New Mexico

100th Birthday in the Land of Enchantment

San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos

 

Construction of the most photographed church in New Mexico started 140 years before statehood was approved in 1912. The natural beauty, flavorful cuisine, rich cultural and artistic history magnetically draw visitors to the Land of Enchantment. After dozens of trips to all corners of the state we still find new adventures and rewarding experiences with each visit. Why not join in the celebration with your own New Mexico discoveries?

 

Check back often to see an ongoing series of reasons to visit and enjoy the enchantment.

Arizona

100 Years – 100 Reasons to Visit

Arizona celebrates 100 years of statehood in 2012. From the Grand Canyon to the Sonoran Desert, metropolitan Phoenix to the ghost  town of  Fairbanks the variety of scenery, activities and cultures offers hundreds of reasons to visit for everyone from extreme athlete to retirees.

 

 

Known as the Grand Canyon State, is there any better place to begin a tour of Arizona than Grand Canyon National Park? Whether you raft down the Colorado River, hike the South Kaibab Trail, peak over the rim at Grand Canyon Village or fly above it all with Grand Canyon Airlines the awe factor impresses.

 

In the days and weeks to come look for more reasons to visit Arizona during their centennial year.

Fantastic Friday

Blue Chairs on Couse Porch - B

A century-old world of creativity and inspiration opened as we stepped into the domain of famed Taos artist E.I. Couse (1866-1936). By pre-arrangement, we met Couse’s granddaughter Virginia in the garden of his home and studio. For nearly two hours we were captivateCouse Palette - Bd by the stories she shared of her grandfather, one of the founding members of the Taos Art Society as we walked through rooms filled with family furnishings, collections, sketches, prints and original paintings. We left inspired not only by Couse’s art but the family’s commitment to preserve his legacy through The Couse Foundation.

Tours must be arranged in advanced. No fee is charged but donations to the foundation are gratefully accepted. When you go be generous for this is worthy of support.

Bavarian Exterior - BFor the afternoon we headed to the Taos Ski Valley and lunch at the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant. The 19-mile drive from Taos ascends through the Carson National Forest into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The restaurant sits at over 10,000” altitude, transporting guests to an alp-like ambiance. After a filling German lunch we stroll the Village of Taos Ski Valley, considerably quieter than a wintertime visit.

Returning to Taos we stop in the quirky village of Arroyo Seco. It’s impossible for me to pass through Seco twice without a stop at Taos Cow Bob with Ice Cream - BIce Cream. I consider the day a total success when one of today’s choices is Pinion Caramel, my absolute favorite. Across the street we “need” to do some jewelry shopping at Claire Works. Bob is now supplied with gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

In light of spaetzle and ice cream we make a workout visit to the Taos Spa. The facility accommodates regional visitors with reasonable priced day passes or multi-visit punch cards.

We peacefully conclude the day back at the casita with music, wine and books – a fantastic Friday.

 

Tantalizing Taste and Tranquility in Taos

Orlando's Birdhouse - BWe’ve arrived for our long anticipated yearly sojourn in Taos, New Mexico. Next week Bob attends a watercolor workshop given by Taos resident artist/potter Stephen Kilborn. Driving from Colorado our traditional first stop is lunch at Orlando’s, a personal favorite consistently serving excellent New Mexican fare.

Today we savored every tantalizing taste – Bob a shredded beef chimichanga, Nancy a combination platter of cheese and onion enchilada in a blue corn tortilla, chile relleno and a shredded beef taco in soft shell blue corn tortillas, accompanied by posole and beans. Yum! Although many Orlando’s menu items are ones similar to those found on Tex-Mex menus there’s a world of difference in the rich New Mexican flavors.

Orlando's Diners - BFilled to the gills, we declined one of the homemade dessert treats. During our Taos visit I’m planning on several more visits to enjoy the shredded beef burrito, the fish tacos and grilled shrimp burrito plus dessert at least once. The flan is always exceptional and the frozen avocado pie uniquely refreshing.

Birdhouses at Casa - BFor the third year we’re delighted to settle into Casa de Las Abuelas, an adobe guest house. I’ll share more about this exceptional property in a separate posting. The convenient yet secluded location provides much needed tranquility after a day of travel, museum and gallery visits, or outdoor activity. After threatening afternoon skies we peacefully watched evening descend as mere whiffs of clouds inched across the sky. A perfect beginning to a Taos vacation.

Nancy on Patio - B

Black Forest Disappointment

Black Forest Exterior - B

I really, really wanted to like the Black Forest Restaurant in Nederland. Sadly, reality during a recent visit makes me admit that the food was a huge disappointment and both the service and ambience could use some spiffing up.

