As a transplant to Santa Fe, I enjoy the ease of accessibility around the downtown area. Forget about stairs and steep inclines, and concentrate on a worry-free stroll with your biggest decision: Where to start?
Like the spokes on a wheel, this area radiates out from the historic Plaza and provides the perfect mix of atmosphere and art and food and fun, with jewelry in the stores and on the sidewalks plus plenty of seating for frequent breaks.
Start your restorative jaunt at the iconic Five & Dime (58 E San Francisco St., 992-1800). In the tradition of its grandparent store, one of the last original Woolworth’s, this place evokes memories of a bygone era.
You’ll find a place chock full of necessities considered mainstays of the small-town general store. This little gem has souvenirs galore, with a wall of postcards from the quirky to the serene. But with the alluring aroma of its famous Frito pie, it’s hard to concentrate on buying anything.
However, if you’re a breakfast foodie, take the manager’s recommendation for the Plaza Café (54 Lincoln Ave., 982-1664), a must-try for comfort food with a twist. Esther, who’s worked at this friendly, bustling place for 30 years, guided us through a huge menu. Whether dining on breakfast or dinner, try their prickly-pear lemonade. The vibrant fuchsia of this tart but sweet concoction seems right at home in the City Different.
In an era of high prices and tiny portions, I can not remember the last time I needed a to-go box. You probably will too.
After being stuffed like a burrito, groan your way over to the benches directly across the way. Known as the “heart of Santa Fe,” the Plaza offers a place to rest and gaze at the kaleidoscope of activities reflecting the city’s heritage. And really, how many cities are considerate enough to include a park smack dab in the middle of great shopping?
Notice how the symphony of foot traffic moves in sync with the slow cars, alleviating the worries of cane-carrying pedestrians and anxious grandpas.
Consider ending your day at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (131 Cathedral Place, 982-5619). Inside, find yourself bathed in the soft colors of the rainbow as the evening sun streams through the stained-glass depictions of the 12 apostles. Or spend some time reflecting in the Prayer Garden where 14 magnificent bronzed statues by the recently departed Gib Singleton represent the stations of the cross. Look for the candlelit plaster cast in the image of St. Francis of Assisi and a quote from the city’s patron saint: “May I be an instrument of your peace, sowing love… spreading light and joy.”
Sounds like the spirit of Santa Fe to me.