I’m sitting in what’s probably the tiniest airport in America. I’m one of five people here. The TSA checkpoint doesn’t even open until my plane arrives. The power just went out and I have to laugh because even with power back on wifi is, I’m guessing, not an option. No airport bar, no food, two rental car agencies, two airlines, one terminal. This is Santa Fe.
I have just spent five unforgettable days in New Mexico. To call this place “the land of enchantment” is an understatement. The history of the native American Indians, the adobe architecture and the endless works of art unique to this area are both humbling and powerful.
When planning my trip here I knew exactly who I wanted to take with me on my journey. My Mom. It took one phone call, no convincing and a couple months later we were landing here in this tiny airport.
This trip offered so many nutrients in these four areas of health – self-care, spirituality, local food and relationships. I was nurtured both physically and emotionally and will be reaping the benefits for years to come.
Our trip started by driving an hour north. Miles of uninhabited desert dotted with shrubby green bushes as far as you could see, casinos after casinos, the run down town of Espanola, plateaus, arroyos and finally we drop down into the town of Taos surrounded by desert, lined with mountains, dark grey clouds in the distance.
We arrived at El Monte Sagrado Resort just in time for dinner where I had my first plate of New Mexican green chile enchiladas and Mom had her first experience of eating elk.
Self Care. The following day I had one of the most extraordinary spa experiences of my life at The Living Spa in the resort. It started with using their steam room, sauna and taking a hot bath in a Japanese cedar tub.
Then I went in for my treatment which started with body brushing followed by an application of clay enriched with sage, cedar and juniper essential oils to my entire body. I was then tightly wrapped to promote
sweating allowing the clay to pull out and trap toxins. While I was wrapped the massage therapist placed Staurolite crystals indigenous to Taos all along my chakras, applied reflexology to my feet and treated my face with exfoliation and the same clay mask. I was then instructed to shower and return for a thirty minute full body massage. The session was complete with a glass of cold coconut water. I felt f-ing amazing.
Local Food. Taos has a quaint downtown filled with shopping aimed to tourists. We had a lovely lunch at Lambert’s of hummus, tabouli, pita, feta, olives, grilled local trout and vegetables.
For dinner in the evening we enjoyed regional, organic fare at The Love Apple. The lamb albondigas, red chile tamale and blue corn cake baked and served in cast iron were smoky, rich and provided some serious aromatherapy.
Spirituality. The next day we explored the Taos Art Museum at The Fechin House, the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge and visited the Earthship community – a completely off the grid community of homes built from recycled materials, dirt and adobe.
Local Food. We also visited two farmers markets where we found organic cherries, yams, garlic, apricots, squash, eggs and greens. What I also noticed is everywhere we went herbs such as Echinacea, lavender and sage grew wild.
Self-care. Before heading down to Santa Fe we decided to indulge in a little hydrotherapy at the sacred Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. Ojo Caliente is unique in that it is the only hot springs in the world that offers four different types of mineral waters – lithia, soda, arsenic and iron. Each pool offers different therapeutic properties at different temperatures. Lithia offers relief from depression, soda relieves digestive issues, iron supports the immune system and blood and arsenic relieves arthritis, is good for digestion and heals skin conditions. They are all good for toning the skin and detoxing. There is also a mud bath which is made of clay. The idea is you slather yourself with mud and then lay out in the sun to let it harden on your skin which to extracts and traps toxins from your pores.
Local Food. We hit the ground running with a fine dining experience at Geronimo restaurant. House made sourdough and flatbread dusted with spices and sesame, seared foie gras with local cherries and roasted strawberries, Asian pear salad with blue cheese toast, arugula, endive and cashews, New Mexico “four corners” rack of lamb and Durham Ranch roasted chicken. We even went all out for dessert with banana cream pie accompanied by cinnamon chocolate ice-cream, a feather light orange “creamcicle” reminiscent of tres leches cake with lemongrass ice-cream and espresso and tea with star anise cookies. Wines too were fantastic. As was the service.
The hotel we stayed in, La Fonda on the Plaza, hosts a live band every night of the week. Music has always been an important part of our lives. A great way to end the night, which we did on both nights of our stay.
Local Food. Santa Fe has a ton of shopping, museums, art galleries and restaurants that surround a central plaza. Cafe Pasqual’s was on point for brunch with their more healthy approach to New Mexican fare. House-made whole wheat toast with avocado, poached eggs, house-cured bacon and a seed and spice mixture called dukkah was a stand out. Their more traditional chile relleno and vegetarian tamale with black beans, jicama and cilantro rice were also exceptional.
Spirituality. We went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum where I was mesmerized by her iconic artwork and passion for New Mexico.
Self-Care. Off the beaten path we discovered Milagro Herbs. They forage local herbs, make holistic skincare products and herbal medicine. They also have an extensive assortment of medicinal teas, clays and essential oils.
Local Food. Just down the street from there is Kakawa Chocolate. They make ancient recipe chocolate elixers, truffles and ice-cream. Smoky red chile finds its way into all three. Pinon (pine nuts), a commonly used ingredient in this area, were used in delicious caramel chocolate truffles.
Local Food. The Cayote Café is another worthy restaurant just off the plaza. Their tuna poke was fresh and vibrant with the addition of diced watermelon and avocado. I had the salmon with house-made cavatelli, chard and English peas. Mom had a decadent pork osso buco with Israeli cous cous. Marsala-tomato sauce and apple salad.
On the last day Mom flew home early back to San Diego. I went for a swim at the hotel, sat in Cathedral park and had a delicious Salmon nicoise salad at La Casa Sena. As I drove back to the tiny airport I took in the desert for the last time. The adobe homes, the squatty green bushes, the majestic mountains and the dark clouds, always in the distance, never once over me.
It was monsoon season in New Mexico but it never rained once.
Travel for good health
This trip fed my soul and promoted good health in so many ways. The vast deserts, local Indians and culture offered an amazing spiritual experience. The healing power of mineral baths, clay, massage, essential oils, reflexology and the warm sun re-energized my body. The local organic food nourished me.
Relationships. But the most rewarding aspect of the trip hands down was the quality time I enjoyed spending with my mom laughing, eating, getting pampered, exploring, talking and sharing. Deepening our relationship and connecting with new experiences we had offered the most nutritional benefit of all.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.