For a while now I’ve been sort of fascinated by the culture, style, and architecture of New Mexico, a state that I’d only been through on a train. I finally had an opportunity to visit, and it didn’t disappoint.
I actually stayed between the two cities in Bernalillo and spent a day in each place. Rather than driving, paying for gas, dealing with traffic, and figuring out where to park, and paying for that too, I took the New Mexico Rail Runner commuter train. It’s really cheap (the hour-long trip to Santa Fe was $9, downtown Albuquerque only cost $4), convenient, and the scenery can’t be beat. Train tickets also get you onto the city buses at no extra cost, just show it to the driver.
The station in Albuquerque is right downtown, but a couple of miles from the Old Town section that I wanted to visit, so I hopped a bus and rode through the city. Old Town is arranged around a central plaza with a large church on one side and surrounded by many shops and tour options. I never got into Breaking Bad but apparently it takes place and/or was filmed in Albuquerque and they do everything they can to capitalize on that fact. I found a sign advertising a funeral procession for Walter White and I one point I saw a tour bus with what appeared to be a meth lab in it.
Leaving Old Town, I got back on the bus and headed over to the Albuquerque Botanical Garden. The garden is half of the ABQ BioPark, the other half being a zoo. $12.50 for one or the other, $20 for both, and a small train runs between them. The garden also contains an aquarium, so the one ticket includes plenty of animals along with the plants. The gardens are beautiful of course, with a farm section, a Japanese garden (my favorite), a lake, two greenhouses, a butterfly house (summer only) and model trains. I didn’t even know garden trains were a thing, but I guess it’s a pretty serious hobby. There’s also a playground shaped like a castle, complete with tunnels, giant flowers, and an ivy-covered dragon.
I really liked Santa Fe. It was a little more desertish than my ideal but there were grassy parks about every ten feet to make up for it, and it’s at a high enough elevation (7,200 feet) to have plenty of big trees. Some of the oldest buildings in the country are here, so I was surprised by how many high end shops there were and how artsy the town was in general. I guess I figured it would be a little more traditional or something.
The beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Francis of Assisi dominates a whole city block and can be seen all over town. I happened to be there on Good Friday so things were closing up all over the place for people to attend the 1:30 service.
The proximity of the Los Alamos labs to Santa Fe also piqued my interest, but I didn’t have time to visit the museums dedicated to that particular aspect of this region. Central New Mexico is definitely interesting, and a place I’d like to explore the history of further on another trip.