Kamille D. Whittaker
Sky City: Santa Fe
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
They call Santa Fe the “Sky City” because – besides being at 7,000-foot altitude — you are constantly compelled to look up. You see a glimpse of this in “Buck and the Preacher” starring Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte depicting the westward expansion by then-post-Civil War migrants and homesteaders who ventured by the thousands from Louisiana to Colorado via the jagged, seemingly indifferent and unrelenting expanse of New Mexico where sky and earth meet. Another reference, where looking up is synonymous with looking ahead, Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns” encapsulates the westward migration in the story of Robert Pershing Foster, who leaves Louisiana and heads west nonstop until he reaches El Paso, Texas. He then “crossed into New Mexico” but “had no reason to stop there” except to sleep. As a gateway to the west, Santa Fe represents a crossroads, of sorts, in history — the near and far past and future — but rarely the present. Always, instead, a lingering between temporal poles — symbolic renderings of what was and what could be. Always a pit stop en route to ... elsewhere. Always ephemeral.
The plan was simple: Find a reason to stay.
It’s fitting then, that the Inn and Spa at Loretto sits at the end of the historical Old Santa Fe Trail, a 19th-century transportation route that connected the Midwest with the Southwest. It served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro which led south to Mexico.
An architectural homage to the famed Taos Pueblo, one of eight pueblos still standing in Northern New Mexico, the Inn and Spa at Loretto sits like it has risen, as a phoenix proverbially would, from dust — with adobe architecture climbing high with twists and turns, and bended corners that jut every which way into the sky — rivaling the Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges in its flanks. The roofs, terraced and flat, include projecting wooden roof beams or “vigas,” which sometimes serve no contemporary structural purpose. In fact, it’s easy to conclude that beauty for beauty’s sake is often the sole purpose for these aesthetic flourishes. Indoors, each of the 136 guest rooms and five specialty suites are styled with earthy hues of terracotta red, bronzy-gold, and stark black and white commonly used in Anasazi pottery and blankets. Outdoors, the color palette parallels the shades of the terrain, adobe-beige and rustic gold, accented by or a cerulean blue ... you see it on the walls, in the art, you want to wear it, you want to blend in.
But it’s functional, too. There’s a purpose, a beautiful science, if you will, behind coating each room and space with a veneer that nods to indigenous influence, or angling each room so that at least once, either by day or night, there is a chance to commune with the sun or moon, or the Saint Francis Basilica, the Loretto Chapel, or the Cross of the Martyrs in the distance.
“It’s a reminder that whether it’s food, art, architecture, culture, here, it’s all connected,” says Suzanne Chavez, healer, and spa director, spilling details on the reason travelers have frequented Santa Fe, and the Inn and Spa at Loretto specifically, in hopes of tapping into its mystic energy. Metaphysical treatments — ranging from Mindful Massage, Dos Milagros (two therapists, four hands, pure bliss) to the Desert Sage Scrub and the new OxyGeneo System Facial — draw from indigenous traditions, threading together the physical with the emotional and spiritual — the latter often an afterthought elsewhere. She observed me earlier in the evening inching toward final residues of the sunset that was spilling into the two-story penthouse from five intimate surrounding balconies which give you 360-degree views of the historic plaza, Canyon Road, the city.
The Chakras Balancing treatment I’d opted to get the following day suited what she had gathered about me in those short moments, she says. “You are observant, you are a sponge for information and have a nurturing, maternal core that grounds you, but are constantly being led by cerebral energy. Water-like.” According to the Tantric tradition, everyone has seven energy centers that serve as junction points between the body and spirit. These spinning vortices, called chakras in Sanskrit, receive and express our vital life energy. Crystals meticulously placed at each energy portal work in concert to clear the channels from your feet to your head and throughout your limbs. The end result — balance. Which is what you’ll feel here: drawn in, grounded ... collected.
Every reason to stop; every reason to stay awhile.
Top of the Morning
Break your fast with authentic, no-frills Southwestern cuisine. Tia Sophia’s is a Santa Fe institution. Hugs are on the house.
Canyon Road Stroll
Since its early Native American and Spanish roots, Canyon Road has been a trail of abundance — initially as a farming community, later as the site of an art colony, and today as one of the country’s top destinations for Contemporary, Traditional, or Native American fine art. A special Treat: The Flying Fish Santa Fe Boutique is a shrine to the Bermuda-born owner’s worldwide travels throughout the African Diaspora.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Experience an intimate look at the latest exhibition on Mexican Modernist Miguel Covarrubias, a contemporary of Georgia O’Keeffe as well as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. He was known for his ethnography, painting and caricatures which often made an appearance in popular magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue.
A feast for the eyes, the Inn and Spa at Loretto’s Luminaria Restaurant and Patio decor is inspired by ancestral Anasazi history. The Anasazi’s use of mineral-based paint influenced the charcoal grey walls and the white washed pine floors, vigas and latillas throughout the restaurant. A flickering kiva fireplace, copper top adobe bar, and colorful paintings by Native American artist, Mateo Romero, provide an almost rustic elegance. Tip: Try the Blue Corn Muffins, Blue Corn Pancakes, Blue Corn anything.
Antiquing at Rippel USA
John Rippel, anthropologist, celebrates 45 years as a silversmith selling his custom buckles, belts and other jewelry in his downtown shop this year. The store offers a variety of vintage and contemporary turquoise and sterling items and is located near the historic Plaza.
Tapas at La Boca
With the feel of a lively European wine bar, La Boca also features an extensive selection of carefully chosen Mediterranean and South American wines. La Boca also prides itself on being an ambassador of Spanish sherry culture, transporting its guests to Cadiz in the crisp cool flavors of Fino, or the deep fig-essence of a Pedro Ximenez.
Cap your night with a signature “Smoking Nun” cocktail. The hotel is said to still be home to Sister George who was one of the Sisters of Loretto that taught at the academy before it burned down and was re-built as the Inn and Spa at Loretto. It’s said that Sister George loved cigars, and sometimes guests and employees can smell cigar smoke in certain areas of the hotel or hear her taking a 5 a.m. stroll.
Originally published in Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine