Exactly one year ago, I was living an American Dream, cruising down the blacktop in a snow-white Mustang, with my new husband beside me. We'd eloped and wed in Vegas, and were headed down New Mexico way. On the road and looking for adventure, to the tune of a rock and roll song.
We wed at the top end of Las Vegas Boulevard South, where fast food joints shimmy up against tired striptease palaces and the neon blinks as though something's caught in its eye. The ceremony cost us the grand sum of $160, a ring of giant palms as witness. We spent the afternoon lazing by the pool with frozen cocktails. I wonder how many other brides read a little Alice Munro on their wedding day, the pages whipped by a desert wind?
We wanted a trip of contrasts, for better or for worse. If Vegas is easy-come-easy-go, Santa Fe is rock solid, the USA's oldest state capital. It's set in high desert country, the beloved territories of Georgia O'Keefe, where the houses are flat-topped and pueblo style. Native American, Hispanic and Latino cultures combine to make an intensely welcoming city, strung out on the scent of lilac trees and street carts frying fajitas.
It's also a place that belongs to the artists. On Canyon Road alone there are more than a hundred high-end galleries showcasing work rich in its diversity. At The Palace of Governors, Native Americans display their intricately crafted turquoise and silver jewellery. New Mexican cuisine was a fine art in itself, from the lashings of green chilli sauce on our breakfast burritos to the sopaipillas, puffy pillows of sweet dough at Tia Sophia's on West San Francisco Street.
I don't doubt that we'll return to America's South West; one year on, it's a place I dream of. My 'Santa Fe' mug, bought in the Five and Dime store on East San Francisco Street, has achieved nigh talismanic status - it's the only mug I'll consider drinking coffee from while writing. Thus it gets a lot of use. And every day I get a little taste of Santa Fe, and remember our happy, happy days in the sun.