The Land of Enchantment

Watching Don Pasquale at the Santa Fe Opera: Zeenat Mitha with Sarah and Rahim Kassam.

Watching Don Pasquale at the Santa Fe Opera: Zeenat Mitha with Sarah and Rahim Kassam.

By Zeenat Kassam Mitha –

Some of the best things about going home are appreciating nature, enjoying the arts and devoting a part of my life to what I believe is the reason for our existence. It is easy when God’s beauty is in your backyard. Now when I visit, for a moment I forget that another type of world exists. Home is New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. In particular, home is Albuquerque and Santa Fe, where much of my youth was spent. My parents moved to Albuquerque in 1977 and have settled hundreds of people there as part of their community service; hence, they have made it their permanent home. Therefore, my visits to New Mexico are often. Each time I reminisce and leave feeling blessed to have had such an extraordinary place to grow up.

Southwestern culture is about lifestyle, nature, cuisine and art. Some of my favorite memories include camping and hiking trips in the Sandia Mountains, spending evenings at Albuquerque’s Old Town, biking the mountain trails, weekend trips to Jemez Falls, going up in a hot air balloon during the world’s largest balloon fiesta, visiting museums, driving up the Sandia mountains and riding the tram to the Sandia Peak and having a breathtaking view of God’s glory that lay below. This was the same tram we took when we went skiing in the winter and didn’t want to drive up to the ski lodge. We lived at the base of the mountain, seven miles from the tram, so getting to 10,378 feet was minutes away.

I am writing this while in Santa Fe, and I remember the fond memories of this city from as far back as 35 years. I went there often in my youth. As an adult, I try and make this pilgrimage once a year. I spend my time here wisely as there is much to do and so little time. Everything from walking around Santa Fe Old Town to visiting art galleries, restaurants and museums still gives my soul that feeling of warmth and awe.

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum and The New Mexico Museum of Art are a must-see. Not much further is white water rafting. I particularly like to take in the Santa Fe Playhouse and Santa Fe Opera during the June to August season. This trip, I enjoyed two outstanding performances at the Santa Fe Opera, Carmen and Don Pasquale. More than 50 percent of the audience of approximately 85,000 comes from outside of New Mexico from every state, as well as from 25 to 30 countries. The Santa Fe Opera House is a vision of beauty. The opera festival here has taken its place among the world’s leading opera festivals. During the winter, Santa Fe has a lovely ski resort with a great ski school for children and adults.

I have several favorite restaurants in Santa Fe, but the top two on my list are Restaurant Martin and Geronimo. At Restaurant Martin, Chef Martin Rios and his wife, Jennifer, grow their own herbs on the premises and create an outstanding dining experience with a spectacular ambiance. Featured in the 2008 season of Iron Chef America, Chef Rios has also won the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence. Restaurant Martin has also been a semi-finalist for five years for the James Beard Award.

Geronimo offers an exceptional culinary experience. The restaurant atmosphere is elegant and offers romantic dining with great service. Geronimo is a Mobil Four Star and AAA Four Diamond rated restaurant. Other Santa Fe restaurants at the top of my list include Compound and Fuego.

In Albuquerque, I thoroughly enjoy the dining experience found at Farm and Table. The seasonal dishes are fresh and filled with flavor, and the service is exceptional. The others at the top of my list include The Grove, Scarpas, Jennifer James 101, Nick and Jimmy’s and Farina Alto.

For hotels in Santa Fe, you may want to consider The Eldorado, La Fonda on the Plaza, La Posada de Santa Fe, Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe, Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino or The Doubletree.

For hotels in Albuquerque, you may want to consider The Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, Embassy Suites, Hotel Albuquerque, Andaluz, Hyatt Tamaya Resort, Sandia Resort and Casino or the Holiday Inn Albuquerque Airport.

Growing up, my life revolved around faith, family, friends, service and nature. As I look back, I now understand why coming back home has its privileges. It inspires me to continue the same trend with my family. The wonderful thing about traveling to New Mexico is that it is only one state away from Texas, and there is something for every age group. It is a quick flight and an easy drive to visit the Land of Enchantment!