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Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road in Santa Fe

Christmas Eve in Santa Fe

By G G Collins (Copyright 2013)

Farolitos Line the Roof of La Fonda copyright G G Collins

Farolitos Line the
Roof of La Fonda
copyright G G Collins

It’s Christmas Eve and you’re in Santa Fe. Sunset is fast approaching and the air is frosty. There’s only one thing to do: wrap up warmly and go to the Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk.

Forget trying to park. Stay at a nearby hotel or B & B. Otherwise prepare for frustration trying to park. There will be street closures and partial street closures. Last year Santa Fe Trails offered shuttles from the South Capitol Station for $2 round-trip. Check with them for service this year.

Notice the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand and a votive candle) lining the street and sidewalks. Now, in Santa Fe these are called farolitos, but much of New Mexico refers to them as luminarias. To further confuse the issue, in Santa Fe we call bonfires luminarias. Okay, don’t sweat the details; just enjoy.

This can be a shoulder-to-shoulder event with up to 30,000 people—and their dogs—descending on Canyon Road. Santa Fe’s art centre lives right here and many of the galleries will be open late; doorways of yellow light inviting you in. I absolutely love this yearly procession. You never know what surprise waits to delight you. Most of these are provided by the parade you are a part of; people and dogs draped in Christmas lights. Canine friends may be outfitted with antlers in addition to the brightly colored lights. They don’t seem to mind. There’s always a new take on costuming for the Farolito Walk.

Farolito Walk in Santa Fe

Farolito Walk in Santa Fe (Photo credit: feverblue) Creative Commons

Impromptu carolers burst into Christmas songs and spirituals. Music erupts as drummers pound their instruments marching the length of Canyon Road. Notes float across the cold air from a harp or flute gently reminding you of the season. The galleries, shops and restaurants along the narrow thread are decked out with festive lights and bright red bows. It’s a sensory experience of light, sound and delicious scents.

But don’t leave out taste. To warm up, stop and get a coffee, hot chocolate or cider. Usually one can find cookies for munching—you’ll need energy to walk uphill. Take a few moments and warm your hands at a nearby bonfire, and keep going.

When the lights fade and the music stops, just turn around and do it all over. And when you reach the end of Canyon Road, savor the experience, because it will be another whole year before it happens again. This is Christmas Eve in Santa Fe.

— G G CollinsCopyscape Do Not Copy

Links to YouTube videos of the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdVRZ2MGjlM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEJLNPDBRkc

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be happy and peaceful.

ClipArt

On Location with the Reluctant Medium

La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Trail

La Fonda during holidays
copyright G G Collins

For more than 400 years, there has been a fonda—inn or hotel—at the intersection of what is now East San Francisco and the literal end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. That first inn was constructed of adobe blocks, which were made of mud, shaped by hand and dried in the sun. Some would have had animal prints embedded from nocturnal visits by wildlife. The 1921 floor plans indicate there was a courtyard entrance, but that has since been enclosed. Although the original structure was replaced, and the hotel has undergone several renovations, it maintains the adobe architectural design that predominates in Santa Fe.

For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, it is a gathering place. After a strange and frightening event at High Desert Country magazine office, Rachel Blackstone and her office crew met in the La Fonda bar where they could enjoy the fireplace and sample the Mexican beers.

The lobby of La Fonda is more than a large hallway drawing guests away; it acts as the heart of the hotel with La Plazuela restaurant, the newsstand, the bar and many specialty shops that attract an international crowd. The tile floor has felt the footsteps of both the famous and the infamous: from Spanish conquistadores to the creator of the Santa Fe Trail, William Becknell, to modern-day celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, Larry Hagman, Diane Keaton and Linda Hunt. And while it is rumored that Billy the Kid worked in the hotel’s kitchen, there is no proof that he ever washed a dish.

