The Most Photographed Church In America

Ranchos de Taos Church as seen from the back parking lot, photo by author
Ranchos de Taos Church as seen from the back parking lot, photo by author

Visiting the Ranchos de Taos Church

Yesterday, I had to travel from Santa Fe to Taos in order to pick up some mail and paperwork from my former place of residence. I rode the bus and since my errand only took a few minutes, I ended up with several hours to kill. I decided I would spend this time at this historic landmark located on the highway that heads back to Santa Fe. Funny thing that as a resident, I seldom went here, but now that I live out of town, I decided to go here, take pictures and make a few sketches of this iconic place of worship.

The front doorway of the Ranchos church decorated with two wreaths, photo by author
The front doorway of the Ranchos church decorated with two wreaths, photo by author

Where Is It?

The church is officially called the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church and it is located in Ranchos de Taos in Taos County of Northern New Mexico. Ranchos de Taos is a small Hispanic community situated just south of Taos at the western edge of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. This structure is in many ways similar to other Spanish missions situated across Northern New Mexico.

 

The Ranchos de Taos Church as painted by Georgia O'Keefe
The Ranchos de Taos Church as painted by Georgia O’Keefe

The Sculptural Properties of Adobe

Adobe is simply a mixture of mud and straw. Together the two materials combine for added strength. The elixir is easy to make and it used worldwide to create amorphous-shaped buildings, especially in dry climates such as the southwestern U.S. Most adobe buildings have to be re-coated every 5 to 7 years and as a result these structures can develop exterior walls that are quite thick and rounded in their appearance. This might help explain why the church at Ranchos de Taos has taken on its unusual appearance that makes the place so endeared by visual artists and curious travelers.

Closeup of the architectural shapes and the adobe material, photo by author
Closeup of the adobe material, photo by author

Approach From The Highway

As you approach the church from NM Highway 68, the first thing you will see is the large buttress form that still resembles the O’Keefe painting. To view the front side of the church that bears the twin bell towers and front entrance, it is necessary to exit the two-lane road and drive through the gravel and dirt parking lot until you reach the opposite end. This view, which is pictured below, looks very different from the part of the building that is adjacent to the highway. Perhaps, this arrangement has occurred because the church was built way back in the late 1700s, when local residents used different pathways to get where they were going.

Ranchos Church Front View 800px
The front view of the Rancos de Taos Church, photo by author

 

Advertisements

Coming Soon

Movie theater in australia
Movie theater in Australia, photo by Fernando de Sousa courtesy of Wikipedia

Description

Sometime in the next week I am going to be publishing a collection of some of my travel essays about traveling in Europe. The way things go for me the actual collection won’t be available till the beginning of next week and then the writing will only be available as an e-book on Smashwords and Amazon. Even though most of the material has already been published on the internet, I am spending more time editing and collating the articles than I originally planned. I have yet to put together a cover, for the book, so that will probably happen at the last minute. Nonetheless, putting together the old material has required more work than imagined, mainly because I can’t run through an old essay without making at least a few editorial changes.

Old and new towers in Berlin
Old and new towers in Berlin, including the bombed William Kaiser church

Title

The title for this collection  goes back to President John Kennedy’s famous speech inside Berlin during his term of office. While speaking to the German audience he made the wonderfully comical statement, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which can be translated to mean, – you guessed it, “I am a jelly doughnut”. This is just one of the many interesting things, readers will discover, while digesting these traveler’s tales.

The shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Finale Marina, Italy
The shore of the Mediterranean Sea as scene from the youth hostel/castle at Finale Marina, Italy

Inspiration

The inspiration comes from two journeys I made to Europe in the new century. My first overseas voyage took place during October 2003, when I visited  Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. Three years later, I made a six week journey that included repeat visits to Denmark, Germany and Austria, as well as new explorations into Slovenia, Italy, France and Switzerland. Who knows when I will return again (hopefully soon), but my initial experience did open me up as a writer.

Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border
Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border

Las Vegas Graphics

Marilyn and Elvis in Las Vegas
Marilyn and Elvis in Las Vegas, America's Royal Couple

Elvis and Marilyn

Elvis and Marilyn are everywhere in Las Vegas. Not only are they depicted in outdoor situations like this, but also real life impersonators may be occasionally seen along “The Strip”. Though both iconic figures have long passed into the next world, their costumed imposters make us believe that perhaps their spirit still lives on.

Holiday Motel on Las Vegas Blvd. in Las Vegas
Holiday Motel on Las Vegas Blvd. in Las Vegas

Old School Graphics

Motels like this venue on the “Strip” have been around for decades. In fact, ordinary signs like this often take on a new life after the sun sets and the neon lights start doing their thing. It seems that every motel has its own little display and art style.

