Saturday, June 21, 2003

List of things to do in NRW

I want to compile a list of links of things to do and see in NRW. However, this is taking some time. I will try my best to get these ready. Many of the site are in German. English translations are hidden behing the Union jacks. Also look for links to pictures (Bild or Bilder.)

Eifel Region

Schatzkammer: museum of medieval religious treasures, coffin with the rape of Porsepine
Couven-Museum: 18th C merchant’s house
Internationales Zeitungsmuseum: Reuters
Suermondt-Ludwig Museum: medieval sculpture; works by stained glassmaker Ewald Matare
Ludwig Forum fuer internationale Kunst: Contemporary art, in suburbs
Burg Frankenberg: moated medieval castle (15 minutes walk from HBF)

Bad Muenstereifel
13th C city walls and ramparts
Stiftskirche: 12th C church
17th C houses

Rathaus: Rococo
Schloss Poppelsdorf: former seat of the AB Cologne; tromp l'oeil design
Rheinisches Landesmuseum: Neanderthal Man skull, Cologne school of painters; likely to be closed until Fall
Kreuzberg: Rococo church
Doppelkirche in Schwarzrheindorf


Bad Honnef
Stiftung Bundeskanzler-Adenauer-Haus: home of founder of the German Federal Republic

Schloss Augustusburg: seat of Clemens August
St. Maria zu den Engeln
Max-Ernst-Kabinett: home of the expressionist painter

Lower Rhineland

Stadtbefestigung: medieval fortifications
Kreismuseum: Jugendstil art
Kloster Altenberg/Bergischer Dom: Gothic monestary, seat of the count of Berg

Schwebebahn: “a monorail suspension system without rails”

Von-der-Heydt Museum: excellent mix of modern art

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung
Home of Martin Niemoeller (confessing Church)

Green belt: 18th C French gardens
Hentjens-Museum: ceramic art
Heinrich-Heine-Institut: Germany's favorite poet and the city's favorite son
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Kunstmuseum: collection of the Duesseldorf Academy
Schloss Jaegerhof: Baroque palace, Goethe museum
St. Rochus: giant-beehive church

Neanderthal-Museum: evolution of man at the place where our "distant cousin" was first found

St. Quirinus
Dreikoenigenkirche: stained glass by Johan Thorn-Prikker

Museum Abteiberg: modern architecture, Hans Hollein, Joseph Beuys
Muenster: master Gerhard

Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum: 20th C architecture

Alte Synagoge
Munster: Golden Madonna
Deutsches-Plakat-Museum: poster museum
Museum Folkwang: impressionist and expressionist
Villa Huegel
Abteikirche St. Liudiger
Archaeologischer Park

St. Nicolai

Haus Koekkoek: guild for medieval illuminators
Museum Kurhaus: Ewald Matare

pilgramage destination
Niederrheinisches Museum fuer Volkskunde: toy collection


Muenster/St. Liudger
Friedensaal: signing of treaty of Westphalia
St. Lamberti: Anabaptist Jan van Leyden
Westfaelisches Landesmuseum: medieval sculpture
Muehlenhof: 17th C village

Deutsches Bergbaumuseum: mining
Bauernhausmuseum: farming
Eisenbahnmuseum: rails

Marienkirche: Conrad von Soest
Museum fuer Kunst und Kulturgeschichte: Olbirch room
Mahn- und Gedenkstaette Steinwache

Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum: art nouveau
Westfaelisches Freilichtmuseum: technical demonstrations

Friday, June 20, 2003

Setbacks and Acquisitions

I made a mistake with my airline ticket. I gave the agents the wrong returning date. I had to spend more money as a result. However, the American Airlines agent did wave the change fee, probably because I called so quickly after receiving the printed tickets. The new ticket costs a total of $740. The bad news: I did not get the lower fare that I wanted (that was on the internet and that may have been a limited time special; I could not simply cancel the ticket to refund the purchase price.) The good news: it is still a cheaper fare to Germany than most that are available (British Airways, which usually has lower fares, only offered $920.) The difference that I paid was only for the difference in fare between the two tickets.

We bought a digital camera yesterday. I wanted to get one in order to photograph documents in the archives. Karen and I went to Best Buys and tried out every camera, taking pictures of a piece of paper from 2-3 feet away to see which could pick up the letters on the page best (Rob, who helped us, was very patient and accomadating.) The winner? A Nikon Coolpix 4300 (for $450). It did the best job of all the cameras under $600, and it handles in a camera-manner. Furthermore, it was easier to use. The bad side is that it is motion sensitive (but I guess that all digital cameras are.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

What to do in North Rhineland-Westphalia?

I have been puzzling over this as well. The tourism website provides some ideas for things that I might do over the weekend. I am especially interested in those things that are related to the rise of industry in the area (as it was the first place for industry to appear in Continental Europe.)

BTW, from now on I will refer to the state by its abreviation, NRW. (If if happen to use RPL, it means Rhineland-Palatinate.)

Sunday, June 15, 2003

It looks as if I have settled many of the issues that I had with my upcoming research trip. I was having problems finding a place to stay in Dusseldorf on short notice. Many places had been taken up very quickly (there was one listing to take up a room in a place with an artist and his son, but the listing disappeared the next day before I could request it from the real estate agency.) So I came to a decision about how I would deal with the trip. Rather than staying in Dusseldorf and then Cologne, I would stay in Cologne for six weeks and buy a monthly rail pass that would allow me to go to the state archives in Dusseldorf. This pass should cost no more than 150 Euros. I would save a little money by making this arrangement, so I am not so worried about the added costs in transportation.

