This week, we are pleased to welcome as a guest blogger, Taos resident Susan Mihalic, who shares her thoughts on our neighbor to the north. Susan is a writer and editor who has lived in Taos since 1995.

Beautiful Taos Mountain

The Inn on the Alameda has a great central location that enables guests to enjoy a variety of day trips, no matter what time of year or weather. Among the most popular: a day in Taos, only 70 miles north of Santa Fe and a true jewel in New Mexico’s crown. Exploring all that Taos has to offer requires more than a day, but even if your time is short, we can suggest an itinerary that will give you a satisfying taste of this high-desert town. Like Santa Fe, Taos is about 7000 feet above sea level, so be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness. Wear comfortable walking shoes, dress in layers, and don’t forget your camera and your sunscreen.

North of Española, you’ll enter Taos Canyon, where State Road 68 takes you alongside the Rio Grande past the communities of Dixon and Pilar. As you climb in altitude, the river veers west, creating the Rio Grande Gorge, which you will see as you leave the canyon and crest the hill that leads you into Taos.

In Ranchos de Taos, at the south end of Taos proper, you’ll find the historic San Francisco de Asis Church, a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage church. Built between 1772 and 1816, the church is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except for two weeks each spring when the exterior is replastered with mud by parishioners and other volunteers. With its four-foot-thick adobe walls and dramatic buttresses, it is among the most photographed churches in the United States.

The church is located in the Ranchos de Taos Plaza, which is also home to shops and galleries, including Two Graces, an intriguing mix of collectibles and original art. Browsing through items both curated and created by owner Robert Cafazzo is like revisiting childhood. Two Graces is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.

Four miles north of Ranchos and in the heart of the historic district is Taos Plaza. While the Plaza has the requisite T-shirt and souvenir shops, one of our favorite galleries is Acuarelas Studio Gallery (125 North Taos Plaza). It is open every day, although hours vary. Gallery owner and featured artist Leandro Martin Rodriguez works primarily in watercolor (which is what acuarelas means), achieving an infinite palette of subtle colors by hand-mixing the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow. His gallery includes a variety of work by other artists as well, from sculptures to pots to jewelry and more.

The Courtyard of the Blumenschein Museum

From the Plaza, you can walk a short distance to Ledoux Street, which is home to several don’t-miss stops for art lovers:

•  The E. L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, a National Historic Landmark, which offers a collection of work by one of the artists who was fundamental in establishing Taos as an art colony. The Blumenschein Home’s hours vary, please see their website to plan your visit.

•  R. C. Gorman’s Navajo Gallery, which includes the artist’s original drawings, lithographs, and bronzes. Days and hours of operation vary.

•  The Harwood Museum of Art, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday. The Harwood’s impressive collection includes works by Agnes Martin, Andrew Dasburg, Patrociño Barela, and members of the Taos Society of Artists, including Blumenschein, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton, Joseph Sharp, and Victor Higgins.

A Colorful Mural on Ledoux Street

Ready for lunch? Near Ledoux Street is Antonio’s (122 Doña Luz, one block west of the Plaza), which offers both traditional and innovative dishes from Old Mexico; we love the guacamole made tableside, the ceviche (fresh fish in lime juice), and the chile relleno en nogada, a twist on the classic relleno. In the mood for crispy fish and chips or a juicy burger? Head to the Alley Cantina (121 Teresina Lane, behind the north side of the Plaza), located in what is reputed to be the oldest building in Taos. Or have a sandwich and a bowl of green chile at Bent St. Café & Deli, which is at the north end of the John Dunn Shops, less than a block north of Taos Plaza.

After lunch, browse the John Dunn Shops (Moby Dickens Bookshop at 124A Bent Street, right across from the Café & Deli, is a must-visit stop for booklovers) and stroll up and down Bent Street, which offers an eclectic assortment of—you guessed it—galleries and shops. Despite a bend in the road, Bent Street is actually named for one-time New Mexico governor Charles Bent; his former home, at 117 Bent Street, is now a museum. More historic trivia: Bent was the brother-in-law of frontiersman Kit Carson, whose own former home, at 228 Kit Carson Road, is also a museum.

Bent Street in Toas

While both the Governor Bent and Kit Carson museums give visitors a glimpse into the past, we recommend that you save them for next time and instead visit Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. Typically, the Pueblo is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, although from late winter to early spring it is closed for about 10 weeks, and occasional tribal ceremonies may necessitate an unscheduled closing.

The adobe structures in the Pueblo village were constructed between 1000 and 1450 C.E. and are the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in the U.S. These buildings comprise not only homes, but also shops exhibiting traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of Pueblo residents. In addition to art and jewelry, you may purchase oven bread, baked in the traditional beehive ovens called hornos, or another Taos Pueblo specialty, prune pies, from one of the village vendors.

The San Geronimo Church, near the visitor’s entrance, was completed in 1850. Near it are the ruins of the original San Geronimo Church, which was built in 1619 and destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when eight of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos rebelled against Spanish colonization. The revolt was temporarily successful, but in 1692, Spain repossessed the land.

Taos Pueblo welcomes visitors, and with some exceptions, photographs are allowed, although you must pay a fee for each camera you bring into the village, no photography is allowed in the church, and you must ask permission to take pictures of tribal members. Note, too, that the river that divides the north and south “houses” of the village is the source of residents’ drinking water, as the village has no running water or electricity. Do not that Taos Pueblo will be closed for Traditional activities starting February 7, 2011 through approximately March 28, 2011; please contact the Tourism Office at the Pueblo if you have any questions.

A short drive north of Taos Pueblo is the Millicent Rogers Museum (1504 Millicent Rogers Road), which has a priceless collection of assembled by Millicent Rogers, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. With a legendary sense of style and a sharp mind, she amassed Native American jewelry, pottery, and religious iconography; Spanish Colonial folk art; and textiles from both Native American and Spanish Colonial traditions, all on display along with original jewelry designs by Rogers herself. Among Rogers’ many notable achievements was her commitment to the classification of Native American art as “historic,” which conveyed both status and protection. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it is closed on Mondays from November through the end of March.

As you pass through Taos’s historic district on the way back to Santa Fe, you may want to stop for drinks and pub fare at the Adobe Bar. Located in the Taos Inn (125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), the Adobe Bar is known as the living room of Taos and is popular among both locals and visitors. The margaritas are cold, and the nachos are hot and plentiful. The Taos Inn has a fine dining restaurant, too, Doc Martin’s, which, in the late 1800s, was home to Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin, who discovered the headless body of ruthless land grabber Arthur Manby—but that story will have to wait for your next visit to Taos! See you then!

Thank you, Susan! We’ll look for you when we head up north!

Susan Mihalic, our Taos Expert