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Private entrances

Dreamcatcher ~ A Taos B&B

Entranceway

In this era of the autonomous Airbnb, it’s easy to forget the comforts of a good, old fashioned Bed & Breakfast Inn.

Situated in a tree lined neighborhood that could be way out in the country, but is right in town, the Dreamcatcher B&B offers classic Taos charm and comfort.

The new owners – Mary Beth and her husband Boyd –  intend to carry on the tradition of being a welcoming home away from home for the many return guests, who book their favourite rooms at Dreamcatcher, year after year.

The couple, who are from Buffalo, New York, are recent empty nesters, following a dream of their own.

“Or his own,” Mary Beth quipped when we spoke recently. “Boyd has wanted a B&B forever!” She laughed.

 

Boyd, an attorney who still practices remotely, and Mary Beth, a nurse practitioner, were ready for a change, and the West beckoned.

“We looked in Colorado first,” Mary Beth told me, “ but didn’t see anything we really loved, so when our realtor suggested we look in New Mexico, we thought “why not?”

Garden Setting

 

They saw the Dreamcatcher and knew immediately it was exactly what they had been looking for.

“It was our dream come true.” She smiled.

When the former owners, John and Prudy Abelin bought the Dreamcatcher, it had already morphed from a private home, built during the 40’s, to the Ruby Slipper – its first iteration as a Bed and Breakfast Inn. The owners prior to John and Prudy, had added casitas to the existing property, which is verdant and lush in the Summer months negating everything you imagined about the High Desert.

The entire area changes and delights with the Seasons, inviting one to leave one’s room and go outdoors. Find a spot under one of the old, shady trees to linger with a book, or simply sit and watch the myriad species of birds who also call this neighborhood home.

Mary Beth and Boyd are already at work further enhancing the property’s beautiful gardens with more landscaping and hardscaping, including an outdoor fireplace.

“We really want to draw our guests outdoors,” Mary Beth explained. “The gardens here, with all these old trees, are so lovely, it seems a pity not to encourage our visitiors to really enjoy them.”

More outdoor “rooms” are being envisioned, along with hammocks in the aforementioned trees, where one can lazily spend a warm afternoon.

Rooms

Dreamcatcher’s rooms are decorated in classic Taos Style. Carved wooden beds covered with South West weavings, Kokopellis and other familiar motifs associated with the area, abound. A wall in one of the suites is painted with a mural of hollyhocks by the late, beloved local artist, George Chacon.

All the rooms but for two, have working Kiva fireplaces and all open onto the large and courtyard behind the main house. No detail has been overlooked. There are coffee makers in every room, along with lovely amenities in the bathrooms and fluffy robes in the closets.

Prudy and John added modern decorative touches ; slighty retro arm chairs – some upholstered in bright leather hues – add comfort and style to the rooms and give a knowing nod to the adobe’s vintage provenance with their sleek mid-century design.

King room

“We don’t intend to change the rooms that much,” Mary Beth said, “except for new linens and small things, we’re pretty focused on the gardens and grounds for now.”

Mary Beth and Boyd have also made a few changes to the breakfasts they serve daily, including more local, organic produce, bought at the Farmer’s Market. Once the Market ends in October, they intend to keep buying the fresh meats and eggs from the vendors directly.

The couple like the former owners (who have become fast friends), love to travel.

“Boyd is currently renovating an old school bus,” Mary Beth informed me. “We plan to bring it out here soon and park it somewhere.”

Adobe rooms

“It could be rented out as well when not on the road,” she said. “We are a bit adventurous,.” She laughed.

And resourceful! The couple also have a place in Ecuador where they spend time whenever they can, and rent out the rest of the year.

The day I visited, they were busy with a zillion things; contractors and bookkeepers were coming and going, guests were leaving and arriving. Even as improvements were being made, the Dreamcatcher continued to operate smoothly, as if nothing had really changed at all.

And on the surface, it appears exactly as it always has; a cosy and comfortable place to rest one’s head for a night or a week. Or longer.