Furthermore, I found a good fare from expedia.com of all places. They have a number of special prices for flights that use American Airlines to fly into Zurich and then to take a Swiss Air commuter flight to the German destination. I will fly into Stuttgart on July 2. My occupancy in Cologne won’t begin until July 4 (but I did not want to fly the day before a major weekend holiday.) I decided on Stuttgart for silly reasons: it is a jet rather than a prop plane (I have bad memories of being on a Saab 2000 flying into Quebec city; the plane to Cologne is a Saab; the plane to Stuttgart is a regional jet.)

Flying into Stuttgart will allow me to visit my friend Uli in Mannheim for a few days. Thereafter I will take the train to Cologne and move into my room. The map shows that it is on (or near) the Ringstrasse, the long street that forms a partial circle around the old town and that took the place of the old city walls. Since I will be within the area of the city walls, many of the things that I would like to see and do for entertainment will be within easy walking distance. The archives and the university are in other parts of town but I will be able to reach them with the subway.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part VI

Day Seven

We started the day rather quickly. Karen promised me that I could be the slave-driver that I always wanted her to be, going from place to place without stop (the only proviso was that I provide coffee to start the day.) We drove to the plaza area at the center of Santa Fe, parking near the cathedral. (We did not visit the cathedral itself because it appears to be out of character with the rest of the area. It was built by a nineteenth-century French bishop, Lamy, who detested the native spirituality.) We went first to the San Miguel chapel. The pieces in the small church were typical of what we had already seen, but were not without their own unique charm. What annoyed me was that there was a very loud, very public audio tour that played every ten minutes. The entire mood of the church was ruined by this continuous tape. Outside, Karen set up to take a picture of me from across the street.

We took a quick coffee and breakfast burrito at a local coffee shop. Thereafter we walked over to the Palace of the Governors. Along the way we looked into some of the shops in the plaza. These shops were very expensive. I told Karen that she should consider buying something, even though we both knew that we really could not afford to do so.

The Palace of Governors was built as, obviously, the home for the Spanish governors who oversaw the colony. It has been turned into a museum with two small permanent exhibits and one larger temporary exhibit. The temporary exhibit explored Jewish life in New Mexico (at least the official presence that began in the mid-nineteenth century.) Many of the Jewish family who settled brought banking to the Southwest, and the were responsible for the mercantile prosperity of town like Las Vegas, New Mexico. Very little of the exhibit was dedicated to the typical items of religious practices (as they are in other local history museums that I have visited in Europe.) The focus here was on the personalities and the families.

The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum was only a few blocks away. Our guidebook was not clear about what we would find there. The museum appears to serve a teaching institution. At the time the exhibits were works by the students (MFA, BFA, and AFA in arts and in creative writing.) Karen and I were floored by the quality of the work that the students presented. The institute must teach the students how to apply the aesthetics of Indian culture to fine arts production. (One exhibit that I remember was by an AFA: a mask with a mouth full of nails.) Some of the artwork was for sale, and at a reasonable price.

Our next destination was the Museum complex (four museums in a row on the south side of town.) We looked at the map to decide how best to get there. It looked as if the complex was not that far, perhaps a mile, and that we could leave the car in the center of town and walk. I was, perhaps, a little bold with my plan. The actual distance turned out to be a little more than two miles, up hill. The houses that we saw were incredible: old Adobes everywhere. However, another storm appear to be moving through the area. We could hear thunder. Karen’s fear of lightning kicked in. We picked up the pace to get to the complex. By the time that reached the first museum we were panting and sweaty.

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art mines the states collection of native folk religious art and places it within a home built in a revival style of Spanish Colonial architecture (using a brick that was hollow.) We decide to take a tour with one of the docents. She was very knowledgeable about the artistic styles: the influence of Spanish and Moorish culture and how it was transformed in effective isolation.) She explained how some of the more elusive crafts were conducted: straw applique, which used regular straw to simulate inlaid gold. Part of the collection focused on the older works. Part of the thrust of the museum was to explain how the crafts have been revived by the Spanish Colonial Arts Council and bi-annual fairs like Spanish Market. Some of the recent purchases by the museum were works by the sons and daughters of masters who were, none the less, still children.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture was interesting but was somehow less compelling. One exhibit was an extended look at the Indian world-view: how the world was created, how they interacted with the landscape in the time before the arrival of the Spanish, how they had evolved. Some of the installations were ordinary. Another room was dedicated to pottery, showing the styles employed by the different Pueblos.

The Museum of International Folk Art was extensive, exhaustive, exhausting, and great fun. I cannot remember seeing a museum quite like it. There was one huge room with large village displays from all around the world. These were huge displays: several yards across and at least one yard deep. There were many of these, from different countries on each continent. There were dolls, games, fabrics, ... . We spent so long just running around with smiles on our faces; we kept calling out, “Look at this!” After that, we saw the special exhibit (the Neutragena Collection) on textile from throughout the world. Again, we were awestruck. The only drawback was that the individual textiles were not labeled; we had to consult a program guide in order to identify individual pieces, but the pictures in the book were in black and white and difficult to match. The security guard was very helpful, keeping people on track as they went through the collection. After the textiles, we were too tired to appreciate the rest of the museum. My advice: reserve lots of time for this museum.

We took a bus back to the plaza. The driver was kind enough to point out some of the more interesting houses in Santa Fe. We tried to see the Santuario de Guadalupe, but it was already closed.

After we freshened up at the hotel we headed back to the plaza in order to eat. After the previous nights splurge we wanted to find something less expensive to eat. We failed. It appears that Santa Fe has no mid-price restaurants. Instead we found a canteen/bar that had a cheap, but very filling and tasty, menu that was inexpensive. We drank it down with some Belgian ale. Our waitress was very helpful and polite: she told us how to find a bookstore that was open.

We were tired. We went back to the hotel room and stared at the television as we laid in the other of the two full-sized beds.

