Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Mexico Day 1: Happy Albuquerque Anniversary!

The approach into Albuquerque from 10,000 ft. Snowy mountains.
" A perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on one another."

Paul and I celebrated our actual 4th  anniversary on December 31st by going over to the Monteagle Inn in Monteagle, Tennessee over on the Cumberland Plateau after I got off from work that day. The inn is really lovely and only about a two and a half hour drive. There is plenty of hiking, rest and relaxation and surprisingly good dining opportunities. My family drove in on New Years Day from several directions and we spent a coupla days there bringing in 2016. Lotsa fun.

Every year, one of us takes his or her turn planning a marriage celebration trip and this year, the privilege fell to Mr. Parris. His choice: New Mexico. This is a state we are both "enchanted" with (Yes, the inhabitants VOTED on the state motto :). We have been before both separately and together. We love the Taos area as well as Albuquerque. I have also been to Santa Fe and found it lovely and artsy/fartsy. Two years ago, we planned a trip to White Sands for my birthday, but Paul's work meeting got moved to D.C., so he thought this would be a good time to plan to make that missed visit happen.

There were major snow storms in the region last week, so the remnants of those were seen as we flew into Albuquerque (pictured above.)

Fortunately, there are just patches of snow left in the shady areas, and it didn't affect driving at all . We are planning hikes for our stay in Albuquerque for the first two days that don't require cramp-ons. And that is pretty easy to do here, as many living here people are outdoor aficianados. There are many greenways and public paths that eschew cars and traffic.

We started by checking in to our hotel for two nights, the Parq Central.
The Hotel Parq Central. It used to be the hospital for the railroad.

Lovely rooms

The whole lobby area has a chic clean lined appearance.
We stayed here overnight 2 years ago on our way to Taos. This is a really beautiful hotel and like nearly everything in Albuquerque, reasonable to the wallet as well. If you are a budget traveller, you will find most of New Mexico very affordable.  This hotel used to be a hospital for railroad employees and has been repurposed beautifully. (I thought I was getting out of the hospital for a few days, but I guess if I have to be in the hospital on vacation, this is the only way to go.) There is a rooftop bar called the Apothecary that specializes in craft cocktails and even uses some local hooch.
The rooftop bar. We decided 38 F degrees wasn't attractive. They also have indoor seating.

Paul always says when dining in New Mexico, the question you often hear is "red or green?" Although that is about the chile sauce on the average night, tonight it was about the happy hour drinks. We said, "Both."
Paul had the greenish rosemary gin and tonic and I had "flanders poppy."
Instead of the DO NOT DISTURB sign, they have kitchy ones that remind us this was once a hospital.
Quarantine, anyone?

Even though we didn't get to the hotel until about 2pm, we were able to find a really great hike we could drive to before dark and get in a couple of hours/6 miles or so walking. The Paseo de Bosque Trail, passing north , through and south of Albuquerque on the Rio Grande del Norte River, is a 16 mile long greenway, car-free. It is open to walkers, bikers, and equestrians. On a Monday afternoon at 2:30pm, there were very few exercisers. It is meant to preserve habitat predominantly for birds along the river and its branches, creeks, ponds, etc. and also to provide a place for homo sapiens to enjoy them. And we did! There are several blinds for viewing mostly waterfowl. But in a  very nice event of serendipity, we found out that the sand hill cranes migrate to this region every winter. So we go to enjoy them feeding, flying and their beautiful speaking as well. Who knew? (Well, okay, the lady at the nature center directed us to their favorite cafe.)
Beautiful sand hill cranes in a field along the Parque de Bosque Trail. The colors were so subdued in the grey fading light. They have a very pretty call that sounds like they are "rolling Rs." Very Spanish!

We don't know how many mallard pairs we saw along the river, but it was plenty. They mate for life. Apropos to our own special occasion.
Plenty of mallards enjoyed their evening swim.

The Rio Grande del Norte

A good idea about the landscape we traversed in Parque del Bosque

This paved path extends 16 miles. There is an unpaved path beside it you can see to the right on the photo. No cars!

A smattering of snow, the Sandia mountains just before a bit more snow came our way.
As walking fools, we were so happy to find this little piece of heaven pretty much within the metro area and to see the ornithological miracles along the way. The sandhill cranes were unexpected but highly enjoyed.
These guys overflew us. Wouldn't be Albuquerque without a balloon!
Then we were back to the hotel to get ready for a dinner. Any trip with my husband is a culinary adventure and tonight, he selected Artichoke Cafe. First off, it's easy walking distance to the hotel, allowing him to enjoy that second (and okay, maybe even a third) glass of wine without worrying about his safety and that of others. In addition, it's fantastic food. It has a trio of chefs and they all pretty much rock!
Red or green again at dinner!
The menu is full of New Mexican homage but also plenty of classically French touches. You really cannot go wrong no matter what you order. In addition to their already spectacular house menu which changes seasonally, they have nightly concoctions. Warning: Food porn section.
We split this great salad with apples, walnuts and a sprinkle of local goat cheese.

This short rib with a chile polenta was pretty much melt in your big fat mouth. YUM!

My entree was equally delicious, Humboldt Fog ravioli. That should be illegal. Fortunately, I only ate half. Otherwise, I would need a real hospital instead of a redone former one.
We will spare you the dessert pictures because we got so excited about it, we ate the stuff before we took a photo. It was ice creams: honey pine nut, red chile caramel and rosemary vanilla. Excellent.

They do make wine in New Mexico and we have occasionally indulged in some, but the Artichoke cafe didn't offer any. I don't remember ever having a bad one from this region, but I am sure they make them. They are able to grow some of the "French" varietals and we are told Syrah does pretty well here. We may get a chance to sample later in the trip. For this meal, an Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was recommended. It's usually hard to go wrong with that!

We didn't know this producer but it didn't stem our enjoyment.
All I can say is it is a good thing we walked about 8 miles total yesterday!

The return to Albuquerque was welcome. A nice hotel, a gorgeous walk (bundled up but not cold), a warm and cozy restaurant with great food, a wonderful husband of four years. A charmed life. We know how fortunate we are!

Four years and still smiling in the Parque de Bosque!
"Marriage is a mosaic you create with your spouse, millions of tiny moments that create a love story."

Paul's Ponderings:  We had a nice uneventful trip out (thank you Delta) and despite some trepidation, arrived to find the temperature was manageable.   Even more so, it was manageable for a hike along the Rio Grande and viewing of some great bird life, particularly the cranes.   We had a nice walk and then a great evening out at the Artichoke Cafe, where we've dined once before.  They are predicting snow overnight, so we shall see!   New Mexico is so different than what we see at home and the light this time of year is quite a change from in summer, so it's a great chance to see it all differently.   A great start to a fourth anniversary trip!

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