Taos is truly its own world.
Tucked into the Sangre de Cristos mountains of Northern New Mexico, Taos is upon first sight, unlike anywhere you have ever been.
Geographically striking- the town is still small – just 40,000 or so in the county and only 5,000 plus in the town limits – with adobe buildings that glow like bronze in our fabled light, phantasmagoric skies, and incredible vistas for miles. It’s also an old town— colonized by Spanish settlements in the early 1600’s when it became an outpost on the Camino Real, just 120 miles from Santa Fe. The oldest state capital in the United States
Taos had been inhabited for over 1000 years before the Spaniards or Americans came, by the Red Willow people of Taos Pueblo.
The descriptor “magical” is often overused. But, Taos, is magical.
By virtue of it’s almost-mythical beauty, its High Desert, high and dry climate we learn to adapt – as well as the distinguished people drawn here seeking both that breathtaking beauty, along with the solitude required to make the extraordinary art that is made up here by so many.
In fact an Art Colony is what Taos remains; when all is said and done, it was here that the Taos Society of Artists came and stayed in the early 20th Century, leading to a continuous stream of creatives who continue to arrive, generation after generation. And they come looking for pretty much the same thing; that intangible, somewhat nebulous stuff that dreams are made of. Inspiration.
In (and around) Taos, there is plenty to inspire!
Because our region is still equated with Georgia O’Keeffe and the art she made during her long residency here, I’d suggest anyone who visits for the first time, fly in to Santa Fe if you can, and plan to spend the first night of your trip there at any of Heritage’s fabulous Hotels. The Eldorado is conveniently located across the street from the O’Keeffe Museum which has the most extensive and cohesive collection of O’Keeffe’s work anywhere in the world. Works from each of her series — from the New York cityscapes to her paintings of mountains, flowers, and bones — are on view here.
Have dinner at Joseph’s (who got his start up here, in Taos before moving to the city), and is the antidote to a long day in Santa Fe. The interior is softly lit and warmly appointed, with the distinctive decorative motifs and stencils that are the trademark of his wife, artist Kristen Bortles. Though the dishes may sound a bit conceptual, trust me, they’re actually comfort food in disguise!
Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch which are just sixty-three miles north of Santa Fe — and in many ways still feel many decades away from today, are a must do. In Ghost Ranch, tour Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio — the meticulously preserved adobe the artist purchased from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 1945 — in which she lived until 1984. The house contains artworks by O’Keeffe and Alexander Calder, Mid-Century furniture, and displays of rocks, sculptural works, and objects that O’Keeffe gathered on her walks.
After your tour, drive to Abiquiu Lake. Look to the left and you’ll see the Pedernal: the distinctive mesa she made famous in her work, and where some of O’Keeffe’s ashes are spread.
Stop at Ojo Caliente for a restorative soak, and to truly immerse yourself in the history and mystery of the place, before heading for your Taos lodging.
Places to stay are varied and all over the map. Literally. You can choose to Glamp on the Mesa, or camp (in a teepee), or rest your travel weary bones at a Five Star Resort. We have it all. Check my Stay section for my recommendations, and Taos.org (linked below) for many more choices!
Once you’ve settled into your room, it’s time (again), for a bite to eat before exploring Taos’ hidden gems and open spaces.
Done and done, and no doubt you’ll be back to both.
Farm to table at its finest, served up with understated elegance and more than a soupcon of style.
Check out my other myriad posts for all the little things to do around and about the Downtown Historic District, because starting this week, I’m going to hone my sights on specific streets in town, and what they have to offer locals and visitors alike, beginning with Bent St.
Bent comes first because the first job I ever had in Taos, was working for Sam Parks at her eponymously named boutique, Sam’s Shop. It was 1981 and I was pregnant with my youngest child, my daughter Genevieve, who was born in late September of that year, in my apartment, at the Harwood.
