The blog for inspired travel with children

Monday, March 25, 2013

Santa Fe to Durango and Back

After a few marvelous days in Santa Fe, we headed north on route 84 towards Durango, Colorado. Before we left town we picked up croissants at our new favorite bakery, the French Pastry Shop, and road snacks at Whole Foods. The drive takes roughly four and a half hours, whether you take the smaller 84 or the larger 550.

I didn't take many photos heading north - but part of me wonders whether I'd have captured the beauty of the landscape anyway. I did take more photos on the way back to Santa Fe via highway 550. The landscape was quite stunning and the ever-changing light and sky conditions only heightened the drama. Despite the dramatic landscape, the road itself is not treacherous - it was pretty easy-going both ways.

Driving south, we passed through a number of tiny towns, including Aztec, Co. One little highlight was crossing the Continental Divide, which divides the continents rainfall and sends it coursing either to the Pacific or the Atlantic (and, though unmentioned by the sign, the Gulf of Mexico - the sad state of the Rio Grande River notwithstanding!).

Leaving snowy southern Colorado...

Passing through Aztec, CO

...heading into snowy northern New Mexico

Driving south on 550

The Continental Divide

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New York: The New York International Children's Film Festival

From the Studio Ghibli film "From up on Poppy Hill"

If you're in New York City this week and looking for something to do - take note (and hop to it!)... The 2013 New York International Children's Film Festival is running through Sunday. You won't find so many wonderful cinematic options for children anywhere else - the festival features 100 films (shorts and narratives; live action and animation), as well as workshops and filmmaker Q&As. There's even a series of spring break camps following the festival for inspired young film-goers.

From "A Cat in Paris" (nominated for an Oscar in 2012 after playing the 2011 festival)

The festival was inaugurated in 1997 and has become a serious and respected business - the festival now includes a distribution arm, and its jury includes such notables as Susan Sarandon, Gus Van Sant, and Uma Thurman. The real audience is always the children though - films are geared for ages 3 - 18, and young viewers may vote for their favorites.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Magical Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe

Santa Fe really does feel magical...  and while it's fabulous for adults (all that art, excellent food, spas and whatnot) it turns out to be fabulous for kids as well.  The scale is perfect for children, for one thing - the central part of town around the plaza is very cozy, with plenty of interesting things a short walk away (you'll want a car or busfare for some things - there's just so much to do here).  The plaza itself makes a good stop, with all that room to run around and play.  Mine quickly made new friends at the fountain while I sat and chatted with an old friend and Santa Fe resident...

One afternoon we took a snack and walked over to the small plaza in front of the Basilica; it's worth a peek inside to see the lovely interior (we didn't linger because the child was restless).  After that we crossed Fransisco street and slipped into a quiet, almost secret courtyard - this courtyard happens to contain a divine little chocolate shop called Todos Santos Chocolates and Confections.  The chocolate is very good, but the aesthetic of the shop is what really gets me - it's an exquisite little jewel box of a shop.  

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, just a block from the plaza

A Street in Santa Fe

We were lucky enough to spend a few nights at La Fonda Hotel in downtown Santa Fe, and this place only added to the enchantment.  If you don't stay here, do try to at least wander through the lobby.  Even better, pick up a few pain au chocolats from the French Pastry Shop and eat them beside the fire, as we did. There are two wonderful fireplaces, and they seem to keep them going all day, at east during the colder months.  Every little detail of this hotel is charming and thoughtful - the sweet decorative painting everywhere you look, the inviting chairs, and even the little mailbox where we mailed a few postcards (right next to the gift shop). For fun souvenirs, there is a fascinating little rock shop (Mama's Minerals) right off the lobby (facing Francisco Street); it's full of fossils and other interesting geological specimens, both tiny and huge.

La Fonda Lobby

A fireplace at La Fonda (we ate our breakfast croissants here - the fire is always going!)

Looking into the dining courtyard at La Fonda

We mailed our postcards here

We visited just two museums while we were in town, although there were many to choose from - the first was the New Mexico History Museum, which also includes the adjacent Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in the U.S.).  The first was good for providing an overview of the state's history, although only the permanent exhibit was on view the day we stopped by.  The Palace of the Governors is a beautiful old structure; exhibits within mix cultural history with fascinating archaeological finds. Portions of the building are carefully exposed to view, something I found valuable in understanding the structure. A quiet grassy courtyard separates the two buildings.

The newer museum is on the left; the Palace of the Governors is on the right.

An exposed wall of the Palace of the Governors

We also visited the Museum of International Folk Art, up the hill from downtown.  We spent most of our time in the Girard Wing, which is an utterly delightful space. It's a must-visit for any creative person, child or adult (I wrote about it previously - it's still one of my favorite places!).  My son, who usually prefers hands-on exhibits, loved it.  It's filled with thousands of toys from around the world arranged into scenes.  Some are intimate, and some are almost monumental - the procession of boats through a series of miniature cities thronged with crowds was one favorite. Girard himself designed the exhibit and his creative spirit feels very alive here.

As it happened, on the day we were visiting, the museum's Art Education department was hosting a craft event.  We sat at a table filled with bags and bowls of shiny paper, sequins, cardstock, and other trimmings, and attempted to make relief versions of Shopka, a Polish (specific to Krakow) tradition... Conversation with the lovely volunteer revealed her to be a retired mathematician who worked on the U.S.S. Nautilus, the "world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine." My son was suitably impressed.

We were sad to leave Santa Fe - but excited for our mini road trip to Colorado to visit family.  We fortified ourselves with more pain au chocolate, made a quick stop at Whole Foods for provosions, and headed north on route 84 - more on that adventure in another post!

We did return to Santa Fe for one night before heading to the airport in Albuquerque - it was a brief stop, but we were able to enjoy a fantastic dinner at Tune-Up Cafe - this may be one of my favorite restaurants anywhere.  The food was fantastic (I had the curry chicken soup, Natalie had an excellent hamburger, and the child had a plain quesadilla), the ambiance was supremely cozy and unfussy, and children are welcomed - they had a selection of children's books on hand, as well as a good kid's menu. Before dinner, we also stopped into Beehive, a tiny but fairly well-stocked children's book store.