Day Eight

We checked out of the hotel quickly. I hoped that we could see the Santuario just as it opened and then get on the road to see a few of the natural sites.

Alas, the Santuario did not open at the posted times. I was very disappointed. Instead we went to Loretto Chapel, known for its “mysterious” staircase that defies the rules of engineering and yet still remains standing. The chapel used to serve a religious order. It was de-sacrilized in the 1970s and sold to a private interest, which in turn built a hotel around it. The chapel was a Lamy project: it had lots of European style sculpture and painting that normally would be out of place in New Mexico.

We had a quick breakfast of huevos rancheros at a fast food place. As we were across from the Palace of Governors, I ran over to the gift shop and bought some books.

We got on the road and drove north–to go back to Chimayo. Karen and I felt that we had spent too little time before and wanted to get some of the chiles. We walked around to look at the artisans and their workshops (Karen bought a necklace.) We ate tamales from a restaurant at the top of the hill. The chile sauce was spicy but also addictive. I bought a large bag of different chiles for $20 (my cuisine has never tasted so good.)

I had planned a more ambitious day–Bandalier, a pueblo–but time ran short very quickly. We had to start back toward Albuquerque. We visited one more place. We took a road off the highway to see the Tent Rocks. These were geological formations that were shaped like tee pees over the years. The road went through a pueblo. Then it was a dirt road for four miles (it took us twenty minutes.) We were both impressed with what we saw. However, we had to cut our visit short. We had no water with us, and it was very hot.

In Albuquerque, we went straight to the National Hispanic Cultural Center. We were sweaty and tired, but I wanted to do this before it closed. The Center had only its permanent exhibits open, which were not extensive. I bought a few books. (The center had a puppet presentation of a Lorca play. I tried to tell Karen, but she was too distracted to hear me.)

We went back to the Hotel Blue to stay the night. The hotel had lost our reservation; I was afraid that I would not be able to get the internet discount. Luckily I had the computer printout with me.

After cleaning up we went to Old Town to see if we could buy anything interesting. All the good stores had already closed, only the touristy shops were still open. Even the restaurants were closed. We went back to the area of our hotel and went to a pizza place–the one we ate at the previous week.

We got back to the room early with the hope of falling asleep early.

Day ten

Not much happened today. We checked out of the hotel, turned in the rental car (poor care, all the torture that we put it through, we almost drove it one thousand miles), and went to the airport. In Chicago the scheduled plane was removed, and we were delayed for one half hour as they found another (and still people complained.) We got home late, too late to spring the bunnies from the Inn for Pets. That would wait for the next day. We slept very well that night.


Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part V

If you are interested in reading part I-IV, they appear below in reverse chronological order.

Day Six

Our last day in Cimarron. Our last day at Case de Gavilan. We would no longer have to go through those “what if” scenarios that made us feel as if we were out in the middle of nowhere. Our plan was to drive to Santa Fe, but we would take a slightly circuitous route in order to hit some interesting sites. I planned to take the high road to Santa Fe, hit Chimayo, the San Ildenfense pueblo, Bandelier, and God-knows-what-else. It would be a trying day.

We packed quickly and went to breakfast. Gavilan had a full house, including a family with two children. We were served French toast that had been given a crunchy candy coating. It was tasty, but too sugary for breakfast. We paid quickly, and we were off.

We took the same road back that brought us there: back through the mountains to Taos, then we would take a different road, through the mountains, south to Santa Fe. Karen would drive the part that had already become familiar to us. I would pick up the chore at Taos.

The car ride was uneventful. It was Memorial Day. There were few people on the road. The bikers we saw appeared to be heading home rather than toward Taos. It was sunny. The cloud over Angel Fire had left.

We made it to Taos a little behind schedule. A large mobile home backed up traffic.

The high road took us through the mountains at a very high altitude. The road itself was well maintained and not exceptionally curvy. In fact, it was easy to keep a speed above 50 mph, which surprised me. The view for so high up was stunning. There were but a few villages that we passed. However, it took a long time to traverse, as we expected.

But something went wrong. I realized that we had gone much too far. We were supposed to have met another highway and turned onto it. I even remember thinking, “right after you see Highway 76, Highway 75 should appear--take it!” I saw 76 but nothing more. (What had gone wrong was that the directions in our guidebook did not mentions that one must take 76 to get to 75, and our map was very unclear in this area (showing a bunch of highways and numbers.)) I was disappointed. I was looking forward to eating in Chimayo. According to the map, we were now driving straight for Las Vegas, New Mexico. This was OK because I had planned to visit (it was where my grandfather was born), but on Wednesday instead of Monday. We would have to rearrange our plans.

We passed through one village that was a picture of rural poverty. Mora looked as a once prosperous town that had fallen hard on hard times. Many places were abandoned, but it still looked as if the ranches kept a significant number of people in the area.

The book I am reading, River of Traps, concerns the rural areas of New Mexico and the Nuevomexicano farmers. According to the authors, the land grants given to them by the Spanish government were not recognized by the American government. The farmers were forced to work for the new landowners, cutting timber and grazing cattle. The area was heavily deforested by the time the land was turned over to federal and state forestry services. Places like Mora fell on hard times.

We came out of the mountains to find Las Vegas, where my grandfather (Jose Valerio) was born and raised. My original plan was to spend a couple hours walking around to look at the old buildings just before going to Albuquerque on Wednesday. I erred to think that I didn’t need to plan anymore. Las Vegas is laid out so that cars on the highway can simply skirt around the east and south sides of the town on their way south. Finding the old sections of town on a whim takes a little patience. We found one area around the police station that had some nice old buildings. We looked in some of the shops; Karen got caught up in an antique shop (she bought an unusual postcard that she found in the paper collection.) We found the brochure that had the map of the historic areas and detailed descriptions of many of the more interesting homes (I must say that this is one of the most detailed guides that I had ever seen for free. Go on line to see some of these houses on the virtual tour.) There were many well preserved Victorian homes, which were out of place in New Mexico, but somehow were different and more compelling than those in New England. By this point Karen and I were getting on each others nerves. We really were not certain about how to get around the town, and it was very hot. At some point we missed a turn and ended up on the far side of town; annoyed, we hopped onto the highway and went to the next site.

