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Susan Orth


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5 Free Things in Santa Fe

by Susan Orth

Santa Fe: 5 free things for visitors to do

MAY 25, 2014    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2014, 1:21 AM

Santa Fe, N.M. — There's no doubt this capital city has truly earned its nickname of The City Different. Its skyline is not made of skyscrapers, but rather a collection of flat-topped adobe buildings that has taken more than four centuries to evolve.

Aspens changing color in the Sangre de Cristos; right, Native Americans selling wares in the plaza.
Aspens changing color in the Sangre de Cristos; right, Native Americans selling wares in the plaza.

At its heart, Santa Fe's narrow, unaligned streets are decorated with colorful strings of chili called ristras and quaint mud-plastered homes. The endless shades of brown and turquoise all pay homage to the blending of Native American and Spanish cultures.

Aspens changing color in the Sangre de Cristos; right, Native Americans selling wares in the plaza.
St. Francis Cathedral, named the Southwest's cradle of Catholicism.

There are plenty of private and state-run museums that can provide history lessons, but simply wandering the streets, talking to locals and breathing in Santa Fe's mountain air — seemingly always tinged with the sweet smell of burning cedar and pinon — can all be done for free.

The plaza

Aspens changing color in the Sangre de Cristos; right, Native Americans selling wares in the plaza.

A national historic landmark, the plaza has served as the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since the early 1600s. It plays host to art markets through the year and is home to the Palace of the Governors, the nation's oldest continuously occupied public building. A webcam offers 24-hour views of the plaza, but there's nothing like strolling under its portals to get a look at the rows and rows of silver and turquoise jewelry and other wares made by Native Americans. The plaza is also a perfect place for people watching.

Canyon Road

Just blocks from the plaza, Canyon Road is home to all things Santa Fe-style. The long, winding road once served as an artery to the mountains for residents who needed to gather firewood. Now, it's lined with more than 100 fine art galleries and studios that welcome visitors for free. The galleries feature everything from antiques to traditional Hispanic and Native art and international folk art.

Historic churches

Amid all the adobe architecture is an impressive collection of chapels, cathedrals and mission churches that dates back centuries.

One of the largest is St. Francis Cathedral. Aside from being one of the city's most photographed landmarks, Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 declared it the Southwest's cradle of Catholicism. Nearby is Loretto Chapel, which features a legendary spiral wooden staircase that the sisters of the chapel believe was built by St. Joseph himself.

Also within walking distance is the oldest church in the nation, San Miguel Mission Church. It's open during the week, and regular services are held on Sundays.

State Capitol art collection

During the legislative session, the Roundhouse — it's the only round capitol building in the country — is often crowded with people running between committee meetings and hand-shake sessions. But the building's hallways are also adorned with hundreds of works of art. The Capitol Art Collection was created in 1991 and consists of nearly 600 works exhibited in the building's public spaces and on the grounds outside. The collection is currently valued at more than $5.6 million. Self-guided tours can be taken Monday through Friday. Free guided tours are also available.

Sangre de Cristos

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to Santa Fe's adobe skyline. A short drive out of the city leads to numerous hiking and biking choices. In the fall, the changing aspens attract thousands of people.

Just be prepared for the change in altitude. Santa Fe sits about 7,000 feet above sea level, and the mountain vistas can top out around 12,000 feet.

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A New Mexico chocolate house's exotic elixirs

by Susan Orth
Great Washington Post article about the Kakawa Chocolate House

At Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe, N.M., the concept of try before you buy isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a warning.

The small adobe chocolate emporium takes you on a piquant walk through space and time, serving chocolate drinks filled with varying degrees of cacao, herbs and spices (including the everpresent ground chili). Many of those flavors are surprising to the modern American palate; hence the warning.

A bright-eyed chocolate artisan smiles as I approach the front of the store and asks whether I’ve been in before. Struggling to steer my eyes away from the glass counter, filled with chili caramels, cherry chili truffles, pion caramels and chocolate-dipped chilies, I tell her that this is my first visit, and she invites me to try something.

