Friday, 27th May 2011 in US Tour 2011.
Now we were getting into the most amazing country. We drove along bits of Route 66 when we could, to see motels, diners and casinos boarded up, virtual ghost towns but with a couple of cafes, motels, one or two shops selling Indian goods, and several large wall paintings of Cadillacs, and guys with leather jackets and cutesy women. We traveled through miles and miles of desert with tumbleweed balls blowing across the road, rail crossings every now and then, over which Union Pacific trains a mile long trundled on their long haul across the country. I used to think all sorts of interesting things would be contained in the trailers but was told by our youngest son, Barney, who works at a large dock in England that some are filled with sweets or office furniture or duvets. Of course they are – what was I thinking!! Around 2 pm we pull into Santa Fe and check first into a motel, then quickly transfer to a beautiful hotel with a pool and lots of space . We figure we need some spoiling now. Bits of us we didn’t know about are stiff and aching, and we have a ‘road’ look about our eyes. Up in the room with a balcony which looks out to the Juniper covered hills, we lie on the beds feeling we’ve landed in heaven.
We spend time wandering through the town which is a strange mixture of expensive shops and casual dressers – a sort of up market hippy enclave which suits me fine. The art is extraordinary and everywhere. We could easily spend a lot of money– there are so many beautiful objects and paintings which would give us pleasure for years. But we have no room to take anything else in our luggage so we sit on a terrace watching the world go by, have two glasses of cold white wine and then wander back for a siesta. Later, John and Dot Smallwood take us to a Mexican restaurant – so popular we wait for about an hour for a table and so noisy it takes your breath away – like eating on a conveyor belt. Crowds finish eating and push their way out, as crowds come in to take their places. I read the Hilary Rodham Clinton ate here. I expect they cleared a little space for her. Later John drives us through all the places to go in town and we see huge sculptures lit up in gardens with cactus and agaves making spear shapes against the light. Small restaurants ringed with small coloured lanterns – so beautiful. We can understand why Ian Wallace – drummer extraordinaire and bon viveur- lived here for a few years.
Back at the hotel we have another glass of wine and fall into a deep untroubled sleep – our first.
We woke late, swam in the clear warm water of the outside pool, sat on the balcony looking across to the hills, carrying on the sybaritic lifestyle we started yesterday. We wandered along to a gallery to see some paintings by Georgia O’Keefe. I didn’t know her work but Neil knew she had lived here around the mid 90s and did a lot of large plant paintings. They were amazing as was the rest of the exhibition, which was about the influence of photography on painting. We bought a book of her work which was put in a blue bag and suddenly Neil was all blue – hence the silly photograph. Later John picked us up and took us for lunch with some friends of his, a journalist who was a great Bonzo fan, and an English hotelier, Paul, who had settled in Santa Fe many years ago. His sister, who was visiting, arrived briefly and it turned out that she lived about five miles away from us in England. What a small world. Also there was the son of a writer who wrote several books about Indians – ‘Laughing Boy’ was one which we had both managed to read on the journey. It was good to meet more people – think we needed some kind of new input after traveling together for so long. The sun shone hotly at last as we drifted back to the hotel. Later I walked the length of Canyon Road, full of galleries and museums, showing paintings, sculptures jewelry and native Indian crafts, almost getting sunstroke and definitely suffering from ART overload. Swam one more time and we drifted into the evening. Neil spent time reorganizing his show, moving things around, trying to get it tighter.