Can something feel very hot and very cold at the same time? Answer: Me, after eating a mouthful of spicy salsa on an especially chilly night on my first trip to Taos, N.M., in more than 20 years. Much like an old friend I hadn’t seen in some time, this town about 135 miles northeast of Albuquerque picked up where we had left off. The downtown historic district looked much the same, give or take a few wrinkles. It was a joy to wander around Taos Plaza, with its kitschy souvenir shops, jewelry stores hawking turquoise, restaurants and art galleries. The tab: My husband and I spent $300 for two nights at the Wyndham Taos, about $140 for meals and $20 for museum admission.
Thank goodness I had second thoughts about the small studio I had reserved at the Wyndham Taos. When I checked my reservation, I realized I had accidentally booked a room with a Murphy bed. Because I didn’t want to re-create Charlie Chaplin’s famous fight with a lively wall bed, for $30 more we upgraded to a suite with a living room (sofa, TV and fireplace), separate bedroom, kitchenette and spacious bathroom. The timeshare/hotel has a large Southwestern-style lobby, ideal for reading the morning paper while enjoying the free coffee. There’s also a seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub. The location is an easy walk to downtown and its galleries, stores and restaurants.
Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe, a hole-in-the-wall that is a local favorite, was packed when we arrived on a cold night. We were told to wait for a table outside by the fire pit; it was in the 20s and the fire wasn’t nearly warm enough for this shivering Southern Californian. Inside, still shivering, this weather wimp ordered a sizzling chicken fajita plate with onions, bell peppers, beans, posole, guacamole and chile sauce. My first bite was a startling “Wow, that is spicy hot” moment. My husband’s pork tamales were also much hotter than he expected. Despite the heat, we enjoyed the food. On the calmer side, the next night we ate at the Gorge Bar & Grill in Taos Plaza. Our fried green beans were irresistible, and a turkey club and burger were tame and tasty.
I followed an interesting-looking, chatty group, into Wabi-Sabi — this place must be worth a visit, I thought. The store’s eclectic offerings included pottery, folk art, tableware, incense, teapots, cooking utensils and many varieties of tea. Shoppers sipped tea while browsing so I sampled a cup. The blend — Madagascar vanilla rooibos with vanilla nibs, almonds and calendula petals — and the store’s good vibes left me in such a calm state I felt as though I had just been on a mini-retreat.
THE LESSON LEARNED
I might easily have missed the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House had it not shared the same property as the Wyndham. The former home of 20th-century Russian American artist Nicolai Fechin and his family is well worth a visit. The building, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a showcase of Southwestern adobe architecture and intricately carved woodwork and furniture. The museum features Fechin’s artwork as well as works by other Taos artists.
Wyndham Taos, 229 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos; (575) 751-3275. Wheelchair accessible.
Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe, 1114 Don Juan Valdez Lane, Taos; (575) 751-1450. Limited wheelchair accessibility.
Gorge Bar & Grill, 103 E. Plaza, Taos; (575) 758-8866. Wheelchair accessible.
Wabi-Sabi, 216-A Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos; (575) 758-7801. Wheelchair accessible.