plus I was getting hungry (it was almost lunch time), plus I was curious to try raw sweet corn. I decided to get six ears, and sure didn’t regret it. They provided great, crunchy lunch for three days in a row.  The stand is very modest-looking (see here below), but don’t let this fool you. Do get some sweet corn here and do have it raw!

Two colours were prominent in this colourful market: red and green. You guessed it right: chili peppers. Small, big, raw, roasted, for decoration, just take your pick!

The railyard isn’t only a market venue but also a real railyard. The train at the station matched the market in its colourful appearance.