Surrounded by States of Colorado, Arizona and Texas on three sides, it’s not surprising that New Mexico is one of the lesser traveled states in Southwest Unites States. However, if you skip it just because it’s not popular, that’d be a big mistake! And here is why…
NM has some of the most spectacular landscapes- White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, Navajo Nation, Ghost Ranch area, you name it! There are just too many places to visit in a short time.
We started our trip by taking a train to Albuquerque (ABQ). Like I said in the previous post, Me and Madhura are both train buffs, so we seize any chance of a train journey. The Amtrak “Southwest Chief” takes about 27 hours to reach ABQ. It may sound cumbersome, but the journey is exceedingly comfortable. Since it was six of us, we had full compartment all to ourselves.
This was also Tanmayee’s (Our 1.5 Yr. old Daughter) first ever train ride, and yeah… Did she love it the most!
A day later we were in ABQ. That evening, we visited the Old town.
At the heart of the Old town is a big plaza of about 6-8 blocks, with lot of art galleries, shops and cafes. Its small area but you can spend hours wandering around. If you are a tourist who needs a specific point of interest, this may not seem ideal to you. There is nothing here that you can check off your list! However, I’ve often found you stumble upon new finds, when you are not sticking to a specific plan. Immerse yourself in a place, its better than ticking items off bucket lists.
Just in case you want something, they have a Rattlesnake museum here, which Madhura refused to go to.
To visualize the Old town, imagine classic desert style buildings surrounding the plaza on all sides. All structures are Adobe styled-a classic desert construction with a flat roof and massive sidewalls for insulation. Adobe means ‘Mudbrick’ in Spanish, and likewise the building material used is all Mud-colored. Native Americans started building these houses in 1400s and Spanish settlers added their own touches over time.
New Mexicans do exceptionally great job when it comes to decorating these otherwise “Plain looking” houses .From colorful windows to decorative artifacts every house feels like an artist’s musing place. This is true, more so in Santa Fe, which I’ll write about in the next blog.
We were in ABQ on a special night. It was Christmas Eve. And every year on this very specific evening, thousands of lanterns light up the town. These are made using a brown paper bag, handful of sand inside the bag and a small candle on top of the sand.
The Adobe church “San Felipe De neri” sits in the center of Old town. In all directions, thousands of lanterns embellish the mud-colored desert houses. Plaza is full of happy; cheerful people. Children like always; are either running around or being hushed by their parents. Meanwhile Choirs are singing in a crescendo. It doesn’t get much Christmas-y than this.
Next day, we returned to visit the art galleries and shops in the area. Art galleries range from paintings, sculptures to modern art, but more on that in the Santa Fe blog.
Let’s talk about food for now! Albuquerque and NM in general, is famous for its flavorful chilies, specifically the hash green chilies. Town is so proud of its chilies, that red chilies are used to make wreaths and decorations as well.
We went to one of the chili shop, it had everything from pickles, sauces to salsa- all made out of different kind of chilies. Everything is rated as mild, medium or hot. I’d stick to the mild or medium side, unless you want to experience the local anesthesia of tongue. Their Chili Peanut brittle is also very interesting, it starts mild and sweet but gradually the spice climbs higher and higher. If you selected the “Hot” brittle, it ends with your taste buds shallow fried and numbness that lingers for a while. Quite fun!
When in NM, One golden rule is to try a lot of Mexican food at variety of places. We visited Church Street cafe in Old town, food was amazing but décor was the best. It almost feels like a Wild West salon, unleash your inner cowboys and devour the spicy food like it’s a piece of cake.
Our Albuquerque trip ended with Sandia Peak tramway, 10,000 ft. + gondola ride to the top. And every view is worth it, just have a look at the picture below.
Traveling to NM, I had no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a wonderful place to visit, and I’d recommend it strongly to anyone who wants to experience something different. What’s your take on going to less popular places, have you been pleasantly surprised? I’d love to know. Meanwhile. Stay tuned for the next blog…