NEW MEXICO TRIP REPORT

May 31st, 2007, 08:45 AM
  #1  
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NEW MEXICO TRIP REPORT

First of all I want to thank DEBITNM for convincing me to ignore the weather forecasts and maintain our plans to tour New Mexico. Ironically, the weather ended up being great most of the week.
We had an uneventful flight (the kind I like) into Albuquerque and spent two nights there at the Old Town Bed and Breakfast. As the name suggests it is only about a 4 block walk from Old Town and is very convenient to I-25 and I-40. Nancy is a wonderful host and makes killer breakfasts. We spent most of day one in Old Town then had a much needed nap before heading to Sandiago's for dinner. This is the resaurant at the bottom of the mountain where you would catch the tram to go up. The food was amazing and we were treated to a great southwest lightning storm while we ate out on the patio.
On day two we treated ourselves by sleeping in a little later than we normally would on a vacation day. We then went to two of the museums near Old Town, the Atomic Museum and the Albuquerque Museum of Art. Both were excellent and well worth the time. The Atomic Museum probably isn't for everyone but we are both World War II buffs. We spent the afternoon driving and walking through Nob Hill to see some of the interesting shops there, then walked around the beautiful UNM campus. We had dinner at Tuscano's, a brazilian steakhouse downtown.
On day three we took I-25 south to Socorro and 60 west to the Very Large Array, a series of giant telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. This was apparently the set for the movie Contact. We took the tour and some pictures. It was okay. Then on to Pie Town! Yes, there is a place called Pie Town (continuing west on 60). Now please be advised that there is nothing to do or see in Pie Town except to visit the two cafes on either side of the street that specialize in pie. But if you are like me and consider pie the fourth food group, then it is a must stop. One was closed but we did stop at the Pie O Neer Cafe. The Holy Grail! Kathy Knapp is the owner and baker of the most amazing pies I have ever had. After indulging in a green chili hamburger I then sampled the Mexican Apple, Coconut Macaroon, Oatmeal Pecan, and French Pear pies. Kathy was even kind enough to give me a slice of Blueberry on the house for the ride onward. Today's final stop was Glenwood to experience the Catwalk National Recreation Trail (on route 180), a series of bridges and platforms winding through the mountain and over the stream. This was a lot of fun. There are different routes for different fitness levels. One final drive brought us to Gila where we stayed at the Casitas de Gila. This is a unique idea where the hosts stock your casita with everything you need to cook yourself (from dishes and utensils to the food itself). We picked up a few other things and had a nice BBQ while watching an awesome sunset and the subsequent clear, star-filled night sky.
Day four...we continued south on 180 and then took the exciting route 15 (known as The Trail of The Mountain Spirits) to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The road rivals Route 1 from Cambria to Big Sur in California, maybe not is sheer beauty without the ocean, but certainly in danger if you are not paying attention. It is a beautiful drive. After our journey through the dwellings we took route 35 south to 152 east (another stunning drive) on our way to Truth or Consequences, a town famous for its theraputic mineral baths. We stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge and ended the long day with a mineral bath and massage. Dinner at Los Arcos was average but it appeared to be the only game in town.
euclid is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:31 AM
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euclid - I am so glad the weather held up! It was very unusual weather pattern for this time of year up in the ABQ and northern NM area with lots of wind, rain and some snow! All I could imagine was you cursing me out.

sounds like you had a great time. You did lots of atypical tourist things -- things I haven't even done!

