4 years ago on Pinterest, I found a house and dubbed it my “dream home”. I had no idea what it was called or where it was located. I just appreciated the South-West flair and lovingly referred to this as “Santa Fe style” and thought nothing more about it.

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Last September, my husband and I talked about where to vacation after I earned my Master’s Degree. He allowed me to choose our destination within 8 hours of Greeley. Since I was graduating in December, I wanted to travel somewhere somewhat warm. Turns out, Santa Fe isn’t much warmer than Greeley with it being the highest capital in the country, but nonetheless I wanted to get to know our southern neighbors.

Late one Saturday night, I reviewed the bed and breakfasts near Santa Fe. We wanted to stay in a place that represented the city, and I narrowed it down to three pueblo-style establishments. Inn of the Turquoise Bear caught my eye with their luxurious rooms, but I realized the website lacked exterior pictures, and I wondered what it looked like from the outside. So I googled Inn of the Turquoise Bear, and I’ll be damned if the first picture that appeared wasn’t the same exact image I pinned 4 years ago.

I was stunned, and my mouth literally dropped. I said “Oh My God” so loud that Keegan heard me downstairs and asked if everything was okay. I immediately ruled out the other two bed and breakfasts. This revelation made the decision fairly easy. I didn’t even mean to speak it into existence, and now suddenly I had the opportunity to stay in my dream home. I couldn’t believe it. It was truly the coincidence of a life time.

I went back and reviewed the pin I saved to be sure it didn’t reveal the name of the property or a location that I might have subliminally tucked away in my memory, but no. The link actually redirects viewers to a spam site that my phone prevented me from accessing. All I know is when I pinned this place 4 years ago, I never expected to actually visit it one day. I knew right away what a special vacation this would be.

Like every trip we plan, we try to hit the spots unique to the region at hand. So we began our trip at Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque and went from there.

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Unfortunately, my massage therapist cancelled on me at 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning, so we had to scramble to find a last-minute replacement. But we wound up at the Back Porch Spa following brunch, and it was the massage I’ve ever had. Between the dark, cozy environment with soothing, ambient music and the seasoned masseuse, I nearly left my appointment in tears. The goal of this trip was to make it “the most relaxing vaca ever”, and we were off to a good start. I’d been meaning to schedule a deep tissue massage for myself for YEARS, and at last, I finally received one with an emphasis on my back and achy shoulders.

As I waited on Keegan to retrieve me from the Back Porch Spa, I sat in the dim indoor garden area in a heavy robe with a warm travel pillow around my neck, sipping on some chamomile tea. “This is the life”, I thought. Rarely can we afford to take such sumptuous vacations. I know better than to take my circumstances for granted.

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Contrary to how relaxed I felt, I couldn’t pass up a coffee opportunity, so we stopped at Duggan’s before heading to the winery.

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St. Clair’s vineyard is technically located in Deming, so we resorted to their Albuquerque location, blown away by the large selection and excellent customer service. First of all, I’ve never tried a wine slushy before or a mimosa slushy either. And their appetizers impressed us as well. I made reservations at the bar, so we could do the 6 for $6 tasting, and it was worth every penny. If I remember correctly, I might have tried about 10 different types of wine before we left–thank goodness I wasn’t driving! We bought a bottle to go, and we’re saving it for a special occasion, as any wine connoisseur would do.

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Once we left St. Claire, Keegan and I traveled north on the Turquoise Trail, a lovely scenic bypass connecting Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It honestly didn’t live up to the hype, but this is likely because we didn’t make time to stop and see the ghost towns. Check in at the B&B was from 3-5, so we booked it to Santa Fe.

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When we arrived at Inn of the Turquoise Bear, I was honestly taken aback. Yes, I knew this served the purpose of the entire trip, but to have pinned this place several years ago and see it in person after all this time took my breath away. Giddy and awestruck, I rushed towards the entrance to meet our connoisseur.
I could describe this place in intricate detail or just post the pics and let them speak for themselves. For information regarding the history of The Inn of the Turquoise Bear, click here to read more. Between the architecture and historical context, this was hands-down the coolest bed and breakfast we’ve ever stayed in.

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The twilight wine reception with hors d’oeuvres did not disappoint. Keegan and I mingled with other guests until dinner time. While everyone else reserved spots at some of Santa Fe’s finer dining establishments, we decided to wing it and walk towards the plaza. The first place we encountered called Upper Crust sounded like a winner. Lord knows I can eat my weight in pizza. And it just so happened to be open-mic night, so we gorged ourselves and met a friendly local musician.

By the time we made it back to our hostel, the hubby and I stayed up late enough to start a fire in our kiva and watch tv. The morning came too soon, but I was eager for breakfast despite the unpleasant hangover: A three course meal featuring a breakfast bar, fancy green smoothie shots and quiche with marinated tomatoes and apple chicken sausage.

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We hated to leave so early, but we had some cave exploring to do. I couldn’t choose between Ra Paulette’s Cave Tour and Ojo Caliente, so we settled for both. When I searched “Things to do in Santa Fe” on Pinterest, this cave art pin intrigued me. Following an extensive Google search, I signed us up for the tour.

The walk to the cave was relatively short but steep. We learned about Ra Paulette, the semi-arid desert and the species inhabiting the area. When we entered the cave, a feeling of peace swept over me. You’re not supposed to take pictures, as the artist requested that visitors respect the space and remain in the present moment. I took a few photos when our tour guide wasn’t looking, but out of respect for Ra Paulette, I will not be posting them on my blog. You can book a tour or learn more information about the cave by clicking here, but otherwise you’ll just have to go see it for yourself. Aside from the cave, the parking spots were awesome. We felt inspired from the moment we arrived, which set the tone for a pleasant, overcast morning.

