I have a few good photographer friends here in Denver, and last December one of them asked me to assist her on a shoot for Wall Street Journal Magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico (article here). I jumped at the chance– New Mexico is an amazing, otherworldly place that feels more Martian than American. And it’s only a 5 hour drive from Denver.
Despite having a shoot in San Jose the week before and having only a day to myself in between, it was so totally worth it. I think a normal person would have said “no” after a harrowing 5 day shoot on the West Coast, but then again, normal people don’t have to make rent the same way I do. Onward, New Mexico! Hi ho, Sangre de Cristo Mountains! God damnit, higher altitude than Denver! With cracked hands and smiling faces, we plunged onward into the Santa Fe suburbs for what ended up being a flawless photo shoot.
Not only was I shooting in a gorgeous state with a good friend, but my parents flew out to visit me the day we wrapped. We’d gone to New Mexico as a family before, and they had one thing on their mind: Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. For them, a trip out to Denver wasn’t complete without a quick stop in New Mexico. By some miracle, the timing worked out perfectly and my parents got into town the second we finished. I waved goodbye to my fearless femme photographer and went into 100% vacation mode: finally, a day off after a crazy first few weeks of December.
And the gorgeous Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. When I was younger, I hated our trip here because you’re just sitting in hot mountain juice with a bunch of randos. But now, as an adult with an aching back and a free hotel stay with my parents, I was sooo grateful. The biting cold made slipping into the mud and sulfur tubs that much more worth it. Plus, a group of monks just happened to be blessing the pools the day we left. I love how soakers stayed in the pools and just hung out as they were blessed by a holy entity in their bathing suits.
I think the monks get free soaking if they bless each pond.
Where We Stayed:
The Loretto – I don’t recommend the suites– the walls are paper thin, even though it has a gorgeous balcony.
Hotel Chimayo – LOVED the fireplace service. Having someone come and set up a roaring hearth makes cuddling up against the frigid altitude so, so worth it.
Ojo Caliente Resort– The rooms were OK, but the pools are the best part. Might be worth booking a room at a cheaper hotel down the road and just soaking at the pools during the day.
Where We Ate:
Palacio Cafe – Owned by the nicest couple ever
Kakawa – A MUST if you’re in Santa Fe. Each little cup of cacao with milk, almond milk, or cream is absolutely delicious. You’ll be glad they’re small though– it’s so rich!
The Shed – Solid Mexican food
Estevan – Pricey but 100% worth it
La Boca – Great tapas, but truly amazing paella
Anasazi Inn – Perfect cocktails before a night out
Rancho de Chimayo – We stopped in this small town to buy rugs, but there weren’t any restaurants or bars to grab a beer. LO, the Rancho Chimayo appeared like an oasis mirage in the desert. This place was PACKED. Soccer teams, birthday parties, you name it. We nabbed a spot by the “cantina” near a (you guessed it) fireplace. Delicious Mexican food, even better margaritas.
Ojo Caliente Restaurant– Pricey (like the entire resort) but damn, the cactus margaritas were incredible. I got duck sausage and didn’t regret it, and I’m pretty sure the monks got fucked up on the margaritas, too. Get it, monks!