On the drive to Taos, we stopped at Abiquiu. There’s a lovely spot there, Abiquiu Inn, with a lively, leafy, flowery property and clean, comfortable, amenity-filled rooms that give one the feel she’s walking into old Mexico. The room I was shown opens up to a inviting courtyard. Totally recommend, but be prepared to dish out some dough.
Abiquiu Quick Tips
O’Keeffe purchased a 5000 square foot Spanish Colonial-era compound in the village of Abiquiu from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. It took her nearly 15 years to make the purchase as the Catholic church was stubborn about selling and probably trying to make her feel guilty about something. But in December 1945, she had success. Given how the place was in ruins, she and her “friend” Maria Chabot spent three years making the place habitable. O’Keefe’s finest work was created from her hacienda where the colorful landscapes of Mexico brought her great inspiration. The house, for the most part, remains as it was when she departed in 1984. Add to it, O’Keeffe was a prolific gardener growing most of her food. The garden is still thriving, and school kids come and work on it. I noticed when visiting the O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe that her book collection focused on herbs, organic vegetables, and nutrition. Down-to-earth gal with a ton of class.
Just wow. I felt more at home in this town than any other on this current journey. What is it? This odd sense of belonging somewhere. It surely couldn’t be familiar scents as the climate is unmistakably different from any other place I have ever lived. Hot, dry and windy. Supposedly the winds dry the high desert from the Winter, which explains not one iota our stay’s gusty days. Dry as a bone and windy as hell is what I was telling myself. Still, dust affixing itself to every exposed part of my person, later discovering it worked its way up my nose, still, it didn’t deter me from falling in love with Taos. No, quite the contrary. The inviting, warm winds of Taos beseeched me to linger just a while longer.
The original Spanish settlement began in 1615, but in 1680, the settlers were driven out by the Pueblo Revolt and the town wasn’t firmly resettled until 1710. This history continues. Read more.
Downtown Taos Quick Tips
1. Taos Plaza
2. Frescos at Old County Courthouse
3. Hotel La Fonda de Taos
The Taos Plaza
Reminiscent of every town in Mexico, the Taos Plaza is clearly a centralized gathering place in town. Encircled by cafes and boutiques, places to stop and rest, the plaza holds traditional celebrations and performances
Old County Courthouse
On the north side of the Plaza is the Old County Courthouse. Go inside and up the stairs to relish in the art by Emil Bisttram (studied with Diego Rivera as evidenced by this style), Victor Higgins, Bert Phillips, and Ward Lockwood.
The ten frescos on the second floor artistically (and beautifully, I might add) represent the struggles, both social and economic, of the Great Depression.
In 1934 upon the completion of the courthouse, those four prominent artists from Taos were commissioned to paint the 10 murals as part of FDR’s administration’s mural decoration program, Public Works of Art Project to put artists back to work during the Great Depression. In 1994, an 11th mural was painted by renowned New Mexican fresco artist Frederico Vigil. This was accomplished after Vigil conserved the ten original murals. I suspect Vigil put that in his contract. Read more about this fascinating and innovative project here.
Hotel La Fonda de Taos
With a rich and wild west history, Hotel La Fonda de Taos has been at this location since 1820. Originally a mercantile store that rented rooms, this was the first La Fonda (fonda is Spanish for Inn) in Taos. Go inside and breathe in the history while simultaneously giving your lungs a respite from the wind. Anyone fortunate (note the derivative “fortune” in fortunate) to stay here has easy access to all things downtown. While you’re snooping around Hotel La Fonda, be sure to check out D.H. Lawrence’s Forbidden Art collection.
Outskirts of Town Quick Tips
1. Taos Pueblo
2. San Francisco de Asis Church
120 Veterans Highway – 2 miles north of Taos
Children 10 and under free
Special rates for students and groups
- Check the website prior to your visit as the Taos Pueblo closes for traditional reasons throughout the year.
