Victoria, B.C.

New Mexico Elevated

Old friends & new adventures amid the luxury of Heritage Hotels

By E.J. Lando

Three friends. Three cities. One unforgettable adventure.

Our girl-group has been traveling together every year since we turned thirty. In college, we were inseparable, but we realized a few years after graduation that if we wanted to stay close, we needed to commit to each other. That year, we struck out on a girl’s trip, just the three of us, and we vowed to make it a yearly tradition. This year is our 25th trip: the 25th anniversary of our pact. New Mexico, the self-proclaimed “Land of Enchantment” has long been on our radar, ever since Cheryl’s oldest graduated from the state’s university. When we stumbled across Heritage Hotel’s Elevate Your Stay promotion, we knew it would be the perfect fit for us. The promotion includes up to 30% off a nightly rate, and breakfast for two, the only requirement being that your continuous stay takes place across multiple Heritage Hotel locations. We love to visit different cities on our adventures, and Heritage Hotels has a reputation for luxury, authenticity and culture—exactly what we were looking for! Read on to discover what we each thought of our time in the land of enchantment.   

Debi: The journey begins in Albuquerque

We started at Hotel Chaco, built with warm Southwestern stonework and sleek, modern finishes. Since it wasn’t dinnertime, we settled first at Hotel Chaco’s wine and spirits room, Crafted. The variety of New Mexico wine and spirits made me feel as if we had a tour through the entire state’s vineyards and distilleries. For dinner, the rooftop Level 5 Restaurant & Lounge was framed by views of the Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande Valley with the sunset over the mountains, a superb accompaniment to a delicious, locally-sourced dinner—the Southwest chopped salad and blue cornbread with jalapeno-lime butter. After dinner, we moved to one of the fire pits and enjoyed a nightcap. Even though it was just the first day of our yearly reunion, I felt a familiar joy creeping back, thrilled to be in such wonderful company and in such a magical setting.

City lights and cocktails on the patio of Level 5 Restaurant at Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque Lux accommodations at the Hotel Chaco. Sweeping views of Hotel Chaco and its unique architecture. The modern and bold lobby of the Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque New Mexico. (Click on thumbnail to view larger)

The next day, we visited Chaco Canyon, a National Historical Park about three hours from Albuquerque. The canyon is known for its ancient pueblo ruins that were built nearly 1,000 years ago and were the largest structures ever built in North America until the 1800s. Working with Heritage Inspirations (Heritage Hotel’s partner company who provides all-inclusive immersive and cultural excursions) we booked a Chaco Canyon Day Tour that was fully organized and even included a gourmet catered lunch. With all the logistics handled, the entire day was a snap. It was lovely to be able to immerse myself in the experience rather than worrying about the details. And it is, absolutely, a transformative experience. To walk in the footsteps of those who lived and loved in these dwellings, to wander through the great house, to see the kaleidoscope of petroglyphs that seem so foreign yet fundamentally human was awe-inspiring.

Cheryl: Margaritas, massages & Georgia O’Keeffe

Santa Fe just might be my new favorite city! The drive from Hotel Chaco was a smidge over an hour, but it felt like a different world. If the word for Albuquerque is vibrant, and Chaco Canyon is profound, then the word for Santa Fe is vivid. Everything is brighter, fresher, and more flavorful. The rounded architecture, the vivaciousness of the blooming flowers (did you know there’s a flower called the red hot poker? Santa Feans do!), even the sky is somehow a more vibrant shade of blue.

When the girls and I arrived, we decided to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum before settling in at the hotel. I was so excited to visit—I had fallen in love with her flower paintings during an art history course in college. The museum itself is an unassuming building, a simple and lovely example of pueblo architecture with its iconic flat roof and rounded corners. Inside is a tranquil space devoted entirely to showcasing some 3,000 paintings, sketches and sculptures. We are all art lovers, and it was so incredible to move through the halls with Debi and Kendi, soaking in the vivid colors and almost surreal landscapes. It was as if we were back in college, learning and admiring and discussing something new and profound.