Gardens

A couple of mornings later, I was on my daily walk around the neighborhood (the Dreamcatcher is just next door to where I live), and I ran into a couple walking their dog along the road, just as a peacock from the nearby Neem Karoli Baba Ashram crossed the street.

They asked me about peacock and we chatted for a minute.

They told me they have stayed at the Dreamcatcher each time they have visited Taos for almost twenty years! For them, it truly is their home away from home. Apparently they are not the only return guests, several have been coming back for years.

“Our guests come from all over,” says Mary Beth, “ many are repeat visitors while others have never been to Taos before.”

Fireplace rooms

“It makes for very interesting and stimulating breakfast conversation.”

Named for the Ojibwe talisman that has become synonymous with Native American Culture, sometimes referred to as “Sacred Hoops,”  dreamcatchers were traditionally used to protect sleeping people, usually children, from bad dreams and nightmares.

Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams, both good and bad. When hung above the bed in a place where the morning sunlight can hit it, the dream catcher attracts and catches all sorts of dreams and thoughts into its webs. Good dreams pass through and gently slide down the feathers to comfort the sleeper below. Bad dreams, however, are caught up in its protective net and destroyed, burned up in the light of day.

Gardens

At the Dreamcatcher B&B, good dreams are a given!

To discover more about the Dreamcatcher B&B please visit their site linked below this post for more pictures of the property, and much more information.

dreambb

All images thanks to Dreamcatcher

Living room

History and Charm ~ La Loma Plaza

Blue Gate

 

 

History and charm.

A winning combination, and one you will discover even before crossing the threshold of this home away from home in the very sweet and hidden, La Loma Plaza

Upon entering La Loma Plaza you are greeted by a plaque with the history of the plaza. It is on the register of Historical Landmarks in New Mexico.

National Historic Registry

 

One of the oldest original settlements in the area, and part of the Don Fernando de Taos land grant, the construction of the fortified little plaza (located on a hill west of the central Taos Plaza), began in the mid 1700’s and was settled between 1795 and 1846, when New Mexico became a United States provisional government and fortified settlements were less important than they had been in earlier times.

To protect themselves from attacks by Comanche, Apache and Ute raiders, the Spanish settlers built homes contiguously with shared common walls while the outer walls were solid adobe bricks stacked three feet wide.

Lounge

Entrances to the center of the plaza were limited and water was supplied by wells and nearby streams and springs.

Residents of the plaza kept chickens, pigs, cows and horses that grazed on pastureland between La Loma and the Taos Plaza.

What is now Ranchos de Taos was already an established settlement at the time and as in Ranchos, the settlers also built the San Antonio church in the plaza, which was blessed in October 1876 by Archbishop Lamy. They also helped found the town of Taos.

Some of the residents were artists, making santos and retablos. Others were craftsmen who carved and constructed furnishings for the little church.

Most of the houses within the quiet plaza have been restored over the years and although some are still occupied year round, a few of the homes are now B&B’s or short term vacation rentals such as this one.

Bathroom

Grantham House – Number 108 – is also marked with a plaque denoting its addition to the Historical registry – and was built in 1760, except for the large bedroom on the east side, which was added on during the 19th century.

Unlike many of the old adobe homes in Taos, which have been remodelled to the point of unrecognition, this gem of a house remains more or less as it was, when its first occupants moved in.

Except for modern plumbing and kitchen facilities, the old doorways still require that you bend your head before passing through them into the rooms they lead to. The wide, painted plank floors were probably added in the early 19th Century, The built in cupboards and thick adobe walls with common areas centered around a kiva fireplace, remind one that once upon a time, families hunkered down here through long winters, snowbound, with stored food and fuel, until spring’s thaw.

Dining area

In the warmer months, the occupants enjoyed the fine weather in the lovely enclosed courtyard, and still do, year round. In winter an outdoor fire allows for a comfy star gazing spot!

Nowadays these rooms make for an authentic sojourn in the Land of Enchantment, but be aware that places like Grantham House are true treasures and a waiting list is in effect!