Pecos National Park has the remains of one of the original Pueblos and the ruins of one of the Pueblo churches. The church itself was the reason to go. The red-brown bricks against the mountains and sky were majestic. This church replaced the one that was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo revolt (as was the one at Taos Pueblo) the ruins are what is left of the newer church that was constructed not long after the return of the Spanish. The church collapsed as the Pueblo was abandoned by its inhabitants over the course of the nineteenth century (I believe that raiding from nomadic Indians such as Apaches and Comanches made this area exposed.) A storm was clearly visible on the horizon. We could hear and see lightning and thunder. After taking some quick pictures we went back to the car. Apparently we were the last people to have been allowed to see the Pueblo; it had since closed due to the conditions.

We drove on to Santa Fe. We were staying at a Radisson that was about one mile (maybe less) from the plaza in the center of the city. The hotel was undergoing renovations. This may have been why were given a room with two full beds (which we thought was odd.)

After cleaning up we went to the plaza for the sole purpose of eating. Karen wanted something simple and perhaps inexpensive. I wanted to eat something that would be at least somewhat interesting. Finding a restaurant turned into a fiasco. The place where I wanted to eat was much too expensive. The place Karen wanted to eat had turned into a different restaurant. Several places were closed as it was Memorial Day; others were simply difficult to find. We drove around town trying to find something. Neither our Fodors nor our AAA guidebooks really helped us to find what we wanted. If we did find something, it was usually packed with people. Finally we ended up at La Casa Sena. There were two restaurants, both very nice. We decided to go to the canteen, which was slightly less expensive. The wait staff would sing. I ate a trout in a chile sauce; Karen had the “vegetarian platter,” and she ordered nachos with escabeche for us (which was soooo gooooood.) We also ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for, what seemed to be, a very high price (it was as if they doubled the normal price on the bottle; the wine was very good, but hardly what we wanted.) The waiters and waitresses were good singers, however they concentrated on contemporary Broadway numbers, which Karen and I thought were less interesting and somewhat annoying (the musical arrangements were somewhat pedestrian chord comping from the pianist.) The singers also had an annoying tendency to look up at the ceiling as if they were performing on a musical stage. While I can appreciate that they would have to do this while performing normally, in this setting they looked ridiculous. I wanted to jump up and say, “I am here–Look at me, please.” The most interesting of the singers was the woman who waited on our table: she sang songs that were more natural, that were a little older, and she tended to be a little more inviting with her presentation (even if she had one of he weaker voices.) The meal turned out to be very expensive, really much more than I wanted to pay (including the wine and the additional tips for the performers.) I started to feel that Santa Fe had no moderately priced restaurants–we would either eat for ten dollars or one hundred. (This feeling would prove true over the next twenty-four hours.)

Review of Restaurant: La Casa Sena
The canteen promises a relaxed atmosphere with excellent cuisine and at slightly less expense that the main restaurant. One can, however, order from both menus, and the difference in prices for main dishes is sometimes only five dollars (the difference between 30 and 25.) The canteen has more choices for those who are accustomed to eating less meat. The wine list (as well as list of aperitifs) is extensive but is overpriced; I would recommend staying away from buying a bottle for a meal. The wait staff is very friendly. Because the restaurant offers lives performances, there are specific seatings. These can run late, depending on how hungry you are. Expect to pay a little more than you really wanted–with a bottle of wine and taxes, our meal costed nearly ninety dollars.

We returned to the hotel in order to relax for what promised to be a busy day.

Monday, June 09, 2003

I am currently working on my trip to Germany. This will be a research trip, but I also hope to take some time for weekend travel. I will be gone for eight weeks (a little less than two months) and I will stay in Dusseldorf and Cologne. I will also visit an archive in Monchengladbach, but I hope to purchase a rail pass for one week that will allow me to visit it.

Dusseldorf, like many other cities in western Germany, received the brunt of allied bombing during WWII, while eastern cities were more lucky (Berlin excepted.) For this reason, Dusseldorf has been called somewhat charmless. It is a city whose skyline is largely a product of the post-1945 world. What get people to go there is shopping: Dusseldorf has many of the most elegant shops in Europe along the Koenigsallee , and it is the center of German fashion (take that, Dieter.)

Cologne, of course, is somewhere I have visited before. It is a Roman city known for having the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

I am less familiar with Monchengladbach, so I guess I will discover something on this trip. I don't plan to stay there. The regional rail company offers a monthly rail pass for 90 Euros that allows passengers to travel anywhere at any time. I am hoping that they have a weekly pass.

I am currently working thought a real estate agent to find apartments, either by myself or places that I will share. My budget for housing is 1000 Euro, which must include the "finder's fee."

Friday, June 06, 2003

Check out this blog about a family who has left the US to live in the South Pacific:

The Island Chronicles
I have added a direct link to out photos in the menu on the right.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Parts I-IV of our New Mexico vacation (Exploring my Nuevomexicano roots) appear below in reverse chronological order. The Yahoo picture links should now work.

Thanks to a question by Bridget, I have ...