A view of the Luminaria Restaurant and Patio at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. A comfortable and rustic lobby at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. Each room is bright and comfortable at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. A sparkling swimming pool with plenty of lounge chairs at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. The beautiful spa at the Inn and Spa at Loretto with shelves lined with products. A restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. (Click on thumbnail to view larger)

Arriving at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, I felt like we’d accidentally time traveled! The multi-level adobe structure looked as if it could have leapt from an old photograph, with red-brown walls and exposed beams, but inside was anything but ancient. The decor is modern and updated but maintains a welcoming feel. After we settled in our room, which was as inviting and luxurious as the rest of the hotel, we set out for dinner at Luminaria Restaurant and Patio. We ate on the patio and admired the views of the Loretto Chapel, a centuries-old Santa Fe icon. Flowing curtains, flowering vines and hanging lanterns made it feel as if we had entered another world—the strawberry-jalapeno margarita may have helped with that too! Their Southwest-inspired menu was fresh and flavorful, and the braised peppered short rib with blackberry au Poivre was possibly the best I have ever had.

The next day was our requisite Spa Day—one of my favorite parts of our yearly tradition. The Spa at Loretto is extraordinary. Everything is focused on balance and healing, both physical and spiritual. We chose a day spa package that included sage clearing and blessing, massage, facial, mani/pedi, the milk and honey wrap and chakra balancing. At the end of the day, I felt renewed in ways I haven’t felt in years. I have frequented many spas, but I have never felt so transformed, so balanced, as I did after spending the day with the talented technicians at Loretto. Apparently, it’s ranked in the top five hotel spas in America, a rating I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m already planning to sneak away this winter with my husband for one of their couples’ packages!

Kendi: Two-stepping in Taos

I have never particularly cared where we go on our yearly adventures; I only care that we’re together. I’m an introvert, but Debi and Cheryl have a way of lovingly nudging me out of my comfort zone. Imagine my surprise when we arrived in Taos, the final city on this year’s agenda, and I felt immediately at home. Taos is a bit wild and quirky but welcoming; it’s a frontier town with the soul of an artist. After all, that’s what Taos is—a thriving, 100-year-old art colony carved into the desert.

El Monte Sagrado Resort was as spectacular as the previous two resorts, luxurious but with a flair that makes it all Taos. The first evening we arrived, we decided on dinner at the Anaconda Bar, named for the massive anaconda sculpture that winds its way across the ceiling. We each found something to enjoy from the menu of Southwest bar food, like my bison enchilada with red chile sauce. We also had the happy fortune to have arrived on one of the nights they offer two-step dance lessons. At first, I was too self-conscious to jump in, but with some encouragement and the patience of the instructors, I was two-stepping in no time!

The pool at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos, New Mexico. The driveway leading up to the beautiful El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos. Mountain views and lush lawns surround the El Monte Sagrado Resort. Water features and streams running by the suites of El Monte Sagrado Resort. A patio with artistic furnishings at El Monte Sagrado Resort. A cozy chimenea in the spa at the El Monte Sagrado Resort in Tao New Mexico. (Click on thumbnail to view larger)

We decided to spend our next day in Taos Plaza, in the heart of the Taos Historic District. We wandered from shops to galleries, and I was so impressed by the variety of items, especially that so many are made right in Taos. I was thrilled that it was so easy to support local artisans, especially since I was able to buy souvenirs that I believe will become beloved heirlooms.

Though we found plenty of snacking at Taos Plaza, for the final dinner of our trip we made reservations at De La Tierra. The menu was a blend of local ingredients with global inspiration. I was delighted to learn that De La Tierra hosts Canard Vineyards, an award-winning Napa Valley winery, and that their wines pair beautifully with the unique flavors of New Mexico. After dinner, we sat together with a bottle of wine (or three), and I knew that moments like these were as close as I would ever come to magic. I always treasured the times we were able to steal away to be with each other, to renew our friendship, but this trip was extraordinary. I said before that I never cared where we went, as long as we were together, but that’s not true anymore. Every future adventure will be measured against the beauty, splendor and enchantment of New Mexico and the joy we found together again.