|San Francisco de Asis Church|
My wife and I decided we needed to get out of town overnight. We didn't want to spend a lot of time in the car so we decided to head to Taos and hit some of the museums we hadn't seen yet.
We called and got last minute reservations at the Sagebrush Inn, which is a funky historic adobe hotel on the left as you are driving into Taos from the South (a little before the Wal-Mart). We got a last minute room rate of $89 bucks for a suite, which included a nice hot breakfast with eggs, bacon, hash browns and juice/coffee. (Mmmmmm Bacon and such a deal!) Editors Note: The Los Alamos Ranch School was moved to the Sagebrush Inn in Taos in the winter of 1942 to make way for the United States Army post that would become the Manhattan Project.
|Dining Room – Courtesy Sagebrush Inn|
The rooms are sort of oldie fashioned in decor with cool wooden beams and thick adobe walls. They are generally pretty comfortable. We tend to enjoy the funkier places rather than the sterile Holiday Inn types, when we have a choice. (Sterile may not be accurate, according to recent reports of what can be found on any surface in a hotel.)
|Suite Bedroom – Courtesy Sagebrush Inn|
Many rooms have fireplaces, including the suite we were in. Our front room had a couple of really weird wooden chairs with wide leather straps to sit on. I wish I had taken a picture of those.
|Fireplace and Funky Chair – Courtesy Sagebrush Inn|
We toured the Sagebrush's hallways. There are many famous artist's paintings on the walls of the hotel, especially in the large front bar and music area. Artists, back in the day, would pay their bar tabs with their unsold works of art. The hotel wasn't always terribly happy about this, but most times, that's all the artists had. The current owners are pretty happy that it worked out this way.
Previous to this trip, we had toured the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. If you haven't see this one, it's well worth hunting down in it's slightly difficult to find location. (Bring your GPS mapping gizmo, if you have one.) The museum has some really amazing clothing, jewelry, textiles and a collection of Maria Martinez and Popovi Da, San Ildefonso pottery.
|The E.L. Blumenschein Home and Museum|
On this trip, we first went to the E.L. Blumenschein Home and Museum. Blumenschein was an artist who was instrumental in establishing the Taos Society of Artists. It's a really interesting home with long narrow rooms. It seems to go on forever as the family kept buying out other families who owned rooms in the same large pueblo style building. There are pieces from other early Taos artists on display. The furnishings are really interesting with a mix of European and Spanish Colonial items. There's a kitchen setup just the way the Blumenschein family must have used it. A walk through the home tells a story about each member of the family. The museum has a kind of "slices of life" type experience. I enjoyed exploring the family's lives through the furnishings, art, letters and stories.
Next door, but still in the same building, we stumbled into a shop that housed an artists' collective. The artist who was on hand was very friendly. We talked about being from Los Alamos and about his current art projects including the one below.
The Museum Association of Taos has a deal where you can buy combo tickets for five museums. This combo ticket set costs $25 bucks. Most of the museums separately are 7 to 12 bucks each. You have a year to use each of the five tickets in the combo. We bought the combo figuring we would definitely use them all and save a few bucks at each museum.
One note: On Sunday's the museums don't open until noon (at least the ones we went too). We got to the first one at 10am and were very disappointed that a tourist town wouldn't get things going until noon on a weekend. (Of course I did think about the fact that Los Alamos is pretty much shut down all day on Sunday.) So, before the Blumenscheim Museum opened we walked a fairly short way to the Taos plaza. There was one of those fudge/chocolate places on the plaza. I find it nearly impossible to pass a shop like that, so I didn't.
We wandered into the plaza's La Fonda hotel and discovered that for 3 bucks each we could view D.H. Lawrence's "Forbidden" Art Collection. This collection is still banned in England after 80 or so years. We were led into a large conference room that had one wall covered floor to ceiling by a tall white curtain.
What prurient wonders must be behind this curtain, I pondered as we stood waiting for the grand curtain draw. Since the collection was banned in England, I expected something really shocking. I braced myself for what I might see as the tour guide slid the curtain open in a painfully slow manner.
Was it shocking? Na, it was pretty much run of the mill oil paintings of fat people in the nude, and kinda amateurish at that. There may be homoerotic tones to a couple of the paintings but nothing outrageous by today's standards, men hugging men type of thing. The guide told us a lot of history about Lawrence and the paintings and how they came to be in Taos. All in all I would say that this forbidden art display is Taos' equivalent to another states "mystery spot" type of attraction. I'm glad I saw it, just so I can say that I have. Next, I want to see the tiny little horse at the state fair.
The second museum we visited was the Harwood Museum of Art (UNM), which is next door to the Blumenscheim Museum. This is a fairly modern museum with wide rooms and tall ceilings. We saw a really neat exhibit on stone lithography, something I would never have the patience to do. The detail in the work is amazing as the artist draws on thick stone slabs and then uses chemicals to etch out the image into the stone for use in printing. It was really incredible detailed work and quite beautiful.
|The Harwood Museum of Art|
Further in the museum, there was a gallery that had nothing but a bunch of paintings in white with a few grayish vertical stripes on most of them. Each painting, in the set of about 12, with a slightly different vertical pattern. It really didn't do anything for me.
There also was an interesting exhibit on the 40th anniversary of the return of Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo. There were lots of photos of Nixon signing the documents with other political and tribal dignitaries.
The exhibits change so check the online schedule at their website (found below).
I originally thought we could get four museums in that day but after two we were museumed out and decided to hit our favorite Taos place to eat, "Taos Pizza Outback." Again, this is a very funky place. It's more of a shack than a restaurant, but oh the salads and the pizza. It's a slice of heaven to us.
|Taos Pizza Outback|
What makes Outback's salads so spectacular is the secret homemade recipe pesto/parmesan salad dressing. It's truly incredible. I'd go there just for the salad. But why? There's incredible pizza too.
I'm gluten intolerant, I just won't stand for the stuff! We just discovered that Outback has a gluten free dough for their pizzas now.
We usually purchase by the slice. Slices are as big as a normal person's pizza. They load it up. The choices of stuff to put on top are seemingly endless. I had pepperoni, green peppers, sausage, onion and black olives on my gluten free dough. My traveling partner had pepperoni, feta, mushroom, spinach and pineapple. I hardly noticed the difference between this dough and their regular wheat dough.
After stuffing on salad and pizza, we went into the famous Taos Inn and took a look around the lobby bar and Doc Martin's restaurant. The lounge area just outside the restaurant looks like a fun place to just hang out for a while.
|Taos Inn's cozy lobby and bar area|
It was a great mini-getaway. We enjoyed our stay at the Sagebrush Inn and will return. We have two more museums to go on our combo ticket (plus a return trip to the great Millicent Rogers Museum).
Editors Note: This story was originally published in the Los Alamos County Views blog on January 27th, 2011.