It doesn’t take long to discern that Santa Fe, New Mexico is a place for believers.
If the shop windows stuffed with native American dream catchers, turquoise-encrusted crosses, or healing gemstones aren’t enough to convince you, then just belly up to the bar at The Shed, the town’s ‘must go’ lunch spot where friendly locals gladly share a story or two with first time visitors, like me.
“Santa Fe has a lot of folklore and ghosts,” said Sam, a 20 year resident who insisted I order enchiladas smothered in the locally made red chili sauce.
When I told him I was staying at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, he nodded. “Well then you might meet Sister George, the cigar-smoking nun who supposedly haunts it.”
Cigar-smoking nuns? Haunting? Yep, this was going to be my kind of place.
The 129 rooms and five suites of the Inn and Spa at Loretto are sewn into a terracotta, pueblo style building at the end of the old Santa Fe Trail, and set a striking contrast against the boundless cerulean sky and its migrating swells of white clouds.
The hotel’s interior evokes the Southwest and local heritage, with zigzag patterned carpets, wood-beamed ceilings, local weave work and paintings on the walls, and leather couches around a roaring fire in the bar. Rooms echo the same theme with modern accents like TVs, internet access (for a fee), remarkably comfortable beds, and waffle weave robes and slippers. There is also an onsite fitness center, a pool, business center with printer, a knowledgeable concierge, and a restaurant, Luminaria, which serves locally sourced and organic cuisine in its dining room or on the lantern-lit patio.
The full service spa consistently ranks among the best in the country, according to proud hotel staff and travel magazines, like Conde Nast Traveler. It’s a perfect refuge from stress and an easy way to while away an afternoon, and a couple hundred bucks (woops), in an ambiance bathed in subdued lighting and earthy music.
But back to the ghost.
The hotel gets its name from the Loretto Chapel (home of the ‘miraculous staircase’) next door, and the Loretto Academy, a catholic girls’ school once located where the hotel now sits, and run by the Order of the Sisters of Loretto. Sister George was a member of the order and taught at the school from 1853 until 1968. She died in El Paso, Texas in 1976 but legend has it she made her way back to Santa Fe. Former hotel employees reported her ‘presence’ in the late ‘70s, smelling cigar smoke in the empty restaurant and receiving phone calls from the fourth floor while it was closed for renovations, among other unexplained occurrences. Curious, I asked the hotel’s current valet, Demian, if he’d met the benevolent Sister George. He said he had not yet had the pleasure but has no doubt Santa Fe, with its 400-year-old streets, is haunted.
The hotel offers a “Ghostwalker’s Package” that includes accommodations for one night, a map, and a copy of the book Santa Fe Ghosts, with tales of the city’s ethereal denizens. BYOC—bring your own courage.
I never saw Sister George, or any of her local cohorts, during my four day stay but as I ambled the gallery filled streets, poked into the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, and tried on the copper and silver jewelry peddled on the Historic Plaza, I stumbled upon a cigar shop. I bought several as gifts, and I think I’ll save one for my next visit to the spirited capital.
After a weekend in Santa Fe, and a stay at the legend-meets-luxury Inn and Spa at Loretto, I am now a believer too.
Visit the hotel website.
Rates & Other Fees
The hotel offers online discounts and Spa, Golf, Ski, and other specialty packages.
There is a $14 per day mandatory “resort” fee that includes wireless internet, pool and fitness center access, and other items to make you feel as if you are getting your money’s worth.
Parking is $18 per day.
Check rates online at Priceline.
Recommended (by locals) Restaurants
Pasquals (www.pasquales.com) for hearty breakfasts.
The Shed (www.sfshed.com) for casual indoor-outdoor dining, friendly locals, and Santa Fe cuisine.
La Boca (www.labocasf.com) for Spanish tapas in a convivial environment. Reservations essential.