By David Armstrong
The Inn on the Alameda’s general manager looked on as I checked in at this gorgeous Santa Fe boutique hotel and said “You look familiar. You’ve stayed here before, haven’t you?” I had, once – in 2003.
This total-recall GM is Debbie Swanson, who has worked at the Inn on the Alameda for 11 years, spending several seasons on the front desk before being upgraded to the top job. She still works hours on end at the front desk, by choice.
Swanson is the personification of a hands-on manager, and partly for that reason the Inn on the Alameda has an especially attentive, anticipatory staff. They know what you want almost before you do – and usually provide it.
This Spanish-Southwestern style, 71-room hotel is a 3-star property. Usually, that connotes a perfectly acceptable but unexceptional hotel. The reasons for the Inn’s superficially ordinary rating are several: the Inn on the Alameda doesn’t have a full-service restaurant, or a spa, or a gym. You wheel and carry your own luggage to your room, which could be a concern for people with mobility issues or for weary arrivals from the airport or the Interstate; and the hotel’s 10 buildings are reached with a one- or two-minute outdoor walk.
But while it’s not a posh 5-star hotel, the Inn on the Alameda boasts grace notes that equal or surpass the offerings of most 4-star properties.
Among them are a well-appointed breakfast buffet that includes hot-cooked dishes; a workout and exercise room; daily wine and cheese receptions in late afternoon (most wines are free, a few go for a few dollars per glass); and a glassy combination sun room, snack station and business center, equipped with two PCs that are available free of charge. Wi-Fi, too, is free, as is guest parking and local and toll-free telephone calls.
The gracious lobby comes complete with a wood-burning kiva – a fireplace – fronted by thick-cushioned couches and chairs for lingering over that end-of-the-day wine and cheese, as burning piñon pine gives the lobby an appealingly aromatic quality.
The first time I stayed there, my wife and I were ensconced in a lovely suite ($245 to $390, depending on the season) in an intimate wing just off the guest parking lot. The lot is, in turn, just off the Alameda, a road flanking the Santa Fe River. The shopaholics’ favorite, Canyon Road, with its trendy art galleries and shops, is on the opposite bank, three minutes’ walk from the hotel.
On my return visit, in November 2011, I settled into a traditional room ($145 to $230). It, too, had a kiva, a television tucked inside a wooden cabinet, a big, comfortable bed, a private outdoor patio and an immaculate bathroom.
The Inn on the Alameda is a favorite getaway spot for couples. And no wonder. It’s among the most romantic lodgings in this centuries-old, high-desert city – New Mexico’s capital and cultural hub. The hotel is a good choice for business travelers, too, and for small-group meetings. It has 2,500 square feet of meeting space in two rooms secreted in a villa-like building on an interior courtyard.
For my purposes as a traveling journalist – on the road without my laptop or other handheld electronic device – the business center proved to be perfect for blogging, tweeting, surfing the Web and working my e-mail. These virtues have not gone unappreciated by others. The Inn on the Alameda, a non-smoking hotel, was named by Condé Nast Traveler to its Top 200 U.S. hotels list for 2011 and 2010.
What closes the deal for me is the hotel’s prime location. As noted, it is just a jot away from Canyon Road. Another few minutes on foot brings the visitor to the Kakawa Chocolate House, a cafe specializing in savory, centuries-old recipes from Aztec Mexico and Old Europe for chocolate candies and subtly sweetened, spiced chocolate drinks.
Five minutes in the opposite direction and you pass Travel Bug, a delightful shop festooned with maps, globes, travel books and travel gear. Then on to the city’s downtown Catholic cathedral, cluster of museums, toothsome restaurants, expansive, Spanish-style plaza and 17th century Palace of the Governors. Once the state capitol, the long, low-slung adobe and wood structure is the oldest government building in the United States; it is now a history museum.
New Mexico makes a fuss about itself as a unique place where Native American, Spanish, Mexican and U.S. heritages meet, and brands itself the “Land of Enchantment”. There is some marketing hyperbole in this, to be sure, but it is not wrong. New Mexico in general, and Santa Fe in particular, are enchanting. Splendid hotels such as the Inn on the Alameda are among the reasons why.
The Inn on the Alameda’s address is 303 E. Alameda, Santa Fe, NM 87501. For more information and to book, visit www.innonthealameda.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888.984.2121.
David Armstrong is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist specializing in features, news and reviews about travel destinations, airports, airlines, hotels and resorts. He is the former tourism, aviation and international trade reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and covered tourism, movies, media and theater for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He is the author of five books and numerous travel articles for TheStreet.com, Travel + Leisure, Global Traveler, Napa Sonoma Magazine, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Toronto Star, Chicago Sun-Times, Aviation.com and many others. He blogs at http://davidarmstrongontravel.blogspot.com.