Red, Green or Both?

Santa Fe Getaway

This year Girls’ Trip brought in ladies from CT, CO, OR, FL, AZ, and VA to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Before this weekend, my only time spent in New Mexico was driving along the I-10 to and from Tucson, which is far from a scenic drive.  I expected to see a landscape very similar to Arizona, but instead saw wide open spaces filled with mesas, rolling hills, and snow capped mountains.

Melanie and I arrived a day early (my mistake during booking, but ended up a gift!) and spent some quality time with Kristin and her family, including her parents, grandma (Omi) and son (lil’ Preston James).  Highlights from our time in Albuquerque included a private tour and detailed history of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center by Ron (Kristin’s Dad); Omi’s amazing hospitality and cooking/baking of quiche, graham cracker cake, and abelskivers (Danish traditional breakfast treat!); a delicious lasagna dinner at the Soliman residence; trying to stay awake and finish strong margaritas overlooking Old Town, multiple cutie-patootie quotes from PJ himself (the cutest 3 year old alive!); a fabulous lunch of authentic NM food at Padilla’s Restaurant (I got the combination platter but would recommend the Carnitas Special on Thursdays…amazing!);  and greeting the other ladies with big hugs at the airport.  A mistake in booking our tickets turned into a wonderful extra day in NM!

Once we got Mackenzie, Melissa and Michelle, we headed North to Santa Fe to start our wonderful weekend!  On the drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe the highway stretched between the various pueblos of NM, and gave us some fantastic views of the jagged mountains interrupted by mesas and rolling rocky hills.  We arrived at “Artist’s Retreat” and were greeted by a better looking Kris Kattan look-a-like named Justin Greene (owner).  He welcomed us into the house, gave us the tour, and proceeded to run down a list of must-see/go places in Santa Fe.  Before he was out of the door, we had scattered throughout the house to explore.  Artist’s Retreat is a perfect use of space with immaculate design…bright rooms, tall ceilings, decks/patios off every room, and one of the best features: a steam room/shower with two shower heads!  We quickly settled in, and started in on perfecting our fresh margaritas…fresh squeezed orange and lime juice, simple syrup, Patron, and Grand Marnier.  It took us a little while, but after some serious taste testing, I think we found the perfect recipe.  The iPod was on shuffle as Kristin prepared dinner and we awaited Zoë and Amy’s arrival.  By the time they arrived, we had finished the Patron and had moved on to his distant and not so cool second cousin José, but we didn’t care.  GT 2010 had finally arrived and there was no place we would rather be than together at Artist’s Retreat.  We fought fatigue from long cross-country flights as we caught up with stories and shared pictures of new babies, boyfriends, and puppies.  One by one the group got smaller, leaving only a few of us who decided to end our night watching YouTube videos of Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” (a must see!).  Zoe, Amy, Melanie and I trucked our tired bodies upstairs to our “wing” of the house for a night cap, a few laughs, and some more story-telling out on the deck.  This is what GT is all about…relaxing with our best girls from all over the US.  We look forward to this trip every year for very good reason.  Thursday night came to a close as we melted into our comfy beds and dreamed of the weekend ahead of us.

After a tasty Friday morning breakfast of egg casserole (with a little ice…no worries Mel!), bagels and NW Pinon coffee, we ventured up to Ojo Caliente for a day of rest, relaxation and spa treatments.   While we initially had planned our spa day to be at the very highly recommended Ten Thousand Waves, we opted for the more affordable and versatile version, just an hour North of Santa Fe.  As we drove into Ojo Caliente Spa, we saw a rustic adobe village at the base of surrounding rocky hills and mesas.  The unique thing about this spa is its various natural hot springs of arsenic, lithium, soda, and iron, each of which boasted its own healthy benefits.  The day was spent in individual massage, scrub, facial and wrap treatments, with group soaking intermissions in the various springs.  A few of us ventured into the “yoga hut” for an 80 minute class, during which I spent most of my time making sure my bathing suit (yes, I forgot appropriate yoga clothes) was staying put during poses like “happy baby” and “pigeon”.   Following yoga, Melanie and I headed into one of the adobe homes for our hot bath soak and wrap.  A small and stout American Indian woman led us to an individual tub, which we decided to share (to save water of course…we are so green!).  As we became submerged in our hot tub, the sound of small hail pelted the plastic roof above us.  The ominous clouds that had been off in the distance were now on top of the spa and showering us with an afternoon mix of hail and rain.  While we soaked, the others found cover and watched the storm roll through.  I would say that the most interesting and uncomfortable part of my day at the spa, was the “wrap” that followed the hot tub soak.  Having already raised my core body temperature a few degrees, I was then shuffled off to the “Milagro Wrap Room” by the same stout woman, who directed me to lie down and promptly wrapped me in two separate blankets like the tightest burrito this side of the Rio Grande.  While my heart attempted to find a regular rate, I forced myself to get through the next 25 minutes in this cotton tortilla by thinking “happy” thoughts and ignoring the thought that I may not be able to pull a Houdini move and get out of the wrap if I started to have a panic attack.  The guy next to me opted to stay in his burrito an extra 10 minutes…what!?  I listened intently for the little woman’s footsteps down the corridor, and when she entered the room and asked, “Are you ready?” I couldn’t have been happier.  Needless to say, that was a “one and done” experience for me.  Melanie described it as being a combination of two of her least favorite things…being hot in bed and not having free reign of her arms.  We emerged from the adobe home to cool air and the distinct smell of the desert after an afternoon thunderstorm.  What a wonderful way to end our day at Ojo Caliente.

