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Trip Report Back from my trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe

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Hello All! Good to be away, good to be back, as my mother used to say. I returned in the wee hours from my trip to New Mexico. Thank you to everyone who replied to my inquiries here and in The Lounge. Your feedback & expertise were invaluable. Also, thanks to those who previously posted restaurant lists and other NM info.

I had a wonderful time, but as sometimes happens, a different experience than I had anticipated. Plus, for some reason, I wasn't getting a full night's sleep; snatches of 2-3 hours at a time threw off my plans to get up & out by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. while it was still cool. This resulted in some delayed starts, later nights, and some ambitious days, too.
Just for fun, I will start at the end, and then I will begin to post more chronologically.
Here is my last full day, Saturday June 1:
Up 6:00 a.m., Starbucks coffee made in room, a croissant from Clafoutis. Left for Abiquiu, and enjoyed the drive, arrive 45 minutes early for my 9:30 tour. Tour Abiquiu. During the 2 hour break before my Ghost Ranch guided bus tour, I visit local adobe church: San Jose (I think), the gallery New Moon Rising, the Abiquiu lake/dam, and "the white place" that Georgia O’Keeffe painted, go into famed Route 66 spot Bode's, and get a chocolate malted from The Frosty Cow at the back of the Phillips 66 lot, then drive the 13 miles to the Ghost Ranch, pausing to view and photo the amazing terrain, take the bus tour, where I take a million photos, which once I view a few days later, out of the direct sunlight, I got some wonderful shots.
At 3:30, I proceed back to Santa Fe, park the car at my casita at 4:35, and zip over to the Georgia O'Keefe museum on foot, about 5 blocks away to buy the postcards and few gift items I saw during my visit. Shop closes at 5. I then hotfoot it over to the library that closes at 6, to pick up 2 items I left there, my only opportunity to retrieve them before I leave. I walk around the corner to La Boca's sister restaurant Taberna (down the side alley) and have happy hour tapas. I think about going to hear music, but by 10 I am bushed. That is one day.

I had ten days (actually 2 ½ were travel days) in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
A brief summary of the dull mechanics: For the first time, I do not arrive at the airport 2 hours before my flight, and Southwest's system is down, security is backed up due to cancelled and delayed incoming flights due to the T-storms in the region. I make it to my gate with only 10 minutes to spare, only because they pulled people with flights within 30 minutes & fast-tracked us through security, still quite an ordeal. Southwest has open seating, and boarding based on when you checked in, so I had a good seat. And 2 nice row companions and conversation, a 3 hour layover, with a bad airport sandwich, but quite good coffee.

In ABQ, I catch a shuttle, pick up my car. They ran out of compacts and upgrade me to a Prius and threw in a free GPS. The ride to the hotel is easy. The hotel Nativo Lodge looks pretty good, and I find that they already upgraded me to a 5th floor Mountain view room, based on my phone call requests ( see Lounge posts under hotel Reservations - it all worked out!). I am running on about 4 hours sleep over the past 2 days, so I crash on my comfy bed.

Finally rouse myself about 9:30 and go downstairs to the Spirit Lounge .I have a cheeseburger with a Hatch green chilion it, and my first Christmas, a taste each of red and green chili, and such good french fires ($9), and my first Santa Fe beer. Yum. I got to bed happy. More as the week progresses.

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    Hi Debit! Thank you for the in-depth zoo tour - it was so nice to meet you. Hope you had fun at the BBQ, and rest of your weekend. I look forward to posting about that day & the trip. Turning in now. 'Nite!

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    Beachie - was so hoping we'd have lunch! Maybe some other time. I loved the smoked salmon stuffed with local goat cheese and arugala, paired with a nice crisp dry sherry. and the beets, and the spinach. mmm.

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    Hi Lee Ann, yes, was sorry to miss you, but it was a holiday weekend, and you were enjoying it somewhere!

    I had dropped my little camera, a Canon model that still has a little square viewfinder in addition to the large LCD screen, so you can see what you're shooting in bright daylight. The battery door wouldn't stay shut ( yes, yes, I will try duct tape now). So I went onto ebay, found one for $35 and it arrived before I could even wonder if I would get it in time. But I got the wrong type of memory card and forgot to grab the wrist strap. So I zip over to Radio Shack for some camera memory cards and The Dollar Tree for some long hairbands, one will surely be slim enough to use as a wrist strap on the camera, and it does!

