Last Friday, I took the high road. Finally.
A fabled 56-mile scenic byway, the “High Road to Taos” refers to the mountainous route between
Before I can tell you about this spectacular little church – considered the most important Catholic pilgrimage shrine in the
As a result, the families of these early Spanish settlers in
When you step outside of the holy dirt room, you find yourself in the prayer room, which is filled with symbols of suffering, healing and gratitude. I’m talking rows and rows of crutches, casts (from broken limbs), rosaries, baby shoes and photos of military men and women. These are the tokens of the more than 300,000 annual visitors to this National Historic Landmark, some of whom make the pilgrimage by foot. This is especially common during Holy Week, when thousands of pilgrims from the
I’ve failed to mention the lovely, rustic sanctuary, which is filled from floor to ceiling with incredible religious and folk art, including dolls, reredos (brightly painted wooden screens) and bultos (statues). The thing that struck me most was the striking contrast between the subjects’ facial expressions– usually one of suffering or sorrow, with eyes closed or looking down – with the incredibly vivid colors used in the artwork. I felt both saddened and uplifted.
Just a short distance away is the Santo Nino (“Holy Child”) Chapel, with perhaps even more impressive art. Recently renovated, it displays the striking contemporary work of artist Fernando Bimonte and others. It’s the “cheerier” of the two structures, aesthetically, with a feeling of innocence and gozo (joy). As the sign out front instructs, you should enter with “the heart of a child” to fully appreciate the chapel – and, of course, get into the
Between these two amazingly ornate adobe churches and their fantastic gift shops, you could easily make an afternoon of that part alone. But there’s even more to Chimayo, including art galleries, historic weaving shops and chile vendors. I recommend stopping into
Once there, I ordered the carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile from Chimayo, of course), which was served with posole (hominy). It’s their signature dish, and I was expecting greatness. Sadly, it was not something I would write home about. The posole was far from spicy, and the carne adovada did not compare to the best I’ve had thus far, which was at El Bruno’s in Cuba, NM, where the pork was super tender and moist. Fortunately, I was tipped off to what may be the best food in the area a few days later. Unlike Rancho de Chimayo’s beautiful setting (see below), this humble food is served out the window of a roadside shack. I should not have been surprised. It’s the golden rule: eat with the locals, not with the tourists!
Located on Route 76 between Chimayo and Espanola, the original location of El Parasol (now a family-run mini-chain with five locations in
I may have used more napkins than I care to admit during the meal, but as we sat at our picnic table watching streams of locals rolling in, I knew I’d finally found the spot for crave-worthy New Mexican food. And that, I realized, is another pilgrimage completed.