Great report, hope you got lots of pictures. One of the best things about doing a trip report is that it forces you to put your memories "on paper" so you will have them for a lifetime!
Debi
DebitNM is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:31 AM
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We began day five with another mineral bath, this time in their private outdoor tub...awesome. We drove onward to White Sands National Monument. What an amazing place. The further you get into the area it really feels like you are on another planet. It's a lot of fun to walk around on the dunes (they are actually cool even under the hot sun) and you can rent or buy sledding discs at the gift shop for an additional adventure. Be careful if you walk far from your car as it is very easy to lose your way. There are several marked trails through the dunes. After a couple of hours we began our drive to Carlsbad. Even before I got the travel bug, one of the places I dreamed of visiting was Carlsbad Caverns, so this was a big thing for me. We checked in at the Best Western in White City (not the best of accomodations but there are not many luxury options in this area). After a short nap we proceeded into the park for the nightly bat flight. People gather in an ampitheater that fits about 1500 (only about half full on this night). The program starts at 7:00pm with a ranger giving a talk about bats and their history. Around 8:45 the 250,000 bats began their very quiet ascent out of the cave and on to their evening meal. It is a sight to behold. I highly recommend it if you are going to be in the area to visit the caverns. Due to the lack of other options we ate at the Chili's in Carlsbad. If I had it to do over I would have stayed in Carlsbad instead of White City. There is a Best Western there that gets great reviews and is supposed to have a fabulous restaurant.
On day six we got up early for our King's Palace Tour in the caverns. This was a paid guided tour that cost $8 and took about 90 minutes. When that was completed we took the self guided big room tour, again, about 90 minutes. Both were excellent. The rest of this day was mainly travel. We drove north to Roswell and spent an hour or so there looking at all the alien stuff. It was then west to Socorro where we spent the night at another Best Western (again not many other options). Dinner was at Socorro Springs Brewery. This place had a great menu with excellent beer choices.
Day 7 has us driving north two hours to Santa Fe. We are here for two days and are staying at the Hotel Plaza Real, right off the plaza on Washington Street. As we are driving into Santa Fe on the way to our hotel we instantly realize that two days WILL NOT be enough. And it wasn't. We spent most of the first day enjoying the shops in and around the plaza. At the suggestion of many posters here we took a break at the Ore House for magaritas and the famous charred tomato salsa and chips. It was well worth it. Most shops closed by six so we moved up our 8:00pm dinner reservation to 6:30pm. We ate at La Casa Sena, just around the corner from our hotel. We both had the choirizo stuffed pork loin with prickly pear puree and pineapple salsa. Wow. For desert I had chocolate soup with chili and strawberries. My girlfriend called it melted chocolate ice cream and suggested she could make it for me for less the $10 we paid. Since our room came with a wood burning fireplace we ended the day by picking up a crate of pinon wood from the front desk and enjoyed a relaxing fire! For those who haven't experienced it, pinon wood gives off an indescribable aroma.
We started day eight with breakfast at the Plaza Cafe. Blue corn and pinon nut pancakes with fresh watermelon juice and mexican hot chocolate. Need I say more. After breakfast we went to the Palace of the Governors to visit the street vendors. We each found something nice to buy there and then went to Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Chapel, and the Oldest House. We then drove to Canyon Road to spend a few hours in the galleries. Many of the them were having shows on this night with the artists in attendance. This of course meant losts of free champange and hor d'oevers. Sometimes I have great timing. We had dinner at El Farol to try the tapas experience. We had never dined at a tapas style restaurant before and were really looking forward to this. The portions are appetizer size but there was so much to choose from and it all looked good. $120 worth of tapas and mojitos later we were done. After another wonderful, relaxing fire, the day was over.
Day nine, the final day, begins with a final walk around the plaza. Being Saturday, there is a lot more people, music, and entertainment going on. We did a lot of final shopping in the morning then enjoyed carnitas from one of the street vendors before heading back to Albuquerque. We decided to take the Turquois Trail back, stopping in Cerrilos (filming site of the movie Young Guns) and Madrid. Once in Albuquerque we spent a final two hours back in Old Town and had our final meal at the Church St. Cafe, which was excellent.
I am sure this seems like way too much in too short a time for most people, but it was a good pace for us. We loved every minute of New Mexico, the weather, the people, and especially the food. We are already planning next years return trip when we will spend a lot more time in the northern part of the state, including Taos, the Capulin Volcano, Ojo Caliente, and a few more days in glorious Santa Fe.
euclid is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:32 AM
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euclid -- check the last item on the thread and note the date!

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=34999828
DebitNM is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:59 AM
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Sounds like a great trip and you've given me some new ideas for our next trip to the SW.
RuthMc is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:56 AM
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Debi,

I did notice your post on that thread. That was one of the first things I checked when I got back. We saw plenty of bad weather but we always seemed to be one step ahead of it. We would be basking in the sun and off in the distance we could see it raining and see the lightning. We were just very lucky.
I forgot to mention the altitude adjustment that many people speak of. On the first day I felt flush and had a headache for most of the day. I consider myself to be in descent, not great, shape, but noticed that I got out of breath a lot sooner than I normally would on walks, hikes, etc. We heeded the advice and drank lots of water, stayed away from alcohol the first couple of days, and made sure we rested when we needed to.
This is my first trip report so I hope it wasn't too long. I struggled with trying to include the right amount of detail without sounding long winded.
euclid is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 01:41 PM
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Wow, you covered a lot of ground! Thanks for a great trip report.

We haven't made it to southwest New Mexico yet, but I hear nothing but good things about the Pie O Neer!

How much does it cost to stay at the Casitas de Gila, if you don't mind my asking?

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 02:44 PM
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Lee Ann, where's your trip report to Cortez??
DebitNM is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 03:37 PM
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Lee Ann, we paid $145 plus an extra $13 for the chicken and steak that we had for dinner. They keep them on hand for anyone who wants them and have them thawed in time for your arrival. We had a completely stocked kitchen including fruit, bread, beverages, and spices. The casita was beautiful and the area was very remote and relaxing. We would definitely stay again.
euclid is offline  

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