    On with the "Red beans and rice didn't miss her" tour ( sorry Sir Mixalot)

    Day 2 – Sat May 25, first full day in ABQ
    Didn't really sleep. At 9, I hit the pool for my knee exercises and laps and then get a breakfast of huevos rancheros in the hotel, very good & change. The Museum of Art & History, probably my fave of the trip. A beautiful space, and a wonderful exhibit, it happened to be “Free Music Saturday”. Admission was free, and I saw the exhibit in about 1 ½ hours. I skipped the juried student exhibit, to sit in the entry atrium and listen to the music, which was quite good, kind of blues, they closed with Kansas City. After I left, I walked over to High Noon for happy hour/small plates. I started with a spring green salad w/a lovely dressing: roasted corn and apple cidar vinegar, margarita and fish tacos – made with sushi quality ahi tuna, served rare - wonderful, and beef tips in red chili sauce. Unfortunately, the chili sauce was so hot and overpowering that I could not enjoy the beef, and it was clearly very good quality. I took half of everything home with me, and before I popped it in my mini frig, I rinsed the beef off. I had it the next day sliced over field greens, a steak salad; I was right, superb beef.

    The bartender Lee was quite a character, and a little scary, speaking of which, he told lots of ghost stories about this bar & other local haunts. I also had a beer, so not that eve, but wanted to go back to try one of his martinis, and the truffle oil fries, knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get there. The hostess came over to check on me and we had a great conversation about museums and ABQ. She suggested maybe we could get together for lunch or a museum on Sun or Mon, and we exchanged emails & phone #s. I say this every trip, but I have learned to live in the moment with such encounters, and just enjoy the camaraderie. Most people mean it when they say it, but forget they have other plans, feel awkward, or just don’t follow through. We didn’t end up meeting again, but it was nice to have company during my bar dinner, and to be thoroughly attended to by the bartender. I thought about going to Seasons for music, but was tired. I really did not find the non-downtown hotel to be a hindrance. In the cases where I didn’t venture out again, day or night, it wouldn’t have mattered if I were 4 blocks away or 4 miles away.

    Up early to meet up with DebitNM at the zoo. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I got an expert tour and lots of insight into the zoo and animals, and even a bit on ABQ life. After we parted, I tried waiting for the train, and kinda burned an hour doing that, before deciding to just drive over to the Botanical Gardens. I probably should have chosen the cooler option of the aquarium, as the gardens were quite hot by the time I got there.

    On my way, I saw The Flying Star ahead of me, and remembered that the Fodor’s Guide mentioned Silver St. as one of the best locations, so I found a close parking spot – no meter feeding on Sundays, yay!_ and was overwhelmed by the menu. I chose a Buddha Bowl – julienned veggies, mushrooms, broccoli florets over jasmine rice (can also choose brown rice), and a side of sautéed shrimp, and their “famous” lemonade. Service is friendly, very attentive throughout your stay and pretty efficient. The Buddha Bowl was one of the best meals I had, the veggies were cooked just right, the broccoli bright green, a lovely Asian hoisin sauce, and 8 nice sized grilled shrimp. I ordered the “little Buddha”, the junior version, and still took at least 1/3 home with me, sans shrimp, I gobbled those up! The lemonade was tart and sweet. The only disappointment was the coconut cream pie – both the Fodor’s guide and numerous posters praised it, I found the shortbread crust and the filling bland and flavourless. It looked good, and the texture was creamy, but at $6.95 I was astounded by the mediocrity. I took half the huge slice home. It improved slightly overnight in the frig, or it may have been the Starbucks coffee provided in-room by the hotel that elevated it slightly.

    So, on to the Botanical Gardens. I really enjoyed the Moorish Gardens, there were tiled benches like at Plaza de Espana in Madrid, and fountains that reminded me of Alhambra. I enjoyed the Mediterranean and the multi-level tropical greenhouses, and the pond. I didn’t get a particularly “Japanese” feel from those gardens, and I wish some of the flowers had been identified, esp. a large pink bloom that I plan to draw in pastels. But I did get a good picture of the waterfall and the bridge; I didn’t see a Koi pond. But maybe I was getting cranky by then.

    As I was trying to navigate my way to the exit, I stumbled upon the butterfly house which I thought I’d missed, and I saw some amazing specimens, and chatted with fellow visitors. I skipped the dragonfly pond, because when I was little, I thought dragonflies could sting & they scared the living daylights out of me. I was almost in tears trying to find the exit and practically crawled to my car by then.

