I’ve loved all my travels in the US, from Florida (friends) to San Francisco (cousin’s wedding) to Colorado (skiing), with New York, New Orleans and DC thrown in for good measure. This year I visited somewhere in the US where very few non US travellers journey - to the mountainous wilds of New Mexico and in particular the Auberge Encantado in Tesuque, near to Santa Fe and the Santa Fe opera.
This has been a strange and amazing trip, with rugged scenery of New Mexico looking pretty much as you would expect it to, countered with some outstanding houses built into the savage backdrop, a seriously gorgeous resort hotel and an opera house, half open air (the walking in half) and half covered that appears slightly when you arrive inside as if you're sitting in a spaceship.
The Auberge Encantado is somewhere that, if you possibly can, you should visit. Tesuque, where it is situated, is unique, set against the foothills of the Sangre de Christo (the foot of the rockies) and the Jemez mountains to either side with Los Alamos just a few miles away. To the north are the 'Badlands' to Colorado and to the south the Sandia mountains of Albuquerque. Surrounded by all this magnificent but sauvage scenery it is hard to imagine that the busy town of Santa Fe is only 30 minutes away.
The resort is sophisticated and beautifully designed with 'Casitas' - dwellings with bedrooms and bathrooms - set in the grounds, every comfort any girl could possibly want, great service in true American style, wonderful food, a modern spa and excellent gym. Then there's the pool. Frankly there's so much to do here you could arrive, look at the view and decide not to go anywhere else. Sit on the terrace with a glass of champagne and watch the sun go down over the mountains and you will never want to leave - I certainly didn't.
The food deserves a special mention - Executive Chef Charles Dale was named the Best New Chef in America by Food + Wine Magazine in 1995 and twice nominated for Best American Chef in the Southwest. His cuisine is regionally inspired and includes dishes such as tuna tartare, scallops with pork belly and grilled wild king salmon. Everything is beautifully presented and totally delicious.
If you feel the need to shop you go to Santa Fe itself, which combines tourist traps with Issey Miyake with no trouble at all plus unique, locally designed jewellery, and I'm not talking about the cheap stuff, but beautiful, unusual, semi-precious stone, turquoise and diamond set pieces that will set any room talking. And no. I didn't by the way.........I was very well behaved on this trip, something to do with kids and rent. But I could have, easily, in spades. It is a shopaholic's paradise provided you know where to look. My advice? Don't buy a stetson or cowboy boots unless you a) want them for decoration or b) know for certain they'll get worn. I sort of fancied a stetson but being slightly (!) vertically challenged I decided I'd better not take the risk.
Finally on to the opera house which is so incredible in this rugged countryside it's hard to explain. As you sit in your seat looking down on the stage you can also look to the side and the darkening sky and see the twinkling lights of the towns and the mountains in the background. This really is an extraordinary place and I was very lucky to have been invited. Do you think it's too soon to hint that I'd like to be invited back next year? Too late, I already have (hinted, I mean).
It's a long way to get to as you'd expect, however for the company, the scenery, the food, the music and the fun it has been an unrivalled experience. Make the trip if you can.
Back now to puppies, son's 21st (help!) and work, and, of course, planning my next trip. I'm not quite sure where it'll be yet, but having been seriously bitten by the travel bug this year, you can bet it'll be as soon as.............