THE BEST OF SANTA FE

by Paul Ross

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Its nickname is "the city different," a tag it wears proudly in its expression of history, arts, culture and its open embracement of the spiritual, technological, and just plain 'odd.'

For a town with a permanent population of about 63,000: it's the second largest art market in the U.S.; its touted "tri-culturalism" (Native American, Hispanic and Anglo) is dotted with everything from Crypto-Jews to refugee Tibetan Buddhists; the religious listings section in the local newspaper (The New Mexican) is a full page; and scientists from neighboring Los Alamos insure a steady supply of cutting-edge techno informational present-ations, many of which are open to a curious and informed public.

There's a surfeit of world-renown restaurants (The Coyote Café, The Old House, Santa Café, Geronimo, The Compound, Casa Sena, Tomasita's and probably a half-dozen other new places that have opened between the time I write this and its publication date), museums (8 major ones), and year-round outdoor activities (fishing, biking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, running, skiing, and more golf than you can shake a stick at).

While everyone knows Sedona, Arizona as a "new age center," to the cognoscenti, Santa Fe is acknowledged as "the bodywork capital" with therapists, practitioners, at least one space alien and several massage and acupuncture/Oriental medicine schools. From Ashtanga Yoga to Zen archery, from African drumming to Zuni fetish-craft, and taught by devotees to dilettantes; the instructors are usually not from the ethnicity or culture involved.

Whatever isn't already here, comes to visit -many on a regular basis- Maori healers, "the divine mother" Amaji, Mexican curanderas, South American shamans, Filipino psychic surgeons …the list is virtually endless.Both ahead of the curve and behind the times, Santa Fe is charming, unique, and always a personal experience.

Best Deluxury
The Travel and the Discovery Health Channels devoted an entire hour to Vista Clara Ranch as "one of the best… in the world" and, with its ratio of 3.5 staff members to each guest, it's easy to see why.

Using ISPA official guidelines, General Manager Kaye Sandford said, "We are Santa Fe's only destination spa, " a sentiment echoed in Outside magazine's assessment of them as "This is … as much for the mind and soul as it is for the body." Embracing indigenous traditions in many of its treatments and activities, Vista Clara has a sweeping view of the Galisteo Basin, offers comprehensive packages, and will chauffer you around in either their Humvee or stretch limousine.
(888) nmexspa www.vistaclara.com

Best Fountain of Youth
The Longevity Café. Now there's a promise in a name. Cozily tucked-away in a corner of a downtown shopping complex; teas, healthy juice potions, and snacks are tasty treats which are solidly-based in traditional oriental medicine. Between the energy drinks and high-speed DSL internet connections, you can really get wired here!

In the Plaza Mercado at Water and Galisteo Streets. (505) 986-0403

Best Japanese-style Spa
10,000 Waves began with a laid-back idea and a few hot tubs in the mountains and has blossomed into an internationally- known spa experience. They've every-thing from an open air, clothing-optional communal tub to a Japanese facial that uses nightingale bird-droppings!
(505) 982-5025 www.tenthousandwaves.com

Best Hippie Café
The Café Oasis Restauranté is trip back in time and spaced, man. A rambling, old house has been converted into a comfy, psychedelic-looking pad which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it's open late. Remember the Hog Farm?
526 Galisteo Street (505) 983-9599

Best Getaway Without Going Anywhere
Initially begun as a retreat, Sunrise Springs is mere minutes from downtown but feels worlds away. Maybe it's the natural springs at the heart of the 33-acre complex!? Whatever it is, classes (yoga to raku pottery), treatments (try the hot healing stones), or the Blue Heron restaurant; it's an amazing inner adventure. (800) 955-0028 www.innatsunrisesprings.com

Best Alternative Approach Health School
Part of the reason that Santa Fe is referred to as "the bodywork capital" is that many massage, acupuncture, energy and energy therapy schools call it home.
The Scherer Institute of Natural Healing (505) 982-8398 (www.schererinstitute.com) in biz since 1979, NM Academy of Healing Arts (505) 982-6271 (info@healingarts.org), Southwest College (505) 471-5756 (www.swc.edu) offers everything from and M.A. in Art Therapy to a Certificate in Grief Counseling.
The International Institute of Chinese Medicine's name (and 40 year reputation) speaks for itself (800) 377-4561, and not far behind in years of prestigious service is the Southwestern Acupuncture College www.acupuncturecol.com

Best Bodywork Supply
In the biz or just a committed consumer, The Body-worker's Store lets you stock up directly on oils, pillows, table, and devices. They boast, "If we don't have it, we'll get it!" and, as a result, have filled some bizarre requests over the years.(505) 986-0362

Best Martial Arts Academy
There's a great selection in this category but the schools that also feature meditative arts include:
Dragon's Journey School of Tai Chi (505) 455-2066,
The Tae Kwon Do Institute (505) 983-8356, and T'ai Chi Ch'uan & Qi Gong International Healing Arts (505) 984-2967

Best Cooking Classes
Wanna learn real authentic southwest cooking? Try the Santa Fe School of Cooking (505) 983-4511
For everything else from Italian to Thai, check out Las Cosas Kitchen Shop in the newly-redone DeVargas Mall (505) 988-3394
Both establishments offer fun and fast, half-day, you-do-it cook and eat courses with lively celebrity chefs.

