Taos, here we are!

033107 Taos We're staying in Taos at Casa Montoya, a little adobe-and-wood house about two blocks or so off the town's main plaza. It's a great location and a fine little dwelling -- basically a one-bedroom house with a lovely hot tub. It's probably more space than we need, but the gigantic bed with its fluffy mattress pad and silky-soft sheets assures us it's down with our mission for our brief stay here: to relax.

Today is Day Three of the Great Huevos Rancheros Experiment. For those who are not "in the know," huevos rancheros is a dish that usually involves a corn tortilla topped with eggs over easy, pinto beans, cheese and chili, served up with a side of flour tortillas with which to scoop up the sloppy mess. (Although not traditional, I like a dab of sour cream to offset the heat.)

033107 Huevos Rancheros

This morning, we've decided to make our own variation in the kitchen. We don't have any chili, per se, so our version subs salsa. We also used low-carb whole wheat flour tortillas and scrambled the eggs instead of making them over easy. The result is quite delightful, for those keeping track of such things. And we follow our full bellies into a post-breakfast soak in the tub. Multiple-times-daily soakings are sure to become a habit on this trip.

Afterwards, we take a stroll into town. Our casita is on a residential street where the houses are snugly situated, perhaps a bit too much so -- although a wooden fence separates the hot tub from the neighbors, you're still well aware of your proximity. Several houses on the street own angry-looking dogs -- pit bull and dobermans, or some mix thereof -- who seem to be held back with only a piece of twine. One house has four of them who bark viciously and growl as we walk by. It has a wire fence that seems inadequately high and a trampoline, for God's sake, on which the dogs sometimes rest. As soon as these dogs learn to bounce, the game is over for passersby. I make Chris walk closer to the fence. I figure it's harder for them to reach his jugular than mine should everything suddenly go awry.

033107 Taos Coffee Shop

Paseo del Pueblo is the main road that cuts right through the middle of Taos, running north and south. Since there's no bypass for the town, the traffic's surprisingly thick and heavy with anyone trying to get to and fro on Highway 64 forced through. The historic plaza is located at the intersection of Paseo del Pueblo and Kit Carson Road. There are loads of shops, cafes and art galleries -- most of the latter featuring work by local artisans -- in this area.

It's around 10 am when we walk into town and many of the businesses aren't even open yet. It's still considered Winter at this point, months off from high season, and some of the businesses don't open at all this time of year. No one has told the weather that it's winter, though, since the sky is gigantic and blue, the sun shining brightly. The shops right around the plaza seem to lean more to the touristy jick side of things -- your standard t-shirts, shot glasses, painted knick-knacks. Along Paseo del Pueblo, it's mostly art galleries, some coops and some feature the work of single artists. Honestly, we don't dip into many of them. It's pretty fantastic to be wandering around aimlessly, the snow-capped Taos Mountain hovering in the background.

Taos has a population of around 4,700 and it's estimated that about 20% of those are artists, including writers and, as ridiculous as it sounds, you can feel it in the air. Maybe it's the handful of "creative" looking locals holding down the bench on the front porch of the coffee house on the plaza -- an Anglo with long-grey hair and paint-splattered jeans laughs with a leather-clad biker and a young woman in combat boots and spiked red hair. But this is what it feels like to live somewhere that people create as a way of life, where the landscape inspires you to dream big and think in flowery, finished paragraphs.

033107 Taos Main Square

We're in full-on relax mode so while Taos has a number of small museums, mostly dedicated to the artists that helped redefine this town as an oasis for writers and artists in the 1920s or so, we've decided not to partake this time around. There seems to be no question that we'll return to Taos and get plenty of chances to do that. We're not here for the facts. We're here to let our brains turn to mush and do absolutely nothing we don't want to. We're doing a terrific job of it.

033107 La Lana Wools

My absolute favorite shop of all (not surprisingly) is La Lana Wools. For a knitter, it's a breath-taking offering, locally made yarns of all weights and textures, all of them colored using plant-based dyes. The hues are amazing, from rich jewel-toned silks to lace-weight skeins in airy blues to nubby thick ropes in natural browns. I want to grab a pair of needles and jump into one of the baskets brimming with hand-twisted skeins and knit until my arms fall off.

But I have a massage to get to! I'm splurging on this trip -- I'm going to get massaged within an inch of my life. I'm going to ignore my guaifenesin protocol and be slathered with essential oils at every turn. I'm a little worried how that will affect my overall wellbeing but, I'm hoping, the bodywork will offset it all. I hope.

I get a massage and a facial combo from Shenoa at Essential Massage. She is perhaps one of the most intuitive massage therapists I've ever met, perhaps because she has also been rear ended twice and copes with ongoing neck pain. Her work is intense but necessary for me, painful but in the way that I know will make a difference. And she's lovely, this massage therapist who, by the way, is also a trapeze artist, an aerial fabric performer, a stilt walker. She and friends perform high-flying feats with her boyfriend's band, The Last to Know, and as The Flying Desert Brigade at events, concerts and festivals around the country. Which all just seems so very...Taos.

Afterwards, Chris picks me up in my hazy, foggy, daze all heady and great-smelling with essential oils. We need lunch and, keepin' it Southwestern-real, opt for a suggestion from the guide book we picked up that morning. The massage place is a stone's throw from the Guadalajara Grill, recommended as a pick for good ol' fashioned Mexican. The fish tacos are, quite frankly, pretty mediocre and the barbacoa beef on Chris' tacos are disappointing, almost no flavor. Wouldn't put this one on the list of recommendations and, by the time we're through, my tummy is suggesting we hold off on the Southwestern food for a meal or two.

It's back to the casita after that for a mid-afternoon soak in the tub. While I'm not the world's biggest hot tub fan -- the chlorine smell alone is off-putting -- I can't deny the physical benefits of being able to dip in whenever the mood strikes and soak away a half hour. While we're in the tub, a couple of magpies emerge from their giant nest in a nearby tree. One comes to sit on a telephone line in front of the house, its belly a magnificent white, and sings to us.

It's nothing but relaxing and dozing for us for the rest of the afternoon. That evening, we head out for something distinctly non-Southwestern and are pleased as punch with the pies offered up at Taos Pizza Out Back. Again, it's another little charmer of a restaurant fashioned out of a rickety shack, painted warmly and decorated in that sparse Southwestern style. The staff's a little dopey, but the pie with its whole wheat crust and fresh ingredients certainly earns its word-of-mouth reputation as being pretty super.

I didn't remember until I was on my way home tonight that Julia Roberts lives in Taos and now, quite frankly, I am completely pissed off that I haven't seen here. I would think she would make an effort to welcome us or something. Not even a card or a note. Nice.