Exterior

When I visited one afternoon recently, I was struck by a sudden sense of deja vu which gave me the chills for a moment until I remembered that in fact, I had been there before, several years ago when friends had rented it over the Holidays.

It had been a magical setting for an unforgettable candlelit Christmas Eve dinner after the Bonfires and Deer Dances at Taos Pueblo.

Den

 

The house with its huge master bedroom with king bed, a double bed in the second bedroom, cosy dining area and living room is perfect for a family traveling together.

The history and charm aside, a five minute walk to Taos Plaza makes it even more of a prize.

For much more about Grantham House please contact Taos Central Reservations at Taos.org linked below this post.

lalomaplaza

BookTaos Central Reservations

All images thanks to Susan Crutchfield

September 24, 2018 in Stay.

breakfast at hacienda del sol

Hacienda del Sol

In the era of airbnb, it’s easy to forget about the fabulous Bed and Breakfast Inns every town worth its salt, has to offer.

Taos has long been home to innkeepers, accidental hoteliers mainly, who out of sheer necessity provided shelter for travelers and stranded souls alike. As the town became a destination spot, the hotels and inns (and their keepers) became more refined and purposeful. Since the 80’s B&B’s have flourished up here until the recent spate of short-term rentals began gaining popularity.

wiin ter view of taos mountain

No matter the autonomy that comes with airbnb, albeit with more comfort than the generic hotel room, there is still something romantic and charming about choosing to stay at a well-appointed B&B especially one where the breakfast promises to be spectacular.

Hacienda del Sol is a family run Bed & Breakfast. Gerd and Luellen Hertel purchased the Inn back in 2006. He is from Germany and has been working as a chef since he was a teenager. Luellen has been a Cruise Director for alumni, museum and art associations since the late 70’s.

They met on the legendary Sea Cloud (1930’s sailing vessel of EF Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post) when he came on board as the Chef.  They continued to work all over the world finally settling in Miami to raise three children, “before so called retiring to Taos to purchase the Hacienda.” Luellen told me laughing, when I visited the Hacienda last week.

“Gerd still consults for hotels and restaurants and I am a Cruise Director on the Tauck World Discovery riverboat in the South of France (on the Rhone River), but Taos is home now.” She said as she showed me around the rambling house.

breakfast at hacienda del sol

Gerd has been a gourmet Chef for the last four decades. He was the Executive Chef for Hyatt Regency Hotels, Ritz Carlton Hotels, and the Corporate Executive Chef for Norwegian and Celebrity Cruise lines. Today he is a Consultant for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. At the Hacienda del Sol, Gerd offers occasional cooking classes to guests. Their website (linked below this post) has all the information.

Their daughter Erica and her husband Mark moved here to help Luellen and Gerd manage the Inn, so it is very much a family business.

For many years the property was owned by Mabel Dodge Luhan (her name is on the deed) and her fourth husband, Tony Luhan. In those days the hacienda consisted of little more than a four-room adobe, an apple orchard and many acres of farmland and pastures. Mabel and Tony used the house as a temporary residence and for some time used it as a guest house.

nightime outside hacienda del sol

Taos resident and author Frank Waters lived here in 1939 and it was during his stay here that Frank wrote The People of the Valley, as well as gathering the material for The Man Who Killed The Deer which he dedicated to Mabel and Tony.

The Hacienda del Sol borders Indian Land and located just two miles behind the property is Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most visited sites in New Mexico.

I was curious what prompted the couple’s move to Taos and the purchase of the Hacienda.

“We initially came because Gerd was interested in buying (Momentitas de la Vida) the restaurant now called Sabroso which was owned by Chris Maher.” Chris and his wife Valerie remain close friends with the couple even though they did not purchase the eatery.