Review of Hotel: The Historic Taos Inn

The Taos Inn is a nice place to stay. It is right in the center of town, so you can walk to the shopping plaza and some of the museums with few problems. The restaurant is great, especially for break fast (called Doc Martens). It also has a bar and front patio that fill up at night. However, the hotel staff is really good at keeping things quiet after 10.30 pm. The rooms are nice--ours was a little small, but we were going for the cheapest room (it did not have a fireplace.) The furniture is dark wood. The bed was comfy. There are rooms further back from the main hotel that are supposed to be very romantic. The hotel has a pool, but it was not filled while we were there. We didn't ask why. There are two possibilities. First, they don't fill it until summer. Second, there is a drought in NM. More than likely it is a combination of the two: in order to keep there water bills down the hotel does not fill the pool until guests start paying summer rates. There is a jacuzzi that was in operation. The staff is VERY FRIENDLY and VERY HELPFUL.

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part IV

If you are interested in reading parts I-III of our travel experiences to New Mexico, they appear below in reverse chronological order.

Day Five

We were very well rested after our night's sleep. The area around the Gavilan was very quiet, very dark, and as a result, very peaceful. We awoke with the hope that our day would be filled with hiking. The B&B had two trails. The smaller one was two miles long around the hills that were contained on the property. The larger one was seven miles long, extending beyond the property to that owned by the Philmont Ranch. What choice could we make? We would hike both trails.

We waited for breakfast in the Gavilan's sitting room. It was well decorated with Western-theme art, and the library was stocked with books on the Southwest in wildlife, history, and fiction. Everyone gathered there to wait to be served breakfast. Before that we hadn't met any of the other guests. Four couples stayed that first night: one from Connecticut, one from Ohio, another from Kansas (?), and ourselves. We sat at a table with the elderly couple from Old Lyme, Connecticut. The copious breakfast consisted of a frittata, orange juice, coffee, water, toast, fresh fruit. We felt full.

Off to the hike. We swiped the map of the property and the hiking trails from the room and packed some food in my backpack. All the guests had left the hotel rather quickly. We started to look for the trail, but could not find where it began. The map was confusing as to its direction, and there were no clearly defined trail heads. I looked at the map and decided that at least one end of the trail was somewhere down on the driveway, near to one of the cattle guards (these are a series of pipes or grates that cover a road, allowing cars to pass without having to open a gate but preventing livestock from crossing.) We found what I thought looked like a trail: a wide path through the trees; there was ample evidence on the ground that horses had been using it. We climbed up some steep hills, around past a horse pen, and back up onto the hill.

As I was walking I heard a sound. A sound like a mechanical percussionist playing the maracas. So regular. I kept walking regularly as I processed what I was hearing. Then I stopped. I turned and saw that Karen was staring at an object on the ground; she was shaking. We had disturbed a rattlesnake. My first thought was that the noise of our footfalls had simply disturbed it. In fact, I passed within inches (further examination of a photo would reveal that I may have stepped over the snake.) Karen was nearly crying. I was too stupid to realize what danger I had been in. We walked farther, at least to get some distance from the snake. We stopped for a while. I was willing to go on, Karen was afraid. We decided to stop hiking. We weren't prepared to meet any poisonous snakes. We doubled back. The snake had moved on, although not knowing where it went was not comforting. We found the aforementioned horse pen (empty), which we crossed in order to get back the to B&B more quickly. Our day of hiking was ruined.

Advice for traveling: hiking
As became painfully obvious, not everyone has the same expectations when it comes to the conditions of hiking paths. We take numerous day hikes of various lengths and various difficulties. We were accustomed to well marked paths. It would behoove anyone who expects to do some hiking to inquire into how well these paths are marked and what kind of dangers might be encountered.

We got back into the car, speeding down the dirt road at a reckless 10 mph, and headed back west through the hills. We planned to stop at one of the state parks and hike there. But Karen was still frightened--the paths were not well marked, there were no forest personnel to be seen. So we kept driving on, past Eagle's Nest. We stopped at the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial. Many bikers had used it as a gathering place. They walked around with sullen expressions (how did the Vietnam War become part of the general biker culture?) The chapel and exhibit were erected by Victor Westphall (the historian?) for his son, who died in Vietnam. It was the first monument to commemorate the war. Here is a link to people's experiences of the memorial. We both got teary-eyed.

We tried to find something to do in Angel Fire, but we were at a loss. And then a huge downpour trapped us in the car. So we kept driving west ... all the way back to Taos. Along the way we could see hundreds of bikers who were too foolish to stop; without helmets they covered their heads with their leather jackets and peered just over the handlebars as they rode.

Back at Taos, where the rains had already passed, we ate at Sheva Cafe. The people who ran it were the most laid-back Israelis I had ever met. We ate a hummus plate and a Middle Eastern pizza.

Review of Restaurant: Sheva Cafe in Taos
The cafe serves excellent Middle Eastern food, all of it at least vegetarian (menu), and coffee shop fair. They use organic ingredients when they are available. The food was quite good and not too expensive. We saw flyers around town that the cafe would host a multi-cultural Shabbat dinner along with music for $15/person. I don't know if they do this regularly.

Thereafter we went to the Millicent Rogers Museum and Home. Rogers was a NY socialite who "discovered" Taos and decided to live there. She interacted with the Pueblo and Hispanic artisans as well as the emerging circles of artists in the area, bringing those groups closer together. The museum hosts exhibits of her jewelry (not impressed), a wonderful collection of silver and turquoise jewelry)(both Pueblo and other), Pueblo pottery, and Hispanic folk art. It has excellent examples of pottery by Maria Martinez, the master Pueblo potter.

We tried to see some petroglyphs that were north of the gorge, but alas they were down a 10 mile dirt road. We turned back to Cimarron instead.

