As part of this journey, I recently took a road trip to Middle America.
This area of the U.S. is also known as the Heartland which is a farming region in the Great Plains and known for its values, agriculture, hard work, and rural towns. It’s not a common destination or a connection point for most people, but there are hidden treasures of historic intrigue scattered throughout and a simple way of life that is often coveted by urban dwellers. My hope is that everyone takes an opportunity to visit the rural Midwest.
While traveling, I passed through long stretches of prairie grasslands, post-harvest wheat and corn fields, and roads with no body on them for miles. Without a cell phone signal I resorted to using an old-fashioned road atlas made of paper supplemented by Garmin. Radio stations are limited to country music, classic rock, and sports commentary. It’s a rather relaxing drive with limited distraction and a rich history of entrepreneurship. It gave me an appreciation for the lifestyle of all the settlers I read about in books authored by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My emotional connection to the land was augmented by the game The Oregon Trail which dipicted 19th century pioneer living with the harsh realities of typhoid and exhaustion along with exciting frontiers that awaited after successfully fording a river with all your oxen.
Rio Grande Gorge
Driving West, I decided to head to a little town in New Mexico named Taos. It’s pronounced similar to house, but with a prolonged accent making it sound more like Ta-ouse. By this point, I was really drawn to the majestic beauty of mountains which I missed greatly after spending quite some time on the flat terrain of the Midwest. Just outside of Taos, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is a landmark site you’ll want to visit.
Pueblo means “town” or “village” in Spanish. Adobe means “mud brick“ and a closer look reveals fragments of straw that is used to provide integrity and even out the distribution of the drying process. Though the vibrant blue details of this wood trim and inlay are quite attractive, doors were not part of original adobe architecture. Tradition holds; however, that no electric or running water be allowed within the Pueblo walls and is still observed today. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.
Coming across a sleepy dog lying on the dry, foot-packed earth in the middle of the village.
San Francisco de Asís Church
Built in the early 1800s, the Spanish Colonial style San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is also know as the “Ranchos Church.” Housed inside is an 18th century oil painting by Henry Ault. The painting is called “The Shadow of the Cross” and depicts Jesus, appearing as a glow with a shadow and cross that’s only visible in the dark, giving it the name “The Mystery Painting.” Additional information can be found on the San Francisco de Asís Church’s official website including times for mass.
Taos Inn and Doc Martin’s Restaurant
Step into the rich history of Taos itself. Dating from the 1800s, the Inn is made up of several separate houses surrounded by a small plaza. A community well was originally located at the center of the plaza. Now, a fountain, with honey-rich tones of polished wood outlining its base, resides in its place while vertical vigas rise to two-and-a-half stories, giving the historic site its lovely, magnetic charm.
In the 1890s, Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin came to Taos as the county’s first and only physician. He bought the largest of the houses which is now Doc Martin’s Restaurant. Doc was a rugged individualist, but was dearly beloved because of his deep concern for his fellow man. Treating patients meant hitching up a team of horses- and later his tin lizzie (Ford Motor Model T), and traveling miles through mud and snow to set bones, break fevers, and deliver babies.
Doc’s wife, Helen, was noteworthy in her own right. A gifted batik artist (an ancient tradition from Java, Indonesia that uses wax and dye as a medium to decorate cloth), she was also the sister-in-law of artist Bert Phillips, one of the “Taos Founders.” It was in the Martins’ dining room in 1912 that Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists. The Martins later purchased additional buildings surrounding the plaza, renting them to writers and artists. When the only hotel in Taos burned the same year that Doc died, Helen entered the hospitality business. She bought the Tarleton house which was the last remaining property on the plaza (now the site of the Adobe Bar). With the aid of Doc’s former patients, she enclosed the plaza and opened Hotel Martin in 1936.
Through the years, Hotel Martin was the hub of Taos’ social, intellectual, and artistic activity. Subsequent owners renamed it Taos Inn, displayed the popular neon thunderbird sign (Taos’ oldest), and added the carved reception desk. In 1982, the Inn was placed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
The Martins’ tradition of service and commitment to the arts lives today. The Inn’s Meet The Artists Series, continuing invitational exhibits of the best northern New Mexico art, and its founding sponsorship of the Taos Talking Pictures Festival, pay tribute to the founders and the vibrant tri-cultural community they serve.
❀ You can listen to a clip of a cover of a Spanish song by the entertainer that night (unknown title/unknown entertaining artist/unknown original artist- but if you recognize it please let me know! *UPDATE- The song is called “Lagrimas Negras” thanks to Aixa for your reply!):
With its historic allure, lovely amenities, great location, nightly entertainment, reasonable prices, and an acclaimed dining experience, I would highly recommend staying at Taos Inn.
