A New Look at New Mexico

New Mexico can really change a traveler’s expectation. This old-world-meets-new-world place makes a relaxing getaway full of art, sun, and mountain ranges.

The southwestern state is a melting pot of cultures. Some of the population is from Mexico and Spain, with Pueblo, Apache and Navajo blood running through its veins. New Mexico is the fifth largest state as far as landmass in the United States measuring 373 miles from point to point. Albuquerque is their largest city. In spite of its huge size, New Mexico has a feeling of instant friendliness upon arrival. Direct flights into the Albuquerque airport make it a breeze. There is a convenient Rail Runner Express that now brings travelers from south of ABQ to Santa Fe.

Upon arriving to the historic plaza in Santa Fe, just hop on to a tram provided by Loretto Line Tour learn the history of the tourist town. Santa Fe means “holy faith” in English and was discovered in 1610. Take in the lovely view of the surrounding architecture and style. Houses are constructed with a flat roof style, built with mortar, mud, and brick. Coyote fencing separates many buildings and hearkens back 400 years. Moors have contributed to the blue trim on the door and window frames outside many homes. If a person lives on a dirt road, locals believe that is charming and lucky. Kinetic wind sculptors and statues add to the outdoor charm of Santa Fe. The cost of living is higher in this part of New Mexico so it is important to look good on the outside as well as the inside.

Downtown, businesses capture the rustic atmosphere of the southwest. The Hotel St. Francis brings an upscale feeling to the spirit of old Santa Fe with handcrafted furniture. Try the breakfast at their new in house restaurant Tabla de Los Santos or walk to the corner for Pasqual’s. Sit at the community table to get to know your neighbor and try out chile sauce. The spicy temperature varies from place to place so, if in doubt, just say “Christmas” and the food preparers will mix up the red and green sauces on the dish.

Max’s: Inspired American Cuisine is a little off the beaten path but make sure to try the two hour egg with polenta and the rabbit pot pie. They also have a chef tasting menu that the table next to me raved about.

There are restaurants, shops, and museums on every street with walking distance. Must see art collections include Georgia O’Keeffe’s Museum, Houshang’s Gallery, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Munch away at Bobcat Bites (featured on the Oprah show as a Top Twenty Best Burger) or try The Shed for lunch with the locals. Climb up to Capitol Hill to get a bird’s eye view of the scenic town.

Lesbian-owned Rouge Cat provided some nightlife including a disco ball dance floor that heats up on the weekend. The older LGBT community resides at Rainbow Vision with village housing and assisted living for the elderly. Where else can you see a drag show and check your blood pressure at the same time?

The climate was a surprise with temperatures that fluctuate so drastically. Come prepared with a jacket or saddle blanket. A deep freeze surprised locals and affected vegetation this past winter. A victim of its environment, this area of the country is experiencing a drought so start your visit with a rain dance. The Gathering of Nations brought multiple tribes in town to sing, dance and compete for awards. A festival outside the arena had lines for flat-bread, booths for art, and education for this annual event.

Corrales is a short jaunt from downtown Albuquerque but offers an excellent place to rest at the Chocolate Turtle Bed & Breakfast. They really make a traveler feel at home with a cozy room and real roadrunners peck at the backdoor daily for tender morsels.

Casa Vieja Restaurant is not old but new to the territory opening in the past two years but has already built a solid reputation. Chef Josh continually wins awards and can create dishes custom made for the adventurer. The drinks are unforgettable, such as the Tuna Paloma that has nothing to do with fish but is related to a cactus. Renew your skin at the Great Face and Body after a dry day in the sun then hike up Nob Hill to eat and shop with the artist community.

If you would like to try a B&B closer to ABQ then try the Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast. An outdoor sauna along the garden can refresh a person as well as the enormous Jacuzzi tub inside the room. Nearby, the Standard Diner that was featured on the Food Network recently. The Kobe beef burger was a treat.

Drag shows at the Albuquerque Social Club can be a smoky experience but the drinks are so cheap, one might not care. The whole town then jets over to Effex Nightclub to dance the night away. There is a rooftop deck for fresh air and better views of go-go dancers. Gamble until daylight at the Sandia Casino and then golf all the next day in this breathtaking resort. Concerts are offered throughout the season with Ricky Martin appearing when I was in town and Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton slated in the upcoming months.

A few hours away find the quaint town of Truth or Consequences. This spa city was originally named Hot Springs but changed it for the Ralph Edwards show in 1950. The pace can be very slow here but it makes up for it in character. The Geronimo Springs Museum covers the history of scalping (not actually started with Natives but in Mexico for ransom) and a pottery collection that is out of this world.

The Pelican Spa has a huge loft space to match its mineral spa in the heart of town. Another sleeping option is the Blackstone Hotsprings where their television themed rooms such as The Jetsons or Golden Girls suite keep visitor reminiscing.

For a huge breakfast, eat at Happy Belly Deli and Los Arcos Steak & Lobster House drums up dinner. Down the road is Elephant Butte Lake that brings in close to a million visitors per year with water skiing, tubing, and fishing. RV parking is offered right up to the edge of this lake that feeds into the Rio Grand.

A spaceport is in the process of being built that should blast off the remote area into the future.
Three different places in New Mexico showcase a variety for the traveler: for tourism head to Santa Fe, for a big city experience try Albuquerque, and for a small town feel visit Truth or Consequences. If you have time, then try all three to get the real feel for the Land of Enchantment.

For information, try visiting http://www.newmexico.org

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