New Mexico


Free Museums

Art SymbolThe word “Museum” stops many from  considering a visit, even the well educated think “how boring”. Our day was enhanced by three museum visit that were not only not boring but also were Free not something we often find. First stop was the Las Cruces Art Museum. We visited to see the current exhibition of the Gustave Baumann, a renowned New Mexico printmaker. Although we have several of his prints and books this show included many works we had never seen and we learned of Baumann’s talents as a marionette artist.

The Museum of Nature and Science is in an adjoining building. With the intention of just taking a peek the well presented exhibits lured us into a complete walkthrough. In the process we learned a great deal about the surrounding ChihuahuanDesert. Next door is the Branigan Cultural Center which we will check out the next time.

Sixty miles west in Deming, New Mexico we made another discovery. Again a particular interest drew us in only to find a treasure trove. The Luna County Museum is known for their collection of Mimbres Indian pottery.

Two hours later we were still exploring the amazing collections found here.  A thousand antique dolls, the military room, transportation wing, original art, western history, quilts, bells, on-and-on. Besides the Mimbres pottery the most amazing to us was the geode collection. This compares those we’ve in University Mineral Museum. We made a note to visit nearby Rockhound State Park on a future trip.

Geodes

Mimbres Pottery

Historic Trail, Birds, Lava Flow, Petroglyphs

 – And, Green Chili Cheeseburger

ECR Monument

A dramatic sculpture points skyward marking the access road to the El Camino Real International Heritage Center. Located approximately 100 miles south of Albuquerque, the interpretive center transports visitors along the 1500-mile “Royal Road” during  more than five centuries of history.

El Camino Real Trail

ECR Carved Cross

 

We spent twice as much time at the El Camino Real Center as planned. A 15-minute film relates background information before we wind our way through the informative exhibits.

Stepping out to the observation deck we overlook a stretch of the National Historic Trail. A well placed bench encourages  quiet respite reflecting on the trail’s significance. A short nature trail highlights local desert vegetation.ECR Cactus

We made a short stop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The site deserves much more time and on past visits have been more comprehensive. Upon exiting the car in the visitor center parking lot the first thing Bob notes is the chorus of multiple song birds. We especially like to visit this birder’s paradise in January and February when thousands of sandhill cranes and Canada geese escape the northern climes.

Upon arrival in the small town of San Antonio (New Mexico) there’s no doubt we’ll make a stop at the Owl Cafe and Bar known far and wide for their green chili cheeseburger.  The exterior would never entice me to stop but their reputation and past experiences confirm this is the place.

More to come:

  • Valley of Fires
  • Three Rivers Petroglyphs

 

Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe

When traveling I-25 through New Mexico and we near Las Vegas – New Mexico not Nevada – we know it’s time for a stop at Charlie’s Spic ‘n S;an Bakery & Cafe. Hunger pangs will be more than satisfied. The local eatery is just a few blocks off the  Interstate at exit 345 in the richly historic town.

The menu  which features Northern New Mexican flavors is heavy on breakfast items – available all day.  As someone who loves breakfast – but not before 10am – Charlie’s is a perfect fit. The “Stuffy” lives up to its name. A fluffy house-made sopapilla is stuffed with scrabbled eggs and meat of one’s choice, smothered with red or green chile, topped with melted cheese and accompanied by crisp hash browns. Even after  sharing ⅓ with hubby I’m stuffed and can’t finish the last bites of potatoes and chile. But, I’m happily stuffed.

As tourists we’re out numbered by the steady stream of locals. Obviously Charlie’s is a pillar for the community whether they’re stopping for a Starbucks latte, breakfast, lunch or a package of the fresh tortillas. I saw one family load up! The husband balanced his arm  load of eight packages with his chin as the wife paid the bill.


Charlie's BunsPayment is at the bakery counter and it’s hard to imagine not being tempted by the plate sized old fashioned cinnamon buns, glazed donuts, cream puffs or long  johns. I swear one of today’s offerings was at least 10 inches in length giving new meaning to “long john”. On my last visit we left with two iced sugar cookies – absolutely the best I’ve ever had. Bob was lucky to get his before I wolfed down both of them. This time we order a half dozen for a sweet treat down the road.

Charlie's Eclairs

When You Go: Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe, 715 Douglas Ave,  is open for breakfast and lunch. If you want dinner arrive early they close at 6:oopm nightly. Phone 505-426-1021

Old Martina’s Hall

Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

Old Martina's Hall - Door & WindowFor seven years visitors to the famed San Francisco de Asis church south of Taos saw a massive, achingly-slow renovation in progress across the street and wondered about its future. The multi-million dollar project finally came to an end last September with the opening of Old Martina’s Hall, a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a facility for special events, live music, dance hall, meeting and workshop rooms.