Bail Bonds

Vegas Bonding Agents

For some strange reason Las Vegas abounds with bondsmen advertising their wares to those who might need their services. My guess that the per capital number is rather high, especially compared with other cities. I guess when you have such a large number of visitors, drinking gambling and having a good time, it is inevitable that somebody ends up in jail and needs a bail bondsmen. Some of their outdoor advertising, suggests that the market for customers is quite competitive.

Meoow Sign at the Cat Hostel
Meoow Sign at the Cat Hostel

Pushing the Medium

This wall construction at the Cat Hostel displays very large letters that suggest a certain phonetic sound instead of a living word with actual meaning.

Free Things To Do In Las Vegas

A Vegas Sign On the Uncovered Part of Fremont Street

Palms and the stratosphere in Las Vegas, Nevada.

About Las Vegas

There are two towns in the west named Las Vegas, which translated from the Spanish, simply means the meadows. One of these towns can be found on the eastern slope of the Sangre de Christo mountains in New Mexico, while its more famous relative occupies the arid southern tip of Nevada near the Arizona-California border. Las Vegas, New Mexico is the older settlement as it was a Mexican land grant that became a stop on the Old Santa Fe. In its heyday it was a wild town that supported gaming halls, saloons and prostitution. Some its more famous visitors include Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Today it is a quiet Hispanic town with a popular hot springs.

Welcome to Las Vegas
The Welcome to Las Vegas sign is located on the south side of town on Las Vegas Blvd.

Welcome to Las Vegas, Nevada

At the south end of town  on Las Vegas Blvd. (also known as “The Strip” visitors will find the famous sign. On any given day (or night) there will invariably be several picture taking tourists located right in front of this sign. And of course there will be the picture takers snapping away with their new digital cameras. It doesn’t cost anything to visit this popular site (except maybe some gas and wear and tear on your vehicle) so you might as well join the crowd and check out this Las Vegas icon.

The Luxor Resort has a distinctly Egyptian theme
The Luxor Resort on the Las Vegas Strip has a distinctly Egyptian theme

Walking the Strip

It’s a long walk from where the strip begins near Sahara Ave., but if attempted in the cool of the evening, the long walk can be a very enjoyable stroll. Incidentally, the Luxor Resort is located at the far south end near Tropicana Ave. Numerous elevated crosswalks make crossing the busy avenues much easier, as both the road surface and the sidewalks can be filled to near capacity. There is much to see along the way, not only in exterior architecture, but also in the plush interiors of the casinos, performance halls and retail outlets. Be sure to take along a comfortable pair of shoes and drink lots of water.

The Treasure Island Sirens
The Treasure Island sirens know how to really heat things up.

The Outdoor Night Shows

Two venues namely the Mirage and Treasure Island put on free nightly shows, which can easily be enjoyed by those walking “The Strip“. At the Mirage the main feature is the Volcano, a simulated replica of the real thing that erupts every hour from 8 p.m. till midnight, accompanied by some hot Tiki-techno drumming. The volcano is located on an island in the middle of the lagoon that borders the sidewalk. After watching the street show, you might to walk inside the Mirage to play a game, eat or enjoy a drink at the bar. The interior design alone  is worth the journey. At the Treasure Island Resort and Casino there is a more ambitious free performance that features some titillating conflict between a band of pirates and just as many sirens. Check out this short one act play for some lively music and clever scripting.

Indoor Performances

Live (and free) circus performances can be enjoyed at the Circus Circus Resort and Casino. A special stage and trapeze can be found inside for all types of performances which are listed inside near the stage. And for those who want to sit on yet to be released TV productions can make arrangements to do so at the MGM complex. Just be aware that giving your opinion of the show comes with the free admission.

Heart Attack Grill
The Heart Attack Grill can be found on Fremont Street just past the covered area.

Fremont Street Experience

Away from the strip is Fremont Street, which includes a pedestrian mall that serves up lots of free entertainment, including live musical performances,  after sundown. One controversial restaurant provides free meals for patrons, who weigh over 350 pounds, provided they check in with a doctor or nurse first and they don’t share their food with anybody else. The place is called The Heart Attack Grill as the name of the restaurant and most of the dishes will start you thinking about your own diet and mortality.

On a saner note, well designed light shows go off every hour from dusk till midnight. These shows only last about ten minutes, but they feature an incredible array of images and music projected against a huge overhead screen. A must see for anybody spending any time in Vegas.

Bus Trip To Las Vegas

Restored Neon sign on Central Ave. (Route 66) in Albuquerque

Leaving New Mexico

Since my winter employment at a popular New Mexico ski resort has no come to an end, I have decided on a road trip to the West Coast to find employment until next winter. First stop on my journey was Albuquerque, where I spent a night in a motel on old Route 66. This is not the motel, but it is located right next to the El Don, where I spent the night. Both places have classic neon signs, which have been restored with the aid of federal funds. El Don rents rooms to smokers and is considerably cheaper than the recently renovated Monterey Motel.

