With Anna not teaching in the summers and with Doug on his first professional development leave this summer, we decided to splurge on our very own self-made, eleven-day writing retreat in Santa Fe.
Writing was our goal, but we also recommend Santa Fe as a great getaway even if getting away from your routine is your only goal. In fact, this post is more about the context that fostered our work instead of bout the writing process or product itself.
Writers on a retreat need space to write, and this retreat required space for two. We also wanted a kitchen to conserve writing time and save money. Thanks to Debbie Rindge, who discovered the place several years ago, we stayed at Fort Marcy Suites, which offers 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom suites and had a decent nightly rate compared with hotels nearer to the Plaza. The walk to the Plaza is just a few minutes, but the walk back is all uphill, which we liked as a sort of forced exercise despite the altitude. Doug wrote at the dining room table, and Anna wrote in the living room, illuminated by the skylight.
Fort Marcy Suites would also work well for a family or couples on vacation. For those who don’t want the extra space and the kitchen or the walk, La Fonda is Santa Fe’s classic hotel. For those who won’t spend much time in the room and don’t want to spend as much cash on lodging, Garrett’s is a motel within walking distance of the Plaza. It’s wise to book early, as these lodging options sell out at certain times of the year.
We went to the Whole Foods the first full day we were in Santa Fe to stock up on food, mostly food the could be made quickly or eaten without cooking, like fruit, hummus, and cheese. Most of our meals, we ate in.
Meals out were rewards or respites for us, and we indulged ourselves more in the second half of our retreat, after we’d accumulated thousands of words. We repeated our favorites. Twice, we ate blue corn pinion pancakes and the trout breakfast at La Fonda’s La Plazuela. Twice, we had pizza with kooky toppings and a couple of IPAs at Draft Station. And twice, we ate pumpkin ravioli, mushroom gnocchi or walnut gorgonzola ravioli, and antipasti at Il Piatto’s late happy hour that featured half-price wine and appetizers and a prix fixe that’s a great deal. We are creatures of habit, and meals became ritual here.
We found a new favorite restaurant too, a late-retreat, big-reward restaurant that came highly recommended: La Casa Sena, which has a large patio for dining. We ate goat cheese sweet corn croquettes, seafood appetizer involving curry and yucca chips, and the red quinoa butternut squash moussakka. It’s known for its wine selection, and we opted for one we’d first had at Bin 36 years ago in a different vintage: David Bruce Petit Syrah.
We didn’t get back to two restaurants we like: Tomasita’s, which is a short drive to the Railyard area, and Pasqual’s, which is very small and, therefore, always has a wait and can feel rushed. And sadly, the casual Atomic Grill next to Pasqual’s has become something else.
To offset our culinary extravagances a wee bit, Doug worked out at the Fort Marcy Recreation Center, just a couple of blocks from where we stayed, and Anna took a couple of long walks around downtown, listening to Madonna and occasionally popping into a store to browse.
We weren’t in Santa Fe to shop, but what writer doesn’t seek out the local independent bookstore and buy a book? Collected Works is located right in the heart of things and seems to have a steady flow of traffic. The bookstore hosts lots of events and has the requisite coffee shop space. The fiction and biography sections are good, the new nonfiction is extensive, and, of course, there’s a good selection of books related in some way to the Southwest. Though she didn’t realize it until she was reading the book on the flight home, Christopher Hitchens’s book Mortality was published by Hachette, the company with which Amazon is currently feuding.
The Plaza area boasts many shops, most of them independently owned, but we want to mention just one. Two brothers opened Ojo Optique last August to focus on eyewear by independent designers who do only eyewear. If you think you’re getting something special with Oakley, Prada, or Versace, you’re probably wrong because Luxottica makes 80% of the world’s eyewear, owns the second largest vision benefits company in the United States, and was investigated by 60 Minutes. We had some fun trying on frames from Salt, which is based in California; Moscot, which started a hundred years ago out of a pushcart in New York City; Anne & Valentin, a company started by a couple in love in Toulouse; and many more independent eyewear designers.
We’d rather support Collected Works and Ojo Optique than Amazon and Luxottica.