Studying the chalkboard menu of elixirs, which include drinks based on historical recipes from Mexico, Central America, North America and Europe, I decide immediately against the American (72 percent chocolate with almond milk) because it seems too typical. Instead, I opt for the Chile, made with 100 percent chocolate and ground chili peppers and sweetened slightly with coconut sugar. I smack my lips at the warm, sultry spice, enjoying it, but still curious to try another.

“I’ll go with the Atole,” I say, opting for a beverage even more foreign, consisting of 100 percent chocolate, blue corn, ground chili and honey.

“Do you want to try that first?” Her question somehow sounds like more of a plea than a query.

I agree, and she hands me a small taste. It’s gritty from the blue corn. Spicy from the chili. Bitter from the chocolate and barely sweet from the honey. She tells me that a lot of people can’t get past the corn texture, but I’m intrigued enough to order a small.

I grab a table and sip my drink out of a tiny blue-and-white ceramic cup. As the minutes pass, my already thick elixir gels as it cools, the corn hardening slightly and the chocolate turning into a kind of potable sludge. I start to feel a bit buzzy from the chocolate, or the chili, or something, and can actually feel a small mustache of perspiration beading along my upper lip from the heat of the spice. It is, in a word, delightful.

I later learn from Kakawa’s owner, Tony Bennett (“like the singer,” he laughs), that trial and error is all part of the experience. In fact, Bennett says that he loves it when people turn their noses up at the drinks, particularly one called the Mayan, which is brimming with herbs, flowers, nuts, spices and chili. It’s a challenge to him and his staff to create something more to the customer’s liking. “Most people in the States are not familiar with drinking chocolate,” he says. “They’re familiar with drinking Nestlé’s Quik and that kind of thing.” Bennett uses a variety of chocolates from France (Valrhona), the United States (Cluizel) and South America (El Rey) to blend Kakawa’s recipes.

Chocolate has been served in liquid form for most of its storied existence, and comparing our American concept of hot chocolate with Kakawa’s is like comparing Thunderbird with a fine wine. That’s because the beverages here were born of a purist’s palate. Chocolate historian and pastry chef Mark Sciscenti originally owned the cafe. Sciscenti became interested in chocolate as a child, living under the thumb of parents who didn’t allow sweets in the house. The only sugary substance his mom and dad let him have was hot chocolate, which he made himself, using unsweetened cocoa and adding sugar to taste. Having never developed a sweet tooth, he preferred it very dark.

As he grew older and sampled more chocolate, Sciscenti began reading up on the history of cacao and drinking chocolates, which date back to 2000 B.C. in what’s now Mexico and Central America. Like him, the chocolate connoisseurs of old preferred a less-sweet drinking chocolate, adding all kinds of chilies, herbs, spices and nuts, and consumed it during rituals and celebrations. Eventually, they began trading the cacao bean, and archaeological evidence places it in the southwestern United States as early as about A.D. 770.

“I got totally and utterly fascinated by the whole idea of what they were drinking and what did it taste like,” Sciscenti told me in a phone interview. “The kind of varieties they were growing were incredible, unparalleled flavors, not very bitter at all. I wanted to mimic those flavors, because I love chocolate and I like drinking it, and I wanted to see what they were drinking.”

What started out as a hobby — creating historically accurate concoctions — eventually became a business when he opened Kakawa in 2005. Although he has since left that business (it’s a long story), Sciscenti continues to experiment with drinks on his own and travels the country lecturing about the history of chocolate.

For much of that history, cacao products have been celebrated for their medicinal properties. That remains true today, and as the owner of Kakawa, Bennett is quick to point out the health benefits of chocolate, sharing stories about how chocolate has been found to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack. Harvard researchers recently discovered that drinking two cups of hot chocolate daily could actually help fight dementia, he adds.

It’s enough to make a person consider ordering another cup. Or at least nominating Bennett to become a case study.

“Yeah, well, I’m drinking a quart a day, and it’s not helping me,” he laughs. “I’m going to keep trying and hope that it unplugs something up there.”

- – -


Kakawa Chocolate House


1050 E. Paseo de Peralta

Santa Fe, N.M.


Chocolate elixirs are $3.50 for a small (3 ounces) and $6.25 for a large (6 ounces).

