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Trip Report Great wk.- Albuquerque, Tamaya, Santa Fe, driving Bandalier to ABQ/Hwy 4

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I had another nice couple of days in ABQ and Santa Fe last week, this time w/my husband (his 1st time to NM). We stayed at the Hyatt Place at the ABQ airport on the 1st night - great hotel, love the layout of the room, it is like a suite w/big living area and fridge, hughe flatscreen TV that swivels to view in living area w/large L-shaped cough, or in the bed area. Got a great $55 rate during a Hyatt Place promo a few months ago. Nice breakfast inculded, and a nice little bar to get a beer or glass of wine or appetizer/salad/sandwich close to check-in counter.

We got in on Sunday evening and after getting rent car (check ADVANTAGE, Hertz' low cost car rental outfit, for best rate I found at the airport) we went to Central Ave. to Zinc's Cellar Lounge to get a bite to eat. Not too many places are open on Sunday nights after 9 pm, but this is open til 11 pm. Then we went down the street on Central to O'Niell's, an Irish bar and restaurant, as they are open til midnight on Sundays.

Monday we had to return the Camry the rental place had given us, as it had a vibration upon idling. They upgraded us to a small SUV, which was great for some of the mountain rds. we ended up on later. We shopped on Central Ave in Nob Hill and then had lunch at Scalos there. I had a coupon from dine999.com - I had paid $10 for $20 of lunch at Scalos. Plus they have half price wines on Monday, so this was a great deal. Their food is excellent, this is the 3rd time I've had lunch there.

We checked into the Hyatt Tamara in Bernalillo, about 20 min outside ABQ. off of Hwy 25. LOVED this place. The tripadvisor reviews are right on. Quiet place, full service resort at a much lower cost than similar full-service resorts (rms. went for about $209 during the time we were there). LOVELY surroundings, our rm. had a balcony looking over the Sandia Mountains. Extensive and very nice flat trails for hiking down to the Rio Grande River, another one mile trail to the equestrian center (where they let me help out a bit w/the horses and ride and I got to watch the cowboys roping some steer), etc. Trails around the resort were much more extensive than I had read about. My husband did a 4 mile run, I did a separate 2.5 mile walk, and we still did not exhaust the trails.

The 1st evening here we went to the Sandia Tram just before sunset. What a great view of the sunset and ABQ, and so much snow left on the other side of the mountain when you get up there (skiiing had just closed the previous weekend). You can use your tram ticket for $8 off for each ticket at the Mexican restaurant at the base of the tram, a good way to get some mileage out of the $17.50 tram tickets. Food was pretty good, margaritas were great. Prices reasonable.

Back to the Hyatt Tamara: Room was comfortable, not quite as nicely decorated as some southwestern resorts I've been to (like Wild Horse Pass outside of Phoenix) but nice, w/fridge and large nicely tiled bathrm. Balcony w/mountain view was key- they upgraded me as I had won an auction at biddingforgood.com for two nights and was supposed to be in a non-view rm. We spent a lot of time looking at the mountains out our balcony as the light changed throughout the day and evening.

We used the pools (one has a stone wall around it to block wind and is heated, very nice) and outdoor hot tub (rock enclosed, very nice). It was only 33% occupancy while we were there, very quiet, dry and in the mid-80s Food was excellent, esp. dinner at the Corn Maiden, and we also tried the lobby lounge and had breakfast sandwiches from the Starbucks/cafe area in the gift shop. The casual restaurant was closed for renovation but they are serving that menu in the Corn Maiden at bfast, lunch and dinner. We sat outside for our meals at Corn Maiden, with great views of the mountains.

We did not use the spa facilities, golf course, or other options (hot air balloon ride, free mountain bikes for trails, etc.). We did take the hotel shuttle over the the casino about a mile away (it is on the Hwy that leads up to the resort entrance) and we won enough in the slots to pay for the nice dinner at the Corn Maiden.

My husband had told the restaurant that it was my birthday on the 2nd night of our stay. When we got to the Corn Maiden for dinner they bought my entree, any one I wanted from the menu, and my dessert. And when we got back to the rm., they had sent up a bottle of Gruet NM champagne and a box of a dozen handmade Belgian chocolates, w/a birthday card. Very nice service, they went the extra mile. Our two nights here were great.

