I have a vision for a magical place… a community where all are free to indulge in everything they've always been curious to try, or avoided (perhaps practiced in moderation) to make it to a certain point in life. Welcome to Retirement Island™.
I’m several decades away from my future happy place where octogenarians can take up the drums and 70-somethings give psychedelic mushrooms a whirl, but I’m actively scouting for the mystical spot to build my hedonist haven.
And, following a long weekend in Santa Fe with two dear friends (and Retirement Island™ stakeholders), New Mexico is a top contender for our decadent dot on the map.
No matter where this creative commune lands, I will be stealing pages from the style and service handbooks of the Inn of the Five Graces. This clutch of 400-year-old adobe buildings, with come-hither courtyards set with daybeds and canopied porch swings, is tucked down a quiet street a shuffle from San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the US.
The earth tone-colored inn may look understated from the outside, but the 24 rooms are styled with a riot of rich fabrics and Asian antiques, as if furnished with the spoils from your globe-trekking auntie’s escapades.
You know, that outlandish relative who waltzed into your family’s subdued suburban parties in a cascading caftan… never quite ‘settled down’… snuck you glasses of Champagne. Ok, I never had an aunt like this, but she’s a fantasy muse for future ventures: #lifegoals.
In the case of the Inn of the Five Graces, the muse has a name (two, actually) Ira and Sylvia Seret, an importer and designer duo with interests from Tibet to Afghanistan. The couple made their mark on the New York fashion and interior design scenes before heading to Santa Fe to open their unique Seret & Sons showroom in 1979 (pick up a vintage Kurdish kilim rug or hand-carved marble Ganesh statue as a souvenir) and then the inn in 1996.
Our pinch-me-is-this-real suite was bursting with their finds: a wingback chair upholstered in hand-woven cotton dhurrie; detail-laden Tibetan prayer tables; hand-carved headboards from India; and massive ensuites in a glorious patchwork of Moroccan tiles.
Although culled from destinations across the globe, the russet red, peacock blue and burnt orange hues in the fabrics seemed to be made for this capital city nestled at the foothills of the glowing-red Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Yes, when Retirement Island™ becomes a reality, I can easily picture myself reclining on an exotic chaise lounger smoking cigarettes (hello old friend) as I catch up on that long list of novels I’ve been meaning to devour.
As for the service bit, the staff (who refuse tips as a rule) is so sincere in their offers to do something… anything… for you, that we felt compelled to make requests. Please send up another plate of those crunchy blue corn tortilla chips and addictive chili-spiced salsa… I know it’s late, but we’re in dire need of another bottle of wine… Could you please send a handsome man over to light the kiva fireplace in our suite?
It’s enough to turn a staunchly DIY I-carry-my-own-bags-thank-you traveler into the high-maintenance sort. However, Santa Fe’s mix of locals and seekers – artists, healers, hippies – will keep one in check.
A visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum gave a deeper understanding of how nice Midwestern girls (like Georgia and me) could abandon all other landscapes for the sun baked ones of the Southwest. We lost hours searching for our animal spirits carved into stone by local Zuni People tribe members at a shop called Keshi just up the street from the hotel.
If ever I were to be abducted by aliens, it most certainly would have happened in the groovy gong (as in a massive metal percussive instrument) yoga class I attended at Body Santa Fe. I think I came close. We also spent an afternoon soaking at a Japanese-style spa, Ten Thousand Waves (call ahead and book a private hot tub), with other legitimately retired people.
Yep, Santa Fe just might be the spot for Retirement Island™ – and if I can get the Inn of the Five Graces on board, it would seal the deal. It’s going to be weird, and it’s going to be wonderful…. I’ll be accepting applications in 20 years.