Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rio Grande ~ Old Town ~ Albuquerque, New Mexico

We arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on our Cross Country RV adventure on a beautiful sunny day and noticed that the city sure has grown since we were here last. The metropolitan population today is 845,000 (522,000 city) and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Albuquerque is roughly half of the population of all of New Mexico. When we were here last, the population was about 385,000. That trip we didn’t stay but drove thru to Santa Fe for overnite.

Welcome to Old Town Albuquerque, NM
My memory is not always the greatest, but some things one just doesn’t forget.  There was a visit to Old Town Albuquerque on my list for a very long time so we made sure to see it on this visit.  The day was overcast for our visit in Old Town and it is also not a high tourist season at this time so we could wander in and out of several shops without crowds.  We were impressed with many artisans products and enjoyed the cultural treat.

Old Town ~ La Placita
Old Town was founded in 1706 so that explains the age of some of these buildings. They’re definitely old but much has been done to maintain the ambience of La Placita, meaning ‘little plaza’ in Spanish. This typical La Placita was built with buildings, homes and churches surrounding it and still stands that way today. It was 1846 when they raised the flag of the USA over the plaza, which then became the site of a major military outpost.

Mucho red chili peppers
Red chili peppers are a common decorating item in the southwest area and this storefront was one of my favorite displays to see. There are hanging bundles or shapes for centerpieces and wreaths using the red peppers, decorated with raffia. Other colors are used, too, but red is most common and has the best impact. The bright, beautiful and decorative peppers are bred solely for ornamental purposes and valued for their looks, not their flavor.

Street vendors sell their wares in Old Town Albuquerque, NM
Many vendors lay out their wares daily on the sidewalk under the overhang shown in this picture. They will be there, no matter what the weather is like selling mainly jewelry. We saw the same in Santa Fe all those years ago and it was the very coldest of winter but they were there, all bundled up to sell their wares.  Some things remain the same over the years.

El cafe is one of many in Old Town
The railway arrived here in 1880 and located east of town so Old Town ceased to be the hub of downtown Albuquerque but did continue to be a vital part as town center. It is still a major commercial area and a tourist attraction, as well.

The San Felipe de Neri Church
The San Felipe de Neri Church has continuously served as a House of Prayer for 200 years. They’re now in the process of restoring and preserving this landmark, an effort that is expected to take several years to complete.  The name on the building is Sister Blandina Convent, so must have served as that as well at some point.

The vibrant autumn leaves on the Rio Grande river path
The fall leaves are showing off their best right now and as we’d driven over the river in the sunshine, I saw a great photo op. and I was determined to get it. There is no stopping on the bridge, which is on the freeway so we had to try and find a way to the river, without a map, and lots of driving and walking. We did find a place to follow a path and the trees along the path were so colorful but still didn’t give me that ‘photo’ I was after.

Viaduct near Rio Grande in Albuquerque, NM
On one of our epic walks to reach the river, we had parked in a schoolyard and were apparently trespassing when we were at this spot. Another 10 feet and we were in a state park and safe again! I was not giving up on finding a place to get to the river for pictures but thought if I couldn’t get there, I would at least have pictures of trees and water!

Rio Grande River near in State Park
This turned out to be the best I could do and it wasn’t the photo I was hoping for. The river is lined by the colorful trees for miles and a sight to see. Now if I could just get a helicopter for an aerial shot………… ! The Rio Grande River is the fifth longest river in North America at 3,034 km (1885 mi.) and was designated as one of American Heritage Rivers in 1997. The natural flow is only 1/20th the volume of the Colorado River or 1/100 of the Mississippi River so is barely navigable at all, except for small fishing boats.

Snow covered Sandia Mountains border Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque, New Mexico has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, but we happened to manage being there for one of the other 65 days ! The city is one of the highest of any major city in the USA with an elevation of 1490 m. (4900 ft) at the river to 1940 m. (6700 ft) in the residential foothills. The morning we left had started out very foggy and visibility was poor, but by the time we left the fog was lifting and when it did we were able to see a very surprising sight, it had snowed overnite and left a dusting on the Sandia Mountains east of the city.


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