Monday, June 6, 2011

Simply Southwest {Part 1}

I’m finally getting around to telling you about our Memorial Day/3-Year Anniversary weekend adventure, where hubby and I headed west to Santa Fe, New Mexico! Every time I come home from a vacation, I have a bit of vacation withdrawal and depression (AKA…Post-Travel Depression – PTD for short…seriously, it’s a real condition, look it up). I come home and feel less than enthused about returning back to normal life and readjusting to my regular routine…so, sorry about the delay in posts. But, I have slowly become reacclimated, dug my way out of mountains of laundry over the weekend and want to give you the full overview of the trip and offer up some advice if you ever plan on traveling to this area.

Since my husband and I are by no means independently wealthy, we don’t have a fortune to spend on travel and try to be somewhat budget-conscious when traveling. My theory on vacations is that I would rather take cheaper, more frequent vacations instead of only going on a few extravagantly expensive vacations every few years. We don’t normally fly if it’s within a day’s drive, we don’t normally stay at five-star luxury resorts, and we don’t spend a fortune dining at fancy restaurants. What we do spend money on are unique experiences or excursions. I absolutely love planning trips and finding fun things to do in interesting places. One of my go-to sites for travel reviews is TripAdvisor, and I check Urbanspoon or Yelp for popular restaurants.

Here is a breakdown of what we did on our Santa Fe trip with some reviews and photos interspersed:
{Saturday, May 28} We drove most of the day Saturday (Santa Fe is a nine-hour drive from Oklahoma City), and we stopped in Amarillo (the halfway point) for lunch at Blue Sky, a simple burger joint right along I-40. The line snaked around to the door when we got there and we had to wait about 10 minutes to order, but it was worth the wait. I ordered the regular signature burger with a layering of mustard and mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and pickles and added some fries, and hubs got a bacon cheeseburger with a side of jalapeno rings. My burger was quite tasty but the fries were a bit greasy; the jalapeno rings were much better and not too spicy. We left with full bellies and were on our way to Santa Fe. After a few more hours of driving, we finally made it and checked into our hotel and then headed to the outlet shops…I was mostly just interested in the Coach outlet. An hour or so later, with a new purse and umbrella in tow, we worked up an appetite and headed to our first eatery in Santa Fe…Jambo Café, an award-winning African restaurant. If you weren’t looking for this place, you would probably miss it. Wedged between a nail salon and a clothing store in a strip mall, it’s not quite what I had in mind when I read about it online. The actual restaurant is tiny, seating maybe only 30-40 people inside, and there were three little patio tables outside. We opted for the immediate seating outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. The atmosphere was a little lacking out there, since we sat about three feet from a parked car on a concrete sidewalk, but the food pretty much made up for all of that and more. I had my eyes stomach set on the jerk chicken with sweet potato fries, but was sadly informed that they were out of the jerk chicken, so I ended up ordering the spice-rubbed salmon salad. My husband ordered a chai latte and the special of the day, crab cake with rice. Once we took a bite, we couldn’t stop eating. Everything was so flavorful, cooked perfectly with just the right amount of spice. It lived up to its hype and deserved all the buzz surrounding it. I was just surprised it wasn’t in the downtown touristy hub of Santa Fe, but I’m sure the prices wouldn’t be as reasonable if it were. After dinner, we drove around town and stopped at the local Sunflower Farmers Market grocery store, which is similar to Whole Foods but cheaper, to replenish our snacks. (I was looking at the web site and found out that one is coming to Oklahoma City this fall at 6410 N. May Ave! Oklahoma City is getting a Sunflower Farmers Market, Whole Foods and Outlet Mall all later this year…what a great year! )
{Sunday, May 29} That morning, we woke up relatively early to get a head start to our day. In the car again for a short drive, we drove about an hour and a half or so to Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos to hike and check out the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings. We climbed on ladders, explored ancient cliff homes (basically holes in the rocks) and hiked until I almost passed out from heat exhaustion. It was a lot warmer than what I had packed and dressed for; you never know what to expect in the desert.
I was covered in dust and drenched in sweat on our way back to Santa Fe, but we had planned to catch a quick bite for lunch and then do some mountain no point in taking a shower. The lunch spot that day was Santacafe. Once we pulled into the parking lot full of high-dollar yuppy vehicles, I wished we would have showered and changed. Oh well, we walked into a crowd of local retirees and yuppies and settled into a table in the peaceful, outdoor patio area. I had forgotten it was Sunday, and they had a special brunch menu instead of the usual lunch menu. I ordered the chicken salad and hubs ordered a fancy hotdog with waffle-cut rosemary chips and a basket of pastries (which, because of the hubs' nut allergy, I had to consume most of). The chicken salad was decent, a little overpriced and nothing to write home about. Hubs said the hotdog and sauerkraut were pretty delicious, the chips were rather tasty and different, and the pastries were fairly good as well. I enjoyed sitting back, watching the birds, taking in the relaxing atmosphere and getting my fill of people-watching. I was convinced that two middle-aged couples a table over belonged on a "Real Housewives" show.
That concludes Part One of our adventure, I'll pick it back up and finish where I left off tomorrow since this is becoming a megapost.

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