Santa Fe – the city different

After eight days exploring spectacular national parks and seven nights in a tent, some of them with temperatures barely above freezing, I was ready for the comforts of a hotel room. I love the wilderness, but a real bed is pretty cool too.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, calls itself the city different. It’s over 400 years old, the oldest capital city in the U.S. since it was a provincial capital under the Spanish. It has a beautiful historical district. The atmosphere and food are excellent, adobe architecture prevails, and the influence of the Anglo, Spanish and Native American cultures is everywhere. You can also see the influence of the French clergy who built the basilica and several of the other Catholic churches in the town. What a great place for us to spend a few days and recharge the batteries.

We were lucky to be there on a weekend and to go to the local farmers’ market on Saturday morning. Ottawa has markets and so does Montreal, but this was different. It felt like a market in Mexico or a Caribbean island – the buzz, the colours, the variety of products, the people – all of it seemed to belong somewhere other than the United States.

The market was like a feast. I saw all kinds of varieties of tomatoes, fresh peppers, onions, gourds and beans. There were bouquets of fresh-cut flowers and artisanal products like teas, honey and jams. Food to take home and enjoy such as pies and meats, and some to eat on the spot like grilled sausages. There were handicrafts, jewellery and paintings. Some ladies were selling decorations made of dried peppers: wreaths, crosses and ornamental ristras. They also had items made of sage: simple bundles tied with colourful yarns, others in the shape of crosses, little mules, wreaths, bouquets and cacti.

There were men roasting peppers in large mesh barrels with gas burners directly below them. They had to keep turning the barrels to tumble the peppers so they wouldn’t burn. People waited in line to buy the freshly roasted peppers and ate them on the spot.

The shoppers were just as interesting. There was the elite of the town, well-heeled and fashionable, there was the hipster crowd with babies in tow, there were middle-aged women talking about their yoga classes, cowboys in boots with spurs, young people who looked like they’d just stepped out of the 60s with long skirts, headbands and tie-dyed t-shirts, and then there were ordinary people and tourists just like us. Everyone was in good humour, greeting acquaintances and strangers alike.

Being there was energizing and fun. It was like we’d stumbled onto a party where we were welcomed and embraced. My only regret is that I can’t go back next Saturday.


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