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Retreats on the Cheap

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March/April 2009

Online Only, posted 2.18.09

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Taos, New Mexico
Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge seventy miles north of Santa Fe, Taos is home to a sizable population of writers, artists, and musicians. Creative minds began to retreat to Taos in the late 1800s, and, along with generations of New Mexico natives and snowbirds that now inhabit the nearby slopes during ski season, they continue to be inspired by the region’s clear mountain light and sky-heavy landscape.

Stay
Mabel Dodge Luhan House at 240 Morada Lane, a bed and breakfast ($98-$125/night for most rooms, based on double occupancy). Intellectual and writer Mabel Dodge, in her attempt to create a creative utopia in the Southwest, hosted such luminaries as D. H. Lawrence, psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and painter Georgia O’Keefe in the 1920s and 30s. You could write in Dodge’s hand-carved bed, the panoramic solarium, or the room where Willa Cather once did her work. Lawrence put his own touch on the adobe house—he painted a series of sun- and star-bursts over the second story bathroom windows. Natalie Goldberg teaches a series of workshops based at the house year round.

Camping is also available at locations a few miles from town in Carson National Forest. Limited to stays of fourteen days, Las Pecatas Campground (four miles east from the town on Route 64), Capulin (seven miles east) and La Sombra (eight miles east) are open from May to October to tent campers and RVs (free).

Literary Destinations
The D. H. Lawrence Ranch is located fifteen miles north of Taos Plaza on NM 522, then six miles east on a well-marked dirt road into the Sangre de Cristo Range. The author’s home for a short time in the 1920s, the sixteen-acre ranch now owned by the University of New Mexico houses a shrine which is said to have been made with cement mixed with the author’s ashes. During his time there, Lawrence wrote his novella St. Mawr and parts of The Plumed Serpent (free).

La Hacienda de los Martinez on Lower Ranchitos Road is the late Spanish Colonial period house where Father Antonio José Martínez, the basis for the “Padre” character in Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop, lived during the nineteenth century. After bringing the first printing press to New Mexico, Martínez oversaw the printing of a children’s book, a guide to Spanish orthography, religious literature, and the first newspaper in the region, El Crepúsculo de la Libertad (“The Dawn of Liberty”) ($8).

Step into the setting of literary works from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to Frank Waters’s The Man Who Killed a Deer at the Taos Pueblo, an adobe village continuously inhabited for over one thousand years. The pueblo, a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site home to 150 full-time residents, is closed to visitors due to religious activities until March 23 ($10).

The Hotel La Fonda houses a collection of nine oil paintings by D. H. Lawrence, deemed obscene in 1929 by British authorities, who confiscated the works from the Dorothy Warren Gallery of London. The paintings were eventually returned to Lawrence once he promised to remove them from English soil ($2).

Society of the Muse of the Southwest
(SOMOS) runs several literary programs that “focus on freedom of expression and human rights,” including a storytelling festival in October and winter and summer reading series that have hosted writers such as Jimmy Santiago Baca, Robin Romm, and Veronica Golos ($8).

Food and Drink
For the caffeine-dependent, be aware that most coffee shops in Taos close in the early afternoon, but Mondo Kultur (622 Paseo del Pueblo Sur) stays open a little later. Café Tazza (122 Kit Carson Road), which from 1980 to 2002 hosted the Poetry Circus and World Heavyweight Poetry Bouts that drew writers such as Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, and Ishmael Reed, still attracts its share of poets. Wired? café (705 Felicidad Lane), “set up for long, quiet stays,” according to a review in the Taos Daily News, offers a variety of places to cozy up to your laptop—couches, cubbyholes, and wicker lounge chairs on the back porch. World Cup (102A Paseo del Pueblo Sur) is known for its espresso and mochas, and while small inside, does have an outdoor area that boasts great views to the south and east. The Bean coffee shop has two locations off of the Paseo del Pueblo and offers Wi-Fi for a fee. For a fancier cup, try Dragonfly Café and Bakery (702 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), the former location of Dori’s Bakery, where novelist John Nichols, who still lives in Taos, once worked. At the end of the day, settle down with a handcrafted beer at Eske’s Brew Pub (106 Des Gorges Lane). Outdoor seating and a cozy adobe atmosphere welcome solo pursuits—catching up with your reading or reexamining the day’s drafts—as well as group outings.

Reader Comments

  • carolynzukowski says...

    Sheesh! You forgot about hostels. Forget the "youth" hostels of yesteryear...the new, independent hostels offer clean and tidy accommodations to hip people of any age. They also offer private rooms, free internet/wifi access, communal spaces, kitchens, and are often set in travel-worthy inspirational locales. I understand your focus is on the United States, but a great place to stay (though I'm slightly biased on this!)is at Krumlov House, in the beautiful village of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic www.krumlovhouse.com or, Have a look at the LODGINGS section at www.literarybohemian.com , which features worldwide budget accommodations with up to the minute reviews. At Literary Bohemian, you'll find links to US and International writing retreats as well as "must-see-ums" (museums) of writing. Happy Trails! Carolyn

  • WordBird says...

    You are right on about Milwaukee. Woodland Pattern is a must stop. The Poetry Marathon the last Saturday in January is magnificent. If you want nature, travel to Door County 150 miles north. The South Nest Retreat is a three bedroom house in the boreal forest. Rents are reasonable and by the room or whole house. mrsticket@dcwis.com or 920-839-2191

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City Guide

by Ifeanyi Menkiti

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The city of Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists has produced many prominent writers in its past, but it is also a city whose literary history is still in the making. Ifeanyi Menkiti, who was born in Onitsha, Nigeria, and moved to Massachusetts eventually becoming owner of the nation’s oldest poetry bookstore, tours the vast literary landscape of the greater Boston area.

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