Thick adobe walls and the massive vigas above the great hall are original to the Ranchos fortress dating back to 1769. All settlers were required by the Spanish Governor to live within the two acre Ranchos Plaza to protect against attacks by raiding Comanches. The neighboring much photographed and painted church was built in 1812.

Old Martina's Hall - InteriorWe stopped for dinner last night and were awed by the historic property. Although the great hall was not in use last night we looked up to the soaring ceiling and marveled at how the enormous logs were raised into place and their continued strength today.

The spacious dining room reflects traditional New Mexico design, such as a corner kiva fireplace ,combined with simple contemporary detail. Banco seating along one long wall was surprisingly comfortable with the multitude of turquoise-colored pillows adding a dash of color to the surrounding earth tones.

We were greeted by our cheery and attentive waitress, Pamela. She later told us, “I love working here,” which was evident in everything she did. While many of the menu items have a Southwestern overtone this is not a Mexican restaurant. I selected chicken schnitzel with a lemon butter caper sauce, accompanied with fresh asparagus. Generally served with frites I could substitute either the mashed or fingerling potatoes. Bob chose the grilled Atlantic salmon served atop a gazpacho sauce with roasted fingerling potatoes and topped with spears of tempura asparagus. He didn’t leave a single bite.

Old Marina's Hall - Salmon Old Martina's Hall - Chicken

 

When it came time to see the dessert tray we were once again awed by the selection and presentation. An European pastry chef begins each day at 3:00 am to create the assorted, decadent treats. This was not a night to share one dessert. Bob opted for a fresh apricot tart. My piece de resistance was chocolate ganache in a phyllo pastry cup topped with creamy sea-salt caramel sauce. OMG! Heaven, but extremely rich. I actually had to box some for a bedtime snack with a tall glass of cold milk.

Old Martina's Hall - Dessert Tray

During our current stay in Taos I will definitely return to try the breakfast menu and Old Martina’s Hall’s pastry case will be a temptation every time I pass the historic landmark serving modern day tastes.

Old Martina's Hall - Dessert

Destination Taos

We’ve happily returned to Taos for a July week. Bob’s once again attending a painting workshop with Stephen Kilborn, always an inspiring and motivational experience. Highlights today include lunch at my favorite Northern New Mexico eatery – Orlando’s, at visit to the Kilborn Gallery and dinner at Graham’s Grille.

Casa Pajaro - Kitchen

Our Taos home for the week is an adobe rental on the historic La Loma Plaza, Casa Pajaro. The two bedroom house was painted and decorated by renown Southwest artist Jim Wagner.  Every nook and cranny reveals playful and colorful details guaranteed to elicit smiles. Magpies, fish, chickens, flowers, hearts – I’m sure we’ll still be noticing new discoveries all week.

Casa Pajaro - Fireplace

Casa Pajaro - Bedroom

Hutch - Casa Pajaro

Casa Pajaro - Guestroom

I’ll post more details about Casa Pajaro later this week. Check back soon.

A Day in Santa Fe

Shopping, Sculpture and Frivolity

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We weren’t the only ones kicking up our heels in Santa Fe today. We met these high steppers created by Jim Agius at Ventana Gallery on Canyon Road. We stopped at the venerable gallery to see the whimsical watercolors of Tom Noble and enjoyed the works of numerous other artists. Memorable to Bob where the mixed media creations of Debra Corbett.

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Shopping started with a quick visit to a true Santa Fe original – Jackalope. We didn’t wander the multiple buildings and acres of pottery and “stuff”. Our purpose was the broad selection of World Music. New CDs play as I write.

Bob always likes to stop at Books and More Books to check out the shelves of used art books. Brushes and a book by artist Nancy Reyner were purchased  at Artisan on Cerrilios Road.

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In the afternoon we drove out to Tesuque Village for a leisurely stroll through the sculpture gardens at Shidoni Foundry and Galleries. The variety of styles, materials and creativity never ceases to amaze. We note numerous additions since our last visit seven months ago. A great way to spend a sunny spring afternoon.

New to us, but certainly not to the locals, was dinner at Andiamo! in the Rail Yard District. The highly recommended crispy polenta in a rosemary gorgonzola sauce did not disappoint for a starter. The well-dressed Caesar Salad was fresh and enough for both of us. Bob finished off his eggplant Parmesan with tomato basil spaghetti. As much as I liked the linguine with spicy grilled shrimp there is a box of leftovers going home with me tomorrow. We passed on dessert, however, the tiramisu looked most promising. Next time.

The big decision of the evening is a choice between relaxing in our favorite room at Inn at Vanessie or drinks and jazz piano next door. Frivolity anyone?

