We went exploring with Brooke, who is an awesome tour guide and storyteller. She and her boyfriend (now husband) were the people we were staying with in Albuquerque. I have known her all my life and she worked with my mother way before I was born. Nearly all of my earliest happy childhood memories that I can remember involve her somehow. She moved to New Mexico around 15 years ago, and the first couple of hours I spent in her company I kept on receiving a funny little jolt when she spoke and I turned to look at her, only to have a completely different vantage point than what I was expecting. I think the last time I saw her I reached her hip.
She drove us in her car to Española, Chimayo and Santa Fe. The drive was beautiful, and incredibly interesting. Brooke knew so much about the area, it’s geology, the history of different groups of people, and told us stories about her own experiences since moving to this part of the US. We visited the Sanctuary at Chimayo, El Sanctuaria de Chimayo, a pilgrimage destination where sick or injured people come to pray and dedicate things like crutches, casts, bandages. In a back room of the church there was a pit in the ground where you could collect some holy dirt for healing.
In some ways it was a very humbling experience because many of the people visiting looked sad or desperate somehow, while I, as well as the people I love, have been really fortunate in health. We may not have always had money, or good judgment but our health was always something we could rely on. At Chimayo I had a solemn moment where I realized how deeply thankful I was for that.
Then Brooke took us to a little place right next to the church at Chimayo and we ate pesolé. We also bought a lot of chile powder from several different vendors and small shops around Chimayo. Chile peppers from this specific area, Chimayo, have a distinct taste that is different from chili peppers and powder you can get anywhere else. It’s a smokier, somehow deeper flavor that’s not as sweet.
Then we drove to Santa Fe.
She took us to the best taco place I have ever been to, a little place called El Parasol. Best tacos and horchata I have ever had, ever. I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, recommend this place. If you are ever around Santa Fe, or anywhere near Santa Fe, go pick up some tacos from El Parasol. And I mean pick up only, there is no place to sit there, it’s a counter with some benches. That is how fast and easy it is to get great tacos. (This is a shameless plug for El Parasol, everyone must go there.)
We went to some of the touristy bits of Santa Fe, and I bought more pottery from the lovely lady pictured below, Laverne Loretto Tosa (Jamez). She makes pottery from natural clay in the Jamez Mountains (pictured in the photograph at the top of this post). She explained how she worked the clay in the traditional way, in coils, and how she polished it with a special kind of rock and some water, which gave it a satiny finish. She also explained about the different meanings behind the shapes and symbols she painted on the pots. Everything of hers was gorgeous, and not only was it immediately eye catching, the more I looked at individual pieces, the more I noticed the finer details and how meticulous her work was. It was actually really hard to decide which pieces I wanted to buy and I spent a long time deciding. The two pots I bought from her are now some of the most precious things I own.
Brooke also took us to her favorite chocolate place. I bought several chocolate creations, one that was shaped like a mushroom with some sort of creative caramel inside and looked so delicious that I basically popped it in my mouth as soon as I got it. For the next five minutes Brooke, Debbie and the Chocolatier watched with slightly horrified yet enthralled expressions, as I struggled to overcome what I had just done to myself, and my discovery that the mushroom should have been a two-step process, if not more. Debbie said something like, “Don’t try to eat it all at once! Why did you – ” and then was cut off by my choking fit. She just watched me for a minute. When I could breath again, I said, still recovering, “Sorry, I sort of started choking on my own spit…That was some really powerful caramel. So much drool.” My eyes were watering. Brooke turned to the chocolatier and said drily, “And she has such a pretty face.” He laughed. Debbie laughed. I didn’t laugh, I was trying to figure out if that meant I was surprisingly dumb or surprisingly uncouth.
A little while later, as we were making our way back to the car, I decided to indulge in another chocolate creation because I have no self-control – this one like an ice cream cone only with peanut butter and something hazelnut in it. Debbie saw me going for it and barked, “Don’t eat it all at once!” as I nibbled experimentally. I said, “I won’t,” and promptly shoved the whole thing in my mouth. “You did it again!” Debbie basically yelled at me. She turned to Brooke, “She did it again!” At this point we were on a sidewalk and I casually met some man’s eyes as I tried to chew down the peanut butter and chocolate cone in my mouth, resulting in an uncomfortable exchange. After that I held my hands up in front of my face.
Artistic pictures from that evening back at Brooke’s house!