    I went into the Spirit Lounge happy hour and got shredded beef tacos and a beer. I met a couple who live on the reservation in AZ. both professionals, with kids at the University, really interesting. so the husband raised his glass for a toast.

    This is my favorite story of the trip: I asked was that Navajo? He said, “No, man, it's ITALIAN. He repeated it and sure enough I heard "cantare". The toast is "With water I live, with wine, I sing" I think it was : Con acqua sono vivo, con vino cantare. I checked with my Southern Italian coworker, the one who covers me when I am away, and she said she hadn’t heard that one, but most Italians she knows just make something up on the spot. I know that I would have said “canto” not cantare, but there you are.

    I didn’t want to bring up the Indian show that they ran on video, no sound in the bar, but I was dying to know what my two friends thought of it. Luckily he brought it up first, and his opinion was what I was thinking – a bit slick and “produced”. He and his wife explained about their return to the reservation to help the community, it was really fascinating talking to them, a son considering enlisting instead of University, and their concerns for his welfare. This is the day before Memorial Day, and also close to Fort Bliss, so a topical conversation.

    One missed opportunity: to spend more time with them, but they were on a weekend getaway, so I didn’t want to horn in, and I think I turned in after that for a rest, and then went down to the pool to do laps and enjoy the hot tub from 8-10.

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    Hi Debit, you're right, it should've been just about 10-15 minutes, but after 3 trains, I could see they were way behind schedule & I didn't want to have to worry about the return by 3:45. I forgot to mention how much I loved the gorillas. I got 2 really sweet photos that I hope to print and hang, and the big cats. The gorgeous tiger. And the mountain lion - handsome tawny and very active. Wish I'd gotten to see the snow leopard cubs (not on display yet, but I was fortunate to see some last summer at the Cape May Zoo). Maybe it's the Pisces in me, but I loved the seals & sea lions. I still get giddy picturing the way they swam by on their backs. Honest to goodness, it looked like a cartoon, they just had so much personality. Thank you again for the tour and sharing your passion for the gorillas and the zoo with me.

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    Monday – what a disaster. Memorial Day - small business, museums(those that were usually open on Mondays), many shops and restaurants were closed. I spent the whole day bouncing around. I got up and out early to Old Town. Enjoyed looking in windows and photographing some buildings, and then as things opened, several galleries. I enjoyed a conversation with one of the displaying artists, but couldn't afford her works. Since I didn't intend to buy trinkets or gifts, many of the shops just did draw me.

    Church Street Café, both hostess & waiter were almost nasty, so I left. After I moved the car I saw two shops and a gallery I’d have liked to explore, but by that time almost 11, there was no parking. Turquise Museum across the way. closed. Pueblo museum, open daily, taped message didn’t say it was closed, but it was. Monica’s restaurant- I had been dreaming of those chiccherone-stuffed sopapillas. Darn! And across the road, Duran’s was closed, but I saw interesting things in the window & would try to get back Tuesday before heading to Santa Fe. Instead of going for a fast food chain, I just spent all day from 7:00 ‘til 2:30 trying to find places open, Idky I didn't just grab somehting, even fast food, and do the Sandia Tram, which was running. Even tho i thought I'd just drive up to Sandia Crest on my way out of town, I wasn't up for all the twists & turns and nixed that idea later. More miss-management of plans on my part. Sometimes you just get yourself stuck.

    So at 2:30 I just completely gave up, and got a manicure/ pedicure. The people in the shop were lovely, did a beautiful unrushed job, generous hand & calf massage, even when I was one of the last remaining patrons. Deep coral for my toes & it is so pretty. I was just disappointed, that's something you do at home, not when you have all new sites to explore. I probably should have headed over to Nob Hill and wandered around.