Best Yoga
Yoga Moves. Rima Miller is an artist, actress, puppeteer, spiritual tour guide (Yogaventurs), and life-long practitioner/teacher. (505) 989-1072
Dahn Center (505) 820-2211 Less Indian and more Asian (Ki-Gong, Ji-Gam, Do-In, etc.). Korea meets Santa Fe.
Bikram Yoga College of India (505) 955-1515 One of 500 locations, and the only one in the state, works its magic in a heated room to boost the physical capabilities inherent in the practice.

Best New Age Newspaper
Crosswinds Weekly lists soul retrieval by phone to specialties hard-pressed to define. It is only one of several FREE papers which show an astounding wide variety of niche interests for such a small town.

The Santa Fe Reporter is a long-established alternate weekly that tourists and locals consult for arts, entertain-ment, and dining tips.

THE magazine specializes exclusively in the art scene (remember, Santa Fe is the #2 market in the U.S.)

The Eldorado Sun. Although situated in a bedroom community, it's close enough for cultural overlap and has special theme editions that are both educational and entertaining.

Best Personal Service Spa
The Avanyu spa at La Posada is marked by attention to the individual -in both clientele and personnel. Guests are always guided through the facility and offered herbal teas and the staff is free to bring personal commitment to energy work into applied therapies. "It's not just a job for our technicians," said Chris Pulito, Spa Director, "and our guests notice."

Located within walking distance of the historic plaza, the Avanyu treats with local, organic formulations and is
a little island of pampering serenity.

500 E. Palace Avenue (800) 727-5276 www.laposadadesantafe.com

Best Health Club
Here it depends on what you want: gear, atmosphere, or community. In order of the preceeding: there's all the equipment at the Santa Fe Spa (505) 984-8727; the mountainside views at El Gancho Fitness, Swim & Racquet-ball Club (505) 988-5000, and; the family-oriented Genoveva Chavez Community Center, which even sports an ice rink (505) 955-4001

Best Hiking Trail
This listing is subject to debatable opinion and the season. Summer and Fall are great for The Randall Davey Audubon Center (an easy walk), the trails around St. John's College (more challenging), and Aspen View, up near the Santa Fe Ski Basin which, in Winter, becomes a cross-country mini-adventure. At almost any time of year, these and several other paths less traveled offer a good commune with nature. Many inexpensive guidebooks and some free maps are readily available.

Best Native Experience
Although several terrific musea in town offer glimpses into Indian life of the past (most notably The Wheelwright and The Museum of Indian Art and Culture) and the present (the very contemporary Institute of American Indian Art) several nearby pueblos maintain a traditional schedule of religious festivals with tribal dancing. The complimentary Santa Fe Guide, which can be mailed to you and is handed-out at numerous tourist information sites, lists the full calendar.

If you are really into experiential journeying and are persistent in asking-around, there are a variety of participatory ceremonies including sweat lodges.

Best Classic Transcendental Experience
Opera under the stars. The world-renown Santa Fe Opera is not particularly a hidden, new age discovery but the music of Mozart in this setting is a transformative revelation. (800) 280-4654 www.santafeopera.org

And free Shakespeare in the open air at St. John's College ain't bad either..!
Both are summertime events.

Best Bookshop
The Ark for true believers or the spiritually curious at 133 Romero Street (505) 988-3709. Downtown Subscription, 376 Garcia Street (505) 983-3085, to hang with the locals, and Borders in the diverse Sambusco Center for its Santa Fe spin of presenting regional performing talent.
If you don't want to wait, you prep for Santa Fe in advance by reading about the city's favorite food in either "The Red Chile Bible" or "The Green Chile Bible" from Clearlight Press, a Santa Fe-based publisher also specializing in beautiful coffee-table photo books. Catalogue available at www.clearlightbooks.com (800) 253-2747

Best Art Shopping
Walking Canyon Road of a Friday eve is a summer-time ritual. 200 galleries stay open late and, on opening nights, offer refreshments too. Meet the artists and you never know who else.

Though the biggest ethnic arts events in this very art-oriented city remain Indian Market (August 17-18, when collectors nearly treble the population so, if you plan to visit at that time, make your reservations early) and Spanish Market (July 27-26).
The Native American artwork vendors lined-up daily in front of the Palace of the Governors are legendary.