- To maintain the privacy and sacred heritage of the Pueblo People, there are strict rules about photography.
This is not a reservation. Our tour guide was explicit about that. Guarded with her answers, I tuned into the fact that these people, in addition to their proud history, struggled, for their land, their heritage, their culture.
Unlike many other tribes in the U.S. that have been misplaced, destroyed or otherwise forgotten about due to genocide, assimilation and forced to arid and unfamiliar lands, the Taos Indians have owned their land for more than 1000 years. Theirs is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA. Taos Pueblo is also the only Native American community designated both a Living World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.
Like other cultural specifics, details of their spirituality are closely guarded and not disclosed for concern of exploitation. Their Native Language, Tiwa, is unwritten and unrecorded and not divulged. Children are taught the language until 8th grade upon which time they have to enter public school outside the Pueblo.
The only major changes (besides adding a new external layer of mud and straw each year) to the two main structures, Hlaauma/North House and Hlaukkwima/South House, are doors and windows on the walls. Dating back in history, and to impede invading tribes, the only entrances were through the roof.
Check out the site Legends of America to learn more about these most fascinating people.
San Francisco de Asis Church
60 St Francis Plaza, Ranchos de Taos, NM
One of the most photographed and painted churches in the world, and a main inspiration for Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams, the San Francisco de Asis Church is lovingly maintained. It was closed when we visited. But there is something you must see: The Mystery Painting. Let us know what you think about it!
Lodging at Sagebrush Inn & Suites at 1508 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur
This was a great stay, and I’m quite happy we chose two nights here. Kristie, Customer Service Representative extraordinaire, gave us an upgrade to a suite with a patio facing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A dry field just outside the back door allowed a little space for Stella to run around, and after too much time spent in the car, she needed that. Little prairie dogs were popping their heads up to witness the canine commotion. There’s an authentic southwestern feel to the Sagebrush, and despite some wear and tear and a slight musty odor, it was my favorite lodging on this trip to date.
Check out all dog-friendly lodging here.
La Cueva at 135 Paseo del Pueblo Sur hit the spot two nights in a row! Catering to any practically anyone, La Cueva serves authentic Mexican food. Vegan was easy and everything on their menu is gluten free. We had burritos. Can’t let an old habit die young.
Quick Tips for those going West out of town
Heading out of Taos west on highway 64, we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, we scoped out the uber funky radically sustainable houses of Earthship Biotecture and witnessed a dust storm. All of that in a matter of 30 minutes.
Today my heart will have harmony;
My spirit singing the songs of happiness.
My mind will seek balance, one with Mother Earth and the Creator.
My eyes will look for good and there I will find it.
My mouth will whisper the words of gratitude. Today I will walk the beauty way.
~Howard T. Rainer
A poet and photographer, Taos Pueblo Howard Rainer is the Program Administrator of Native American Educational Outreach Programs at Brigham Young University.
Photos, videos and stuff*** Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use. And please do follow this blog and/or write comments. A big ole Windy Taos thanks!
Our Journey West Across the US
Post #1: Macon Music in Georgia
Post #2: Boy from Tupelo, Mississippi
Post #3: Two Must-Sees in Memphis Tennessee
Post #4: Mosey Through the Arkansas Ozarks
Post #5: Gettin’ Our Kicks on Route 66 from Missouri to Sapulpa, Oklahoma
Post #6: More Route 66 Kicks from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City
Post #7: Don’t Mess with Texas on Route 66
Post #8: Route 66 Texas Panhandle
Post #9: Bound for Tucumcari, New Mexico
Post #10: Santa Fe’ed Your Soul
This is Post #11: The Winds of Taos
Post #12: The Good, the Bad, and the Heinous of New Mexico
Post #13: Dusky, Durable Durango
Post #14: Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde Colorado
Post #15: Moab Rocks
Post #16: No Clever Title for Richfield, Utah
Post #17: Leavening Las Vegas