Floating Away for the Weekend
T or C offers a world of hot-springs soaks, art and more.
by Donna Clayton Walter
Okay, I'm hardcore. I think there's hardly any time of year too hot or too cold to keep a body from enjoying a soak in mineral hot springs. Tubs, spas, natural pools in the wilderness — I've enjoyed 'em all, especially here in New Mexico where we are blessed with so many options.
Homer, one of the author’s dogs, on the grounds at Riverbend Hot Springs. The Rio Grande flows by in the background. (Photos by Donna Clayton Walter)
For those who think our recent hot summer was just too hot to enjoy a steamy soak, the cooler days and nights offer a new opportunity to plunge into fall. And with a plethora of events in Truth or Consequences, a hot springs-and-arts-oriented small town just under 100 miles from Silver City, October may be your month for a weekend getaway (see box). Book now, as lodgings will be in demand!
For me, living in Silver City, Truth or Consequences — or "T or C" as we locals say — is just a couple of hours' drive time. For that little bit of time and petrol spent, after my scenic trip over the Black Range or through colorful Hatch — "Chile Capital of the World" — I gain deep relaxation from a night and couple of days in a place that seems a world apart.
Whether for new hiking opportunities for me and the dogs, a romantic getaway or a self-imposed "writing retreat," T or C is a destination I try to visit at least three or four times a year. With a couple of notable bookstores, it scratches my itch for literary immersion. Its decent assortment of restaurants gives my tastebuds something new to enjoy, while its galleries provide food for the eyes. Whatever your pleasure and style, this charming and walkable town affords a reasonably priced escape, with plenty to do or nothing at all, as fits your mood. Here's my plan for one typical three-day weekend:
Grabbing a cup of drive-thru coffee and a burrito, I'm on the road by late morning, sometimes with my dogs in the back or a buddy in the passenger seat. This timely and effortless departure gets me to the land of hot springs (in fact the town once was named Hot Springs, but more on that later) in time for a nifty lunch.
But wait! Is there trouble in paradise? Pulling up to my usual spot on T or C's Broadway, I find a "Closed" sign at the L'il Sprout, a charming eco-friendly café and natural grocery where I've enjoyed many a tasty sandwich and freshly made vegetable drink. Major bummer, dude, as one of the usual patrons of this establishment might say.
Fortunately for me, I am also quite well acquainted with the Happy Belly Deli, practically kitty-cornered across Broadway.
A great little place where I have often enjoyed a hearty breakfast — my well-behaved dogs are welcome on the patio here — Happy Belly Deli also serves up a fresh lunch. Service is quick and the atmosphere is friendly. Yes, my unfamiliar face tags me as an out-of-towner, but I don't mind — I take it as a sign of good food when a place is filled with the locals. The Happy Belly serves up omelets, burritos, bagels, soups and salads. Darn good coffee here, too, to get your morning going. Today it's lunch, and I enjoy a chicken pesto sandwich with dill potato salad as a side. Fresh, tasty and reasonable.
Happy Belly Deli, 313 Broadway, 894-DELI. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-noon. Breakfast every day, lunch except Sunday, pizza for dinner 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Now it's time for some strolling around town and exploring. Take in the Geronimo Springs Museum for a strictly local history lesson — exhibits include interesting facts about the area's Apache roots, Hispanic heritage and much more. An entire exhibit is dedicated to Ralph Edwards, host of the "Truth or Consequences" television show, with wonderful black-and-white photos and the story of how and why the town changed its name. Souvenirs aplenty and tons of helpful literature for exploring the area.
Geronimo Springs Museum, 211 Main St., 894-6600, www.geronimospringsmuseum.com.
Mosey on up the street for a quick pick-me-up at the Passion Pie Café. The volunteer at the museum couldn't say enough good things about this new little gem in town, opened just this past May by a trio of ladies, Gia Apple, Tracy Estes and Judy Reagan. A sun-filled, airy spot, Passion Pie already is cultivating a loyal clientele — "Passionistas" they call them on the café's coffee punch card — and with the high-energy vibe and aroma of top-notch baked goods filling the place, it's no wonder. Treat yourself to some coffee, fine loose-leaf teas and maybe a sweet — when was the last time you found real rugelach in the Southwest? Hey, you can take the girl out of New York….