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Afterwards we drove to Ojo Caliente. This turned out to be my favorite part of the trip besides the bed and breakfast and Bandalier National Monument the following morning. Keegan and I considered skipping the resort as I retorted the week before, “Who wants to pay $32 for a day pass to some hot tubs?”. But alas, I’m such a fan of soaking in the tub at home and figured we might regret passing up this world-renowned resort. After all, we were on a mission to enjoy the most relaxing vacation ever; what’s a relaxing vacation without a soak in some sort of hot water?

Thank goodness we didn’t let the drizzle and chilly temperatures deter us. If anything, Ojo was less crowded than normal according to staff. I changed into my swimsuit, bundled up in my pink cheetah robe from home and met Keegan at the Arsenic Spring. We tried every single pool and lounged for about 4 hours. I fell asleep in the soda pool, with its awning enclosing the steam. This was the only zone with absolutely no talking, and I actually appreciated the rule. We meditated, relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I highly recommend this resort to anyone staying near Santa Fe. If you can’t afford to stay overnight, the day pass shall suffice.

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As if the day couldn’t get any better, we tried our first oxygen bar that evening. Apparently most customers arrive searching for relief from the symptoms of elevation sickness, but this wasn’t the case for us. Keegan knew I wanted to relax, so he surprised me with an oxygen bar Groupon for graduation.

We weren’t sure what flavors they would have, but I imagined a large variety as if we were vaping, and I was wrong. I told Keegan on the way I hoped to try either Eucalyptus or coffee flavored oxygen and they only had about 5 flavors on tap. Our bartender recommended the peppermint. “Close enough to eucalyptus”, I thought. We enjoyed the fragrance and flavor as our bartender shared his excitement about the Women’s March in DC the following weekend; he was leaving that Tuesday to drive across the country on a solo-road-trip. It’s refreshing to run into like-minded people on vacation– or just someone you can bitch with about politics at the very least.

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We continued our adventure around the plaza. For Santa Fe to be the capital of New Mexico, it is the least metropolitan-looking city I have ever visited. Keegan and I marveled at the buildings, none of which were high rises by any means. Most every building was comprised of contoured adobe walls, flat spanish-style roofs and small arched doorways that led you to feel like you’re a hobbit, whether you liked it or not. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city with so many buildings with lower ceilings, and I loved it.

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Keegan and I sought a bar that wasn’t cash only. By our third attempt, we found the right place: Crowbar, which sounded awfully similar to my favorite bar in Nashville, 3 Crow. Not only was our bartender absolutely hilarious, when I asked him to surprise me with something fruity, the drink was spot-on. He noticed me trying to fish out my sinking, vodka-soaked black cherries from the middle of the drink, laughed, and brought me a small container packed with cherries. He said, “Live it up darling”, and those vodka soaked cherries nearly put me over the edge.

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Maybe he was coked out or maybe he was just having a good time. Either way, this guy was certainly animated and quite possibly the funniest bartender we’ve ever had. Not once did we ever encounter an asshole in Santa Fe, or Albuquerque, for that matter. Everyone was friendly and down-to-earth; it’s no wonder so many spiritual gurus and energy healers are drawn to this area. Even our server at Il Piatto Italian Farmhouse encouraged us to wait 20 minutes before ordering, as happy hour and half-off pasta were just around the corner. Besides the massage therapist cancelling unexpectedly, I have nothing but good things to say regarding the customer service we received in New Mexico.

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Before we returned to Northern Colorado, I had to see Bandalier National Monument. We have this unspoken tradition of visiting a state or national park on damn near every vacation we take, so when I read about this national monument, I wondered “What’s the difference between this and a national park?” According to OutsideOnline.com,

The primary difference lies in the reason for preserving the land: National parks are protected due to their scenic, inspirational, education, and recreational value. National monuments have objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest, so their content is quite varied.

 

Unbeknownst to me, every year Congress declares 10 days “Entry Fee Free” to National Parks and Monuments, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day just so happened to be one of those days. Originally I wanted to go to a park on that Sunday, but we opted for Monday instead and saved $20.

I was honestly skeptical of the national monument leading up to our trip. I wondered if it would be as pretty and breathtaking as other places we’ve visited, although Rocky Mountain National Park and Canyonlands are hard to beat. Bandalier wasn’t necessarily gorgeous as much as it was astounding. National parks don’t require me to use my imagination like we did at this place. We took a tour through time, one that leaves you wondering what it might’ve been like to live in the cliff dwellings around 1150 CE.
The coolest part was climbing in the caves via sturdy, wooden ladders. It’s as if the park rangers invited us to examine these people’s lives while having fun and playing outside. Despite this area being protected thanks to President Woodrow Wilson, you’re totally allowed to explore many of the alcoves, making for a very special and memorable experience. BNM encouraged us to explore other national monuments in the future. I’ve retained this secret fascination with ancient people and cultures for years, and Bandalier satisfied my need to delve into the past. Click here to learn more about Bandalier National Monument.

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We headed home afterwards and drove directly into a snow storm as we ascended the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Luckily for me, I slept a good two hours while Keegan braved the icy roads.

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All in all, we had an amazing vacation. Operation Most Relaxing Vaca Ever was a huge success. Much like Moab, Utah, I know we barely scratched the surface of what this area has to offer. Similarly, we hope to return to Santa Fe as quickly as possible. If we had this much fun in the off-season, I can’t imagine the energy in the summer. If you haven’t traveled to New Mexico yet, do yourself a favor and start planning a trip immediately.