    After the pedicure, I noticed a Burlington Coat factory, and I thought surely I will be able to replace my tote bag there -the zipper broke on my old reliable carry-on. The only thing I could find was one of those foil-lined totes; must've been last year's stock because instead of the $14.99 - $16.99 I'd seen around, it was $4.99. So I took that, and then I decided to put on my big girl pants, and spring for something a little more polished. After seeing several in the $49- $69 range, from a heavy London Fog tweed to gaudy too-large pink leopard bag, I found a dark red quilted Guess bag for $29.99, perfect size, sophisticated, the right amount of pockets inside. So I got that, and headed back to the hotel, resisting the tempatation to keep shopping, tho I love that store & buy all my coats and much of my travel clothes there. When I went into the nail salon it was cloudy & looked like rain, but of course once I was waited it cleared up and was beautiful. So I started thinking: pool. The Nativo Lodge has a pretty L-shaped pool, have inside and half outside, with the resin wicker lounge chairs inside and the slatted sun lounge chairs outside, it's a very pretty set up.

    The Spirit Lounge didn’t open until 5(an hour later than usual), so I went upstairs and washed and changed. I was ravenous. I ordered the beer battered cod - oh my! 3 large pieces, light crispy outside perfectly done inside, not at all greasy, and fruit instead of fries: 3 slices each pineapple, honeydew and cantelope, & a large strawberry fan-sliced with clotted cream. So good.

    I ordered my fave hamburger with the Hatch chili to go, for after my swim. I didn’t care, I was running on empty. I ran upstairs, popped the one fish filet and the burger meal and fruit into the mini frig, washed up & I went to the pool, and did all my knee exercises at the wall and in the deep end, and then did crawl, sidestroke and backstroke until I felt all stretched out and energized again. I met a woman there a few days in advance of her business trip and we compared notes. A few soaks in the 10 person hot tub, a few chats with fellow travelers, including a lovely couple who had just arrived from El Paso and I was restored.

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    Before I forget, one of the galleries I enjoyed the most in Old Town was Leich Lathrop Gallery at 323 Romero St. NW
    Tuesday 5/28 My last day in ABQ
    breakfast at hotel, v. good, ordered kid's meal, and still half went into frig for post-swim snack! delicious french toast bacon & scrambled eggs, fruit plate. Meant to go directly to the UNM Museum, but pulled up the directions to Duran’s Pharmacy, & next thing I knew I was there. (planned to have lunch there, after running around ABQ,oh well!) So I went in, asked for the little pitcher I had seen in the window on Memorial Day, the only one, so they held it at the counter for me.

    You can click on my profile, I have the picture there.

    Looked around, which was great fun. Bought an icepack for my knee, so cute – white w/blue stars, easy to use, quite effective! Wished I had room for their meals, or the selection of truffles ($3 each!). Bought 3 packets of herbs for medicinal use, I packed with the receipt just in case of security check! Everyone at the store was so nice & friendly. Forgot to buy the red woodpecker scissors. Aww.

    On to the UNM museum - descriptions I’d read said 30,000 works, security guard said I should plan on 3 hours, so I prepaid for the parking garage; surprised to find it was only 2 small rooms, and I covered it in less than an hour, even taking my time. That said, the exhibit of books Bound Together, Seeking Pleasure was surprisingly engaging with pop up books & beautiful illustrations or limited printings. Had a great conversation about the exhibit with the only other patron there, a lovely woman on her way back home to Oregon. I ran across to the Tamarind Institute, what I’ve seen referred to as for printing what Julliard is to music.

    The hotel had offered me a late checkout of 2:00, so when I got back to the hotel, I took luggage to the car, slipped into my swimsuit; nice swim/hot tub soak before getting on the road.

    I had scrapped the idea of the Sandia Crest, but took the Turquoise Trail, and enjoyed the ride. Stopped in Madrid. I enjoyed Indigo Gallery, saw some innovative work there. I didn’t go in & out of all the shops. Mineshaft: not having a beer w/o being able to make a pit stop, “restrooms” were 2 port-a-potties that had handwritten “closed” signs on them,turned around & left, I'm adventurous, but just too grubby and biker for me. And I wasn’t game for a green chili burger there.

    Smooth ride to my casita in Santa Fe - The Casa del Toro & The Chapelle Street Casitas on Mc Kenzie. A BIG thank you to my Fodorites for getting me to a place situated so centrally, also I just wouldn’t have known on my own, or from research how good an option the casita was. Mine was so cute, the website didn’t even do it justice. And cool, I used the ceiling fan once in a while. It was mostly quiet, and had everything I needed.

    Golly, tell me if this is dull and you want to beg me to please stop

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    If you click on my name, you can see the little pitcher I bought at Duran's Pharmacy in ABQ.

    TDudette - thank you for your interest! I had been typing out the next few days, but couldn't find my Word doc, so I had to take some time to compose again from my notes.

