I am not paid to write this post. Living with the land and people in the American Southwest has included camping at Holy Ghost Canyon near Pecos, New Mexico, as well as staying in a hotel near another holy site, the chapel at the former Catholic academy, Loretto Academy, now closed. During Christmas, we stayed at the Inn at Loretto, December 24-26, Room 445, overlooking St. Francis Cathedral and the La Fonda Hotel. The restored bells of St. Francis rang at midnight, Christmas Eve, for ten minutes.
I am not a tyro in evaluating lodging in northern New Mexico. Since 1967, I have stayed in hotels and motels in Grants, Santa Fe, Taos, and Raton. When I taught at Amarillo College, I conducted field trips to New Mexico with students, sometimes twice a year. Taos Inn, Dreamcatcher, Sagebrush Inn, Inn of the Governors, La Fonda, La Posada, the Holiday Inn at Grants, and Jack Something’s Trailer Park in Taos (now gone) have all been my rest after eating, drinking, touring, and climbing mountains. The only time I have been frustrated beyond all reconciliation with the proprietor was at the Inn of the Dancing Bear in Santa Fe, some three years ago. I got my money back. The Inn of the Dancing Bear is out of business now.
Our stay this Christmas at the Inn at Loretto (it’s “at,” not “of”) was predictably hospitable, comfortable, and restful. I think the only way our stay could have been improved upon would be if an attendant had been stationed outside our door. And, I’m not so sure that if we had asked for one, and had been willing to pay extra, we could have had an attendant.
The Loretto Inn encourages conservation and sustainability. “Destination Earth,” they call it. The restaurant menu prints a green leaf beside items that are organically grown or products regionally acquired. They have a special sparkling water in a reusable bottle that is obtained locally, cutting down on the carbon footprint.
Further, although the Inn at Loretto will change linens everyday if you ask, their rotation for extended stays is to change linens every fourth day. Obviously, new guests, new linens. This is due to a Santa Fe water conservation ordinance. Towels left on the floor will be changed, but if you hang up your towels, they will be folded and left for reuse.
We arrived Christmas Eve after driving through the Texas blizzard. We checked in and went to the Living Room, their large bar area near the swimming pool, to have Santa Fe Ale and Mistletoe martinis. We also feasted on burgers served in the Living Room. We had arrived late and missed our Casa Sena seating at 9:30 p.m.
The next day, Christmas, we had reservations to dine for lunch at Fuego at the Posada Inn. The reservations were made through Open Table, an internet reservation site. Open Table and Fuego boggled our reservations and when we arrived at Fuego for our lunch seating, Fuego was not open. Our mistake not to call ahead and confirm reservations, but Open Table and Fuego lacked coordination of their schedules. Much more can be written here, but this post is about Loretto Inn. Why use Open Table if you need to confirm by telephone anyway?
We tracked back to the Inn at Loretto and made reservations for 4:00 p.m., Christmas Day dinner at their restaurant, Luminaria. All would go well, spirits restored.
As we sat in Luminaria’s bar area, we were cordially engaged by the Executive Chef, Brian Cooper, and the Director of Food and Beverage, Dennis Marcinik. The chef, harried as he was, spent a minute with us and Mr. Marcinik chatted amiably for several minutes. Sergio, the bartender, poured us a Brut Reserva, Segura Viudas estate. Erika Cooper, Restaurant Manager, frequently asked if our needs were being met. We forgot about our Fuego problem and enjoyed the Inn of Loretto. I told them of my first stay at the Inn back in the 1970s, when I took my daughter to Santa Fe.
The waitress for our dinner seating was Wendy, tall, brunette, former resident of Taos, now Santa Fe. My wife had Blue Point oysters with guacamole sorbet as an appetizer, then onto turkey and dressing. I had both the Blue Point oysters and the “crispy ancho ravioli stuffed with foie gras and oyster mushroom duxelles” for appetizers. A grilled Pecos beef tenderloin was my entree.
For wine, a merlot by Pine Ridge, Crimson Creek Merlot, Napa Valley, 2006, was served.
On the center table of Luminaria (which was never seated), rose petals were strung about the surface. We would look over at the table and see rose petals and seating for six as we dined. Gracious and elegant.
Wendy, our waitress, was attentive, warm, and personal. She had several tables to work, but seemed always ready to grant our requests. By the end of the evening, my wife and felt like we had made a friend. I am well aware that waiters must attend in style and respect to their guests, but Wendy excelled at a style that was engaging and joking, scoring smiles and laughter at her tables. I watched her with other tables and she was personable and specific in repartee, conversation, and banter. Wendy seemed to enjoy her work and hid whatever frustrations she had. She knew I was taking notes, and remarked that she had been given a journal recently and wanted to join in the pleasure of writing. I believe her.
The behavior of Wendy and Sergio personifies a dynamic of service, a culture of attendance to guests that is the Inn at Loretto. Room attendants stand out of the way when we go down the hall, waiters stand aside as we arrive and depart. Even Chef Cooper shook our hand and briefly chatted, stressed as he was. I know it must be hard to be courteous all of the time, but the Inn of Loretto staff did just that. Sergio said to us at the Luminaria bar, before we sat down for Christmas Day dinner, that the staff was trying “to create a pleasant memory for their guests.” Yes, a theater and acting, but plainly, in my view, successful to its audience. Sergio, it worked, you created a pleasant memory for us. And, yes, we will return.
Further, our valet knew how to start a diesel F-250 truck, waiting until the coil light on the dashboard went off. Paul, the valet for the Inn, has worked there for twenty-five years and knows us, our pickup trucks, even the history of our horses and pets back in Texas. Paul is happy working for the Inn, it seems, and we know that when we get to the Inn, after a trip of 570 miles from Mingus, he will be there to help us settle in.
The Inn is not all perfect, but what is? But, the Inn at Loretto is the least imperfect of all hotels in Santa Fe. There will be room at the Inn on Christmas if you call ahead, and the staff in all areas will provide that memory: warm, helpful, friendly. Could strangers to the city of Holy Faith ask for more? I think not.
To repeat, I am not getting paid to write this. I promised Wendy at the Inn at Loretto that I would write something on my blog. And, I have. As a friend, she deserves a pleasant memory from me, just as she gave us on Christmas Day.