American Artists Gallery House – Taos, NM

May 21, 2003

On a quiet lane, south of town, I arrived at American Artists Gallery House, a hidden retreat with a foliage-laden adobe wall. The peaceful surroundings and views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would have been reason enough to head out of town to this bed and breakfast. But I would find excellent hospitality was an additional blessing.

I was welcomed with much fanfare in the front courtyard by George, a resident peacock. This fine feathered friend blended right in with the striking turquoise trim on the inn.

Innkeepers LeAn and Charles Clamurro greeted me inside the front room, a common area filled with Southwestern art and open to all guests. Not only was the open-hearted hospitality immediately apparent, it was clear LeAn and Charles possessed a wealth of knowledge about the Taos area. Whether for a rundown on outdoor activities or insight on the history and artisans in the area, I’d hit the jackpot for information.

The accommodations offered at the inn ranged from small, intimate rooms to spacious Jacuzzi suites. But I knew where I was headed. The “Garden Gallery” would be perfect for me, a small, southwestern casita tucked away in the rear of the garden. It was quiet, private, cozy, comfortable and absolutely adorable. Not to mention extremely affordable, as B&Bs go. I admit to searching it out specifically to book this particular casita, in order to be able to recommend it to others as an inexpensive option to standard lodging or high-priced inns. But what I found was the best of both worlds: luxury and economy all wrapped up in one gracious package.

Surrounded by calm, soothing, artistic decor, I had a queen bed, hand-painted writing table and chair, private bath and, best of all, a kiva fireplace, set and ready to add warmth to the chilly night. Metal kokopelli figures danced on one wall. A window looked out into the garden, facing a private corner of the property, framed with an umbrella of cascading lilac. It was ideal, a perfect, peaceful retreat.

Following what would turn out to be an excellent dinner suggestion from Charles, I headed south, away from town, taking a left and heading up a dirt road through sagebrush covered landscape. There wasn’t a building, car, or person in sight, and I questioned whether or not I’d been confused about the directions. The road climbed and curved and climbed a little more, until I finally saw the hillside restaurant come into view.

The Stakeout Grill & Bar sits high above the valley, peering out from its 7200 ft. altitude location above Rio Grande Gorge State Park and far beyond. The views were extraordinary and arriving just as sunset approached was an extra blessing. From my outdoor table, I watched wispy clouds glow in deepening coral hues, silhouetted by whitewashed adobe arches surrounding the patio.

I decided to splurge on dinner, given the exceptional surroundings. Though the menu featured many steak and seafood options, I ordered Ravioli Porcini—cheese-filled with mushroom sauce and dusted with porcini mushroom powder—with coconut gelato and coffee to finish off the meal. I lingered over dessert a long time, watching the staggered outline of the sagebrush landscape grow sharper against the sunset until both brush and sky blended together into darkness.

The road back to the highway was deserted. Gravel crackled under my tires, and eerie shapes of desert nature seemed to pop up in my headlights without warning. I reached the main road, turned toward town, and drove back to my Garden Gallery casita, where I lit the fire and relaxed into the night.

There were so many outstanding features about my stay at American Artists Gallery House that it’s hard to pinpoint one as a favorite. But as B&Bs go, it would be worth a trip here just to be able to take a seat at the breakfast table. Charles’ culinary skills guarantee there’s no chance of starting the day with a non-descript meal. Homemade scones, fresh squeezed juice and entrees fit for the pages of Gourmet Magazine are what guests will find at the sunny, breakfast table.

Being somewhat of a loner, I find morning visits with other guests can sometimes be a little unnerving, especially before a caffeine infusion. Not so at this bed and breakfast. The innkeepers’ easy, relaxed manner and obvious love for the Taos area immediately put guests at ease. Over coffee and outstanding breakfast cuisine, conversation flowed freely and comfortably.

It was difficult to leave, but a reservation a few hundred miles up the road called for me to pack my bags and move on. I would have to wait until another visit to take advantage of local horseback riding or hot air ballooning, which LeAn and Charles can easily arrange for guests. Taos is rich in opportunities for exploring, whether for art, history, culture or outdoor recreation. This bed and breakfast was a perfect choice for a traveling home base, with something to offer for everyone, reasonable prices and top-notch hospitality.

After saying goodbye to LeAn and Charles, I headed for the town plaza, where I browsed shops and galleries and took advantage of photo opportunities. I picked up a quick lunch at the Apple Tree, a popular restaurant with both indoor and patio dining. Still fighting the urge to linger, I finally hit the road, heading west on Hwy 64.