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Stories from our members...

Living Another's Dream by George Loegering rev 02/25/03

For adventurous aviators, living someone else's dream seems a last resort. But take a couple from the Midwest with a European work ethnic and the sense to venture out to find their fortune and you have a great combination. Mix in some experience and financial success in real estate, franchise and antique businesses. Add in the vision to enjoy life in an extraordinary setting rather than being blind sighted by work and you get a labor of love-the Hacienda de los Santos; being there as a guest is living their dream.

It started simply as a search for a place to live in Mexico after raising a family in Southern California. Some say that Mexico is just an extension of California but there is a huge difference and the Hacienda in the village in Alamos proves that. It is more colonial than Mexico itself. The town site has been well known since the explorer Coronado in 1531. Alamos was the northern most and at one time the largest Spanish silver mine. It eventually had it own mint in the 1800s which is now a part of the Hacienda's Spa.

The silver Barons have long departed with the depletion of the silver ore and the 1910 revolution but the picturesque valley and history remain a unique tourist and artist attraction. These factors were what Jim and Nancy Swickard were attracted to ending their journey for a Mexican retirement home so quickly.

Alamos is at the southern end of the Mexican State of Sonora which borders Arizona. Several affluent norte americanos had started to rest! ore the ruins of the original mansions after WWII. The ruins were literally thick decaying adobe walls separated by sometimes narrow cobble streets. Jim & Nancy's specific choice was just two blocks southeast of the main church plaza.

A three year project grew to five; then because of visitors natural curiosity and their friendly hospitality expanded till now there are several adjoining buildings spread over seven acres including a bridge spanning a small streambed. All the buildings are from the original foundations except the new Cantina under final construction and the exquisitely furnished theater. The added buildings of course fit in with the overall architecture. Their "home" now has 22 four diamond (AAA) guest accommodations and a few more are being quietly completed.

The overall theme, colonial Mexico rich with artifacts large and small, old and new, two and three dimensional, exotic and intricate, creates a living museum integrating the surrounding gardens with a blend of new world creature comforts. This ambiance also comes with pleasant weather and quite. All of this paradise didn't happen in 7 days-more like 900,000 man-hours of creative direction and equally creative workmanship. The work goes on daily with the efficient smiling maids, the English style dignified Cantina bartender, the tuxedoed restaurant waiters, the costumed mariachi band players at dinner time, the uniformed spa attendants and the knowledgeable receptionists.

The setting is romantic for those renewing their vows and for those just starting out. Jamie, the owner's daughter, has many hats but the Spa and the wedding arrangements are her specialty. The Spa has excellent personal services from various facials to a manicure to a full body message.

It is easy to find this restful getaway via the highway but many fly-in privately to the local Alamos airport only 20 minutes by Bonanza inland from the nearby port of entry of Ciudad Obregon. Maybe that's why the Hacienda even offers to store your plane in its hangar. The village is a far cry from my visits 20 years ago when a white bearded Mexican gentleman slept on a cot to "guard" your aircraft for a small fee.

The fenced airport is 3900 feet long with a paved ramp for larger aircraft like the King Air that came in while we were there. The Hacienda is near the turn from left base to final for runway 31. The course from Obregon is about 110 degrees going past the north side of Navajoa through the pass on the left side of the 5900ft Mt Alamos. The airport is immediately visible from the pass so stay to the right for a left downwind against the north face of the mountain. A safe landing and a stay at the Hacienda may qualify you for membership in the exclusive "Pilots of Hacienda de Los Santos" association (includes a good looking official cap).

Arrival induces just relaxing. Afterward you will find plenty to do so that staying a couple days just makes you want to stay longer. Start with a Saturday home tour or one arranged by reception or just browse the streets. Climb the hill behind the hotel to Mirador Lookout; it's a good enough hike to earn a cerveza or a sandwich at the Cantina grill there. Day trips are offered depending on the season; bird watching, exploring the Rio Mayo, dining at a gourmet restaurant in a nearby village, touring the coast of the Sea of Cortez, local dove hunting and many others.

The real fun is simply exploring the Hacienda's courtyards, gardens, fountains, pools, spa and fireplaces (62 so far). There are abundant comfortable upholstered lounges & couches in shaded sitting areas to get the best view & to do some reading. If you think you were smart to choose a Holiday Express Inn you will be absolutely brilliant choosing the Hacienda de Los Santos!

Visit their website www.haciendadelossantos.com for more information.