Getaways & Gardens
Whisper the word “getaway” and I immediately feel anticipation and excitement. Fortunately, Northern New Mexico is home to a bounty of splendid mini-getaways. Point a car in any direction in and around Santa Fe: great escapes lie just around the next mountain pass, mesa and high-desert backroad. Whether a getaway fantasy involves adventure or pampered relaxation, there are options for every level of ambition, or lack thereof. Cross-country skiing in fresh powder through a snowy landscape and sleeping in a wood-stove-heated yurt? Check. Sitting on a lichen-covered rock beside a mountain stream? Check. Soaking in a private outdoor hot tub at a Japanese bath house tucked in the foothills? We’ve got you covered.
When I moved to New Mexico several decades ago, I quickly learned what most locals know: houseguests will be in your future. Lots of houseguests. Relatives begin to appear, along with long-lost childhood acquaintances, college friends, friends of friends, people you met briefly in your travels... The upshot is that both locals and New Mexico visitors get a lift from mini-getaways, and fortunately, there are fabulous options nearby. Here are some of my favorites.
LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND
Scents of juniper and pi.on, the sound of running water, flashes of orange koi in a pool, a serene setting in nature. Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa, inspired by the great Japanese mountain hot springs resorts, is dedicated to engendering serenity and deep relaxation. What better way than by changing into a kimono and flip-flops upon arrival and staying in them your entire visit? Even though the Waves (as it’s known locally) is only ten minutes from the Santa Fe Plaza, I always feel completely transported once here.
The way employees interact with patrons and with each other reveals a lot about an establishment. Waves employees seem genuinely happy to be there, and every single one I encountered during my recent 24-hour stay was friendly and knowledgeable. They enthusiastically shared tips for spa services, dining and private-label body care products. I followed every recommendation. A fresh-faced, sparkly-eyed woman at the front desk asked, “Have you tried the 80-minute Nose-to-Toes treatment?” (Ten Thousand Waves offers an array of spa services, from signature and specialty massages, including therapeutic, Shiatsu, Deep Stone, Thai and Four Hands, to skincare treatments, such as various facials, foot and neck treatments, a salt glow and an herbal wrap. All are done with organic house-blended oils and house-made products.) When she said Nose-to-Toes was her absolute favorite, I replied, “Sign me up!” In the interim, I enjoyed a quick soak in the women’s tub, then lunched on delicious small-plate of Japanese bar food at Izanami, Waves’ izakaya-style restaurant.
Public Relations Director Mary Johnson recommended shabu-shabu. Forget your mother’s admonition not to play with your food. Shabu-shabu (meaning “swish-swish”) is a hot-pot dish you cook yourself: Bring water and seaweed to a boil. Add dashi (a broth flavored with soy), kombu (seaweed) or both, and then dip thinly sliced vegetables and meat in the simmering liquid. Cook them briefly, then swirl them in delicious house-made dipping sauces. At the end of the meal, add two kinds of noodles to the leftover broth to create a “finisher” that’s a complex, luscious soup. “Play” at its best, with delicious results! To complement the shabu-shabu, I sipped a flight of sakis with beguiling names such as “Wind of the Woods” and “Moon Mountain’s Dew.”
At this point, I must confess, my notes began to suffer. No matter: it was time for my Nose-to-Toes treatment. It left me in a state of rejuvenated, relaxed bliss. Afterwards, I donned a lightly padded outer kimono and made my way on lamp-lit paths to my lodging house, Spring Moon. It was simply furnished, yet luxurious, with a private courtyard. For the self-serve breakfast the next morning, there was a French press and organic coffee, organic teas, homemade granola and a bowl of ripe fruit. I glanced at the stack of books, notebooks and journals I had brought with me — and then promptly dropped off into one of the deepest uninterrupted sleeps in memory. The next morning, I awakened at first light to a deeply shrouded mist. The label on the house-blend shampoo mentioned yuzu, a traditional Japanese citrus scent that “inspires optimism and promotes a sense of well-being” — an apt description of a Ten Thousand Waves getaway. Before leaving, I popped the complimentary Buddha-shaped chocolate in my mouth and read my fortune: “You are exactly where you need to be.” Indeed.
EXPERIENCES HERE ARE UNIQUELY YOUR OWN
For a life-enhancing experience, consider Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, an adults-only wellness resort that soothes both body and soul. Seventy tranquil acres of gardens, walking paths and scenic high-desert landscape surround the historic spring-fed waters. It’s the ultimate fantasy “summer camp” for mindful adults, but available all year long. There are 20 serene, spacious casitas with locally crafted artisan touches, gas fireplaces and private courtyards, and 32 additional garden-view rooms.
To craft experiences that bring them joy and nourish their souls, guests can choose daily from a wealth of activities, classes and services. There’s something for everyone, be it archery, hatchet throwing, a cooking class, making a beaded medicine bag or participating in more conventional activities.
Ojo Spa Resorts Marketing Manager Bri Wright gave me a tour. (Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, about an hour north of Santa Fe, is a sister property to Sunrise Springs Spa Resort.) At the spa we perused the primarily local and regionally sourced products. Her enthusiasm for the Sunrise Springs and Ojo Caliente resorts is palpable. For sore muscles and inflamed joints, she’s a fan of the CBD-oil full-body massage. Other tempting treatments include the Moisture Quench and the Native American Blue Corn and Prickly Pear Salt Scrub.
Among its consciousness-raising services, the resort offers spiritual guide services, tarot card readers, mind-body wellness, integrative medicine and sweat lodge ceremonies. In the waning, chilly afternoon and in need of a pick-me-up, we stopped by the Willows Horticultural Kitchen for a warming winter tonic; a Golden Lemon Drop revived me.
