Taos was first on my list, at first. Then Michele did some research and mentioned that the population was around the same as the altitude - coincidentally both a little under 7,000 (ft/people). And I was like “perhaps Santa Fe”? We both agreed. 69,000 people was much better for us, especially coming from New York City with it's crazy large population. We have a strict budget for the trip and our home/apartment/hotel budget is at $650 per month (we'll do a post listing all of our expenses at the end of the trip - how much we spent/saved). We knew it was going to be difficult but we were determined. Santa Fe was out of our means and so Taos it became.
What a surprise! In Taos, we went from being pleasantly curious, to bored, to in love within it the span of three weeks. Taos is fascinating. It has an undeniable hippy culture which we have found very endearing. There is no irony or sarcasm in those feelings. Taos is where people come to be themselves and we can really get down with that. And why not? It has a lively art and music scene and Earthships. Some people live entirely off the land. Many people also openly carry knives here, which was a shock to us at first (again coming from a big city). I asked around a bit and was told that it’s really because people need them. When you truly live off the land you need specific tools and apparently knives are one of those tools. There is a large group of retirees here, as well as tourists. Michele and I considered keeping to ourselves after we met a few folks who warned us about the weird things in Taos, like people going missing, but we scratched that idea. Taos feels like home, we’ve become very comfortable here.
Taos lies below Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico at 13,167 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I chose Taos because I heard that many artists have come here to become inspired. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Was it what I was expecting? Not in any way. I thought there would be a lot of sand and dirt (and there is) and not much foliage (and there’s plenty) but it’s not as extreme as I pictured. There is so much brush here and on long drives you’ll see such varying landscapes that you can find yourself pondering how you could ever have imagined it at all. Also, as small set of cactus plants grow here, but I was expecting every type (not sure why) and there are miles upon miles of desert sunflowers hugging the roads. I can understand why the desert gets a bad rap too. The overwhelming heat that takes over daily. It’s beyond dry here. You need liters of water to go outside, tons of sunscreen and lots of chapstick - we wrote about that in our Desert Survival Kit post. But it is beautiful and unique and I’ve grown to really love it.
Taos also has great music and food spots, while nightlife is sparse, it does not disappoint. Taos Mesa Brewing has become my favorite place to take in the mountains, people watch and listen to whatever live music is on for the evening. Located in the middle of the high desert and a few miles outside of Taos Plaza, with a perfect view of the mountains, this place is like nowhere else on earth. It has three stages, two are outdoors and one is designed in the Earthship architectural style. I was lucky enough to catch Tinariwen on the Earthship stage, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Happy hour here makes you very happy indeed. Super cheap yummy food, beer and wine!
Doc Martin’s is also a cool place to see live music. It has indoor/outdoor seating and serves great rattlesnake and rabbit sausage. But the Alley Cantina or “the Alley” as the locals call it, is where all the other locals hangout and it has some grit to it, we’ve spent a few very fun nights there! Doc Martin’s feel more touristy while Taos Mesa is home to the hippies (and they come here from around the country to see bands play). Food wise we’ve become addicted to Guadalajara Grill on Paseo Del Pueblo Norte (specifically that location). It’s fairly low key, nothing fancy in terms of environment but the wait staff is super friendly and the food is the best we’ve had in Taos by far. Orlando’s, also on Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, was good as well. I’d recommend both to anyone coming for a visit. If you happen to be in the Santa Fe area hop over to Tia Sophia’s on W. San Francisco St. just below the Plaza. This is a locally recommended spot and has superb New Mexican cuisine. Don’t forget to try the Sopapillas and Hatch chile if ever in New Mexico! Does it typically happen that a place meets or doesn't meet your expectations? In this case my expectations were exceeded. Let me know in the comments!
Be sure to check back as we're up next we're traveling to Breckenridge, Colorado to meet up with the incredible Shannon Galpin of Mountain2Mountain, an organization dedicated to helping women and children in conflict regions, and go fly fishing with a guide over at Breckenridge Outfitters on the continental divide!