We drove back to Artists’ Retreat and began getting ready for our evening out…dinner and dancing at El Farol Restaurant and Cantina!  Justin had suggested getting a table in the bar area and sharing a dozen of the delicious tapas while the band set up for that evening’s live music…Cuban Salsa baby!  We took our time, devoured the tapas and washed them down with plenty of wine, mojitos, sangria, and tequila shots here and there.  We surprised Zoë with a loud and lovely rendition of “Happy Birthday” and a trio of their best deserts, which I think made its way around the table a few times so we all got to enjoy Zoë’s birthday!  Our waiter, Neal had no idea what he was in for with us, but handled it like a pro!  Following dinner, we were stuffed, satisfied, and ready for some Salsa dancing!  As the band warmed up, we started moving in our seats.  It was about that time.  When the first note came through the speakers, we were out of our seats and on the tiny dance floor just inside the front door.  I assume it was put there so that patrons coming through the door immediately knew what they were in for…a sweaty night of hot moves, big smiles, and frequent cries of “Aye ya ya ya!”.  While we all spent some serious time sweating and shaking our stuff on the dance floor, the award for “Best Dancer and Motivator of Others to Dance” went unanimously to Kristin!  She was in her element and loving the rich Cuban tunes as she pulled complete strangers out of their seats and dragged them on to the dance floor.  She single handedly MADE the night better and brighter for about ¾ of the people in the bar area.  That will be a night that they (and we) will never forget.  For years to come, the cute group of ladies from Texas will reminisce and say, “Remember that beautiful young lady with the beaming smile who got us out of our chairs to Salsa!?  She was the best!”  The characters who graced us on the dance floor, including Eduardo, Amy and her friend (what was her name?!), Coke shirt guy with the cheese grater instrument, the drunk guy who had a crush on Mack, the Ebert look-a-like business man, and others, kept the dance floor full, steamy and fun.  We danced the night away then cabbed it home to get our beauty sleep for our early Saturday morning departure up to the Rio Grande!

Saturday morning came fast, so we pieced together what we each thought would be appropriate for our river rafting trip, grabbed some food, and hit the road.  We headed northeast towards Taos, to meet our rafting guides along the Rio Grande at the Taos County Line.  Soon after arriving at the launch site, our Kokopelli rafting guides showed up, made us sign obligatory papers, and carted us up to the top of our half-day “Racecourse” rafting course.  With helmet, wet gear, and life jackets on, we looked like a family of State-Puff Marshmallow women, but we didn’t care.  We were ready for some white water baby!  We got our safety debriefing on the beach and were ready to head down the river and take on the rapids.  Our guide Brian seemed a little too laidback and skeptical of our abilities on the water so we immediately tested him.  He initially saw eight hung over chicks and thought to himself, “Great, I got stuck with them!?”  He quickly changed his attitude after some teasing, poking and prodding.   After taking it like a man, we could tell that he was a good match for our group.  We jumped in our raft and practiced some strokes along the way when we found our raft in eddy currents.  We were in sync and psyched to hit some rapids.  Initially I was the “hood ornament” of the raft because we had so many rowers.  My job was to sit in the front of the raft, grab onto the side ropes with mouth open and yell while we broke through the rapids.  This basically meant that I got a face full of water while the other girls rowed hard through the rapids.  It was a fun spot for a while, but I wanted to contribute to the physical effort of getting down the river.  Michelle handed over her paddle and took my spot up front, despite her cotton pants that were about to get completely soaked in the next set of rapids (thanks Michelle!).  We made it through a few more sets before Mackenzie took on the “hood ornament” spot for the final stretch and largest set of rapids.  On the second to last set, Brian calmly told us that if we didn’t get this rowing/steering right we would get pinned against the rock and dumped into the icy river.  GREAT!  Perhaps he just wanted to put the fear of God in us or maybe he was really serious about the danger of that particular rapid.  Regardless, our group pushed through the rapids successfully, let out loud cheers and hit our oars together over the raft!  WOO HOO! No sweat!  Our last rapid was one of the best, and also where our pictures were taken.  Needless to say, Mackenzie was under a wall of water and each of us had very distinct and determined looks on our faces that were properly captured in time by the professional photographer on the river’s East bank.  The last stretch of water before our course ended was calm and slow-moving.  Brian gave us permission to take a dip in that icy Rio Grande, which I decided was a good idea after a few minutes of contemplation.  And yes, it was cold, but I am glad I did it.  When will I have another chance to be surrounded by beautiful ladies and scenery along one of our nation’s most well recognized rivers?!  Our rafting ended with snacks and beers on the beach, and picking the guides’ brains for the best post-rafting lunch spot in SF.  The consensus was a restaurant called Tune Up, a quirky, quaint local hangout in SF that is well-known for its fresh and flavorful food.  What a perfect spot to satisfy our post-rafting hunger.  We noshed while recounting our rafting trip and planning our final night in our home away from home.