It hadn't rained in Cimarron. We were surprised. We took the opportunity to look around. Gavilan has a good view of the mountains, especially the odd-looking Tooth of Time, a rock precipice. We met with two of the other guests, Phyllis and Tim from Ohio. We walked around the property and talked for an hour. They were very friendly people. They had come to Cimarron to deposit their son at Philmont and would return to Ohio at the end of the week.

I will have part V available in two to three days.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Review of Travel Guide: Santa Fe (Fodor's Compass Series)

Karen and I were disappointed in the quality of guides that are available for New Mexico. Only a few are stand alone: New Mexico is usually bundled with Arizona or, even worse, with all the "Southwestern" states (Arizona, Nevade, Colorado.)

We chose the Compass book because it appeared to focus on the areas of New Mexico that we most wanted to explore. (We supplemented it with the AAA book for Arizona and New Mexico.) This guide is filled with color picture, which makes it a great guide for planning a vacation. However, this is a cultural guidebook: it lacks practical information, and that which it does provide may lack precision.

Author Cheek explains the culture of the state very well: a mixture of Pueblo, Hispanic, and Anglo-American elements. He has thorough explanation about architecture (the genuine adobe buildings as well as the more nostalgic Spanish colonial revival style), crafts (silver, turquoise, etc.), and museums.

"Seeing Sata Fe" is an excellent walking tour that starts from the central Plaza and works outwardly to major sites. "Day trips from Sante Fe" expands the scope of the book by showing different sites that can be reached by car. Some of these sites are REALLY FAR AWAY. Chaco Canyon takes hours to reach because of its remoteness (several miles of very poorly maintained dirt roads); AAA recommends that people plan to stay the night, at the very least, rather than visit for one day because it is so remote. Calling it a "day trip" is problematic. Others are more manageable, like Pecos/Las Vegas. Don't trust the driving directions that are given: we missed some important turn that the author never mentions, costing us some time.

The guide is less descriptive of Taos, which is a culturally and socially rich area in spite of its size.

The descriptions of the restaurants could be better. The price ratings need improving. The scales for both Santa Fe and Taos are the same even thought I would say restaurants of comparable quality are about 20% more expensive in Santa Fe than they are in Taos. I also felt that the author did not provide a sufficient list of mid-price restaurants ($15/person, no alcohol) for Santa Fe.

My advice: use this book for your planning, but get something else to get you around the state.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part III
Part I
Part II

The Saturday before Memorial Day was the last day that we planned to stay in Taos. My wife wanted to go somewhere quiet rather than be caught up in the festivities, whether they were recreational or memorial. The weekend had only increased the influx of bikers, increasing the noise such that the town had a constant ambient grumble. We felt that it was time to leave.

Our next destination was Cimarron. My wife had found a nice b&b that was situated in the mountains. The grounds had hiking trails as well as easy access to several state and national parks. We were looking forward to some relaxing hikes.

We delayed our departure from Taos in order to go to an artisans fair. There was not much that was new to us from the shops in the area. My wife bought several santos (handpainted images of saints) from a woman. She claimed to know people from Northampton. (At some point we realized that many New Mexicans knew people from the Pioneer Valley, specifically from the Five Colleges Area. However, I always sensed that whenever they said, "I have a friend in ...," that they wanted to insert the words "high-strung.") We also bought some bread from an Indian woman.

The drive through the mountains was beautiful. The mountains were high, the trees plentiful. Many people had built cozy cottages nestled up against the mountains. The mountain range opened up to a beautiful plain by the time we reached the town of Angel Fire. It was odd that this plain would be so perfectly surrounded by mountains so high up. One oddity: a small cloud hovered over a field at a low altitude, letting out random bolts of lightning. Throughout the road trip we passed bikers traveling in the opposite direction. Some stopped at the Vietnam Memorial between Angel Fire and Eagle's Nest.

After Eagle's Nest we entered the mountains again. We were no less impressed. There were huge rock formations on the cliffs. The drive was rather long. It took us more than one hour to pass through the mountains. We finally left the mountain range. What we say stunned us. A huge plain. A huge barren plain. It seemed like the same color extended for hundreds of miles, broken only by a few highways. My wife and I began to worry: we were out in the middle of nowhere. Had we left New Mexico? Were we in Texas? Cimarron, known as a stop on the Santa Fe trail, was a very small, very uninteresting town. The major attraction is Philmont Scout Ranch, a summer camp for advanced Boy Scouts. The complex is huge (I couldn't believe the number of cabins and tents I saw set up. From what I understand, these facilities were only for the arriving scouts. Many more would be sent out into the vast areas of the mountain forests for several weeks at a time.)
Things to do in Cimarron:
Philmont Scout Ranch
has two attractions that may be worth visiting. The first is the Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library dedicated to scouting. It has a permanent exhibit of historical scouting equipment
, a good (but small) collection for Seaton's naturalist painting and sketches of Southwestern wildlife, and a special exhibit dedicated to the previous years' wildfires as they affected the Ranch and as to how they were fought. The museum gift shop provides the area with a good bookshop, and the library looks as if it is well stocked. Visitors may obtain passes to tour the Philmont Villa (which we did not
do as we arrived late in the day.

The driveway for the B&B was just after the ranch. However, that driveway was, in reality, a two-mile dirt road. The stones had not been raked off the driveway. We could see the house. It was ever so close. We drove ever so slowly. It took twenty minutes to reach the house. No one was there. We were already concerned about being out in the middle of nowhere; we were more concerned that we could never leave this place without great difficult (perhaps causing damage to our poor rental.) We waited. And we waited.

The view from the house was spectacular. It was nestled in the mountains as promised, but not to the extent described in the digitally altered photo on the website.

After forty minute we saw a truck, followed by a cloud of dust, coming up the driveway. Finally, salvation! I was getting on my wife's nerves, and vice-verse. However, the truck did not carry the innkeeper but her nephew and his two friends. He was nice enough to let us into our room. He explained that it was graduation day (in a town of 1000 people!) and that his aunt had been celebrating; he had been sent to the B&B on a traditional "treasure hunt."

