Travel to New Mexico with Tom and Priscilla
New Mexico was a spur of the moment trip. A friend who had visited a year ago came back with gleaming eyes and charming description of her time there. The excitement was so contagious that a year later, we found ourselves on a plane heading for Albuquerque. The green and luscious landscape of the upper Midwest summer gave way to the southwestern landscape of brown sand, rocks and cactus. Adobe homes hinted at an unfamiliar culture that existed in New Mexico, and most buildings were of a brown hue that blended into the desert. The sharp color contrast from Chicago’s scenery was a hard reset for our minds.
Day 1 – Arrive to Albuquerque (ABQ) New Mexico – Time to Eat!
Our first stop was lunch at Tia Betty Blue’s, a small café that served simple New Mexican fare. The café appeared to be housed in a single-family home repurposed with a commercial kitchen and small dining area. Stepping inside the little space, we were greeted with a large board displaying the menu and were immediately stumped by the food options. Blue corn waffles? Green Chiles? Christmas sauce? These were all really unfamiliar to us. The friendly lady taking our order explained the options, and introduced us to “Christmas” which was New Mexican speak for a combination of Green and Red Chiles. Slightly wiser about New Mexican cuisine, we bravely ordered away, asking for Christmas on every dish. The food turned out to be refreshingly delicious, and we amazed ourselves by devouring the burrito bowl, blue corn waffles with soft poached eggs and omelet all in half hour. You could never have too much good food…
Albuquerque New Mexico – True SW Cusine at Tia Betty Blue’s
ABQ – Petroglyph National Monument
With our bellies full of corn and Chiles, we headed to the Petroglyph National Monument. To our surprise, we found that the areas dedicated to the monument were scattered right behind people’s homes, and the monument was a completely casual affair with few signs for where to go and what to look for. We walked around any path we could find, scrambled up rocks, dodging lizards, feeling like explorers on an archaeological mission. We did spot a good number of petroglyphs, which were ancient carvings of mostly human and animals on the rocks. And then we found ourselves scorched by the sun and were forced to seek shelter. Clearly, we were not used to the sunlight that New Mexico seemed to have an abundance of.
Exploring the Petroglyphs in New Mexico
Sandia Peak – Take a Flight On the Longest Tram in the U.S.
The next stop was Sandia Mountain, located just east of Albuquerque. We had initially planned to hike up the mountain, but the sun and our filling lunch wore those ambitions away, so we took the tram instead. The tram was reputedly the longest in the US, and the ride turned out to be a quite a fun experience in itself with some great views. As we zipped up the mountain, the tram operator described the geological landmarks, calling out the canyons and waterfalls that we would have otherwise missed trekking on the ground. The tram ride also made clear how tough the hike would have been by giving us occasional glimpses of a steep and narrow path zigzagging upwards. One thing we knew for sure, the tram ride guaranteed that we would make it to the peak.
The peak of Sandia sat at an altitude of 10,378’ with noticeably cooler air and exhilarating views. If you stood at the right spot, you could see Santa Fe in the far distant and Albuquerque on the other side. The views were unobstructed and expansive with mountains even taller than Sandia abound in the surroundings. Hiking along the crest, we headed towards Kiwanis Cabin, which was built as a refuge for long distance hikers. Although, according to the tram operator, the stone cabin had to be rebuilt a number of times because it was so prone to lightning strikes. Safety issues aside, the vista upon arriving at the stone cabin was equally, if not more, breathtaking. Beautiful deep blue sky coupled with seemingly endless desert and mountains. We stood still, breathing in the clean crisp air and soaking in the panorama until a gust of chilly wind hit us and storm clouds appeared. The benefit of being on high ground was the ability to see far ahead, which gave us plenty of time to head back towards the tram before the drenching rain came. The hike on Sandia was surprisingly easy for the altitude, and came with plenty of scenic views. We are avid hikers but not athletes, so in our humble opinion, hikes that were relatively easy on the body and rewarding for the mind offered the best value.
Sandia Mountain, 10,378’ – Just outside of Albuquerque New Mexico
Day 2 – Exploring the “Old Town” area in Albuquerque New Mexico
We spent the next morning leisurely strolling in the Old Town neighborhood of Albuquerque. Old Town was centered around a plaza, with San Felipe De Neri Church on one side, and a ring of charming adobe shops on the other sides. We were told that locals avoided this area due to some tourist-trap characteristics, but as outsiders, the historical San Felipe De Neri Church was still worthy of visiting. The Church was quiet that day, with a few tourists in the front yard snapping photos, and a few venturing inside.
We wandered around the shops and found some charming alleyways with delightful little shops on both sides. The shops included some small galleries with intriguing and affordable local art, niche boutique stores selling local honey, handmade soaps and other curiously curated collections of wares.
Albuquerque New Mexico – Around Town with Tom and Priscilla
Priscilla Schmidt : @pristye