Soak up Santa Fe's global vibe

Where to go and what to do on an international vacation in New Mexico
Katie Arnold

VIBE: SULTRY MADRID NOCHE, WITH A BUENOS AIRES FLAIR

Swing open the door of the low-slung adobe El Mesón restaurant, just two blocks off the Plaza, and step into Old Spain. Here, you can sample the Madrid-born owner-chef's specialties. Then saunter over to its candlelit Chispa Tapas Bar. On Tuesday, the mood is South American sizzle at weekly tango night; on the first Saturday of every month, professionals take to the floor for flamenco. Settle in and sip sangria. INFO: El Mesón: $$$; Chispa: $$$, $10 cover on flamenco night; both closed Sun-Mon; 213 Washington Ave.; 505/983-6756.

Worldly Touch Santa Fe is the second-oldest U.S. city, established by the Spanish 400 years ago. Native Americans have lived here even longer.

VIBE: CONTINENTAL SHOPPING SPREE

Shop for vintage furnishings from France and Italy and clothes from Parisian and U.S. labels at Block Mercantile (pictured; closed Sun-Mon; 418 Montezuma Ave.; 505/982-7477), in the artsy Railyard District. Owned by a former fashion stylist and interior designer, the store has a modern rustic feel: A barn door opens into an airy room with a velvet couch that encourages lingering. Another good stop is Poem (125 E. Palace Ave., Ste. 30; 505/820-7884), a boutique straight out of a Parisian neighborhood. The owner has a soft spot for eclectic international treasures.

Worldly Touch Santa Fe is a walking city, with cobblestone streets near the Plaza and plenty of courtyards to pause in.

 

VIBE: KUNSTHALLE IN BERLIN

Cruise the minimalistic Site Santa Fe, a former beer warehouse loosely modeled after a German Kunsthalle, or exhibition space. You'll quickly surmise that this is an arena for bold, new art. Beginning in late June, see works at Site's Seventh International Biennial, the only show of its kind in the United States, bringing in 25 of the globe's most promising artists. The projects will be dismantled and recycled at the end of the show. INFO: Jun 22-Oct 26; closed Mon-Tue; $10; 1606 Paseo de Peralta; 505/989-1199.

Worldly Touch Santa Fe, one of the largest art markets in the world, has 250 art galleries and 16 museums.

VIBE: MEDITERRANEAN SIP AND STROLL

A leisurely late-afternoon walk is de rigueur in Europe's sunniest countries - it's called la passeggiata in Italy, el paseo in Spain. Santa Fe's Eastside neighborhood is perfect for your own wander; you'll feel like you've been transported to a village in Andalusia, Spain. Especially picturesque: the side streets off Acequia Madre, such as Camino Manzano and San Antonio Street. For an intermezzo, seek out the lounge at La Casa Sena. Pair the nachitos and duck confit with Bieler Père et Fils "Sabine" rosé. INFO: Bar menu: $$; 125 E. Palace Ave.; 505/988-9232.

Worldly Touch La Casa Sena carries wines from around the globe, including Chile, France, New Zealand, and South Africa.

VIBE: ALPINE SUMMER FESTIVAL IN ITALIAN

The folds of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, aspens shouldering up against spruce and fir, and the bare cap of 12,622-foot Santa Fe Baldy rising above - this is the setting for the Santa Fe Opera. Join in on the opera tailgate party by calling Angel Food Catering ($32; 505/983-2433), which will deliver dinner to you there. The open-air opera house, with its cantilevered roof, allows stargazing. And each seat has a translation system. INFO: From $26; 17053 U.S. 84/285; 800/280-4654.

Worldly Touch Ten world premieres have happened here.

 

OUR 7 FAVORITE SLEEPS IN SANTA FE

Don Gaspar Inn Situated in a historic neighborhood, the B&B feels like a private escape. INFO: 10 rooms and suites from $155, including breakfast; 888/986-8664. -Erika Ehmsen

El Paradero Bed and Breakfast Inn A friendly B&B that's full of folk art. 15 rooms from $90, including breakfast; 866/558-0918. - Matthew Jaffe

El Rey Inn Not walking distance from the Plaza, but a good value for Santa Fe. INFO: 86 rooms from $99, including breakfast; 800/521-1349. -Lawrence W. Cheek

The Inn of the Five Graces Far East and Old West mingle in vibrant silks, dark wood, and vintage tiles. INFO: 24 rooms from $375, including breakfast; 505/992-0957. -E.E.

Inn on the Alameda Quiet luxury inn, east of the Plaza. INFO: 71 rooms from $195, including breakfast; 800/785-2449. -L.W.C.

La Fonda The grande dame of the city's luxury hotels. Not cheap, but atmospheric, high-style, and home to the most vividly decorated hotel restaurant in the city: La Plazuela ( $$$), which serves gourmet twists on New Mexican standards. INFO: 167 rooms from $219; 800/523-5002. -Gretchen Reynolds

Pueblo Bonito Bed and Breakfast Inn An easy three blocks' walk from the Plaza. Most rooms are in adobe casitas and all have private entrances and kiva fireplaces. Luxurious but relaxed. INFO: 18 rooms from $130, including breakfast; 800/461-4599. -G.R.