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A Day in Albuquerque

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We start the week with a typical Yackel “vacation” day – on the go.                

After a bit of shopping for projects at home the day was too beautiful to spend inside museums. Instead, we head to ABQ BioPark. The Botanical Gardens was fairly new the last time we visited; interesting to see growing maturity and development. Plantings show springtime promise and the garden’s expansions include a Heritage Farm. Children’s enthusiasm radiated throughout the aquarium, “Mommy, the shark has BIG teeth,” from a bug-eyed three year old or a ten-year-old explaining about blue blood of the horseshoe crab used in medical research. The circular tank of Moon Jellies mesmerizes visitors of all ages.

DSC00776 - Version 2Nearby Old Town attracts us for our next stop. We like seeking out unique shops tucked in quiet courtyards and patios. A find this trip was Yucca Art Gallery a showcase for Albuquerque’s oldest artist co-op. Works of forty local artisans include jewelry, pottery, weavings, woodworks and a wide variety of painting media and genre.

Next destination – the rural village of Corrales, a historic adobe church and another co-op art gallery. After a brief stop by our hotel we’re off to dinner and more shopping before capping the day with a frozen yogurt. Time to rejuvenate for tomorrow – another “vacation” day.

When You Go: Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau

Ah, New Mexico!

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When an attitude adjustment is needed we find it easy to change scenes with a trip to New Mexico. Bob said he needed to get away, relax, enjoy good food and take pictures. After an easy Sunday drive we’ve settled into a Staybridge Suite in Albuquerque where we’ve spotted green willows and blooming fruit trees. How refreshing after a series of snow storms in Denver.

Picture taking today focused on an old adobe church east of Santa Fe. Bob’s successfully completed watercolors of Nuestra Senora De La Luz at Canoncito. We’ve never before been here in early spring before the trees have leaved. Perhaps a new painting will soon be in the works.

We stopped in Las Vegas, NM for lunch. Trip Advisor list’s Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe as the #1 restaurant in Las Vegas. We’d been here years ago and it was time for a revisit, we weren’t disappointed. Old timers remember Charlie’s as the “Spic & Span” az the sign on the building  still attests.

Charlie’s is open until 3pm, both the breakfast and lunch menu were available. We both chose the “Fluffy” – a handmade sopapilla stuffed with fluffy eggs and your choice of meats (bacon, ham, chorizo or sausage, steak for $1 more), smothered with either red or green chile and served with either hash browns or pipits. While we waited we watched a very busy lady making the fresh tortillas served and sold at Charlie’s. Our plates were delivered hot and so enticing I failed to think of taking a picture. The serving was too large for travelers needing to spend a few more hours in the car so we both have boxes in the hotel frig.

Charlie's Las Vegas

At the cash register I ordered two of their iced sugar cookies shaped as shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Bob had his immediately and I wolfed mine down while Bob was filling the car with gas. The best sugar cookie I’ve had in a very long time! We were temped to go back for a dozen but we resisted. But, I will remember the next time we’re anywhere near Las Vegas, NM.

Taos Gates and Doors

What’s behind the adobe walls of Northern New Mexico? Almost as intriguing are the doors and gates that allow entrance behind those adobe walls. From ornate to functional the entryways display  individualism and originality. We find elaborate carvings such as those in the Fechin House and others that seem to have survived years of neglect.

Color adds to the interest and appeal. Blues predominate in many shades and tints. The label Taos Blue is often applied but there seems to be no agreement as to the exact hue.

  

There are no rules or standards, neon green or cherry red, arched or perfectly squared off, anything goes. These doors and gates lead to public and private gardens, homes, shops, restaurants,galleries, museums, and churches. And, for some we don’t know what’s behind the adobe walls.

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2012 Fiestas de Taos

July 20-22

Century old traditions continue in Taos Plaza July 20-22, 2012 with Fiestas de Taos. Parades, music, royalty, music, food, music, dance and more music. Opening ceremonies for Fiesta Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday evening.

Colorfully clad children Parade Saturday morning. Families spread blankets to claim shady spots for the day of kid activities, shopping, entertainment and festival food. A dozen musical groups throughout the day until the Plaza closes at 10pm.

Sunday morning begins with the St. Francis Choir at 9am. The Historical Parade at twelve noon on Sunday brings Taos traffic to a halt.

 

A historical carousel known as Tio Vivo has been a key part ofFiesta every year since 1939. The only one of it’s kind active in the United States, the 19th-century “Flying Jenny” first arrived in Taos in 1896

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The Taos Lions Club maintains the priceless treasure that they feel belongs to the children of Taos. The club covers the large maintenance costs and hours of volunteerism so that children attending Fiesta can enjoy free rides on Tio Vivo .

 

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