Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adventures in the Land of Enchantment

"Under a sky of azure,
Where balmy breezes blow,
Kissed by the golden sunshine, 
Is Nuevo Mexico." - Elizabeth Garrett

E and I visiting the plaza in Old Town Albuquerque

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the wonderful fortune to be able to visit my home state of New Mexico over the weekend. My good friend and I had been talking about doing this trip for years, and it was so good to finally make it a reality. I spent the majority of my life in New Mexico, but the central part of the state will always feel most like home to me. The people, the weather, the vast turquoise sky all welcome me, and I feel comfortable in their embrace. 

E at El Pinto

My fellow New Mexicans sometimes disagree with me, but one of my favorite places to eat at and visit on my trips home is to El Pinto in the North Valley. Arguably the largest and most well-known restaurant in New Mexico, El Pinto has hosted thousands of visitors since opening in 1962. Famous fans include Presidents (GH and GW Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton), actors (Mel Gibson, Quinton Aaron, and Idris Elba), musicians (Clint Black, Joel Madden, and Teddy Riley), and athletes (Brian Urlacher, Tommy Lasorda, and Hank Baskett), and of course... yours truly. Ha! 

Some of my best friends and me after dinner at El Pinto

I'll be honest - I don't go to El Pinto for the food. Yes, the food is pretty delicious, but I really go for the ambiance and the salsa. Oh, how I miss El Pinto salsa! Shame that I haven't found a grocer in SoCal that sells it yet. The restaurant itself is beautiful though. The property sits on over 12 acres, and is housed in a 5,000 square foot hacienda. Indoors or out, you really can't go wrong. It's definitely worth a stop if you have a special occasion. They don't take reservations unless you have a party of 14 or more (holy cow!), so be prepared to wait... especially on the weekends. Don't worry - the bar is open and the margaritas are plentiful! Grab a cocktail and get comfortable while you wait.

E waiting for the train to Santa Fe

E and I decided to take the Rail Runner Train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe for day two. The Rail Runner is my new favorite way to travel between the two cities. Since opening in 2008, over 5 million people have taken the train - definitely the most comfortable and relaxing way to commute. E was very excited to ride the Rail, his first train ride in the United States.

Outside the Oldest House in America (circa 1200 AD)

Upon arrival, E and I quickly made our way to downtown to find a place to eat. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch on the rooftop patio at Coyote Cafe - home of the most delicious prickly pear cactus margaritas in the world. After that, we made our way to the Old Santa Fe trail to do some sightseeing. In addition to the churches mentioned in my last post, E and I took a quick tour through the oldest house in the United States - La Casa Vieja de Analco. Dating back to 1200 AD, this is the oldest currently inhabited home in the United States. This may surprise visitors familiar with St Augustine, Florida, but keep in mind that New Mexico was inhabited long before Europeans ever landed in America. Originally inhabited by Pueblo Indians, the home was left vacant for over 160 years until the Spanish arrived in 1598. The home has a rich history, with stories of war, witches, and even ghosts! I could write an entire blog about it, but instead I'll let you read a much better written blog about it (click here). 

E and I enjoying the warm weather (and entertainment) of The Plaza

From the Oldest House to the Plaza of Governors, E and I took our time winding our way through Santa Fe's crooked streets. One of my dearest friends lives in Santa Fe, and made plans to pick us up to see her new house that afternoon. We sat and enjoyed the ambiance of the old city, complete with artists and crazy hobos (literally - there was a fight between two while we were there), waiting for her to arrive. 

The view from my friends' new home in Santa Fe

When M finally picked us up, we had only an hour to see her new home. I was amazed! Her new home has expansive views on a prime, hilltop location. Her husband (a photographer) has the home decorated with his amazing photos, and it's such a better fit for their family than their home in the city. I couldn't be happier for her! I only wish we could have stayed to visit longer.

E and I on top of Sandia Crest

The next day was the final day of our short trip, and we made sure to make the best of it! Having talked about the mountains all weekend, I thought it was only appropriate that I take E to the top of Sandia Crest to show him the amazing views. Sandia Crest sits at an impressive 10,678 feet above sea level (just over 5,000 feet higher than the city of Albuquerque itself). There are two ways to access the Crest, but I almost always choose to drive - the backside of the Sandias are such a beautiful contrast to its western face. I could go on and on, but I'll let the views speak for themselves.

Looking down on Albuquerque's north side, near Sandia Casino

E taking in a scary cliffside view

Looking south towards Los Lunas and Belen

Alas, all good trips must come to an end. I am so grateful to have such good friends to have back home. It was wonderful to see each and every one of them! And I am so happy that E was able to join me for this trip. I truly enjoy showing off my home state to friends and strangers alike, and hope that he came to find New Mexico as lovely as I always have. I made sure to show him as much as I could during our short stay, including stops at my favorite restaurants that I used to haunt during my college days. Which were those, you ask? No stop back home is complete without a visit to Saggios, Frontier, Flying Star Cafe, Weck's, and El Pinto. We also had time to stop at Nob Hill Grill and Coyote Cafe. Next time, I must make sure we stop in at Zinc, Artichoke Cafe, and Milly's too! Ah, the food of New Mexico, the only state with an official question (Red or Green?) and official cookie (biscochitos) because we love food so!

Well, tomorrow it's back to work I go! Until next time...

--- Becks

A final gift for my viewers - one of the many new murals painted in Albuquerque. Crazy, but cool! 

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