Taos, New Mexico: Up High, Upscale B & B
Some parts of America don’t take kindly to high rise hotels that would destroy the ambience of the location. Napa is one such place, in fact all Northern California probably qualifies. And Northern Cape Cod. Little Bisbee, Arizona is another and, of course, Taos, New Mexico. Taos may be the ideal location for what is surely the anti-hotel, the Bed & Breakfast inn: Taos is a sleepy mountain town, old-world, historical, mystical, laid back and ever so slightly wacky -- and with such credentials, how could La Posada de Taos not flourish?
First, it has its attentive staff determined their guests will make the most of a stay in Taos: Innkeeper Brad Malone and his partner, Master Chef Michael Carter. Like just about all the innkeepers we’ve met, they didn’t grow up planning to run a B & B. Brad was a civil arbitration lawyer in Dallas for about 20 years “helping people who had got into bad deals,” and Michael was an intensive care neurology nurse in a Dallas hospital – and an aspiring artist.
In 1995 Brad took a break from his stressful law practice and went on vacation to Hawaii. He stayed at a B & B in Kauai, gazed at the beach and immediately found peace. “I no longer felt consumed about things in the material world,” he says passing a cup of tea to a guest. “I felt in that vacation setting I could be different -- and I thought ‘I’m gonna run a B & B.’”
It endures as a vivid memory for Brad. “I still have a picture of that beach in my bedroom. But Kauai was too remote. In Taos I wouldn’t have island fever.”
Michael, for his part, was unhappy as an ICU nurse though taking up painting helped. The two were restless and decided to simplify life by downsizing into a 750 sq. foot loft. “Our rule was No Storage. That’s when you find what you own and what owns you. It was like being baptized. Liberating,” Brad says. They moved all they were keeping in a 12 foot trailer: Michael’s studio equipment, their camping gear, clothes and a bed.
They stayed in five B & Bs and ran three before La Posada de Taos. But here in this hip and former hippie place they felt at home. Brad senses something spiritual in Taos and says others have experienced this too. So now he’s the innkeeper of a 105 year-old house in a town that’s 400 years old. The inn has six bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and some with kiva fireplaces. There is adequate parking and it is a mere 8-minute walk to the Plaza, the center of the town.
The second factor of La Posada’s success surely lies in the appeal of its age and history. “We were lucky,” says Brad. “An investor owner in Dallas bought La Posada. She is a philanthropist and rescued the house. Serendipity brought us together and we are building sweat equity running it for her.” He grins as he says that. They seem at peace.
The present house has some of the original rooms. Walls were found in the garden buried in dirt and had to be excavated. They found much of the space had been the stables for a big house. The “vigas” or beams tell them how old a room is and they can tell from the size of the basement that the house was huge. The story of house is laid out well at the website for the inn but what it doesn’t mention is the possibility the house has a ghost.
The ghost story was too scary for simple, uneducated travel writers to hear and decipher but it appears the government chose to investigate the death of one Arthur Mandy, a local real estate entrepreneur who was intensely disliked as a “robber baron.” He had arrived in 1882. His activities made him unpopular -- he was finally killed in an argument in his home in 1929. The local doctor evidently signed the death certificate as due to “natural causes.” Mandy must have really been detested! The officials investigating the death later exhumed the body but ran into such personal threats they hid the body for some time in the stables of what is now the Posada de Taos B & B. And yes, there have been some who claim they have seen a ghost flitting around the area, headless of course.
Guests in this B & B, however, don’t seem scared, just satisfied. Brad reports he has had one couple come from Colorado eight times. A doctor and his wife, the first time they dismounted from their Ducati motor bikes, the wife said to the husband, “Honey, this is it!” Then shouted to Brad, “Hope you don’t mind. I’m moving in!” They’ve had another couple who have come so often that if they arrive impulsively and there’s no room in the inn, Brad and Michael let them have their spare bedroom in their own wing upstairs.
The third feature of the Posada’s success is, as always, the location. Taos is often compared to Santa Fe, the state capital, 60 miles to the south. Brad summarizes the difference: Santa Fe is about the business and sale of art, Taos the making of it. “More art and literature has come out of Taos,” he says, “ than any non-metropolitan area in the United States.”
Asked what brings people to Taos, he replies it is the multicultural mystique of the place. Something strange happens here, he says. The Native Americans talk about their mountain that either welcomes or rejects newcomers who hope to stay. Some who intended to put down roots find they are uncomfortable until they leave. The Indians say, “The mountain didn’t want them.” The Japanese have similar thoughts regarding their Mt. Fuji and the Hawaiians about their Pele, the goddess of fire.
The so-called “Taos Hum” may be part of this, a low frequency noise sounding like a diesel engine idling that some people living in Taos seem to have experienced. It has been investigated by the Department of Defense with confusing results. It has also been felt in some parts of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It just adds more to the feeling that Taos is out of the ordinary, that Taos is special.
It is to our innkeeper. In the present economy that is letting Americans have the catharsis of letting go of material things, Brad feels, as a country, we are on the cusp of how we feel as a nation. That radical change is coming to emphasize what is important, things like service and value. “Taos,” he says may be ahead of the curve and thus this town may be less worried about its future.”