As a young art student, I hoped to one-day walk in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe. Santa Fe seemed a place not destined for me to travel, yet I found myself there just a few weeks ago. We hopped on the Rail Runner from Albuquerque New Mexico and oohed and aahed like youngsters as the desert arroyos and mesas unfolded from the train, each vista more astonishing than the next, whereas the local denizens appeared mostly enamoured with their cell phones. Such is life when every day becomes, well, every day, I suppose. We spotted some rather large birds and were delighted when it occurred to us that they are roadrunners. Later, when shopping for a gift, I was inexplicably drawn to images of the roadrunner painted on Pueblo pottery. Curious, I asked the significance of the bird. According to the proprietor of a shop in old town Albuquerque, Indigenous artists in New Mexico paint the roadrunner on their pots because the bird symbolises endurance, courage, strength, protection, speed and medicine. After our satisfaction of having identified the birds we saw from the train, our conversation then turned to the O’Keeffe like composition and colour palette of the landscape with touches of ocher, burnt sienna and cerulean blue.
We had decided to forego breakfast in Albuquerque for an acquaintance’s recommendation to try a well-known breakfast mecca called Tia Sophia’s in Santa Fe. We were not to be disappointed. The train pulled into the station in the early morning hours, and we braced ourselves against the retreating chill of the desert dawn by ambling our way through enchanted streets only to discover a line-up outside our journey’s end. Undeterred, we put our names on the waitlist and just outside the restaurant; we hunkered down on the newly sunbathed sidewalk. There is such deliciousness when the first felt sense of being bone cold thaws like desert snow on the tongue. After thirty minutes, our names were called.
The hostess seated us at a cosy window table amidst the hustle and bustle. It was evident from the start that the vibe here is not laidback per se but efficient with a good dose of conviviality. The décor is somewhat kitschy, and a little frayed at the edges. It reminds me of a well loved home where the inhabitants over the years have prioritized what truly matters. It’s honest and approachable.
Tia Sophia’s current location is 210 West San Francisco Street. According to the owners, Nick and Vanessa, Tia Sophie’s opened in 1975. They have remained true to their parent’s singular dream, which is to provide traditional Northern New Mexico cuisine. The breakfast menu includes burritos, huevos rancheros, omelettes, green chile stew, quesadillas, carne adovada, blue corn pancakes and a variety of cereals. We came on a Friday, so the special was an egg, rolled blue corn cheese enchilada topped with chile and served with beans and toast. You can also order various side dishes, for instance, guacamole. I ordered the huevos rancheros with my eggs poached; offered a choice between red or green chile, I choose green. I also ordered a side of guacamole.
Our server was no-nonsense, prompt and refilled coffee and water without having to be asked. All three of us were pleased with our orders, and there was enough guacamole for all of us to share. The prices here are reasonable, and the servings are quite liberal. We left feeling very happy with ourselves for having taken our acquaintance up on his commendation. With our bellies full, we moseyed over to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
New Mexico is not for the faint of heart. If you travel to this part of the world, prepare yourself. Visitors have been known to suffer from altitude sickness and dehydration. We were told to stay consistently hydrated, which in itself became a herculean task. All three of us had chapped lips the whole time we were in New Mexico that no amount of lip balm could soothe nor copious amounts of water could tame. Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level. According to Santa Fe Tourism, it usually takes about 48 hours to adjust. Folks who moved to the area from more forgiving regions informed us that adapting to the elevation requires a hell of a lot longer than 48 hours or at least it did for them. Having said this, I experienced minor ill effects. However, one of my travelling companions did not fare so well. Thus we spent a morning at a walk-in Clinic in Albuquerque and left with a prescription for antibiotics.
Perhaps it is maudlin to say that the desert, in spite of its aridness, harshness, and temperature extremes from blistering heat to below freezing within a mere day is terrible and beautiful at the same time. Contrary to my better judgment, I have to confess that I am smitten with such an exacting landscape. Perhaps one day, you may travel to New Mexico, and you might, like me, become equally beguiled. Either way, go to Santa Fe and have breakfast at Tia Sophia. You will not be let down.
210 West San Fransisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Monday-Saturday. Breakfast 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m, Lunch 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m
Sunday. Breakfast: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Lunch 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.