“We visited Taos and the hacienda three times,” Luellen explained, “and each time we were convinced we were crazy to buy an inn but it haunted us would not let us go, so we bought it.”
“There is something about the beauty of our property that attracted us and perhaps our ghost, Tony Lujan, wanted us to be there.” She smiled, as she led me into the old part of the house; the original structure complete with old vigas and the small doors and windows that are a signature in old Taos adobes.
apartment with fire inside hacienda del sol
“The original adobe structure was built in 1804.” Luellen said. “Mabel is on our deed as the owner in the late 20’s 30’s, it (the house) was apparently her guest house for her artist and writer friends.”
 “Frank Waters wife (Barbara), came before she died to see the room where her husband penned The People of the Valley.  She continued. “Tony is our friendly ghost and some guests claim they have had encounters with him – I personally have never seen him but “normal acting” guests have.”
“Over time, four other buildings were added on, including just recently two suites in the Western Style and our personal home, which was constructed by the previous owner who spared no expense.” She told me.
We had gone outside to enjoy the late afternoon sun and to look at the grounds.
summer green grass and two chairs looking at taos mountain
“The property was once a farm-house, it has also been a school including being the guest house of Mabel, and an inn for the past three decades.” She mused as she looked across the meadows at the Mountain.
“Today, we have amazing weddings facing Taos Mountain, family reunions as well as cooking lessons in our commercial kitchen upon request for groups of ten or more.”
 Wedding season is about to begin and Taos is a huge destination for tying the knot in an unforgettable location, but Spring Break is upon us and I asked Luellen if the Hacienda was offering a Spring Break special to entice Millenial’s away from their airbnb game?
guest room at hacienda del sol
“Yes,” she said, “new reservations for March and April can take advantage of a 10 % discount by reserving on our website with the promo code Spring10.
 As we walked back into the Inn, a couple of guests wrapped in thick fluffy robes, walked back to their rooms after soaking in the hot tub. They had been skiing all day – the Hacienda is a short drive from Taos Ski Valley, and five minutes from town.They looked totally blissed out.
“Our trees are the oldest and tallest in Taos.” Luellen said as she looked around anticipating Spring and everything budding and blooming, “Beautiful cottonwoods, willow, spruce, lilac, apple, and pine grace the property that backs up to Pueblo land.”
 “One can find our delightful guests seated in our courtyards facing Taos Mountain with a glass of wine at sunset,” she smiled.  “It doesn’t get more relaxing than that.”
The Hacienda del Sol is also conveniently located behind the Love Apple, dinner is literally a few steps away after a long day on the slopes!
For more info please check out the Hacienda del Sol’s site linked below and be sure to use the code Spring10,for a discounted rate during Spring Break!
elisabeth portrait black and white

Elisabeth Brownell – Brownell Chalet

I was going to title this post “Queen Elizabeth”, but thought it might be too confusing to those who don’t know her.

Besides her name is spelled with an s not a z but Queen of the Mountain not only suits her, it fits like a glove.

elisabeth outside chalet

Elisabeth Brownell arrived in Taos in 1962, shortly after meeting Taos Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake at a Chicago Ski Convention, where she’d come from Milwaukee to work at the German Consulate. In an attempt to find a winter job at a Western Ski Resort, she’d gone to the convention, hoping to meet people from various resorts.  She’d come through Chicago once before in 1960, a young German women with “wunderlust”, and found a job, working with the Girl Scouts in Wisconsin, but winter was on the way and this Bavarian native longed to ski in the American Rockies.

She heard about the Ski Convention, met Ernie Blake, and the rest as they say, is history.

“He told me he’d give me a job as his secretary and as a ski-instructor,” she remembers, “but he also said there was very little money to pay me, but he’d give me room and board.”

“We have great food (at the St. Bernard), a great mountain, lots of sunshine and great skiing,” he said and that was that, I came to Taos for the winter.”

Bill Curry and I visited Elisabeth and her son, Christof Brownell at her apartment in the Brownell Chalet at Taos Ski Valley one morning last week. The village was quiet, but the snow blowers were busy on the slopes and real snow, albeit only a dusting, had fallen overnight. Winter was on the way

elisabeth portrait black and white

We had met the Brownells at the Taos Cow in Arroyo Seco, where we had stopped for a coffee for me, and hot chocolate for Bill. They were driving up from Santa Fe where Elisabeth told us, she’d “danced till 2am.” Still an avid skier, her other passion is the Tango, one she indulges in frequently.