March 2014 / Santa Fe Calendar of Events

by Susan Orth
What's happening in Santa Fe.
Courtesy of Susan Orth & Isabella Luconi
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Santa Fe March Calendar of Events

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City Different Realty
1709 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501

More good news in Santa Fe-home prices to rise

by Susan Orth


More good news in Santa Fe! 
CNN Money has rated Santa Fe one of the top 10 markets for rising home prices.

Low inventory, sales are way up and prices are starting to rise.

Don't miss out, if you are considering a home 'In the Land of Enchantment', give us a call today. 

Where home prices are rising fastest

CNN Money

The tide is already starting to turn in some U.S. housing markets, with home prices in these 10 metro areas expected to climb anywhere between 10% and 21% by the end of next year, according to Fiserv.

10. Santa Fe, NM


Median home price: $248,000

Drop since market peak: 17.1%

Forecast gain through 2013: 10%

Santa Fe not only has cleanest air in the nation, but it also should see some healthy gains in home prices as well, according to Fiserv.

This state capital in the high (located 7,200-feet above sea level) country of central New Mexico wasn't hit half as hard by the housing bust as some other parts of the nation. Helping to lift prices is Santa Fe's thriving economy.

With a population of just under 200,000, unemployment is at a low 5.5% making it one of the top 10 metro areas for jobs. The city is also attractive for other reasons: It's a center for visual and performing arts, with a major dance company and the famous Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe 2012

by Susan Orth

Santa Fe makes the lists...again!

November 2012

No. 2  Americas Favorite City Travel/Leisure
Santa Fe, the No. 2 favorite
outperformed most other cities when it came to cultured, mellow pursuits, such as checking out art galleries (rated No. 4), appreciating architecture, and browsing the top-rated independent shops.

October 2012

Conde Nast - Santa Fe a Top Travel City

For the 20th year in a row the knowledgeable travelers who subscribe to Conde Nast Traveler magazine have voted Santa Fe one of their favorite travel destinations in the U.S. Santa Fe was selected as the third most popular travel city in the U.S

August 2012 lists Santa Fe #7 (the top US city) as a "top 10 international destination" for art and architecture. The list, in order, includes Paris, Florence, Vatican City, Berlin, Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Tokyo.
July 2012 Santa Fe is the small city with the best food in the country, according to the Rand McNally/USA Today"Best of the Road Rally."

JUNE 2012

CNN Money Best Places to Retire Now.
April 2012

2012 Santa Fe Cleanest Air in US

According to the American Lung Association's "The State of the Air 2012" report released April 25, 2012, the Santa Fe-Española Metropolitan Statistical Area was the only city in the country to be ranked cleanest in all three categories of pollution measured in the report: short term particle pollution, long-term particle pollution, and ozone pollution.

April 2012
Travel + Leisure magazine has ranked Santa Fe among America's Favorite Cities, one of the greenest cities in the U.S., and gave it first place for "cultural getaway."
Santa Fe also ranked high for independent boutiques and for fine dining.
January 2012 Santa Fe is one of the "10 Great Sunny Places to Retire" - AARP
December 2011 Santa Fe tops the list as "The Most Artistic City in America" in The Atlantic Cities
December 2011 Santa Fe ranked #11 in the "15 Best Housing Markets for the Next 5 Years," Business Insider.

Santa Fe MLS Search

by Susan Orth

For many people, searching for a home has some aspects of fun, adventure and creativity, but it can also be a wearying exercise. More specifically, searching online for homes can be frustrating. Sure, Google will give you ten bazillion search results, but let’s face it, these can be tough to wade through when you’re trying to find the perfect home.

When you’re combing through a mountain of search engine results, it can be hard to be confident in what you see. Is what you’re seeing complete? Is it up-do-date and unbiased? Even when you’ve found a company or website you trust, limited search options can make scrolling through listing after unwanted listing tedious. With Susan Orth’s free Multiple Listing Service (MLS) search engine, finding the perfect abode in New Mexico has never been easier.

Search options include everything from number of bedrooms to the age of the building. You can even be updated about your Santa Fe home search with daily email alerts. It searches the entire MLS for the Santa Fe area and there is absolutely no obligation to use it.

There are few things you can get for free nowadays. The peace of mind that you could have about property listings by using this free service will definitely be a boon to you and yours. You have enough to take on as a home buyer. Why shouldn’t you do everything in your power to make it easier?

