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Mining town chic
Thursday, 26 December 2013
Charming Madrid is much more  than just a drive-through, with lodging, dining and copious live music

Photo courtesy of Lotus B&B
By Chloë  Winegar-Garrett

Madrid, N.M., is a quaint little town along the Turquoise Trail where no two buildings look alike and the people who reside there are comfortable, casual and hospitable, making it easy to slow down and relax. Before I go any further, let me correct your pronunciation of Madrid: it’s MAD-rid, not Ma-drid. This village, population of 204 according the 2010 census, has an extensive mining history and a long tradition of art creation, and this quirky pronunciation is a separator from the Spanish influence found elsewhere in New Mexico.

Whenever my husband and I want to get out of Albuquerque for a couple of hours but feel like Santa Fe is a bit too far, we go to Madrid. To get there from Albuquerque, head east on I-40 to Highway 14, then north. You can’t miss it. It’s a charming town that feels both very old and contemporary, but without a sense of pretentiousness, an easy place to stay for a coffee or a whole night.

For our latest escape, we took off and left our son with his grandparents overnight for the first time, making our first getaway since … ? I can’t remember, so it has been too long, obviously. The drive is very scenic, and once mile 11 is reached on Highway 14, there is a marvelous view of all the mountain ranges and colors of the land. You gotta love these kinds of New Mexican drives.

Photo by Josh Schaber
Most of Madrid takes place on Highway 14. There are coffee shops, plentiful art galleries/studios, eateries and a museum/tavern, all hugging this road. Each building is adorned with colorful wood boards and ramshackle architecture hinting at its history as a mining village and current incarnation as an artist dwelling. Many local artists reside here instead of in the more touristy cities of Santa Fe and Taos, and almost every wall, building, road, nook and cranny is covered in artwork.

One of the best, or perhaps unnerving, qualities of Madrid is that there is no cellphone reception (cue the scary revelation music). It’s shocking how used to technology we have become that when it came down to finding our lodging my husband and I had to depend solely on each other’s minds, common sense and the help from other people who lived in town. Needless to say, it took slightly longer to find our off-the-beaten-path bed and breakfast than it should have, but that wasn’t a huge issue.

The flooding rains hit Madrid pretty hard in September, so the roads adjacent to Highway 14 can still be ragged from that destruction, but our destination was worth the effort. The Lotus, one of Madrid’s premier bed and breakfasts, is a on a hill with a view of pine trees, jagged hills and the Sangre de Cristo mountains, along with city lights from Santa Fe. The owner, Lonnie McGuinn, bought this property along with 13 acres of land in 2009 and has remodeled it into a peaceful oasis meant to heal those with stress or physical ailments (all of us, right?).

Photo courtesy of Lotus B&B
I’m not going to lie: the thought of a holistic retreat made me tense up rather than relax, and I dreaded meeting people who were going to peer pressure me into aromatherapy and breathing right and shoving quinoa down my throat, but fortunately this was NOT the situation. McGuinn was warm and hospitable, clearly passionate about her business, especially when giving us a tour of all the paintings and sculptures that adorn the interior, many for sale. If I had the money to spend on artwork there were some stunning and eerily beautiful pieces I would have immediately purchased.

Before we settled in for the night, we wanted to grab a bite to eat at a place called The Hollar, which resembles a makeshift shack, but is actually quite an inviting place, with many lights strung up in the trees and a cozy campfire. Two guys with strong musical talent were singing and playing guitar on the porch, but since it was chilly we headed inside. A TV was blaring sports, but people gathered here requested it be turned off so they could focus on their conversations or simply enjoy some peace. We ordered the special of the night, a rack of lamb cooked rare with a chipotle pineapple sauce on top of parmesan mashed potatoes with haricot vert. It was perfectly seared on the outside and bright red on the inside. All of the flavors worked together wonderfully.

After this pleasant dinner, we headed all the way across the street about eight feet to the Mine Shaft Tavern, a museum/bar/restaurant where there was more live music. Madrid is a music-lover’s town for sure. The ambience is very casual at this bar, and nobody was wearing anything fancy, so as a Birkenstock girl, I felt right at home. All of the employees seemed happy to be working, and excited about the band Sherry and the Four Blues. The lead singer had an amazing voice reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, and we played a game of pool while enjoying the entertainment.

While this was a fun evening, I was getting tired and felt like it was the middle of the night, although in reality it was only 7:30p. A lot of the town seemed to be winding down around that time, so I didn’t feel too lame. Back at The Lotus, we stayed in a suite with an outdoor deck that overlooks Santa Fe’s city lights. McGuinn brought up a tasty dairy- and gluten-free chocolate zucchini cake and a bottle of Malbec along with a card. In the morning she made custom breakfast for us while we had a yoga session with a nice lady named Rachel, who did not push us harder than we wanted and helped us feel good for the rest of the day by incorporating breathing and stretching into our morning.

Heading out, it seemed like a good time to have some more coffee before the not-so-long drive home. We stopped at Java Junction, which has some amazing coffee and huge pastries along with a variety of hot sauce bottles to purchase. I think we saw about half of the people we ran into the previous evening. Small-town living at its finest. Overall, Madrid is an excellent option to visit a place less populated and a bit funkier.

Madrid, N.M.

The Lotus
12 Waldo Mesa Road, 505.273.1464

The Hollar
2849 State Highway 14, 505.471.4821

Java Junction Gifts & Coffee Shop
2855 State Highway 14, 505.438.2772

Jezebel Soda Fountain & Deli/Gallery
2860 State Highway 14, 505.471.3795

Mine Shaft Tavern/Coal Mine Museum
2846 State Highway 14, 505.471.4821

Color and Light
2850 State Highway 14, 505.424.7877

Indigo Gallery
2854 State Highway 14, 505.438.6202

Johnsons of Madrid
2843 State Highway 14, 505.471.1054
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