La Plazuela was first a courtyard, some referred to it as the back yard. It was the sight of at least two deaths, but more on that in our ghost story segment. Eventually, a massive skylight was built over the courtyard so guests could eat among the sunbeams, a stark contrast to the lobby’s dark handcrafted

La Fonda Front Desk copyright G G Collins

beams which are detailed with carvings. The front desk is a treasure of rich wood made by authentic craftsman. The hand-crafted chandeliers are constructed of tin, copper and glass, adding both light and ambience.

Mexican and Spanish influence is found everywhere in the furnishings, artwork and religious artifacts. In fact, several artists, most notably Gerald Cassidy, Paul Lantz, Vladan Stiha, also a resident at the hotel, have added paintings, murals, and painted panels that make La Fonda one of a kind. Ernesto Martinez is the current La Fonda artist. His work is most evident in the creative motifs found on the glass panes surrounding the restaurant. La Fonda continues to be both museum and posada (lodging).

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the renowned physicist of the Manhattan Project, reportedly hung out with his colleagues at La Fonda’s La Fiesta Lounge, federal agents in tow. But you can sip a margarita and listen to music, sans feds.

The Bell Tower on the fifth floor is the perfect place to appreciate beer and stunning sunsets at the same time. The view encompasses Sandia to the south and the Jemez to the west. After the hot colors of the sunset, stay for the indigo sky with a billion stars to keep you company. But should you venture out alone, beware the door. Mind that it’s not locked prior to closing it behind you. I have some personal experience with being locked out. Not a problem until a storm moves in or nature calls.

Like most storied buildings, La Fonda is a place of legend and myth. It has been the site of traders and cowboys, conquerors and native. It goes a long way back and will likely go way forward. It is reputed to have tunnels leading to the courthouse and the Palace of the Governors, and maybe even a dungeon-like room or two. Rowdy cowboys could be hustled away inconspicuously to sleep it off.

La Fonda was a Harvey House for more than four decades. Currently, it is a Historic Hotels of America, a Preferred Hotel Group brand, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Even if you don’t stay at La Fonda when you visit, you must see it, write a post card while sitting in one of those vintage chairs in the lobby, browse the many shops and immerse yourself in the three cultures (Pueblo Indian, Hispanic and Anglo) that exist in this city. It continues to surprise first-time visitors and long-time residents. And like wine, it improves with age.

For more information: http://www.lafondasantafe.com/

— G G Collins

Copyscape Do Not Copy

Ghost Story of the Week: Sharpen those psychic skills for the upcoming question.

While La Fonda has stood the test of time, it has also racked up a good number of ghosts. There are so many that we’ll cover just a few this time.

During the 1800s a gambling hall was part of the hotel. As we all know, for every person who wins, there are many more who do not. In one particular incident, a man was hung in the courtyard (sometimes referred to as the backyard). Maybe it was thought he was cheating, but whatever the reason, he was lynched. It has been reported that some guests to La Plazuela have seen the shadow of a man hanging.

The Hon. John P. Slough, who was a chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot in the lobby and later died of his wounds. He insulted Capt. Rynerson, also with Territorial government, calling him dishonest. Rynerson took offense and shot the judge. Guests say they’ve seen a man walking the hotel dressed in a long black coat (robes perhaps?).

And yet another man lost his life in what is now the restaurant. Originally it

La Fonda Courtyard with Well, Public Domain

was the courtyard and in the center was a well. Apparently a businessman lost his company’s money in a round of cards. He was so distressed, he jumped into the well to his demise. Although the well was filled in long ago, you can still see where it was. Look at the fountain in the center of the restaurant. It even closely resembles the look of the well in the postcard shown. Hotel staff and guests have seen a ghostly figure cross the room to the site of the old well and watched as he disappeared into the floor.

The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association conducted an investigation into La Fonda in 1998 and found the strongest suggestion of paranormal activity in the parking garage. During its construction, human remains were found there. This happens from time to time in Santa Fe and environs. All work ceases until the remains can be recovered.

Psychic question of the week:

For the answer, check back next Sunday.

Answer to last week’s psychic question:  The Longest Yard, a perfect score by everyone!

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