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On Walkabout In: Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico

Basic Information

Narrative

Though I have never lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico it is a town I have spent a lot of time in due to family that live in the city.  The last time I went to Albuquerque I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express located off of I-40 on 12th Street:

My wife and I were given a third floor room with a nice view of western Albuquerque to include of balloons that were flying in the morning:

Off in the distance we could also see the small dormant volcanoes that created the large lava fields to the west of the city which is where Petroglyph National Monument is located:

Across the street from the Holiday Inn is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center:

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center  is owned and operated by the 19 Indian Pueblos of New Mexico and the center’s mission statement says that it is to preserve and perpetuate Pueblo Indian Culture, History and Art. The center opened in 1976 but the building to me looked newly constructed or at minimum received a nice renovation:

Inside the center there is a museum that documents the various Native-American tribes that live in the Albuquerque area.  Here is a map that shows the various pueblo tribes that call the Rio Grande region their home land:

Some of these tribes such as the Acoma and the Taos I have discussed before here on On Walkabout:

Here is the courtyard in the middle of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center:

Taking pictures of the various displays was not allowed but my wife and I really enjoyed looking at all the Native-American artwork and artifacts on display.  We really found the center to be quite informative.  Something else we were pleasantly surprised by was the Pueblo Harvest Cafe inside the center.  The cafe features food that is a fusion of Native-American and southwestern cuisine and it was absolutely delicious.  Click this link to view the dinner menu that we ordered from at the cafe.

Below is a picture of the appetizers we received which included salad and freshly made pueblo flatbread with various sauces.  We also had Native-American style bread delivered to our table to snack on as well:

Here is my main dish which was the Chaco Combination that was a blue corn chicken enchilada and red chile pork tamale, served with Pueblo beans and squash:

My wife ordered the Elk Tenderloin that was topped with blackberry-sage compote and a red wine demi glace served with savory blue-corn green chile pancake:

Both dishes were absolutely outstanding.  The only downside to the cafe is that it is a bit pricey but if you stay at the Holiday Inn they give you a 10% discount.  My wife and I though felt the meal was worth every cent we paid.

Just down the road from the Indian Cultural Center is Old Town area my wife and I like to go and walk around when we are visiting Albuquerque.  Just like Santa Fe located just up the road from Albuquerque there is a park known as the Plaza located in the center of Old Town:

Located across the street from the Plaza is the beautiful San Felipe de Neri Parish:

According to the parish’s website the first church at this location was constructed in 1706 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest who came to Albuquerque with 30 families from Bernalillo in 1704 or 1705. The church was initially named San Francisco Xavier by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, who founded the city of Albuquerque and named it after the Viceroy of New Spain who ruled over the New Mexico territory.  The title of the Viceroy of New Spain that he had back in Spain was that he was the Duke of the city of Alburquerque which though spelled differently is where the city of Albuquerque got its name way back in 1706.  The Duke of Alburquerque ordered that the titular saint of the newly constructed church be changed to San Felipe de Neri in honor of King Philip of Spain.

Due to heavy rains in 1792 the old church collapsed. The church that now stands on the Old Town Plaza was constructed the following year. This church was constructed in the shape of a cross with adobe walls that are 5 feet thick. A one-story convento for the Friars was added on the east side and the westernmost room of the structure was a sacristy.  Except for its tin ceiling, brick floor, and south entrance, today’s church is the same structure as in 1793. In 1995-96, the roof of the rectory was restored to the original look given by the Jesuits in 1890. The new pitched tin roof has a decorative gable above the front door and a “widow’s walk.”  You can read much more about the history of this beautiful church at this link.

After checking out the church we then proceeded to walk around the Old Town area that features a number of historic buildings that are now home to various shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants:

The Old Town area of Albuquerque is not quite as nice as downtown Santa Fe but it felt bigger than the historic area in that city.  For anyone in the El Paso area that hasn’t been to either Santa Fe or Albuquerque both of these historic districts are basically super-sized versions of Old Mesilla:

The city of Albuquerque hosts a very good website that provides maps and listings of the various businesses that are located in Old Town that is well worth checking out by anyone thinking of visiting the city.  According to the website Albuquerque’s Old Town encompasses about ten blocks of historic adobe buildings city are centered around Plaza. On the north side of the plaza is the previously mentioned San Felipe de Neri Church which is the oldest building in the city. Surrounding the church, the early Spanish settlers built their homes, shops and government offices, many of which have since been converted into the restaurants, art galleries and shops that comprise Old Town today. Old Town today looks much like it did when it was built centuries ago. Its Pueblo-Spanish style architecture with flat-roofed buildings and soft contours of adobe mirror the Southwestern landscape. Long portals (porches) line the fronts of most buildings offering shade from the New Mexican sun. Bancos (benches) are often found built into the back walls of the portals, providing the perfect place for weary walkers to sit and watch the world go by.

The Old Town website also has some historical pictures of Old Town that are well worth checking out as well.  Besides checking out the various shops in Old Town something I highly recommend is stopping by the American International Rattlesnake Museum:

As the name of the museum suggests this place is filled with rattlesnakes for paying customers to get an upclose look at:

It wasn’t all rattlesnakes in the museum, there was also a Gila Monster which is a poisonous lizard found in the American Southwest:

After checking out the museum my wife and I then proceeded to walk around and check out a few more of the various shops in Old Town before heading back to the hotel:

 Conclusion

In my opinion Old Town should be the first place for anyone visiting Albuquerque to check out since it really gives visitors an appreciation of how old this city is and its Spanish heritage.  Every time my wife and I visit Albuquerque we always make sure to take some time to wander around the streets and alleyways of Old Town; so hopefully others visiting the city for the first time will enjoy this charming neighborhood as much as we do.

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