OK, we have a room. We went inside. We rested for a while. The innkeeper, a nice woman, finally arrived. She gave us a quick intro and went back to the graduation day festivities. We took off. We picked up several brochures that were lying around. Back down the dirt road at 5 mph. We got back on the main road. We headed in the direction of Capulin, an inactive volcano. And we drove. And we drove. We saw cattle. We saw bison. There were random trees (the landscape was not as desolate as it appeared from higher up, but not by much.) And we gave up. How far could this place have been? We turned back. We found the tourism (?) office in town. The woman at the counter said that the volcano was far away, but that for her a trip to the grocery store might take an hour one way. OK, back to the mountain range--go to one of the state parks. We met with a police roadblock. There had been a serious accident. The road was closed. We had to turn back. We were trapped. Last thing to do (it was almost five in the afternoon) was eat. There were too places. One was too scary to approach. The other was in an old Western hotel, the Saint James. It was reputed as a stop for famous figures on the trail etc etc etc and was thus a landmark of the Wild West. I hated the food: my linguini alfredo was overcooked in the cream sauce so that it was all gummy; the vegetables were served a la Green Giant.

We went back to the B&B to contemplate what we would do. Was Taos really that far away? We went to sleep early.
Exploring my Nuevomexicano roots part II

Day Three

Our attempts to defeat the noise and traffic of Memorial Day was defeated by the early morning noise of hundreds of Harleys passing by the inn. Yes, Taos and the surrounding area hosted a biker rally (I hadn't noticed the "bikers welcome" signs beforehand.) All that could be heard was the rumbling of the most inefficient engine ever built (I am not a big fan of Harley, especially when there are so many other excellent choices. If I had my druthers, I would ride a Triumph or a BMW.)

We ate breakfast at the restaurant at the Inn: poached eggs in red chile sauce. Another wonderful meal that sat on my tongue for the rest of the day.

Bikers were everywhere in Taos. Lots of gray beards, chaps, women who looked as if they had been slumped over a motorcycle for hours, ... . They were nice. I am sure that they were mostly lawyers etc.

We spent the morning in the museums (Taos Museum Association.) First we went to the(Ernest Blumenschein Home. Blumenschein was the son of an Hessian immigrant. He was one of the first to recognize the artistic potential of Taos in the 1890s. He finally moved there decades later, buying a small house where he lived with his family. Over the years he bought adjacent houses and joined them to his, creating a larger complex. The museum is both of his house and of the artists of his circle (which included his wife.) These works had some of the qualities of contemporary European artists: cubism, fauvism, primitivism. What made them unique was the focus on local themes: local Indian and Hispanic culture, the New Mexico landscape.

Next, we went to the Harwood Museum. This was a more ordinary museum that featured a mixture of Taos artists from the twentieth century. We were a little annoyed by the special Jasper Johns exhibit because the museum curators were setting up lighting as we were walking through (furthermore, I am not impressed by his work.) The big treat was the special exhibit of work by Pola Lopez. Hers was the first that I would encounter on the trip that would combing elements of Hispanic folk art with more contemporary political confessionalism. The museum also feature a decent collection of nineteenth century santos.

We walked over to the Kit Carson Home. Boring. If you don't know, Kit Carson was a legendary trapper and tracker who helped Anglos move into the Spanish Southwest via the Santa Fe Trail. There were hundreds of books written about him that praised his acuity as an Indian fighter. To his credit, he never really fought back the Indians. In fact, he appeared to support rights for Indians. The museum is basically a reflection of life in New Mexico during the nineteenth century. Nothing of real interest.

We hopped into our car to go to the Hacienda Martinez. This was another "how they lived" kind of place. The hacienda was a rather wealthy ranch that was run by a Hispano family. This was more interesting than the Kit Carson home only because it gave a broader sense of what it was like to live in Taos. Historian of the Hispanic Southwest David Weber has written a book about the Hacienda.

Thereafter we attempted to find the church of Rancho de Taos (technically separate from the Town of Taos, which is separate from the Taos pueblo.) The Hacienda was located in some remote area. We got lost trying to find our way back to the main highway. We got to look at some of the poverty in the area. Not everyone in Taos, nor in New Mexico, is a rich artisan who sells his wares all over the country. There is some serious rural poverty that especially affects the Hispano population.

When we finally hit the highway we turned south, completely missing the Church that was right before our eyes (actually, the sign was before our eyes ... the Church was hidden by other buildings.) We drove quite far out of town. At least we could stop to take some pictures of the gorge. The Church of San Francisco de Asisi is another beautiful adobe church decorated with wonderful folk art.

We drove north of Taos to the Pueblo. The pueblo is a awesome sight: adobe structures that reached several stories high. (No one ever really explained how the introduction of adobe (an imported technique from Morocco) was different from what the Pueblo Indians already had before contact with Spanish.) The pueblo is divided into two complexes of buildings that are divided by a stream. On the north side is the church. It was built in a similar fashion to other churches, but the worship space has more dolls and figures rather than painted saints. At the center is a doll dressed as Mary, at the side a coffin. We took a tour of the pueblo. The guide explained that this was the second Church. After the 1680 revolt the first Church had been destroyed. The Pueblo Indians compromised with the returning Spanish authorities, returning to Catholicism but combining it with native religious practices (unfortunately, no photos may be taken in the church.) He showed us to the remains of the first church, which now serve as a graveyard. Only impermanent burials are allowed: straight into the earth, without coffin. When the cross falls down, the people move it into a pile of crosses at the side of the graveyard and use the space to bury another body. He also showed us around the buildings themselves. They constitute only part of the pueblo population (many lived in more modern houses just outside the traditional pueblo.) The people who lived here were required to live in a somewhat traditional manner--no modern conveniences, save propane gas (how happy would Hank Hill be?). The tour guide also explained about how the pueblo is governed, how the buildings were maintained, what environmental and natural resource rights the pueblo had and how they were maintained. He was an excellent guide. We walked around for almost an hour. We bought a few things--two necklaces, some bread, music. Everyone on the pueblo was really friendly and talkative. One woman told us about her family--how they lived in the outside world. Her son, whom she described as a "half-breed", lives in Connecticut. We were amused by her stories.