Looking (twenty years younger than her actual age), none the worse for wear, and clearly in no need of caffeine, she smiled brightly as we were introduced, and didn’t bat an eye when I informed her I’d brought Bill along to take photographs,  but simply bid us to follow them to Taos Ski Valley, and her home at number 1 Thunderbird Road.

“This is where I live,” she said inviting us into her famed Chalet on the Mountain. “We’ll start at the “Bird’s Nest,” she informed us as she beckoned us to follow her up the narrow spiral staircase that seemed to go on forever, “my apartment is being cleaned.” The sound of a vacuum cleaner followed us upstairs.

“Ah this is why you look the way you do,” observed Billy, as we struggled to keep up with the petite woman, who charged ahead of us like a nimble mountain goat. “You climb these stairs every day!”

We reached the top floor, and Elisabeth opened a door that led us into a charming, wood lined, light filled space that made me feel as if I’d entered a Narnia-esque wardrobe, into another fairytale world, in the Alps, in some other time outside of time.

elisabeth standing beside chalet door

Books (some rare first editions), filled the shelves of this cosy suite with its balcony overlooking the Mountain (and Al’s Run), the rooms so spotless, one could eat off the floors, and comfortably appointed with cosy touches reminiscent of Old World, European hospitality.

I was charmed, and clearly her guests are as well. Many return year after year, to stay here at the Brownell Chalet.

Soon enough, the noise below died down and Elisabeth invited us to follow her downstairs to the middle floor of the Chalet where she’s resided since 1971.

“Welcome, ” she said as we entered. Like the guest quarters we’d just seen, her home too is a light, art filled, book-lined haven; a retreat from the world outside her door as well as a window onto that world. Cosy and comfortable, it’s very European, very cosmopolitan without being pretentious. This is the home of someone who has and continues to live life well. It’s the home of a well-traveled woman, a mother, former wife and chatelaine of one of Taos Ski Valley’s most popular lodges, the Thunderbird, who continues to live her life as if it is an adventure.

This may in fact be the secret to her youthful energy.

Inside Brownell Chalet

Filled with bibilots; treasures brought home from her travels to far-flung places – another passion is cooking and her recipe books are documented – from Asia to Africa and all points in-between, a carved wooden chandelier from Bali looks not a bit out-of-place hanging above the fireplace mantle, covered with more memories of places she’s visited. But for the past fifty years, she has returned here, to the Mountain that is her home.

“After that first winter,” she recalled, “Fred Fair (a long time Taos resident), invited me to go with him to Mexico for the summer.”

“He had a plane and I was a bit nervous so I asked a few people whether I should go.”

“I was told by everyone that although he was a terrible driver, he was a fine pilot, so I went!”

She had a great time and remembers that Fred knew people all along the way.

“We even landed on a beach once,” she recalls.” It was a great adventure.”

She returned to Taos for one more winter season, which is where she met her future husband, Tom Brownell, but it wasn’t until after she’d returned to Germany and a long distance courtship, that they were married in Munich in 1966. They moved to Chicago, and in 1968, bought the Thunderbird Lodge in Taos Ski Valley.

elisabeth outside chalet

Their son, Christof was born that same year, and that year too, they built the Brownell Chalet.

In 1970 they came to Taos to manage the Thunderbird Lodge after their manager had left. Their second child, Marcus was born and they moved into their newly built home with their two children. Except for trips abroad, she would never leave again.

“This is home.” She smiled as she sat across from me at the large table in her open kitchen/den. A collection of copper pots gleamed in the wintry light, and as we talked, Elisabeth brought out photographs to show me, while Bill took photographs of her.

“This is of Jimmy Carter and his family.” She placed a framed picture of the former President on the table in front of me. “He  is a lovely man.” She said.

“They stayed with us (at the Thunderbird), one winter and although he was no longer President, he had four Secret Service guys with him, I remember.””They’d check out the room, then sit off to the side unobtrusively.”

brownell chalet sign

“When I met him, I asked him how I should address him,” Elisabeth told me, “he replied, “Oh please call me Jimmy.”