You can choose, for example, to limit your search to listings that offer a fireplace if that’s what you want most. Or, you could expand your search to include a particular style of architecture as a search option. How you choose to view the listings on the market, how you want to slice and dice it, is up to you. New listings can be sent to your email daily, so that you never miss a property that meets your criteria. All this and more makes this free MLS search program a no-brainer.

Susan Orth has been a real estate professional for over 25 years. She is dedicated to providing you with an ideal experience when buying or selling a home. Her fellow agent, Isabella Luconi, is also passionate about her work and experienced in the field. There is no doubt that you are in good hands when you are browsing homes at the Santa Fe Home Store.

So give yourself a break and some peace of mind. You’ve earned it.

Condo Living

by Susan Orth

“The American Dream” – for most people, this traditionally means owning their own home. Similar to the effort needed to make any dream come true, being a homeowner takes a lot of work. Buying a home means committing to making any repairs that are or will be needed, along with a commitment to maintenance and landscaping chores as needed. Home ownership for some means having to worry about break-ins when you could be relaxing on vacation, or it may mean settling for living in an area that wasn’t your first choice.

If these kinds of considerations give you pause, why not consider living in a condominium instead? For some people, a condo purchase represents a stage prior to buying a traditional home; for others it is the best fit for their lives over the long term.

The condominium market in the United States is growing in popularity. In bustling, artistic, urban settings condo life is ideal. Living in the midst of a city gives you access to public transportation and puts you within walking distance of shopping and dining. In areas like Santa Fe, New Mexico, this means being in the beating heart of the city’s art, music and entertainment 24/7. Even in areas outside the center of the city, many buyers enjoy the security – matched with the elimination of maintenance and yard work – that condos offer.

The sense of community one gets from condo living attracts many buyers. Since all the residents have a vested interest in keeping the building(s) clean, safe and quiet, condos are the ideal environment for people who value an extra level of protection and camaraderie.

Here’s another advantage to condo life that might not occur to everyone. While many condos have very large square footage, condos typically have less square footage than similarly priced single family homes. For many condo buyers, this means making a commitment to wise use of space and to dealing with accumulation of “stuff.” For single family homeowners, it can be easy to fill room upon room of a house with items, including many that lack even sentimental value. Soon, you’re not even able to park your car in the garage anymore. But the compact coziness of some condos makes it imperative to budget your space. When you’re not filling up empty rooms, you are bound to live a cleaner, more organized life.

Being a homeowner is a big decision. It’s also not for everyone. If you want fewer home maintenance tasks, or if you just prefer a simpler, more organized life, perhaps condo ownership is your cup of tea.

New Mexico History Museum

by Susan Orth

The New Mexico History Museum is a sparkling new (it opened on May 24, 2009), architecturally beautiful showcase of the Land of Enchantment’s singular, eclectic and culturally diverse history, covering the last 400 years. It is a sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful, but always a fascinating history.

It is also a relatively long history. The state’s capital city of Santa Fe bills itself as The Oldest Capital in the United States. This singular southwest American town is literally colorful and so is its history, as you will discover on your first visit to the New Mexico History Museum, located at 113 Lincoln Avenue in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic Plaza. Santa Fe was initially inhabited by a group of American Indians from the Pueblo tribe between the years of 1050 to 1150.

Exhibitions in the 96,000-square-foot New Mexico History Museum enlighten and broaden the horizons of residents and visitors alike about a vast expanse of the state’s colorful settlers, from the Spanish Conquistadores and Mexican pioneers, up to and through the period in which the legendary Santa Fe Trail guided a generation of settlers headed to all points west.

As you casually stroll among the exhibits, interactive multimedia displays and mesmerizing photographs, the artwork and handcrafted jewelry, you are bound to come across some names that just might be familiar to you, such as Kit Carson, Billy the Kid and Robert Oppenheimer.

The New Mexico History Museum strives to achieve a relatively new position within the community of Santa Fe and New Mexico as a whole. Its mission, as stated on its website, is to provide more to residents and visitors than dusty old artifacts and obscure objects. It serves as a civic hub and educational partner, actively engaged in the social life of the community.