Saturday night was bittersweet for many reasons (as the last night of GT always is).  Many of us used our post-rafting time to relax, stroll down to peruse the beautiful American Indian art along the sidewalks of The Plaza, grab the best coffee and gelato from Ecoo on Marcy Street, or in Zoë’s case, find the last few ingredients for her birthday feast and begin preparing her take on Tyler Florence’s “Chicken Mole Poblano” recipe.  It is a running joke that when Zoë cooks, we end up eating on “European Time”…meaning somewhere between 10-11 PM.  This year was no exception, although she made every effort to have her dishes ready earlier.  Although we teased her about it, we really didn’t care.  Zoë’s cooking is well worth the wait, and we know better than to complain.  The final product is always woven with intricate flavors, paired with delightful aromas, and sprinkled with a whole lot of love.  Hopefully I don’t have to wait a whole year for another one of her divine dishes!  While we waited, the house was filled with music, jovial chatter and laughter.  The wine was pouring freely and we even had a pre-dinner session of Les Mill’s “Body Jam”, courtesy of Melanie.  She really knows how to distract hungry women and burn calories at the same time!  It was fun to watch the ladies reaction to Melanie’s “personality” as a “group fitness instructor” (they don’t call them aerobics instructors anymore…for fear of bringing back neon spandex thong leotards and leg warmers), and feed off of her energy.  She is one of the best that is for sure!  As the aerobic dancing died down, the time was right around 10:30, and we started placing bets on when the food would actually hit the table…10:47, 10:53, 11:03…At some point, we stopped looking at the clock, set the table outside near the fireplace, threw on our warm clothes and filled up our wine glasses.  Dinner was served and it was to die for.  We raised our glasses to our beautiful in-house chef who proceeded to bless us and the meal with a very sweet and fitting prayer.  As the flavors from the mole sauce, braised chicken, avocado salad, and beautifully matched wine hit our palates, the “oohs” and “mmmmms” filled the air.  Various toasts were given, most of which brought tears to our eyes, and one of which was highly anticipated and didn’t disappoint (Melissa!…cupeth runeth overeth!).  The meal was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.  There we were fireside with our best friends enjoying a special meal to celebrate not only Zoë’s birthday, but also the uniqueness or our friendships and the blessings that have been bestowed upon all of us.  We truly are the luckiest group of ladies.

Sunday morning came too soon.  While handfuls of ladies left at various times to get home to the loved ones who had been missing them, Melanie and I were able to spend some extra time at the house and in SF.  We took one last trip to Ecco, walked around the neighborhood and ended our day at Old Fort Marcy Park.  We walked up through the park to the summit, reading plaques about Santa Fe’s history along the way, and taking pictures of the town down below.  Although we didn’t want to leave, we trucked ourselves back to Albuquerque for a little more time with the Solimans and one last authentic NM meal at Blake’s Lotaburger.  Let me tell you, the Itsa burger with green chilies and cheese gives any burger at In-n-Out Burger a serious run for its money!  Pair that with some fries and a Dr. Pepper and we were thoroughly satisfied!  Kristin dropped us off at the airport and we headed back East.  All-in-all, I would say that this GT weekend is right up at the top of the list.  Every year they seem to get better.  Perhaps that is directly proportional to how much more we appreciate each other with each 365 days that passes.  As the 6th GT came to a close, I think it’s safe to say that we all were ready to start planning the 7th.  Until Jan 1st of 2011, let’s keep these memories close so we can be brought back to SF from time to time.  Love you girls…thanks for everything!

Memorable Quotes: “Can you have a natural C-section?”; “Sorry for giving you the shortened version”; “Intimate moment”; “’I’m going to start the appetizer at 5 o’clock so that we won’t be eating dinner at 10 o’clock”; “Oooooh Mojitos!”; “What is your name?” “Naiz.” “You mean like Maize”? “No Naiz…with a N.”; “You mean Naiz, like nasal?”; “I’m making shhhimple shhyrup!”;

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May 24, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Friends, Travel.

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