Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: five graces
The Inn of the Five Graces, a humble Santa Fe spot capable of leaving a massive psychic imprint, is a great, maybe perfect, hotel. A night there is a night spent sleeping in an artist’s overall picture. It’s also a restorative pod, and more simply, a perfect drop-in station to check in, sleep in, and go. It has two of the key characteristics of a truly great hotel: it can only truly exist where it is. And on its best nights, it can be worth a lot more than just a night in the shelter.
I ended up at the Five Graces Inn at the end of a cross-country road trip in April 2021 – my first trip since the pandemic began – after some spring skiing in Taos was cut short by a series of panic attacks, probably long in preparation. I needed to loosen. I knew a travel writer who had recently taken the same trip, who gave Auberge des Cinq Grâces her highest mention. It was above all the other places in Santa Fe that your most knowledgeable friends will recommend, such as Ten Thousand Waves (“awesome, worth stopping in for dinner and/or a day at the spa” ) or the trendy and cozy atmosphere that is the Auberge du Ours turquoise. That is, if I could swallow the nightly rate, which usually hovers around $715. I could not. So I did what any half-decent traveler knows how to do in a situation like this: call the hotel directly, talk to a human, and beg.
There are a number of negotiation tactics when it comes to getting a good hotel deal – including the leverage of reminding reception that an empty room is worth less money than a room with a body in it – but there’s no ace up its sleeve like a complete lack of respect for one’s own dignity. I gave them my budget, told them I needed it, and promised to leave a good review.
I have the room. It was still $510. It turned out to be, I assure you, an absolute bargain.
Five Graces costs what it costs because it is a transportation experience, a journey within a journey. It’s on a short block off Santa Fe Plaza, the beating heart of Santa Fe’s tourist action, just steps from Mission San Miguel, considered the oldest church in the United States. A warm lobby, narcotic in its quiet and sumptuous comfort, spills into one of the property’s few stone courtyards with ancient fountains dripping with water, where you can enjoy your breakfast or have a few cocktails . I entered my room through a heavy antique wooden door that opened to cool adobe walls and beams; the turnover service included touches that might be cheesy elsewhere (a dreamcatcher resting on a folded bed wedge, or the stereo, left on, softly playing Spanish guitar music) but felt sincere, almost necessary here. I found myself lowering my voice to a whisper.
This place is death by a thousand sweet kisses and little touches. Fresh tortilla chips and smoked salsa sat atop a free mini bar. Next to one of the room’s main attractions, a wood-burning kiva fireplace, were stacks of piñon, long matches, and pre-rolled kindling paper, with detailed instructions for the uninitiated. (Or: “Call us, we’ll light it for you.”) There are carpets, metal and turquoise, and framed vintage prints of birds with Arabic captions underneath. There is New Mexico, yes, but also Afghanistan and Tibet. And you may start to wonder: Who the hell imagined this place?
It would be Ira Seret – former business partner of Anne Klein and protege of Diana Vreeland – and his wife, Sylvia. They were among the first importers of Afghani sheepskin coats for fashion houses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and have been refining their craft ever since. It won’t be more obvious than when you walk into your bathroom, hopefully with a bath, and you get a psychedelic face full of color and texture: die-cut words lining the whole bathroom where there are no mosaics, tiles from all over the world, everywhere you look. To call these bathroom tiles is to call Guernica a nice picture or Hamlet an interesting piece – accurate in a technical sense, but something only a madman would say.
One of the hostel’s intricate mosaic bathrooms
Photo: Kate Russell
You never want to leave a big hotel, and if you do, you feel its gravitational pull. I haven’t explored Santa Fe much. I had dinner, ate it in the courtyard of the Five Graces, listened to the murmur of the fountain, and wrote postcards. Back in my room, I dimmed the lights, ran a bath, threw a few piñon logs on the fire, and got into the tub. I marveled at the mosaics, I considered the expanse of this planet and all the things that we can find there, bring back with us and try to annex to the patterns of our lives at home, rather than just collecting exotic trinkets and tchotchkes from afar a way. I let this world, someone else’s world, envelop me, soothe me and melt away the fatigue that I carried before that night, for the last 13 months leading up to it. A night in a big hotel can leave you a few hundred dollars less, but it can also leave you more grounded, with more weight in your soul than you saw. Also, ideally: beautiful stationery.
The strategist is designed to surface the most useful expert recommendations on things to buy in the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural remedies for anxietyand bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that offers may expire and all prices are subject to change.