Best Souvenir
Chile Ristras, those colorful hanging clusters or wreathes of peppers are hand-made, part of history, affordable, and help support the local economy. AND you can actually pull off individual chiles and cook with them!

Although there are omnipresent ristra-buying opportunities in the state, a good place to purchase them -and a number of other delectable local delights as well- is the Farmer's Market held in the railyard during the summer months on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Best Strung-out Hangout
At any hour of the day or night the Aztec Street Café is chockfull of artists, performers, posers, skateboarders, drifters, the unidentifiable and the just plain weird. Good coffee, great sideshow. 317 Aztec Street (505) 983-9464 ..but, if that's too weird, still artistic but shifting more toward normal is Tribes 139 W. San Francisco St. (505) 982-7948

Best Monastic Dabble
The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is remote, beautiful, and a real monastery which invites guests to stay and participate in the austere religious lifestyle -though the modern monks have progressed from making illuminated manuscripts to designing websites. Sublimely serene, the chanting is sublime. (warning: Wintertime driving often necessitates a 4-wheel drive vehicle.) www.christdesert.org
And you are in the heart of Georgia O'Keeffe "country" -tours are available of her home and the surrounding vistas are a testament that her particular vision was more realistic than most expect.

Also nearby is the oldest (and, some say, fun-kiest) spa: Ojo Caliente. Five different waters come from the earth in one place and its eclective clientel insure that you're as likely to encounter a ski-sore, jaded Eurotrash jet-setter as you are a local Hispanic farmer trying to combat a hangover. (800) 222-9162 www.ojocalientespa.com

Best Historical Resort
The Bishop's Lodge was the actual residence of ("Death Comes for the Arch...") Bishop Lamy and is the city's brand new full-service resort spa destination that's as popular with families as it is with selective convention-eers. You can go for a morning horseback ride then enjoy the Lodge's famous Sunday brunch. (800) 543-8475

Best Old New Mexico
El Rancho de las Golondrinas is not the perfection of colonial Williamsburg but it's no tourist-trap either. It is a loving and faithful recreation of early Spanish ranching days in the southwest with different events happening almost every weekend (Mountain Man Days, a Wine and Chile Fiesta, cooking lessons, hands-on arts and crafts demos, etc.). Educational and fun for the whole family, it's relaxed and contemplative as well. (505) 471-5623

Best Flea Market
Well, there's really only one ..but it's a doozy, with everything from authentic African trinkets hawked by Nigerians to custom-made clothing and furniture. The tales of bargains are urban folklore. Open weekends from late spring to early Fall just north of town near the opera.

Best New Bar Experience
Swig - young, 'coastal,' and either exemplary of a new trend in Santa Fe or totally misplaced. Chic, minimalist mod décor (sometimes too cool for anyone's good-- the pool tables have lighting better-suited to wartime blackout conditions), pricey drinks ($12 martini glass margarita), music, lively crowd. Corner of Grant and Palace (505)
For dancing, there are the various music styles presented nightly at the Paramount (505) 982-8999 or, for you CW line-dancing fans, mosey on to Rodeo Nights 473-4138

Best Massage
Hey, I've got to live in Santa Fe, I'm not getting into this discussion! There are 2 full yellow pages listing therapists, masseuses and masseurs. If YOU don't want to get caught up in a debate, don't ask.

Not in town but closeby
Coming into New Mexico by plane, train and many highways, most will approach through Albuquerque. Although New Mexico's largest city (@600,000) has gotten a bad rap, there are interesting things to experience on your way approximately an hour drive north to Santa Fe.

In October, the International Balloon Fiesta fills the sky with colorful shapes.
Just on I-25, the Coronado State Monument is small but worth the side-trip as it provides one of the few opportunities to venture into a recreated, fully-painted kiva (Pueblo Indian underground ceremonial chamber).

One of the newest and biggest full-service spas in New Mexico is the Tamaya, a joint venture between the massive Hyatt Resort corporation and a local tribe. 867-1234 http://tamaya.hyatt.com

Taos (1 hour north) has art, history, a colorful pueblo, a breath-taking gorge and river canyon beauty. Its skiing is world-famous. On the way, there's Chimayo with its legendary church which is often referred to as the "Lourdes of America" (While you're there, be sure to try Leona's tortillas in flavors which range from pesto to chocolate and banana.) there's also the Bandelier National Monument where you can clamber up into ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings and, if you dare, a 2-story ladder to a sacred kiva.

Nearby and to the east of Santa Fe is Pecos with its mountainous beauty and historic import (there are small but impressive ruins and it was the site of the western-most battle of the Civil War which is recreated yearly). There's also the preserved town of Las Vegas with its tree-shaded streets filled with stately Victorian homes.

General information - www.santafechamber.com
(Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, a good, branching website.) www.santafe.org (Santa Fe Convention & Visitors' Bureau) www.festivalsantafe.org (800 - 877-22-3022 for performance arts schedules and information)

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