Refreshed, we went to see the greenhouse and raised garden beds. The resort’s award-winning Blue Heron Restaurant is helmed by Chef Rocky Durham, who harvests some of the ingredients in his delicious, healthy daily specials. (Stays at the resort include a farm-fresh breakfast; lunch and dinner are also available.) Chef Durham loves working directly with the resorts’ two-acre farm in Ojo Caliente, whose crops provide organic produce for both facilities. He’s fond of using edible flowers, such as onion and squash blossoms, as ingredients, not just as garnishes.
This luxurious facility will erase any lingering soggy-canoe childhood camp memories. Here, therapeutic services, soaking options and experiential activities refresh one’s physical and spiritual well-being in a uniquely tranquil, beautiful environment that’s less than 30 minutes southwest of Santa Fe.
A HACIENDA IN THE MOUNTAINS WITH VIEWS ALL THE WAY TO COLORADO
Nestled in the Ortiz mountains 30 minutes south of Santa Fe, in a 17,000-square-foot old-world estate, Hacienda Do.a Andrea provides the perfect vacation and event space for weddings, family reunions or large groups wanting uninterrupted time together in a well-appointed, secluded space. Its northern view stretches all the way to the Centennial State. When guests walk through Do.a Andrea’s massive 14-foot-tall antique Mexican doors and into the warm, welcoming atmosphere, they know they have arrived at a very special place. Chandeliers and fountains add to the fairy-tale atmosphere, and a baby grand piano begs to be played.
The traditionally furnished hacienda features hand-plastered walls and 24-foot-high ceilings. With nine bedrooms, it can accommodate up to 30 guests. All bedrooms have gas fireplaces and private bathrooms with colorful Mexican-tile showers. A large commercial kitchen is equipped for a private chef, catering or home cooking.
Step outside and be wowed by painterly sunrises and dramatic sunsets, followed by starry nighttime skies. Gardens provide an abundance of springtime flowers, and roses, sunflowers and lavender in summer. In autumn honey locust trees shimmer in the golden light. The front garden provides the perfect spot for cocktails. And don’t miss ringing the bell in the tower to celebrate your wedding or special occasion.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH HENS
In 1996 Richard Spera left New York City in search of adventure and big skies, and with a desire to live an artful life. He found what he was looking for just minutes away from the historic Taos Plaza. With a dramatic view of Taos Mountain, in a quiet farmland setting with an acequia (irrigation ditch) running through the property, he began developing his vision for what would become Casa Gallina, a collection of five lovingly restored adobe casitas named after varieties of chickens. The casitas are surrounded by fruit trees, and there’s a large vegetable and herb garden from which guests are encouraged to harvest.
Spera explained that although he is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and spent several years working as a hospitality industry professional, he finds it is in Taos where the fruits of his labor have truly flourished. There’s a reason Casa Gallina has a guest-return rate of 70 percent. Repeat customers say once they discover Casa Gallina, they’d never consider going anywhere else.
On a golden late-fall afternoon, I checked into the Leghorn Casita. It was festively decorated with handcrafted furnishings, antiques, colorful textiles and local art. A vase of roses, savory and sweet treats, and a bottle of red wine welcomed me.
Spera says his aim is to have guests discover the art of the “slow vacation.” They can linger on their private patios, relax in a hammock or spend time in the outdoor meditation hut. Or, they can just nestle in their casita next to the fire. With Casa Gallina, Spera has achieved his goal of a happier life: living in a beautiful place, growing his own food, and creating a place he loves and sharing it with others.
CIELO: SKY WITH A “HEAVENLY” VIEW
When Cynthia Garrett began searching for real estate in Taos, she knew exactly what she was looking for: a small house, big views and enough land to have a good-sized garden. What she ended up with, was a 30-acre estate she named Cielo (Spanish for “Sky”), seven miles north of Taos in the village of Arroyo Hondo. Cielo Sanctuary estate features an 8,500-square-foot main house, a 50-yard-long indoor pool and a two-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot guest house. Guests can rent one suite, the whole house or the entire property.
“I don’t know if it was courage or stupidity,” Garrett mused. “I just knew it was right and that I didn’t want to be anywhere else but here.” When I visited, Cielo was buzzing in preparation for a celebrity chef dinner that night. Unfortunately, two feet of snow had just fallen. As with so many other things for Garrett, it all worked out. A thousand feet of driveway got plowed, and guests arrived and dined happily.
“I thought I was looking for a home, but the minute I saw the property, I knew it was meant to be a retreat center and that it would be the perfect sanctuary space for special events, weddings, retreats and family reunions,” says Garrett. The main house features three master suites, a commercial kitchen, carved doors and custom pine cabinetry and windows. Garrett has made many improvements and added carefully curated, eclectic furnishings and original art.
Cielo is both a boutique hotel and a nature sanctuary, and future plans include lavender fields, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, a tiny-house village, tipis and an animal sanctuary. (Dreaming big is not new for Garrett; she also has an oceanfront retreat center in Hawaii.)
As I was leaving Cielo, a sparkling blanket of fresh snow began falling. Garrett pointed toward a meadow in the distance. “See, over there? I planted sunflower seeds from Georgia O’Keeffe’s garden. They were given to me by a friend.”
Turning the seeds of dreams into reality describes the alchemy of the passionate individuals behind each of these getaways. Sprung from visions that took root and flourished, they are magical places.
By Cyndy Tanner
Cyndy Tanner: Word juggler, edgy traditionalist, knowledgeable aesthete. She collaborates with Valerie Levine at Parasol Productions, an events, photo-styling and production company. Creating visual hijinks and content for clients’ print, web and social media needs. Parasolproductions.com