On to Santa Fe for 4 nights. On the way from ABQ to Santa Fe we stopped at Tent Rocks. It is a bit further off of Hwy 25 than I thought it would be. LOVED this place. Very low key, no rangers, you are on your own. We brought sandwaiches and salads and ate at a picnic table, then hiked both the slot canyon and the other trail (total of about 4.5 miles). Saw probably around 20 other people on the trails. Highly recommend this place, it is eerie and beautiful.

On to Santa Fe where we had late afternoon massage appts at High Dessert Healthcare and Masssage on East Palace. We each had a lovely 90 min. massage, one booked with the therapist of the month for March (25% off all month w/that therapist) and the other one booked with an internet special of 18% off. So our massages were $75 and $82 respectively for 90 min each (regularly $100 for 90 min, a good deal in itself), a great deal and good massages. I would go back there. Be sure to check their website for special discounts.

Stayed at Sage Inn, I like that hotel. Got a $54 AAA rate by watching the rates for a few wks and booked it in Dec. Love the breakfast there and it is literally right across the st. from the Farmer's market on Sat. and the start of the rail yard and SITE Santa Fe, and of course La Choza. First night we were so tired from hiking Tent Rocks that we stumbled across the st. to La Choza for dinner. I had a dine999.com coupon for dinner (paid $10 for $20 of dinner) there so this was a good deal.

While in Santa Fe we went out to listen to live music at Cowgirl on Thurs. night ($3 cover), shopped at Double Take (nice consignment store, everything from jewelry, accessories, clothes, vintage jewelry and clothes, boots, furniture and lots of nice Mexican folk art- fun place on corner of S. Guadalupe and Aztec Sts.) and each bought a pair of gently used nice boots there. Both are high end Luchese brand for a very reasonable price of $149 for one pair and $200 for other- would be well over $1200 new for each pair. Service was good, one woman went to great lengths to help us both find boots we liked that fit perfectly- they have a HUGE selection. So yes, when we come to the Fodors Get Together in Santa Fe in this Sept. we will definitely have our boots on!

We had drinks and apps at Sleeping Dog in the Plaza area, ate dinners at the Cantina at La Casa Sena (w/wait staff who sing Broadway tunes w/piano, very nice and good food) and El Farol (has been good in the past but service and food were both poor this time, and Fri. night music was cuban instead of the Fri. night rock and roll or blues I have heard there in the past). And had lunch at Rooftop Pizzaria in the Santa Fe arcade at the Plaza- very nice pizza cafe w/great food and atmosphere, a pleasant surprise, perfect for lunch.

Thurs. we got a one day museum pass to go to the NM Art Museum and the Governor's Palace (next to each other on the Plaza). Both were interesting, and the current Textile/Clothing special exhibit at the Governor's Palace/Museum was GREAT- highly recommend it- lots of very cool antique and vintage clothing, both everyday wear and dress clothing, from the old west and NM. We enjoyed the Gustave Baumann colorful woodblocks and marionettes at the NM Art Museum.

We had rented the waterfall hot bath at Ten Thousand Waves for late Thurs. afternoon (booked it a few wks ahead of time by phone)- really nice hr long soak in an outdoor jetted rock tub w/waterfall and a cold plunge, attached sauna, total privacy ($35 each for an hr). Then we drove from 10,000 Waves up into the Santa Fe Natl. Forest (turn left as you exit 10,000 Waves), past the ski area about 12 miles up, to watch the sunset from up high over the mountains - spectacular. Lots of snow left up there but the road was dry. We hurried down as I did NOT want to be driving that mountain rd. in the dark.

