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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another Day, Another Adventure! (UPDATED)

"Well! Well! Well!... This is wonderful. No one told me it was like this!" 
- Georgia O'Keeffe

UPDATE May 20th: 

I don't usually post an update so quickly after a column, but this was too good not to pass along. Got an email from Chuck Higgins with some terrific news: 

"As an interesting footnote since you were here, C.G. Higgins will be opening an additional downtown location, just a half block NORTH of the Historic, Santa Fe Plaza at 130 Lincoln Avenue. We will be adding fresh, chocolate dipped strawberries and our signature caramel apples.

The plan is to be open around mid June, 2013."

(Mmmmmm, strawberries AND caramel apples.  Just a month away and within an easy walk of the Plaza. Thanks for the news, Chuck, and congrats to everyone at CG Higgins!)

(Now, about that sopapilla corn...)


The indication of any good trip is the wish, once you're safely home again, that you were still out there, on the road. That a week or so afterward you're longing for the next time. 
Aloft over Albuquerque

We've all been on voyages that no matter how good they begin, towards the end of them we begin to look forward to getting home. This doesn't mean they're not great trips, it just means that we've done enough for now are looking for our normal lives to resume. For some people this is a week. For others it could be months. (And in some extreme cases, it may be years. Or a lifetime.)

And so it was that the timing for our brief spin around the American Southwest was perfect. (The collective noun includes my wife and for a good portion of the trip our friends Jim and Glenda. You'll remember Jim from a couple of blogged trips into the California desert -- he's the man cooly leaning up against my red car in the Mojave, and mentioned in my drive through the Joshua Tree National Park.)

In the short span of a week plus two days we covered some 2300 miles, stayed in three different towns, visited a half-dozen more and had a solid handful of lifetime experiences -- two of which served as checkmarks on our respective Lists for Life. The adventures ranged from the grand: a flight over downtown Albuquerque in a hot air balloon; to the pedestrian: a walk around the famous Santa Fe Square. From the brutally punishing: an off-road drive through the red rocks of Arizona (which I will blog about in the future, but a video excerpt of which can be found here); to the serene: massages at the Body Bliss shop in downtown Sedona. From the ridiculous(ly fun) to the sublime.

And the food? Crazy, man, crazy.

Inn of the Anasazi
The premiere meal was hands-down at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe. An utterly brilliant evening of wonderful and eclectic cuisine -- Jim had elk, while I dined on rabbit. Our ladies went for more sensible and yet still wonderfully tasty entrees. The mood, the wine, the food and the service were all first-rate, as one might expect for an establishment documented as one of the 'THOUSAND PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE. Or eat at. Whatever. But truly a stupendous evening.

Also on the culinary list have to be The Dragonfly Cafe in in Taos. This little gem of a place has both an eclectic menu and truly spectacular flavors. It's a very homey, comfortable setting, and you feel a bit like you're visiting a local hole in the wall where everyone knows everyone else and it's more of a hangout with great food than a formal restaurant. And that may be exactly what we were lucky enough to stumble upon.
Dragonfly Cafe

A speaking of stumbling, any mention of food invariable has to connect to wine. On the road to Taos we quite literally braked hard and stopped at the Vivac winery tasting room off highway 68. I admit to being a bit of a California wine snob (with nods of respect towards Oregon, Washington, New York and Virginia), but New Mexico wasn't on my list of producers. Vivac has changed my minds -- the wines we tasted were uniformly very good and several were excellent. If you're open to education and change on your voyages, some wonderful discoveries can be made.

Another surprise, which I blogged about last week, was the Santa Fe Chocolate Trail. 

Now, I don't know if it was noticeable in the Chocolate Trail blog, but my favorite of the confectionary shops was undoubtedly CG Higgins. 
Chuck Higgins of CG Higgins

Not only were the chocolates and other treats world class, but the people and warmth of the operation really got to all of us. Chuck Higgins, the "C" in CG, was there and spent a good deal of time talking to us, sharing the ideas and philosophy of his approach, the suggestions he had for what were their best treats (with so many, it was great to have someone pointing at the "must try"s). 

Chuck's enthusiasm is infectious, and his staff were every bit reflecting this -- at the end of our visit we were pulled into the kitchen by one of his assistants to see the mixing of a batch of caramel for the caramel corn which is very much a signature staple for CG Higgins. We left with a terrific experience, full tummies, full bags and a full set of memories of their shop. Highly, highly, recommended. (Tell them the Thumbnail Traveler sent you. Won't get you anywhere, but this way Chuck can blame someone else.)

And on and on. The discovery of sopapillas, which are wonderful little fried bread pockets which are doused in confectioner's sugar and honey. Just amazing flavors, and a dish that set off a bit of a regular hunt for "the best". I think our votes went collectively to the Plaza Cafe in Santa Fe, but each and every place we tried them it was delicious. 

(Hey, Chuck!! Any chance of a sopapilla-flavored candy corn? Just asking...)

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting memories and thoughts regarding this last trip. It's one which leaves us with that desire to be back, to have stayed a little longer. Each of the places visited on this voyage left us with that special desire to return, to continue to experience Santa Fe, Sedona, Taos, and parts in between and around. From three thousand feet above Albuquerque to a massage in Sedona, this one makes us long for more.

And, as I noted, that's the mark of a great adventure.


Sunset in the Southwest

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