One of the methods by which the museum is striding confidently toward its goals is through the efforts of the staff and variety of the offerings at its other campuses, such as the Palace of the Governors, the Fray Angelico Chavez Library and the Palace Press.

Hours and Admission


10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday

Open on Mondays from Memorial Day through Labor Day

Open until 8 p.m. on Fridays


$9 for out-of-state visitors

$6 New Mexico residents

Free on Sunday for New Mexico residents

Free on Wednesday for New Mexico senior citizens

Free all open dates for Museum Members and children under 17

Free Fridays from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Santa Fe Home Buying Market is Picking Up

by Susan Orth

If you are thinking about buying a home in the Santa Fe area, but are concerned about the real estate and home buying markets (and who wouldn’t be after watching the national news for the last few years?), you can study the real estate section of the newspaper and visit some open houses with renewed vigor, encouraged by the knowledge that the home buying market in Santa Fe is sliding back into a positive groove.

While the real estate industry is known for sometimes taking an overly rosy view, the data really do tell us some good things. A detailed report issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in June said that May’s pending home sales matched the highest mark in the last 24 months. According to NAR, yearly and monthly gains were reached in each region of the country, and the price tag for existing homes (as opposed to new construction) nationwide is predicted to jump 3 percent this year and perhaps an additional 5.7 percent in 2013.

NAR’s economist brain wizards, however, indicate that evaporating inventory is negatively impacting unit sales. They suggest that if the credit climate snapped back to normal and more inventory was available, specifically in low to middle price ranges, even more contracts would be successfully completed. In layman’s terms, supply cannot meet the demand in the housing market at this time.

The unbiased real estate website, Trulia, supplies us with some detailed information specifically focused on the Santa Fe area. Here are some pertinent numbers for you to crunch concerning the three-month stretch from January to March 2012:

  • Median home sales price: $259,250, a 9% ($25,750) decrease from the same time frame last year
  • The number of home sales decreased by 56.2% from the same time frame last year
  • Average home listing price: $702,420 in the week of June 20, a 0.4% (about $2,630) decline from the previous week

While the real estate market certainly can’t be described as roaring, it’s good to hear good news when it happens.

Art Santa Fe

by Susan Orth

If you have ever visited or lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you will no doubt agree that, more than any other single feature, art of all shapes, sizes, methods and descriptions is the heart and soul of this beautiful southwestern United States city. And this is saying a lot, since Santa Fe boasts a beautiful natural environment, a rich history and is the state capital of New Mexico.

Yes, there are magnificent mountain ranges dressing up the panoramic scenery of Santa Fe. Yes, there are lovely and picturesque historic churches, shops and restaurants. Yes, there is a vast, seemingly endless desert stretching to the horizon and supplying Santa Fe with breathtaking sunsets and invigorating sunrises. Yes, the climate and accompanying weather is nearly perfect year round. And, of course, there are numerous and varying other aspects, amenities and natural features that also play their individual roles in making Santa Fe the dramatic, one-of-a-kind city that it is. However, for people in Santa Fe and lovers of the city who visit, art is the definitive quality of the city, just as Dixieland music is the definitive quality of New Orleans.

The ART Santa Fe fair is a high-profile celebration and all-encompassing showcase of art, not only from the 240-plus galleries in the Santa Fe area, but also from prestigious, cutting-edge and emerging galleries, artists and dealers from every corner of the globe. It is an international event at which scene-seekers and regular people who love art rub elbows with the glamorous celebrities, the “name” artists and the stratospherically wealthy art collectors.

At the twelfth ART Santa Fe fair, running from July 12 through July 15 is held primarily at the Santa Fe Convention Center; however, the festivities don’t stop there. There is a gala celebration kicking off the event called Vernissage, which is the fancy French term describing the preview ceremony of an art exhibition. And, if you are going to attend the ART Santa Fe fair, you cannot miss its distinctive Art Santa Fe Presents keynote lecture, given by a prominent figure in today’s hip and trendy art scene.

So, if you love art and you love Santa Fe, ART Santa Fe is the place to be beginning on Thursday, July 12!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 69

Contact Information

Susan Orth and Isabella Luconi
City Different Realty
1709 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe NM 87501
Susan Orth 505-216-6688
Isabella Luconi 505-670-2224