We had visited Santa Fe about 15 years ago and we had very pleasant memories of it. It was the original city in what became New Mexico and has been the capital of the region for over 300 years under both the Spanish, Mexican , and US governments. It has a rich cultural heritage and some very interesting architecture near its central plaza.
There are two ways to get from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. In the morning we opted for the Turquoise Trail Scenic Highway. We seek out the roads that have been named Scenic Highways and have had great experiences traveling these roads so we were excited to try another one. About halfway on the highway was a town called Madrid which was described as an old coal mining town that had been converted into an artists colony after the mine closed. Madrid was an interesting stop with a lot of homes that had been converted into artist and artisan studios. We enjoyed a walk around the town. Unfortunately the pandemic seems to have hit the town pretty hard as about 25% of the shops were closed and had for sale signs in the windows.
The first half of the Turquoise Trail into Madrid had been unimpressive, so we assumed the scenic part would start after Madrid. We were disappointed, this is the least scenic, scenic highway we have traveled on in the US.
New Mexico is famous for it’s green and red chile salsas particularly the green chile salsa. Fortunately for us our neighbors for the first two nights were native New Mexicans and they told us that their favorite restaurant was called La Choza and that they ate their every couple of weeks. After a bit of an adventure finding a legal place to park Scout we arrived at La Choza about 12:30pm thinking we had missed the lunch rush only to be told the wait would be 30 to 45 minutes. Ton had enchiladas with green and red chile, and I had a combo plate of a chile relleno, and a dish I had never heard of called Carne Adovada. It was all delicious and the spice level was high enough to even impress Ton. The Carne Adovada was pork mixed with chile sauce, oregano, and secret spices. It was delicious and Ton enjoyed the sauce enough to compare it favorably with a Thai dish which is a high complement.
I received some ideas on where we could park Scout within reasonable distance of old town from the waiter, and we were off to see if our memories of Santa Fe would stand the test of time. While Santa Fe had clearly undergone a pretty good growth spurt since we were last here, the old town retained its charm and won us over again.
We finished the day with a quick stop at Santa Fe brewing and the Costco in Albuquerque.