“He was such a humble man.”

Another famous guest who stands out in her mind (and she hosted many over the years) was the son of a President. The late John Kennedy (JFK Jnr.) who stayed at the Thunderbird with a couple of friends right before passing his Bar Exams.

“He was totally real and unpretentious.” She said. “One night they sat down at a communal table, and I asked if they’d prefer a private one,” she told me, “but he declined and stayed right where he was.”

“Our guests were all so wonderfully discreet as well,” she recalled. “No one paid them any attention.”

“Neither Tom nor I had any experience running a ski lodge,” she told me, “and we learned by trail and error, but hard work and cooperation with other lodgings in the Ski Valley helped create a spirit of community that carried over to our guests and employees.” She explained. “We did it for 35 years and I think our warm hospitality, great food and entertainment kept people coming back year after year.”

The food at the Thunderbird Lodge was fabulous enough that people would make the trip from town in a storm to eat there. The Brownells had brought Chuck Lamandola from Chicago to be their Chef. They wound up buying the Brett House Restaurant so Chuck would have a seasonal alternative during the months when TSV shut down. The partnership continued for a time, but “then he didn’t want to come back up here in the winter,” Elisabeth laughed, “so all good things come to an end.”

Lamandola is currently the Chef at Martina’s Hall in Ranchos de Taos.

The couple also started a Jazz Festival, bringing world-class Jazz legends to Taos Ski Valley for many years until Tom’s health began to fail, and they decided to sell the Thunderbird.

“It took ten years.” Elisabeth recalled.

Elisabeth’s memories of the early years at Taos Ski Valley are precious reminders of how fast time speeds by, of the changes we are seeing up on the Mountain daily since the resort has been sold, remodelled and reinvented. Bill Whaley’s book Gringo Lessons is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the history of the resort, and I cannot think of a better place to turn those pages, but in the Bird’s Nest at Brownell Chalet.

These days Elisabeth, with the help of her son Christof (whom I’ll be featuring here in the next few weeks), hosts many of the same guests that used to stay at the Thunderbird, at the Brownell Chalet.

“They have become like family.” She said. “But I also very much enjoy the younger guests who have started to come.”

And they in turn, must be delighted to find themselves in the company of this truly extraordinary woman, this one of a kind, totally divine, undisputed Queen of the Mountain!

For more information on (and/or to make a reservation at), Brownell Chalet (and Elisabeth), please visit their site below.

Brownell Chalet

Photographs by Bill Curry

curryimages

It has been said of Taos that it is not really a town, a village or even a place. It is a state of mind.

author unknown
Themed room at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

El Monte Sagrado Resort & Spa

A story for the weekend.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, an eccentric billionaire “discovered” Taos.

El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort exterior in summer

He promptly moved here with his family and entourage, and got busy buying old properties all over town. Within weeks the town was abuzz with activity; the billionaire hired local architects, contractors and builders to renovate the crumbling adobes he had acquired. Feng Shui Practitioners, Dowsers, Magicians, Medicine Women from Guatemala and Venezuelan Shamans were brought in to ensure the locations were free of Geopathic Stress and other bad vibes.

Gardens at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

Locals were aghast at the speed with which these changes were being made. Old familiar buildings were transformed seemingly overnight into unrecognizable edifices. Two of the properties he bought on Kit Carson Road were razed to the ground and a flurry of activity began at the location, creating even more gossip and rumours regarding the monied newcomer.

Sustainable Water Experts and Landscape Architects were imported from afar, to design the gardens he envisioned surrounding the hotel he had decided to build where an old motel and a neighboring B&B had once stood. A saltwater pool was installed in a huge greenhouse-like space adjoining a world-class luxury Spa.

Indoor pool and hot tub at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

Artists and artisans were hired (and fired) to decorate over-the-top casitas and rooms that sprung up at the speed of light.

The Shamans and Medicine Women declared there was a Sacred Circle on the property (where Summer Weddings are now held) which was left intact, as such, the hotel designed to envelope this so-called Sacred Ground.

