Need a midday break, one that involves an al fresco lunch and a walk, all right here in Santa Fe? First, pick up a delicious picnic lunch from Doctor Field Goods’ Kitchen, Butcher and Bakery on Cerrillos Road. Love New Mexico comfort food? Try their green chile stew flecked with sharp cheddar cheese. For sides, consider Fire Roasted Salsa (generous with jalapeños) and Dry Chile Salsa (with ancho and guajillo chiles). And don’t forget the guacamole.
Or go all out and try the Kimchi Patatas Bravas enveloped in house-made kimchi and miso aioli. You’ll feel healthy eating the plump Vegetable Stuffed Handmade Burrito, which is rich in sautéed cabbage, onions and fennel, and gets its color and depth from carrots, beets and quinoa — all with a dollop of green chile. Or, for an island treat developed in Florida, try El Cubano, a hearty mix of pork, ham, Swiss cheese and cabbage salad. And for dessert, don’t even try to resist the bread pudding with raisins and pine nuts, complemented by caramel sauce and frothy cream. Lunch in hand, you’re ready to drive to Salvador Perez Park, at the intersection of St. Francis Drive and Alta Vista Street.
Locals call this sixteen-acre park “Train Park” because it’s the resting place of #5030, a huge black vintage locomotive from the Acheson Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Choose a picnic table or spread out a blanket under a shady tree. You can watch the clouds overhead, or perhaps a local team warming up on the track, or a buoyant group of sand volleyball players as you dine.
Having enjoyed a tasty lunch, you’re now ready to enjoy an urban stroll that’s basically a big square. For the first side, head west on Alta Vista, crossing St. Francis, and walk two blocks. On the west side of the railroad tracks, turn left to start the second side, which is a paved walking, hiking and biking trail. After a short while, you’ll see mural art on the walls to your right. The familiar images will make you smile — Zozobra, or Old Man Gloom, who, along with our worries, goes up in flames every September; the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas; Pueblos, with mountains in the distance; St. Francis, holding a bird; and Bienvenidos (“Welcome”), graffitied in large letters.
A little farther on, you’ll pass the Plein Air Gallery with its ever-changing art. There’s no place to buy the unframed paintings, and the artists are unnamed. (I always perceive this decorative art as being just for viewers’ pleasure as they travel along the trail.) You may hear the Rail Runner’s horn as the train whizzes by.
Depending on how much time you have, you can walk for miles along the flat trail. If you decide to do so, simply circle back afterwards and enjoy the third stretch of the walk.) For the third side of the square, turn left (east) from the trail when you reach San Mateo Street. After you pass two traffic lights on San Mateo, cross St. Francis Drive. (Take care; it’s a busy intersection.) On your right, you’ll see St. Bede’s Episcopal Church. Its large labyrinth is my favorite one in Santa Fe.
The labyrinth makes me think of the Greek myth about the labyrinth that housed the monstrous Minotaur. At St. Bede’s, though, the only “beast” I’ve ever encountered is my own monkey mind. For thousands of years, people have used labyrinths as a meditation tool to quiet and center the overthinking brain.
The St. Bede’s labyrinth is fashioned after the medieval one at Chartres Cathedral in France. Before I enter the labyrinth, I ask a question. As I walk the spiral path, I enter a mysterious inner world where I find answers. When I arrive at the center of the labyrinth, which I associate with my own center, I pause, breathe and give thanks. Then I slowly and mindfully retrace my steps to the place where I entered the labyrinth.
To complete the square and your stroll, walk north on St. Francis, again staying mindful of the traffic. Refreshed, relaxed and centered, saunter back to the Train Park to conclude your urban midday getaway. You’ll feel renewed and refreshed, ready to take on the rest of your day.
Judith Fein is an award-winning international travel and culture journalist, author of three books, speaker and frequent media guest as a travel expert. Her husband, Paul Ross, is an award-winning photojournalist, writer and photographer. Their website is globaladventure.us.