The Black Forest opened in the quiet mining town of Black Hawk in 1959 and successfully continued in that location for 42 years. When gambling arrived in Black Hawk the property gave way to a casino. Wilhelm Lorenz built a new restaurant 11 miles north in Nederland, the Black Forest home since 2000.

I think the large building has an Old World feel, as if picked up somewhere in the Alps and re-deposited in the Colorado Rockies. The Garden Room with an indoor waterfall and greenery looks toward the Continental Divide. With aspen trees immediately outside the Black Forest Waterfall - Bwindows the booths around the edge of the room almost feel like sitting in a tree house. The Hunting Room offers a more formal location for evening dining. The large Lounge must be a busy location after the nearby ski lifts close during the season.

We stopped for an early lunch the day after a busy holiday weekend; therefore, I will cut them a little slack. Some of my disappointment could be caused by shortages. Our waitress apologized for disappearing midway through our lunch saying, “They sent me to the store.” A waiter did pick up her duties while she was gone.

I ordered wiener schnitzel which the menu clearly states is a veal cutlet. I’m not an authority but would swear my blackened (not blackened in the Cajun sense but in the too long on the grill sense) meat was pork. I’ve never seen veal of that texture. The red cabbage could well have been out of a jar, nothing special or homemade in the taste. Ditto with the German potato salad, which was served cold. The bread was definitely a store bought multi-grain just like the loaf on our kitchen counter at home. Something’s wrong when the best dish of the meal is an iceberg lettuce salad with one cucumber slice and two grape tomatoes. The red onion vinaigrette dressing was nicely balanced.

Black Forest Interior - BBob found his sauerbraten acceptable. But, he’s pretty easily pleased. His potato pancake had been on the grill with my meat – too long. We had no complaints with the accompanying chunky applesauce. Bob ordered two servings of the “Homemade Ice Cream”. The molded dessert was so cold it was impossible to get more than a mere shaving at one time. While the chocolate bits added flavor there was no hint of creaminess. Our tab came to $40 + tip, too much for the quality and quantity.

Service was quirky. When we were seated the tables were set with silver pitchers of ice water. Halfway through the meal a waiter came by and picked up the pitcher – without a word and never to return. Why? This was not the case at any other table.

Much of the décor feels dated and well used. Near the door I couldn’t ignore the old movie screen and other items stowed behind a plant looking more discarded than stored. The open newspaper and glass of water on a bar table made me think the cook had probably been there only moments before. First impressions do make a difference.

When I Google “Black Forest Restaurant Nederland” I find their domain has expired. This seems indicative of the overall operation.

I do wish this Colorado tradition could live up to its potential. Soon!

Trolley Ride Through Cheyenne History

Trolley - B

On our first afternoon in Cheyenne we hop aboard the bright red and green Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley, an easy and relaxing intro to the city’s history and attractions. As our driver/guide Ron spins stories of a colorful past I make a list of locations I want to revisit, either to explore or take photographs.

As we pass the century-old Plains Hotel Ron explains the reasoning behind the smaller-than-average elevator. In the early 1900s when cowboys came to town to let off a little steam they would frequently ride their horses into bars and hotels. The Plains Hotel owner wanted an elevator that would hold only four men at a time – too small for a horse, effectively keeping horses out of the guest rooms. Later when we stopped by the Plains Hotel we watched four adults squeeze into the elevator that still keeps horses at bay.

The 90-minute trolley tours run daily from early May through September. For those wanting a car-free day passengers can stop at several attractions and join the next tour in 90 minutes. Weekday stops include The Nelson Museum of the West, the Wyoming State Capitol and Museum, the Frontier Days Old West Museum and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and the Historic Governor’s Mansion. Check the website for tour times and weekend tour details.

Tours cost $10/adult and $5/children 2-12. The Trolley Plus pass valid for two days includes admission to the Old West Museum, Nelson Museum and the Depot Museum, plus the trolley tour all for $15/adult.

Halloween Ghost Tours and Christmas Light Tours offered yearly.

Visit Cheyenne Info Center

Depot from the West - BWe made the info center in the restored Cheyenne Depot a first stop on our discovery trip to Wyoming’s capital city. Well stocked with printed info for all tourism interests, the selection covers all of the state not just Cheyenne. Staff gladly answers questions, offers suggestions and gives directions.

Purchase tickets for the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley tours. Or, pick up the free booklet for the Historic Downtown Cheyenne Walking Tour which covers 55 buildings along a 23-block stroll through the core of the city.

The information desk is open 8am-5pm Monday – Friday, open weekends with varying seasonal hours.

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