At the same time as the hotel was being built, the billionaire bought and razed another property on Ranchitos Road, intending to build a home for himself and his family. One evening the house burned to the ground. Arson was indicated but the culprits were never caught.

King room at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

Soon the El Monte Sagrado opened its doors, but by then the billionaire was disillusioned with the idea of Taos as his home and already had one foot out the door. Nonetheless, locals flocked to the site to see the result of all the excitement and activity. Entering the grand new addition to our sleepy little town, one was greeted by a stunning Art Collection including Picassos and Basquiats that hung on the lofty walls of the entry.

A vaulted dining space off the lobby boasted a five-star culinary experience, but the space that really got people talking was the bar, which featured a giant Anaconda sculpted into the entire ceiling, snaking around pillars and walls, and huge aquariums filled with tropical fish; a nod perhaps to the South American Shamans who had blessed the grounds and declared them Sacred.

outside wedding setting in taos at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

The billionaire eventually sold off all of his Taos properties, including half the shares in his dream hotel. Eventually his partner (the Kessler Enterprise) bought the remaining shares and the fabulous art was removed from the walls and replaced with the work of a local painter. The billionaire meanwhile, moved back to where he came from.

The dream of turning Taos into another Aspen, albeit with a more “spiritual” than celebrity vibe, was dashed. Arson, unfriendly locals and a town that stubbornly resisted change had proven too much for him.

Banquet room at El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort

A few months ago, Heritage Hotels and Resorts acquired the El Monte Sagrado and one evening a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Maresa Thompson (the Senior Communications and Creative Director for Heritage) and being hosted at the hotel for a night.

I had already featured two of the company’s fabulous properties on the blog. The Palacio de Marquesa in Taos and the Eldorado Resort and Spa in Santa Fe, so I was looking forward to a night at El Monte and meeting Maresa whom I’d been communicating with via email.

El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort exterior in summer

After checking in at around 5pm, I was shown to the Bali Suite, one of the original (and more understated) suites decorated by one of the artists hired by the billionaire. Gorgeous teak carvings from Indonesia and hand painted details adorned the doors and walls of the suite, which had been given the signature Heritage touch of Italian linens and added amenities including a small refrigerator, coffee, tea and bottled water, along with fabulous bath and body products in the bathroom, thick, fluffy towels and two cosy terry robes hanging in the closet.

I had an hour before meeting Maresa, so took a shower in the beautiful bathroom, wrapped myself in one of the robes and settled down on the bed, propped up by at least five down pillows, to read for half an hour before getting dressed.

Maresa was already in the bar when I arrived and within minutes we discovered we had met over twenty years ago when we were both involved with the infamous Taos Poetry Circus.

El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort indoor dining in garden setting

A poet and writer herself, Maresa is chic, witty and a lot of fun. Growing up in Albuquerque (her family moved here from the East Coast when her father was offered a job at the Sandia Lab) Maresa is no stranger to Taos. She has worked for Heritage for several years and is largely responsible for their great online presence and innovative Marketing and PR style.

We decided to eat in the bar but ordered off the dining room menu. Executive Chef Ray Naranjo has roots from tribes scattered across North America including Tewa (Pueblo), Odawa, and Crow Nations. He has created a menu that is a fusion of traditional Native American and Modern American Cuisine.

I ordered a steak smothered in Red and Green Chile which was grilled to perfection and served with Calabacitas. Maresa, a vegetarian had the Poblano Chile Relleno that looked fabulous. We both finished everything on our plates and enjoyed a couple of glasses of a good Argentinian Malbec along with our meal.

El Monte Sagrado Hotel and Resort anaconda bar inside

By 9pm we were both ready for bed and headed outside to our respective rooms. As we walked briskly in the cold night air, Maresa asked me what I knew about the Sacred Circle. I told her the story of the Shamans and Medicine Women as we parted ways.

“I knew it was manufactured,” she laughed.

No matter, it’s all “Sacred” Land here in Taos and now that the El Monte Sagrado is under New Mexican ownership, the energy is certain to right itself once more. Already one senses the shift. The Staff and Management couldn’t be more friendly and approachable (another Heritage trademark) and the service as with all of their properties, is impeccable.