Passion Pie Café, 406 Main St., 418-1779, www.passionpiecafe.com. Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, plus Saturday 6-9 p.m.
As the afternoon winds down, there's still time to take in one of T or C's fabulous bookstores. Walk up a few blocks, then over to Broadway to Xochis (say "so-chee") Bookstore and Gallery. (430 Broadway, 894-7685, www.xochis.com.) This place is a wonderful winding old building with a jumble of mainly books and a little art, grouped into rooms by category. There is a rare book room and some ancient cultural artifacts, as well. I love perusing the art room, with a great collection of art books — today I find one on Georgia O'Keeffe I'd never seen — as well as artworks and art-history tomes. My significant other and I have spent a good bit of time here, me hip-deep in art and he in the history room or grabbing up bargain paperbacks. Attentive, service-oriented owner Stan Sokolow once found and ordered for me an out-of-print book I'd been seeking for some time.
Now it's time to deepen the wind-down process. Having thought ahead, I made an appointment for a soak and massage at La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa (311 Marr St., 894-3148, www.lapalomahotspringsandspa.com). Ahhh, this will take the day's driving tension out of my shoulder muscles!
Afterward, not quite ready for dinner, I walk east down Broadway to the end and see how the Rio Grande is flowing these days. Ralph Edwards Park offers a pond, quiet spaces for contemplation and a view of Turtleback Mountain.
October in T or C
Oct. 7 — Hot Springs Festival. Street fair, live music. 2-8 p.m. Downtown.
After a leisurely stroll, I'm ready to head to Café BellaLuca, a family-owned restaurant serving authentic Italian specialties. BellaLuca also serves lunch — salads, soup, sandwiches and the like, all with authentic Italian flavor. The place has a deep wine menu, and it's the spot locals recommend for a good dinner. I often choose BellaLuca for a leisurely dinner with a book or special dining companion. Tonight it's their classic Caesar salad with real anchovies on top, a hand-thrown Sicilian pizza topped with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, capers, onions, olives and proscuitto. The fine dining atmosphere making me feel a little special, I start with one of the dry rosés, then switch to a hearty red wine. Save room for dessert — the classic crème brûlée is my personal fave.
Café BellaLuca, 303 Jones St., 894-YUMM (9866), www.cafebellaluca.com. Mon., Wed., Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Tues.
Night has fallen softly on the sleepy little town. In my mind, it's time for an evening soak! The Charles Motel and Hot Springs (601 Broadway. 894-7154 / 800-317-4518, www.charlesspa.com) offers rooftop soaking in one special private tub. It's enchanting, to say the least, to soak and stargaze.
Since I'm booked this trip to spend the night at Riverbend Hot Springs, I will avail myself of my favorite private pool there — Tierra, with a waterfall feature — for 50 minutes of soaking bliss with stars overhead and the Rio Grande flowing by below. Big ahhhh!
Riverbend Hot Springs, 100 Austin St., 894-SOAK (7625), www.riverbendhotsprings.com.
Riverbend Hot Springs in T or C.
Up and at 'em! A hearty breakfast at BBQ on Broadway will fuel the start of this day. A down-home, friendly eatery favored by locals, it has become a new favorite for me. All the usual stuff, from Southwest specialties to French toast, served up with great coffee and smiles from the attentive staff. Lunches and dinners, too.
BBQ on Broadway, 308 N. Broadway, 894-7047. Open Mon.-Wed. 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Having gotten my fill of muy authentico huevos rancheros, I head down the street toward the park. This is a pleasant place to just hang out. My dogs are welcome — be sure to pick up after your pet! — and I always manage to meet someone interesting. Today it's James and his sweet pooch, Lucy. James is a dedicated volunteer at the T or C Community Garden and invites me to survey the group's plot. The garden is located at Third Street and Foch, so I drive up just a few minutes on Broadway, which turns into Date Street at the three-way juncture, and turn onto Third. The garden is next to the Public Library, and as I drive by the Civic Center, I see that tennis courts are available. Note to self: Bring a racquet next time — just in case I have the inclination to do more than soak, eat baked goods and read. Nah… but you might!
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