I just returned from five days spent in Albuquerque New Mexico. My Grandmother turned 80 on Monday, and my Uncle, who lives down there as well organized a great surprise party for her on Sunday with many members of the family flying in from out of town.
Emma had never been to New Mexico, so I was eager to show her around, as well as spending time with my family. When I was young we would go to New Mexico two weeks every year and visit my Grandparents and Great-Grandparents who lived in Albuquerque and Artisia New Mexico, so I have many fond memories of various places in and around those towns. And of course the New Mexican food. New Mexico has sopapillas, which are these amazing ballon-like fried dough things, that they bring out before, during, and after meals, and you bite a hole in it, pour in some honey, and devour. They are one of my all time favorite sweet treats. You can’t get them anywhere else, although I do make my own from time to time.
On Saturday we flew from Seattle to Salt Lake City. Our flight was delayed leaving Seattle, so we had to run across most of the Salt Lake City airport to catch our next flight down to Albuquerque. I didn’t know there were so many amazingly beautiful mountains by Salt Lake City. We made it into Albuquerque on a small plane that evening, checked into our hotel, and got directions from the desk to a great local restaurant in a semi-sketchy area of town. The food was great and the sopapillas were worth the seven year wait. We were tired from traveling all day, so we watched The Water Horse in our hotel room (great movie). Then I picked my father up from the airport, and took him to my uncle’s house where he was staying.
On Sunday we met up with some of my cousins at my uncle’s house, and then drove to the restaurant where the lunch-time surprise birthday party was taking place. There ended up being 20 people there waiting for my Grandmother when she arrived. She was so surprised and so happy, that moment alone was well worth the trip for me. She wasn’t expecting to see her family from all over the country and so many of her friends, many of whom she hadn’t seen in years. Lunch was great, although the waitress initially didn’t take my request for “LOTS of sopapillas, for everyone!” seriously. You can see pictures from the luncheon here:
After the party we hung out and talked and caught up with one another.
On Monday we went to Old Town, a historic area of Albuquerque for shopping and lunch. Emma bought a beautiful turquoise necklace, and we enjoyed walking around and browsing the various shops and vendors spread out on blankets. For lunch we used to go to La Placita, which has a giant tree growing through one of the dining rooms. However, apparently the management had changed and it had gone downhill. I tried to go anyway, just out of a sense of nostalgia, however the 45+ minute wait, the skill saw running in the resturant, and the fact that the dining room with the tree was closed off, let us to try a new place, the Church St. Cafe, located just behind the large church on the square.
The waitress was great, and understood about sopapillas:) She kept us well supplied. The food was also some of the best I’ve ever had. Service was a little slow, but it seemed there weren’t too many people working. The food was well worth any wait.
Then we went back to my uncle’s house and my father and my cousin played music on guitars and a mandolin, and everyone talked and relaxed after the big lunch. There was also some great chess playing, including a really fun game between one of my cousins and I, where we were very evenly matched. You can see some pictures of that here:
The next day we drove out to Acoma, which is an old Native American settlement on top of a 400 foot high mesa in the desert. They have guided tours where you learn about the history and culture (both past and current) of the Acoma people, who create some of the most amazing pottery I’ve ever seen. It was fun to drive out into the desert and see all of the mesas and red rocks and the beautiful desert scenery. Coming from a Seattle winter we didn’t bring sunscreen and after spending a day at over 6,000 feet in the New Mexican sun, I managed to burn pretty nicely. Just call me Lobster Boy.
We bought some Acoma made bread and drove back to my Grandmother’s house, where we nibbled on bread and honey and talked with her. Then we headed up the Sandia Peak Tram to have dinner at 10,000 feet. The view was amazing all the way up and back. There’s a 1.5 miles open stretch of tram cable without any towers while you pass over a 1,000 foot deep gorge below which is at once both a terrifying and awe-inspiring thing. The pictures don’t do it justice. The peak was very cold, but we hurried into dinner, which was quite good, and then headed back.
We visited with my Grandmother more, and then back to my uncle’s to visit with them, as we were leaving the next day.
On our last day there, we went to the zoo with one of my cousins, and then back to the Church Street Cafe for a final opportunity to stuff myself with real sopapillas, before heading to the airport.
Our flights home were un-eventful, thankfully.
I had a really great time seeing my family whom I haven’t seen in person in many years, and of course the tasty sopapillas will not soon be forgotten. However, I was also very glad to come home, see my iguana, and bask in the humid air that doesn’t crack my lips and skin.
We will have to go back soon, as there are many more cool places I want to take Emma, like Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns, Chimayo, Four Corners, etc… So until next time….