Sunset at Eagle Nest Lake
Building a Fire in an Adobe Fireplace
What a fun and relaxing way to end the evening! Taos Inn has rooms that are equipped with an adobe fire place and everything that you need to get it started. I felt like such an adult, amazed that they would trust me to build a proper fire.
The warmth, crackling, and glow made for a special and uniquely comforting experience. I enjoyed reading in the soft light amongst the shadows of flames that danced on the walls and occasional startling “pop.”
The Following Day
Doc Martin’s Restaurant has earned multiple awards for its fabulous New American fare. Chef Matthew Gould specializes in fresh local food with a splash of Southwest flare, incorporating chiles and produce sourced from regional farms and gardens. The restaurant features 400 wine selections and the list has earned Wine Spectator’s “Best Of” Award of Excellence for more than 25 consecutive years.
The restaurant also hosts special events and provides holiday meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day. Doc Martin’s is Taos’ favorite place for Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Pictured here is Doc’s Chile Relleno & Egg. It’s comprised of a green Anaheim chile decorated with chèvre and pumpkin seeds on a bed of green chile sauce, sided with salsa fresca dolloped with sour cream, egg, rice, and beans. It was absolutely delicious!
If you’re wanting the taste of the Southwest give 505 Southwestern Sauces & Salsas a try! Their ingredients are extra fresh, all natural, gluten-free, non-GMO, and have zero trans fat. They proudly named their sauces after the area code for the state of New Mexico, all chiles come from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico (known as the “Chile Capital of the World”), and all their products are made in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Taos Plaza is the center of the Taos Historic District where shops and galleries line the streets and sidewalk enclosures. In the 1700s the enclosure served as a refuge for livestock at night and by day merchants displayed their trades.
“Style: because your personality isn’t the first thing people see.”
Coffee Cats is a coffeehouse with a fun twist on the drink menu, describing espresso drinks, smoothies, and gelato using a cat theme. You can sip your beverage of choice while enjoying outdoor seating or an adobe fireplace. The “Chimayo Cat” is a Mexican-style mocha made with cayenne pepper and cinnamon, giving it a sweet kick.
Check out Nestle and Ibarra’s Mexican chocolates, they taste very similar, with smooth chocolate and hints of cinnamon. It’s a delicious way to make hot chocolate or add to coffee!
The Taos Cookery is a cute shop that specializes in selling flour sack kitchen towels made in New Mexico. An art museum courtyard with bright blue accents and plant life showing its life toward the end of the Autumn season. And a treasure chest! Could rupees, a heart, or traveler’s sword be found inside like in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
A display of free books always catches my attention. The collection was mostly self-help, mysticism, flopped sales of celebrity memoirs, and retired science textbooks.
The afternoon was followed by a wonderful lunch at Michael’s Kitchen which served flavorful New Mexico-style red chili and tortillas. You can read more about tortillas in the book Tortillas: A Cultural History by Paula E. Morton.
The restaurant was built in the 1940s and has a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu along with various bakery items and homemade chai. Hanging from the wood beam porch, pictured below on the left, is a ristra, which is an arrangement of dried chile pods which are a popular decoration.
Onto the Next Destination
As I left the town of Taos, it started to rain, giving a mysterious yet peaceful and refreshing feeling to the surrounding area. Whisps of snowflakes followed shortly thereafter and soon the mountains would be blanketed with the stillness of crisp, white snow just in time for the ski season.
I traveled on to Santa Fe, stopping at El Paisano Food Market for all the essentials: Jarritos, roasted peanuts, Mexican vanilla, Mexican hot chocolate, freshly steamed red pork tamales, and sacks of red dried chile pods- hot of course.
I love Jarritos and I was happy to see them at the store! It’s a carbonated soft drink that is fruit flavored. I really like the pineapple flavor, but there are several kinds such as lemon-lime, mandarin, strawberry, fruit punch, apple, guave, Jamaica, tamarind, mango, among others. The word jarrito means “little jug” in Spanish. It’s in reference to the old Mexican tradition of drinking out of clay pottery jugs.
Please share about your experience traveling to Taos, New Mexico in the comments below, I hope you found it as intriguing and enjoyable as I did! Or perhaps you have a desire to explore the town and landscape, if so be sure to check out the links for more information. I appreciated the incredibly friendly and laid-back lifestyle that is a big part of the signature natural beauty and hospitality that Taos has to offer. I hope you get a chance to visit! And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on upcoming adventures!