Vintage local wine writing pulled
from the Local Winos cellar

Spas, green chili, wine and skiing: A weekend retreat to New Mexico

Santa Fe

Downtown Santa Fe/photo by Faceless B via flickr

It’s generally not easy for a spa to be unique. Sure, some fall more into a luxe category that others, but the menus remain constant: massage, facials, head treatments and perhaps a complimentary glass of wine or tea while you wait.

That is until you find a spot such as Ten Thousand Waves spa and resort in Santa Fe. From the minute you climb the dozens of steps up the hillside into the retreat, you are transformed from the high-desert landscape into the Japanese countryside with every luxury you could want waiting for you.

Friends who are really into nice things tipped us off on this little getaway, which proved to be the perfect place to spend an afternoon during a four-day trip to northern New Mexico.

Fashioned in traditional Japanese style decor, we were given kimonos to change into. Now we were ready for five hours of intense pampering. This spa features country-style buildings with stone paths guiding the way in between; while waiting for treatments we sipped on tea, cucumber water, soaked our feet in a hot tub or watched a few others just relax in a meditation room.

We each started with a soothing 70-minute hot stone massage that melted away a month’s worth of stress. A 90-minute soak in the Ichiban private baths followed.

This oasis inside of this spa oasis features two thigh-deep ceramic tubs filled with piping hot water. Also included is a sauna, Japanese-style shower, cooling room and a crazy, high-tech toilet that’ll have you googling Japanese porcelain (the heated seat covers rise and fall at the push of a button and a sink turns on automatically with every flush—that’s just the start).

The concept of these private areas is to do nothing but let the real world dissipate. It’s easier to accomplish this than saying yes to a day at the spa in the first place.

We finished with a Yasuragi head and neck treatment that left us paralyzed in relaxation.

When we left the spa (you can also stay in one of a dozen luxury suites if you give up a mortgage payment), we felt as removed from the everyday hustle of Denver as if we’d hopped the Pacific.

And that’s basically the point of a weekend trip to Northern New Mexico—spa or not. It’s not a typical trip to the I-70 mountains (though the high-dessert peaks are equally as majestic). Instead you feel as if you’ve left the region into a completely different cultural center.

In the quaint towns, Spanish-style adobes replace Denver bungalows. Native American art fills gallery spaces instead of contemporary paintings. And seasonal American food is replaced with New Mexican cuisine that, regardless if it is haute or cheap, is generally doused in a hearty serving of delicious green pork chili.

This was our fourth trip South of the Border, and each time we’ve driven the five or so hours to Santa Fe or Taos, we’ve been rewarded with a decadent trip highlighted by gut-busting culinary adventures, outdoor excursions and artistic culture.

The heart of Santa Fe is a community square that often features dozens of artists and street vendors selling their wares. Live music is typical on a summer weekend night. Taos’ town center is a virtual replica, just a bit quieter and smaller.

Dining options are as numerous as art galleries, with Café Pasqual’s being a favorite. This southwestern menu has earned chef Katharine Kagel a James Beard nomination for best chef in the southwest (1999). Don’t miss the papusas or the Roasted Acorn Squash filled with Chipotle Cream Stew.

And for the locapour in you, the wine list features many New Mexico and Colorado selections. On that note, virtually every wine list we perused featured local wines from both New Meixco and Colorado (Gruet’s sparkling wines are both affordable and tasty, if you are in the mood). It’s a concept that more Colorado sommeliers and restaurant wine buyers need to get behind.

Which leaves us with an idea for the next trip to northern New Mexico: Wine tasting.

On our drive up to Taos Ski Valley for a day at one of the best mountains in the lower 48 (no joke, Taos can match terrain with Vail, Jackson, Alta and Telluride) and stay at the wonderful Cottonwood Inn Bed and Breakfast, we passed signs for numerous vineyards just off the windy canyon highway tucked away in gorgeous desert mountain settings

So it looks like we have a nice day of diversions on trip No. 5, which won’t be too far in the future.

In Santa Fe:
Spa: Ten Thousand Waves
Stay: Hotel Plaza Real (rooms from $130 a night)
Eat: Café Pasqual’s ($20 entrees)
Drink: Evangelo’s

In Taos:
Stay: Cottonwood Inn Bed and Breakfast (rooms from $125 a night)
Eat: Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe ($10 entrees)
Drink: Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn

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