I slept soundly that night and woke to a dusting of snow on the ground, with more on the way. I had a meeting at 10 so checked out early. The Parking Lot Attendant quickly scraped the ice off of my windshield with a friendly smile.

As I drove away I couldn’t help smiling myself. The El Monte Sagrado has been reinvented and instead of seeming an anomaly in this town rooted in so much history, the hotel now feels like an authentic part of the Taos experience, notably with the pared down elegance Heritage has brought to many of the rooms and public spaces.

I silently thanked the billionaire for his prescience in providing us with the Resort in the first place. As the Ski Valley ups its ante and rumours of an expanded airport continue to circulate, the El Monte Sagrado points to the town’s future.

For more information on the El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa please visit their website linked below this post.

All photographs care of Heritage Hotels and Resorts.

Heritage Hotels and Resorts

Tall mug with quote about taos
Exterior shot of the Blake Hotel in Taos Ski Valley

The Blake at Taos Ski Valley

The long-awaited opening of the newly built addition to Taos Ski Valley has arrived.

The Blake Hotel (named for TSV founder, Ernie Blake), is open and ready to host your stay on the Mountain.

Exterior snowy day at the Blake Hotel

The Blake describes itself as “an 80-room alpine guesthouse adjacent to Lift 1 that’s designed to deliver car-free mountainside adventures, whether you’re skiing, hiking, shopping or strolling. Guest-service hausmeisters are on call to attend to every detail, while well-appointed rooms and sophisticated suites lull the adventurous into welcomed relaxation.”

ernie blake skiing

The hotel’s design is one of understated simplicity that belies its luxurious undertones; raw wood used throughout, hand-made (often locally woven) textiles and an impressive collection of art by the Taos Founders, all combine quietly and seamlessly into the Ski Valley’s Alpine environment without making any proverbial waves.

It’s as if the Blake has always been there, just not visible to the naked eye until now. Tipping its hat to the storied past of the Mountain (and the Town), yet firmly planted in the present, The Blake is an investment in Taos’ future.
king bed inside he blake
This delightfully eclectic and very modern, streamlined vibe plus “unexpected rituals” set the Blake apart from the other guesthouses on the Mountain.
Louis Bacon (who bought the Resort from the Blake family) is after all, an environmental conservationist along with being a hedge funder, and he has respected the natural mountain environment. The Blake at Taos Ski Valley incorporates LEED building, ground-source heating and many other sustainable practices.
reading a book by the fire
After a long day of skiing, there’s nothing like treating oneself to a long and deep massage and all of the other pampering rituals available. The Spa and Wellness Center at The Blake will not disappoint. Native spices and custom blended aromatherapy scent the rarefied air, subtly combining with the cedar and pinon burning in the kiva fireplaces in both public spaces and guest rooms.
The Blake Hotel aerial view

The Blake embraces a multi-cultural holistic philosophy incorporating healing rituals from around the world. The Spa states that “this philosophy of the Circle of Life has been embraced and practiced throughout the ages by the resident European, Hispanic, and native North American cultures found in Northern New Mexico as well as the indigenous people of the Alpine countries of Europe.”

inside the taos ski retail shop

192, The Blake’s upscale dining and social hub centers around a communal Kiva fireplace, combining rustic European Alpine architecture with the local vernacular to provide an intimate, yet sophisticated Apres Ski experience.

A great wine list, trendy flatbreads, tapas and an assortment of pizzas, along with locally inspired hearty entrees and of course a selection of sweets, ensure there is something for everyone on the menu.

bathroom interior at the blake

TSV is open through mid-April and they are having a super snowy Season with more on the way, making this the perfect time and place for a Valentine’s Day Getaway!

In fact Spring snows are legendary here in the High Desert, so make your Spring Break plans now before Taos Ski Valley books up completely. Of course there are always places to stay  in town as well, so be sure to check my Stay category on the blog menu and Taos.org (also linked below), for listings.