Route 66 in Albuquerque
Route 66 in Albuquerque (daytime)

April Snowstorm

My real journey began with a bus ride west from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM another western locale that excels in its lighted night time roadside displays. However, the big story was the mid-April snowstorm that descended on Flagstaff and the nearby Four Corners region. As my bus ride traversed the beautiful mesa of western NM, temperatures plummeted and snow filled the skies. It did not stick to the road, but quickly covered the desert landscape making for a very unusual April landscape. And once the bus arrived in Flagstaff, AZ just short of midnight, everyone was in for a bigger surprise – more snow. For here, it had been snowing all day with the white stuff covering the roads (and everything else) with a good six inches of wet snow.

View of Nevada from a Greyhound  bus
View of Nevada from a Greyhound bus

Down from Flagstaff

I fell right to sleep as the bus left, the high altitude mountain town. At that point in time it was still snowing, but when I awoke at sunrise in Bullhead City, the temperatures were quite warm and there was not a snowflake in sight. Not until the end of my journey in Las Vegas did I see any signs of snow and that was only on a few mountain tops visible in the far distance. Today, I walked around Las Vegas with temperatures being in the 60s and 70s and quite pleasant. Such is life for travelers in the western mountains.

View of the Las Vegas Strip on a busy April Sunday.
View (from a walkway) of the Las Vegas Strip on a busy April Sunday.

 

High Water In Winnipeg

High water in Winnipeg
High water in Winnipeg

Red River

Here’s a picture of the Red River as in flows northward through the city of Winnipeg on its way north to Lake Winnipeg and eventually the Hudson Bay. This picture was taken at the beginning of August and as you can see the river is quite high. FYI the Red River flows north from western Minnesota, North Dakota and even bits of South Dakota, where its watershed butts up against that of the Mississippi and Missouri. By the way this not the same Red River that forms the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas. That river flows south into the Atchafalaya Basin of southern Louisiana.

Why So High

Actually, this is the remnants of spring flooding that occurred back in March and April of this year. The excess water seems to be the result of intense and early spring rain that came on top of a heavy winter snowpack. And the Red River is not the only part of the province to be worried about excess water. Excess water at the edge of Lake Manitoba is still high and scientist expect this situation to remain in this state right up until winter arrives and freezes the lake. Major problems could occur if events unfold in this manner. When I departed the prairie city, Provincial officials were considering building a drainage ditch to relieve water pressure.

Glass reflection in downtown Winnipeg
Glass reflection in downtown Winnipeg

Here’s a reflection on a glass building that just happens to look a lot like water.

Winnipeg, the City

The city of Winnipeg does not attract a lot of foreign visitors, though the downtown area is quite modern and visually appearing. Trees grow in many places, though once you leave the city, the prairie predominates. Most visitors to the provincial capitol, use the place as a rest stop on their cross-country journey, especially those headed west for the Canadian Rockies. Still the library is very nice and anyone who enjoys modern architecture or public parks can enjoy a day or two within the city limits. As you can see in this mural, the popularity of the old Brtain waxes a little bit here.

Winnipeg Wall for Britons
Winnipeg Wall for Britons

And finally the night life of the city helps make the place more liveable.

Sonus Musica
Sonus Musica

Visiting Canada with Will and Kate

Wall painting in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Wall painting in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Canada is a nice place to visit even if you you happen to be traversing the country at  the same time as the royal couple’s visit. By coincidence my leisurely three-week journey from Montreal to Thunder Bay, just to happened to occur at the same time that Will and Kate made their nine-day visit to the former British colony. When they first landed in Ottawa, I was making the rounds in Montreal. This included sampling a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s and then sipping a tasty pale ale at a nearby microbrewery.

Colors of the Plateau, Montreal
Colors of the Plateau, Montreal

But by the time they had left the country, I was anchored down in Thunder Bay, a colorful town located near the western end of Lake Superior. In the mean time Will and Kate, made it to Montreal, Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Yellowknife and the Calgary Stampede. All in all it was a small cross-section of Canada, but most people up here glad that the famous duo spent so much time in the country.

Canadian Greyhound Bus
My main means of crossing the province of Ontario

What really impressed me about the visit of the royal couple was first of all how much time was spent in the country and secondly what a large cross-section of the country they were able to visit. Of special fascination was the trip to Yellowknife, where they received a chance to paddle a canoe and explore the backcountry.

Bus station graphic, Schreibner, Ontario
Bus station graphic, Schreibner, Ontario

The only missing thing was a chance to visit Niagara Falls, but I’m sure they’ll hit that natural wonder on their next visit.

MY Empty McDonald's Sundae Dish, Toronto
MY Empty McDonald's Sundae Dish, Toronto

Next stop on the royal couple’s North American tour is the good ole USA, where I will be arriving in the near future. Not to be outdone the two visitors from the UK will spend nine days in the former colony. Though the history between the US and Great Britain differs significantly from that of Canada, I’m sure they will have a busy and eventful journey across the states. By the way this is the first British royal visit to the US since 1939.