The last touristy thing for the day was to drive north to the bridge that crosses the Rio Grande Gorge. OK, we were scared (or scarred.) We could not walk but one-third of the way across the bridge. The wind was blowing hard, and we could not stand up properly to take pictures because we were so afraid. Oh well.

We ate again at Apple Tree--it was simply too good. This time we forewent the bottle of wine for sangria. We also drank beer at the inn later that night.

Exploring my Nuevomexicano roots

The wife and I just returned from our vacation to New Mexico. We would never have believed that we could have had such a rich travel experience within the US. I think it will take me several days to write about those experiences.

Day One

Our trip started in Albuquerque. It wasn't someplace that we really wanted to see. It was convenient to stay there for the night because our rental car would not be available until the second day of the trip. We were too tired to see much. We awoke very early that morning to catch our plane. The first order of business was to catch up on sleep after checking into our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Blue, a boutique hotel on Central Avenue (near some good restaurants) that for $50/night (internet rate) was a good deal. The rooms had a vague art deco look.

In the afternoon we walked over toward Old Town. Big mistake. It wasn't as close as it looked on the map. It was hot (about 90 degrees.) The streets that we walked down were wide, leaving little opportunity for shade. (I always hate the current American desire to have homes and buildings spread so far apart. More sun gets to street level, making the streets too warm for casual pedestrians. It also prevents sociability.) The Old Town area is a series of shops and restaurants surrounding the San Felipe de Neri Church. It was a large pueblo-style church with a beautiful courtyard. It was too late to see the museum. The shops ranged from wonderful crafts to tourist traps. One of the best was a religious art store that sold local crafts and antiques. Several indigenous Americans sold silver and turquoise jewelry along the streets. The restaurants (at least the interesting ones) in the area closed too early for us to enjoy them. We walked back to the area of our hotel to eat at one of the trendier restaurants, a pizza place that probably has dancing in the later hours. We drank beer: Fat Tire for the wife, Anchor Steam for me.

Albuquerque is part old town and part suburban metropolis (if those concepts aren't too contradictory.) There are lots of beautiful craftsman cottages along the small residential streets. They look like real neighborhoods. People care for them. The downtown area is more modern with galleries and restaurants. However, many things are spread out over the city. Geographically, it is too big for its population.

We stayed in that night. We watched the American Idol finale on TV. We were sorry that Clay did not win, and we were disappointed with the production of the finale itself.

Day Two

We picked up our car at the Albuquerque Airport rental center. It was a Honda Civic. Oh, the torture that we will inflict on that poor car over the next eight days! We were actually impressed that it survived.

We immediately drove north from Albuquerque to Taos. It was Memorial Day weekend--we felt that it would be best to avoid Santa Fe and to get into a more remote area. (There was some faulty logic, as will become clear later.)

We stopped at Chimayo on the way up. We took NM 503 through Nambe, although we did not stop at the reservation. There were lots of small ranches and homes. Dirt rather than grass, but lots of shady trees. The hills helped to mitigate the heat, creating a little islet of fertile agriculture. The area is known for the best chiles in the country (a sign on a home calls them "holy chiles," and that may not be far from the truth.) We visited the Santurario de Chimayo. My grandfather was born in New Mexico and was a Penitente (these were catholic brotherhoods that emerged as the presence of the Catholic Church waned following the Pueblo revolts.) He had made pilgrimages to the Santuario, which was been described as the "Lourdes of America." The church was our first up-close experience with folk religion in the area. The courtyard was very inviting, with a wall in front of the church and an arched entrance. A large bell sat atop the adobe structure. Inside were painted alter pieces (retables) that were composites of the images of saints. We ate at a small outdoor restaurant across from the church.

We took 503 back to the main highway. We passed through Espanola without much comment (other than how unexciting it was.) As we approached Taos we caught glimpses of the Rio Grande. People were rafting. The road started to rise above the canyon floor and the river. Finally, driving over one hill, we could see the entire mesa emerge before us. A huge, flat space, border by the mountains. What took our breathes away was the gorge that broke up that seemingly perfect plane. We were in awe.

We stayed at the Historic Taos Inn. It is located at the major intersection in town. The price for our attractive, though small, room was $150 for two nights. After getting a little more rest, we headed out into town. We looked through several shops. New Mexico has many inspired artisans. There were many interesting things--textiles, furniture, etc.--much of which was either inspired by the local culture, the local landscape, the local Indians, or the artists who had previously settle in Taos. Much of the art is expensive. I think that they target people with money, effectively pricing us out of the market.

We ate at the Apple Tree. Technically, it was our anniversary--five years together. However, we celebrated weeks earlier so that we could do so properly. The restaurant was fabulous. We sat in an interior courtyard under the apple trees. The chile sauces were so complex and flavorful that we devoured our dishes: my wife had chiles rellenos that had been fried in a corn flour batter. I had tempeh fajitas in red chile sauce. It was sweet and hot. We drank a bottle of fume blanc from southern New Mexico (Jury Winery.) It will be one of the most memorable meals that I have had. The meal came out to $60 along with cups of cucumber soup and chips and guacamole. I would say that it was a bargain.

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