Before having children, dull parents will rattle on about how tired you’ll be when you do succumb, how you won’t be able to sleep again and how you’ll age fifty years in three months. When your child pops out into the world, their defeated words come back to haunt you and you realize how right they were…
From Farmhand to Fauntleroy: Adventures in New Mexico
By Sarah Ivens-Moffett
No one, however, tells you – before you procreate – to make the most of your vacation time because holidaying with a child can be harder work than being in an office. My husband and I are still filled with wanderlust, despite being new parents. Our 19 month old son may be filled with rage if he’s taken away from his tractors and diggers and he may be hell in a high chair if we break his routine, but we still need to escape. Longing to take a road trip, like the ones we used to do across the South from Kentucky to Georgia or abroad from Thailand to Singapore, but with William on board, we crossed our fingers and headed to New Mexico to take the child-friendly short ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Can travelling with a creature that throws tantrums in public places ever be fun? Can fussy eaters find refuge in five star hotels? Thanks to the two hotels – and cities – we headed to, we’ve actually returned from a vacation for the first time since William arrived on Planet Earth feeling like one should after a break: inspired, invigorated and like we’ve eaten too much.
Our first destination was something style watchers would call an Agri-tourism All-star resort, but we’ll just call it heaven for little boys. Family-owned Los Poblanos is a beautiful historic inn and organic farm, with a restaurant that takes field-to-fork dining from eco-sensible cool to utterly divine. As we checked in, William was declared a ‘little farmer’ and handed a personalized bag containing a cuddly pig, cow and goat stickers and a farm-related coloring book and crayons.
Then waiting for William in our suite – a cozy hideaway complete with a roaring fire and an exquisite bathroom stocked full of lavender-scented lotions and potions , fresh from the purple field outside our window – was organic milk and warm, freshly baked cookies. The hotel had him at cuddly pig, so he happily trotted off to dinner at La Merienda – despite the late hour – and sat patiently while his greedy parents dived into the delights on offer: farm food with a spicy New Mexican twist, such as seared white bass on a potato celery root gratin with a spicy green tomato nage, followed by a sweet treat of pannacotta with a pecan snowball. The local cheese plate was the finest I’ve ever tasted. After a good night’s rest, the three of us tangled up together in the gigantic, super-plush bed, and a hearty breakfast of fresh fruit, farm-scavenged honey and eggs Benedict, we wandered off to the farmyard, where William was invited to milk the goats and collect fresh eggs from the chickens. He also chased peacocks, mooed at the cow and tried to brush the farm’s ginger tom with a broom he found in the tractor shed.
After two hours of frolicking in the fresh air with his new furry friends, it was time to leave and exhausted by all the excitement, he slept all the way to Santa Fe – which is what every parent dreams of! Checking into the uber-cool and classy Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado took my little boy from mini farmhand to Little Lord Fauntleroy. Here, he was a happy traveler for very different reasons: dreamy chocolate brownies and milk waited for him fireside, which he was allowed to help build with his daddy. When he was finished with that, he turned his attention to the Native American drum, positioned as a side table next to the bed, which he played for ages – until it was time for him to take a dip in the bath, the most humongous I had ever seen which must have looked like a swimming pool to William.
As he splashed about, I washed him down with the array of baby products that had been thoughtfully left for him – and then wrapped him up in a miniature white robe, quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen him in. After we’d all had our baths, the three of us sat around the fire, wearing our matching robes, William looking at photos of cowboys and horses in a Santa Fe tourist magazine; my husband and I sitting silently, dumbstruck that travelling with a child could not only be done, but could be enjoyable. The next day, while the boys went off for a mini-hike on the grounds of the hotel, I had some mom-alone time. Bliss. Designed to reflect the sacred kiva rooms of the indigenous Pueblo Indians, the treatment areas have a pared-down Southwest style that force you to leave your troubles and to-do lists at the front door. Sue, my massage therapist, gave me a fascinating Santa Fe history lesson while she buffed and soothed me with warm coconut oil and wrapped my feet in hot towels, then sent me off to the warming room – a relaxation lodge complete with a log fire, cashmere blankets and chamomile tea – where I forgot about the 19 months of disrupted sleep I’d endured, feeling ten years younger. Dinner at the Four Seasons ranch is not for the faint-hearted.
You will want to try everything, even the spiciest dishes that will leave your lips on fire (New Mexicans really are obsessed with chile!) and the desserts are so delicious, you may have to order two. My husband did. He blamed all the high-desert air for increasing his appetite, I blamed his taste buds: why wouldn’t he want to try the signature sundae (house made churros, tequila caramel sauce and dulce de leche ice cream) while he was waiting for his dark chocolate soufflé (with green chile cream!) to rise to perfection? Thankfully, William sat enchanted by the monster of a bread basket that greeted our arrival and the spaghetti I chose for him from the healthy kid’s menu. The two hotels we enjoyed on our New Mexican adventure were so good we had to force ourselves to leave the grounds. But we’re glad we did – to get our art on at the Georgia O’Keefe museum near the Old Plaza in Santa Fe, and to get scared at the Rattlesnake museum in Old Town Albuquerque, a place that gave me the heebie-jeebies, but the little lad loved. We left New Mexico with a new appreciation for hot food, high-dessert skies and their infinite stars… and most importantly, the courage to take on more road trips.
Have child, will travel. Yeehaw!