    5/28 Tues. 6:45 pm, Santa Fe, just arrived at 6:30--I know I should make the most of the next 2 hours' daylight and explore, but I am bushed. I take a nap, get up and unpack eschewing the pretty floral painted 3-drawer dresser with the unbearably squeaky drawers for the pantry. I don't have any dry goods except tea bags. Easier to use it like a wardrobe. So now, it's late, 8:25, I walk the 1/2 block to Bumblebee's Baja grill, order grilled trout, side salad, instead of rice & beans, seated outside & can barely make a dent in the platter. The spring greens seem hardier than ours back East, tomatoes are red & ripe, refreshing cubes of jicama, my introduction to it. I often eat some type of white fish for breakfast, so I knew I'd enjoy the rest of the trout. I get back to the casita, make some Earl Gray tea, and plan my next day.

    5/29 Wed. I am still not really sleeping, though this bed is firmer. Had trouble getting up & out at 7, as planned, but I had a little fruit and I'm exploring by 8:30, and it's still plenty cool out. Walked around the plaza, photographed the area and the church. Went to The Burrito Company for huevos rancheros & coffee, both good. At 10, I go into the Institute of American Indian Arts, enjoy the exhibits, especially the photography in "Facing the Camera" & I sign up to be notified when that catalog comes out. Also saw parts of 2 films. Bought some exhibit catalogues & screen saver dvds as gifts. Spent a little time looking in the galleries and shops. I buy 2 small cedar boxes with lids in a shop on the plaza called ACC, and resist the urge to buy larger items.

    I go back to the casita for a late lunch and a soak in the tub. Later afternoon, I explore a few galleries toward the bottom of Canyon Road – I do something I call “the mailman”. I park the car, I walk back to the galleries, work my way back to the car, move it forward a block or two, and repeat until I have had enough. I stop at El Farol for a refreshing beverage. Then I go home and change, and go out to Cowgirl’s for a beer and some music. One band member used a cajón, which I just recently discovered, a box that you sit on but use as a drum. I like the patio – at 5’1”, the tall barstools inside are a logistical nightmare! Although the band says they’ll be back for one more set, they return, start packing up w/o a word to the audience. Odd, since they had come over & sat with me and some locals who joined me, during the break. Also took the tip jar, when we had singles at the ready, for after the set.

    Thursday 5/30 I yelled "I don’t know where you are telling me!" at the GPS when it says "start out as mapped here" and then almost use an expletive when she says “make the first legal u-turn.” A wrong left turn lands me smack dab in front of Clafoutis. Why fight it? I go in for a café au lait and the title dish, sort of like a bread pudding, fair, – I had the 3 berry. But I bought goodies that I popped in my little cooler bag/frig & enjoyed over the next few days a madeleine, an almond crisp (excellent) wonderful buttery airy croissant, and one of the best tartines I’ve had outside of Paris. This one was spinach and mushroom, tomato, with a slice of jam and cheese. It was my picnic lunch that day. Then I go up to Museum Hill. I start with the International Folk museum. I enjoyed the quilts and take my time with the other exhibits, and some people and I watched as much of the history of chocolate as we could sit still for (a 50 min presentation).

    Unfortunately the 2 people at the counter were so busy telling me their system was down, and that I’d have to buy the Museum pass I’d requested on the way out, that they didn’t tell me admission included an audio guide,( and were pretty unpleasant about it, when I mentioned it later, even though I was buying a pass). I didn’t discover it until I saw patrons with them as I entered the last exhibit, The Girard wing. All the dioramas and toys were amazing.

    I had my little picnic outside on one of the benches, just like many other visitors, and then headed over to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. I drifted in and out of the docent tour. Watched a film of the famed potter on exhibit, saw amazing pottery, and etched glass. I skipped the Wheelwright museum and headed back down the hill to “The Oldest House” and San Miguel’s church to snap some photos for a friend who wanted updated images. I seem to have pulled a muscle in the back of my left upper thigh, though I don’t remember doing anything too strenuous. But now it is jumping and painful. I went home brewed a tea from one of the herbs (yerbas) I bought at Duran’s, poured it in the tub, and have a little soak in my 8 jet Jacuzzi-type tub. Better!I get changed into a dress and walk over to Vanessie to the piano bar for a cocktail and some small plates. It’s a relaxing evening of songs.

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