On. Fri. we had intended to get the museum pass for 4-5 museums and go to the International Folk Art museum, etc, but as it turned out that Friday, April 2 was a State Furlough day and all state museums were closed. On top of that, it was Good Friday and a lot of places closed down early- including the Georgia O'Keefe museum, which is usually free on Fridays (as are many of the museums in Santa Fe) btwn 5 and 8 pm. They closed at 3 pm on Fri., so we didn't get to go there. Since no museums were open on Fri. we drove up around the top of Canyon Rd. and Upper Canyon Rd. and looked at some of the spectacular houses up there, and hiked some of the Dale Ball trails up on Upper Canyon Rd. We saw a lot of broken glass next to some cars at the parking lot at the trail head- looked like someone had broken into a car, but we had no valuables in opur car so we parked and hiked without any problems.

Sat. a.m. we walked across the st. from Sage Inn to the bustling farmer's Market and Flea market. SITE Santa Fe, a large indoor contemporary art space next to the Farmer's Market offers free admission on Sat. mornings til noon, so we took advantage of that. Very unique exhibits, I recommend going if you go to the Farmer's Market.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Santa Fe (at least until the Fodors Get Together in Sept.!) On the way back to ABQ from Santa Fe, thanks to the waiter we had at the Corn Maiden who told us about this route, we took a great half day long route to get back to ABQ. At 11:30 am Sat. we drove from Santa Fe to Bandalier Natl. Monument (about 40 min, as we stopped at a grocery store just before Bandalier to get a picnic lunch) and spent two hrs at Bandalier hiking around and climbing into the cave dwellings. It was a Sat. but we had no trouble parking as others have warned about at this time of yr.; they seemed to have opened up more parking beyond the lot, on the trail leadng to the loop trail. We saw many mule deer as we hiked.

Then we drove west on Hwy 4 (Hwy that leads to Bandalier) in the opposite direction from the one that we took into the park. This took us up, and I mean UP, into the Santa Fe Natl. Forest. We went up to 11,550 ft. on winding mountain rd. Lots of recreation areas and there was still a lot of snow up there on the ground (the rd. was completely clear and dry).

On Hwy 4 we came upon Valles Caldera, and not knowing it was there, it stunned us. All of a sudden there was a huge clearing w/no trees and just solid snow and small hills for acres. We thought it was a snow covered lake. But it was Valles Caldera, and it was lovely. We stopped at the marker and read about it- it is a caldera formed by a volcanic eruption 100 millions yrs ago. Lots of recreational activity to take advantage of there in all 4 seasons- snowshoeing and cross country skiiing and sleigh rides in winter, hiking, fishing, and lots of wildlife in spring and summer (lots of elk). We want to go back and hike there in better weather.

We cont. on Hwy 4 and came to Jemez, nice little town which is famous for its natural hot springs. And there is RED ROCK there, almost just like Sedona. I was shocked, had no idea there was this kind of beautiful red rock in NM. We stopped about 10 miles past the town in the Jemez Puebla where there are nice hiking trails and hiked a bit. FABULOUS scenary.

We kept going on Hwy 4 which took us through Bernalilo and onto Hwy 25 and into ABQ. We arrived in ABQ at the Hyatt Place at the airport at 6:30 pm.

My husband and I agreed that this was by far THE MOST SPECTACULAR DAY OF SCENARY we have ever experienced in our lives, going from high dessert canyons at Bandlaier, through the alpine forest in Santa Fe Natl Forest, and Volcanic caldera, and then the Red Rocks of Jemez. Spectacular, and I highly recommend this route.

Here are some links to show you the level of scenary on this route:

Bandalier cliff dwelling:
http://soulofthegarden.com/Images/2008JulyBandalier2.jpg

Valle Caldera:
http://tinyurl.com/ygsszsw
http://www.vallescaldera.gov/

Jemez Red Rocks, where we hiked:
http://tinyurl.com/yhrepob
http://abqstyle.com/new_mexico/new_mexico_photo_10.htm

Pics of the whole loop we did on Hwy 4:
http://tinyurl.com/yhshb85

Can't wait til the Fodors GTG in Santa Fe Sept. 9-12. ! For all of you who have never been to NM, you are in for a big treat. The more I go there and explore the fantastically different terrain and natural sites the state offers, the more it becomes my favorite state. Very friendly people, very relaxed, great food, and the scenery is to die for. On one of the next few visits I want to explore some other parts of the state. And I still have not made it to Ghost Ranch, Toas, and many other places from Santa Fe...

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