Even if you’ve lived in Taos County all your life, there’s something for everyone in the art and culture tours offered by Turquoise Tours, now located at 137 North Plaza Drive on Taos Plaza.
The tour company’s grand opening of its gift shop was June 1 with a public reception and general meet-n-greet. I spoke with founder and Chief Adventure Officer Lindsay Mapes while they were hanging the new space and was gratified to meet such a culturally savvy “new” business owner.
Mapes and her fellow guides are committed to presenting valid cultural realities of Northern New Mexico – not just gimmicky ad slicks of white deerskin boots and lace mantillas. Referring to her 12-year tenure as an Americorps manager in Gallup, New Mexico, she’s been around the block, so to speak, working all the aspects of economic development for various communities.
“Native American art is fairly well-exploited, so we want to honor both the artist and the community they come from,” Mapes said.
Every piece of art or product featured in their gift shop is made in Taos or related to one of the tours they do, like the huge chile ristras from Hatch, New Mexico, a stop on one of their food tours.
“We have an experiential pottery tour on Taos Pueblo with Bernadette Track doing two-hour pottery lessons, where you take home the piece you made,” Mapes said. “You get a tour with a Native Pueblo guide and a meal. It’s a five-hour tour overall.”
They also offer multi-day tours of Acoma, Zuni, Hopi and Navajo pueblos – basically targeting European tourists who don’t necessarily interact with Pueblo peoples and are keen on on the West in general and Native culture in particular.
Last year, Mapes said she started offering South Boundary bike tours and transport at the request of both Taos bike shops who wanted to focus on their regular business. It was the number one aspect of her business in 2016. Now they are working on expanding overnight bike tours around the state with the help of REI.
The birth of Turquoise Tours came after traveling the world a few years ago, when she realized a tour business would be her ideal. She moved to Taos in 2014 and started running tours from her house in 2016. Customers kept asking where her office was located, ergo, she took the old Garden & Soul storefront at the northwest corner of Taos Plaza, hired six fellow tour guides and now offers 8-10 tours per week, their most popular being the Taos Highlights tour of the top destinations: Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos Plaza and San Francisco de Asís church in Ranchos de Taos.
One of the tour guides is Darien Fernández, better known about town as a town of Taos councilman. Fernández said he enjoys the work “because it gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of different people and find out what they like and what we [Taos] could do better. I get to play Ambassador Extraordinaire,” he added, smiling wide.
For a complete listing of their tours, see TurquoiseTours.us or call (575) 776-TOUR (8687).
Right next door to Turquoise Tours is Ron Larimore’s new gallery and studio at 135 North Plaza Drive.
Larimore is a landscape painter “hoping to capture and share the beauty I see where I travel or live,” he says. Born in Kansas, he came to Taos to ski and ultimately stayed, upon retirement, as it is the best place he could think of, he said, where he can improve both his skiing and his painting.
His work is interesting for how soft and relatively featureless it seems up close, but the work then morphs into a veritable three-dimensional opus. Number 387 (untitled for now) expertly captures the quick movement of Taos’ famous clouds, casting long dancing shadows against the shoulders of the Sangre de Cristos.
A watercolor painter since 1964, he switched media to oils six years ago, he says, “because I like the brightness of the colors.” A member of Plain Air Painters of New Mexico, Taos Plein Air Painters, and Taos Artist Organization, his paintings are in various exhibitions and tours of the Taos National Society of Watercolorists, Taos Fall Arts Festival, Taos Artist Organization, Taos Plein Air Painters, Millicent Rogers Museum Miniature Show and more. He has studied with a number of well-known Taos painters, like the late Ray Vinella, Pat Woodall, Rich Nichols, Lori Putnam and Kevin Macpherson, among others.
“I also appreciate and enjoy the help and coaching from local artist friends,” he says in his online statement, including Taos artists Walt Gonske, Clarence Medina, Allen Polt and Julian Robles.
For more information about Larimore, see his home page, larimore.faso.com, or call (575) 770-4462. Be sure to stop in and enjoy the world according to Ron Larimore – it is indeed beautiful.