That summer I spent at Sam’s was one of the most memorable (and delicious), of my life! The girls I worked with (all amazing women, some still here, others moved on), decided as my pregnancy progressed, that I’d be better off working in the men’s shop (10 1/2) next door, as it had a desk and chair. I.e. place to sit.
Outside the store, a huge apricot tree then as now, was laden with the golden fruit; warmed and ripened by the sun, they dropped easily into my hands, were rubbed clean on the hem of my soft cotton dresses, and slipped as easily down my throat. I joke that my baby was made from apricots. And I still consider it “my” tree, and feel free to eat as many as I please from its branches. This year is a bountiful year!
Aside from personal sentiment and nostalgia, Bent St., truly is the center and heart of our Historic District, and even has a Museum named for Governor Bent, for whom the street itself is also named, so when taoStyle Sponsor Sue Westbrook at Taos Blue, suggested I do an in depth series on the merchants who are her neighbors on this historic row, it was not hard to say yes. I had featured the street before in a shopping post, but the opportunity to learn the history of each space, was not one I’d pass up. With September around the corner, and with the Sting show, Fall Arts and the Paseo bound to bring more new visitors to Taos, I thought I’d tie the Bent Street posts to the season.
Also in the month of September, in 1846, Charles Bent was appointed as the first civilian Governor of the newly acquired New Mexico Territory. Bent had been a fur trader in the region since the 1820’s. Although his office was in Santa Fe, Bent maintained a residence and trading post in Taos. Charles Bent was allegedly scalped and killed by Pueblo warriors, during the Taos Revolt.
After leaving the army, in 1828, Charles and his younger brother, William, took a wagon train of goods from St. Louis to Santa Fe. There they established mercantile contacts and began a series of trading trips back and forth over the Santa Fe Trail.
In 1832, he formed a partnership with Ceran St. Vrain, another trader from St. Louis, called Bent & St. Vrain Company. In addition to its store in Taos, the trading company established a series of “forts”, fortified trading posts, to facilitate trade with the Plains Indians; Bent’s Fort, outside La Junta, Colorado, has been restored and is now a National Historic Site.
In 1835, Bent married Maria Ignacia Jaramillo, who was born in Taos. Maria’s younger sister, Josefa Jaramillo, would later marry Kit Carson. My next street on this bucket list!
In January 1847, while serving as territorial governor of the region, Charles Bent traveled to his home in Taos, without military protection. There it is told, he was scalped alive and murdered in his home by a group of attackers, under the orders of Mexican conspirators, who were rumoured to have started the Taos Revolt. Bent is buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.
The women and children in the Bent home were not harmed and fled to safety to the house next door through a hole in the parlor wall.
Coincidently, Bent and the infamous frontier scout Christopher “Kit” Carson married sisters. Maria Ignacia Bent outlived her husband by 36 years; she died on April 13, 1883. The Bents had a daughter, Teresina Bent. Maria Bent and the Carsons are all interred at Kit Carson Cemetery (behind the park), in Taos.
Bent Street, which runs in front of what had been his home in Taos, and Martyr’s Lane, which runs behind it, are both named for the fallen Governor.
The Governor Charles Bent House is now the museum I mentioned earlier in this post.
Those Wild West Frontier days are long gone (although one still senses in many regards, it remains outlaw country up here), and marauding attackers are rarely seen along Bent St. in the 21st Century, (unless you’re seeing ghosts), but shops and galleries are plentiful! All housed in buildings with a lot of history, and run by modern day Taos characters!
So Bent Street it is, with all its secret gardens and hidden nooks and crannies. We’ll be strolling in and out of all those warrens of rooms over the next few Wednesdays, and this Wednesday, I’ll have my first post up, featuring a few of the street’s current residents and their wares.
For more on Taos and all of its attractions, please visit Taos.org, linked below.
For more on Taos Blue, please visit their site as well.
Taos Blue door by Bill Curry
All other images taken on my iphone/and/or stock files.