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Madrid, NM: Feelin’ Groovy

madrid_java-joltWild West meets Feelin’ Groovy. That’s the vibe I got during a quick visit to Madrid, New Mexico. The main street through town (on Highway 14’s “Turquoise Trail”) is lined with funky shops selling colorful gemstones, jewelry, clothing and other handmade items.

But, it’s the people that make Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid) so colorful. Those I met were friendly, with a twinkle in their eyes that made me want to have what they were having!  I visited Madrid with two girlfriends on a snowy Saturday morning.

We only had about an hour to spend  – so we started at one end of the town, in the General Store, picked up some hand-dipped candles and greeting cards featuring the work of local artists. Next stop was Java Junction for vanilla lattes (best ever!). We went through a few more shops, each unique, most converted old homes.

We stumbled into the Crystal Dragon, which was filled with amazing handmade gemstone jewelry and artifacts, at reasonable prices. Shopkeeper & jewelry designer Geoffrey Stewart told us how Madrid came to be – as a mining town located not far from where Turquoise was first discovered in the USA (that’s how the road was nicknamed ‘Turquoise Trail.’).  I couldn’t resist taking home a couple of gemstones from this store, including a shiny opalized ammonite spiral-shaped fossil, at good prices.

Madrid diner, The Hollar, has tasty melt sandwiches, and a fire to keep warm on a cold Winter day (Photo: Lisa Osborn Traffic411)

Madrid diner, The Hollar, has tasty melt sandwiches, and a fire to keep warm on a cold Winter day (Photo: Lisa Osborn Traffic411)

Next stop: Food. My friends and I were in need of some take-out to take with us to the airport. Stewart recommended The Hollar, a funky diner located next door. Brooke, the waitress, happily took our order and – bright-eyed and bubbly – suggested that we come back in the Spring or Summer for one of the many music festivals, when the town came alive and the weather was much nicer.

There are few dozen shops and galleries, with names like Mama Lisa’s Ghost Town Kitchen & No Pity Cafe, and even a community radio station, KMRD 96.9 FM. Clusters of brightly-painted mailboxes lining the road are more hints that we were in a funky-artist town.

Located less than a one hour drive from both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid is a fun and easy side trip. And, if you are traveling between Albuquerque Airport and Santa Fe, it’s right on the way (when you take Highway 14). It’s definitely worth a visit, and maybe even an overnight stay in one of the local bed and breakfasts.

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The Beauty of Carmel Mission

The church at Carmel Mission. Saint Junipero Serra's remains are entombed in the alter area of the church (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The church at Carmel Mission. Saint Junipero Serra’s remains are entombed in the alter area of the church (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

I visited several missions along California’s Central Coast this year, and San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, better known as Carmel Mission, really stands out.

Also read: Elephant Seals give birth on San Simeon-area beaches

We visited on Christmas Day and the museums were closed. But, mass was just letting out so we had a chance to tour the church and the grounds. The church basilica is beautiful, with a large golden alter and Spanish Colonial religious paintings lining the walls. In addition, there are several shrines depicting religious figures tucked into quiet corners of the church.

Parishioners can light candles next to an alter area at the church at Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Parishioners can light candles next to an alter area at the church at Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Saint Junipero Serra, who led the efforts of Spanish Franciscian priests to eventually establish 21 missions in California (1769-1833), lived and died at Carmel Mission. His remains are buried in the alter of the church and there are several statues of his likeness across the courtyard and on the mission grounds.

Religious statues and relics are nestled into garden areas on the grounds of Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Religious statues and relics are nestled into garden areas on the grounds of Carmel Mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Related: Listen to my radio story on Central Coast Native American Indians’ take on Junipero Serra sainthood

The gated mission grounds are spacious, with several garden areas featuring religious statues and monuments. Just outside the church is a cemetery with grassy graves lined in abalone shells.

There are two museums, which we didn’t get to see because they were closed for the holiday. If you are interested in California history, or religious artifacts, be sure to make time to tour Carmel Mission the next time you are in the Monterey area.

Click here for more information on Carmel Mission

Traffic411 Insiders Tip: Take a walk along Carmel beach. There is a path along the ocean offering stunning views of the rugged shoreline and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course in the distance.

Carmel Mission

This mission, in Carmel, CA, was home base for Saint Junipero Serra during the time he and his Spanish Franciscan brothers were establishing religious outposts up and down the state. These photos were taken on Christmas Day 2015, when the church and mission grounds were decorated for the holidays (Photos: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

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The cemetery at Carmel Mission features graves outlined with abalone shells in honor of Native American Indians who dedicated their lives to building the mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The cemetery at Carmel Mission features graves outlined with abalone shells and mentions Native American Indians who spent years building the mission (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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Cliffside Respite: Wayfarers Chapel

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church’s gorgeous cliffside setting (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

You might feel as if you are in Big Sur along the Northern California coast when you visit Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. The glass church perched atop a seaside cliff is surrounded by tall pine trees and other trees, lush plants and colorful flowers while offering gorgeous views of the Los Angeles coastline with Catalina Island in the distance.

Designed to blend in with nature, the architecture of Wayfarers Chapel makes the most of this pristine setting.

The glass church is a popular wedding location, and it seems to be welcoming to everyone, although the ‘official’ religion that worships here is the Swedenborgian Church. According to it’s website, the Chapel also serves as a memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg, 18th century scientist, philosopher and theologian.

Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, Wayfarers Chapel (5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) is located across the road near the lavish Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles (see related Traffic411 post “So Cal Resortist“). Stop in for a quick visit to experience the serenity and peace of this very special place.

Wayfarers Chapel: Cliffside Retreat Rancho Palos Verdes

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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The architecture of Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes showcases the church's gorgeous cliff side setting. You'll feel like you're in Big Sur when you walk the grounds of this Christian church, located near Terranea Resort and Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)
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The beach at Rancho Palos Verdes near Wayfarers Chapel. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

Distance from LAX: 26 miles (35 minutes)

Traffic411 Insiders Tip:  While you’re here, explore the walking trails near Trump National Golf Club, experience the ‘California Casual’ vibe of the world-class Terranea Resort. The Port of Los Angeles and San Pedro lighthouses are also nearby.

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