Saturday, July 26, 2014

Albuquerque and the Turquoise Trail

In mid-January, Jon did a short TDY stint in Albuquerque and mid-way through, Conan and I joined him for a long weekend. I had visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe once before when I was a young girl and was so excited to return as an adult. I immediately fell in love with the desert vibe and adobe architecture with pops of turquoise and other bright colors. We immediately hit the ground running and explored the Old Town, which was our base of operations for the next three days, perusing the many shops, galleries and restaurants.

San Felipe de Neri

Old Town walkway

Our second full day, we started our morning by visiting the Rio Grande Nature Center Park. This was a vast area along the Rio Grande River with nature trails and an expansive bike/running path along the river. The weather could not have been more perfect with clear blue skies and mild temps.

Walking the trail along the Rio Grande

Rio Grande Nature Center Park

Afterward, we drove a bit out of the city to the Petroglyph National Monument. This area protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. In Boca Negra Canyon, we were able to view over 100 petroglyphs by walking 3 short trails. 

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument - Conan learning his dad's signature pose

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

After a morning of lots of walking and touring nature, we ate at Garcia's Kitchen near our hotel. Though I will always be a Tex-Mex girl first and foremost, I did enjoy my three days of New Mexican fare and the famous blue enchiladas and green sauce!

Lunch at Garcia's Kitchen along historic Route 66

That afternoon we visited the National History and Science Museum, which I had vivid memories of going to as a child, and walking around Old Town at night. Although it can feel a bit touristy during the day, at night it completely empties and is such a beautiful place.

An entrance to Old Town

An Old Town courtyard

San Felipe de Neri at night

We absolutely adored our accommodation in Albuquerque at Casas de Suenos, a beautiful historic inn in the Old Town. Once an artist commune, it is an adobe-walled cluster of casitas with lovely gardens in the interior. Not only was there plenty of character and an incredible breakfast each morning, but the location was perfect for exploring the Old Town. Though the city has so much to offer, it was nice to stay somewhere pedestrian-friendly so that we could explore a different part of the Old Town each day. 

We stayed in the Porter Casita and enjoyed soaking up the New Mexican sun and researching the city in the afternoons during Conan's nap. 

The ambiance of Casas de Suenos was so "New Mexican," so we couldn't resist a photo opportunity with Conan. At 8 months, he was the perfect little traveler!

Outside our Porter Casita

The highlight of the trip for me was touring the Turquoise Trail - 54 miles on state road 14 connecting Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We zipped up to Santa Fe along the Interstate that morning and spent a few hours exploring the old town and browsing the many shops. The first thing I noticed was how much colder it was in Santa Fe! You don't realize the increase in elevation, but it was such a big difference from the mild weather in Albuquerque. We stayed warm by popping in and out of the many shops around the Plaza. I visited here once before when I was young and remembered the numerous high-end shops and it still astounds me today how many there are. We did enjoy perusing the jewelry sold by local indian vendors lining the Governor's building facing the Santa Fe Plaza. They all adored Conan and his beaded moccasin shoes! Unfortunately, we hardly got any pictures of our touring around Santa Fe (probably due to the cold!). 

Interior of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe

After a fabulous lunch at The Shed in Santa Fe, we embarked on our 54-mile long journey along state road 14 towards Albuquerque. This two-lane highway was sparsely populated and provided gorgeous scenery of the northern New Mexican landscape. We drove through tiny Golden and Madrid, which was once a miners community, but now is a hip artist colony. Eventually we made our way south to the Sandia Mountains that rise above the eastern side of Albuquerque. We ascended to the top of Sandia Peak with incredible views at 9,702 ft. above the city. Though the weather was quite mild in Albuquerque, at this height it was blistering cold and we had to traipse through snow in the parking lot to reach the observation point. It was all worth the commanding views that stretched in all directions. 

At the top of Sandia Peak

At the top of Sandia Peak

We walked along a trail for a few minutes to a gorgeous cliff-side setting for some more incredible views of Albuquerque below. Though Albuquerque is very desert-like with little vegetation, the mountains are filled with a dense forest and even a ski area. I kept thinking how lucky Albuquerquians are to be able to experience a beautiful desert climate with the mountains so close by for their vegetation-fix. The best of both worlds, for sure. This is my kinda climate!

Doing his Jon pose

Sandia Peak

Sandia Peak

Sandia Peak

This was such a memorable trip as it was our first as a family of three. Though we have traveled a great deal with Conan and visited lots of relatives, we haven't had the opportunity to only go on a trip with our little family, and we enjoyed every second. It's quite different from our previous travels, but I was pleasantly surprised we were still able to do so much. Conan has proved to be an amazing traveler, always ready for an adventure! One thing's for sure, I absolutely adore Albuquerque and hope we have the chance to visit again soon.

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