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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Do and See in Albuquerque

Up until May, I had been happily living and working in Albuquerque, New Mexico for two years. Before that, I had not lived anywhere for that long other than my home, Long Island, NY. I feel very connected to eastern Long Island, and had trouble staying away for very long. When my now husband moved to Albuquerque for a two year training program, we decided to get married and live there together. At that time, the city was no more than a strange name on a map to me. I had no idea what to expect in moving there, and was more than a little skeptical. Being a marine biologist, I was worried about finding work and never having been associated with the military before, I was nervous about living on base and finding friends. The first time I visited, it for for less than 24 hours. Jamie and I drove my car there from the San Juan Islands in Washington and I flew to the Bahamas for a summer teaching position the morning after I arrived. While I was there, we went shopping at Trader Joe's and ate dinner on the patio of a large restaurant and brewery called Kelly's in one of the trendier parts of town. The city seemed eccentric and interesting and throughout my summer in The Bahamas, I continued to took forward to exploring Albuquerque further.

Albuquerque turned out to be an amazing place to live. Throughout my two years there, I taught middle school science at a private Muslim school, became a yoga teacher, raised a puppy, hiked a lot, and went  rock climbing, snowboarding and skydiving. I learned about organic farming, brewing beer, brewing wine, and raising goats. I visited museums and worked in a lab at UNM. I trained for a marathon and participated in local races. I ate at locally owned restaurants and sampled small breweries. I made the most of my time in such a wonderful place, but this probably makes me miss it even more.

In May, I packed up our life into a moving truck and moved with my dog to meet my husband in Valdosta, GA. When I arrived, we stayed on an air mattress on the floor of a friend's apartment. Two weeks later, I went to North Carolina for a week, then stayed in our new house for just two weeks before heading off to Thailand to teach for the summer. Back in the U.S., I spent a couple days in North Carolina, a week in the D. C. area, a week at home in Long Island, a week in the DC area again, then a week upstate NY. Now I have finally made my way back south to GA. For the duration of this summer, I have felt very ungrounded. Almost even a sensation of floating. I've felt disconnected and it has been rather strange and uncomfortable. When I have dreams about being home or am feeling a bit homesick, I still see visions of Albuquerque. When I close my eyes, I see wide open blue skies and the Sandia Mountains.  

In my recent consideration of life in Albuquerque and moving quite frequently, I decided to write up all of my favorite things about Albuquerque. A kind of homage to the city that might allow me to feel some closure and move on into the next phase of my life in Georgia. Honestly, I wish I had read something like this when I was moving to Albuquerque. Knowing how much another new and scared military wife learned to love the city might have made me feel more comfortable and excited about the move.  Military people have a tendency to talk a lot of trash about wherever they are stationed. I think it is because they did not choose to live there and it is often very different from wherever they call home. So many people that I met at Kirtland Air Force Base said they couldn't wait to get out of Albuquerque. If someone had instead told me how much they loved it there, it might not have taken long to settle in. I could surely use someone telling me some good things about my new town in GA.

A Perfect Albuquerque Weekend:

Friday Night:

Dinner at Il Vicino in Nob Hill. Order a beer from their brewery and one of their amazing personal pizzas. If your feeling hungry, share a spinach salad with your date to start the meal. 

Walk a couple storefronts over and see a documentary or indie film at The Guild Cinema. Enjoy fresh popped pop corn with a variety of fixings available, including nutritional yeast! 

After the movie, walk across the street and check out Tractor Brewing Co.. The beer is not the best in Albuquerque, but there is some high quality people watching to be had, outside seating, and puppies are welcome. There is usually a food truck at the curb, but recently it has only been BBQ (I enjoyed the vegan truck that used to frequent this stretch of curb).


Get up nice and early and grab a hearty breakfast and some delicious coffee at Flying Star. This is a local chain and there are many locations throughout the city. The tofu scramble is my favorite breakfast, but sometimes I order lunch for breakfast and have a Buddha Bowl (brown rice with steamed veggies and crunchy wontons). The soy chai latte is very nice. If you just want coffee, try their sister chain Satellite, which is more of a traditional coffee shop. 

If you went to Flying Star in Nob Hill, which is not the nicest location, but the most convenient, walk over to La Montanita Co-op and pick up some good nutritious snacks. They have great energy cubes in every variety you can think of and local produce that is as fresh as it gets. 

Armed with snacks from La Montanita, and plenty of water, you are ready to hike the famous La Luz trail. It is about 8 miles to the Sandia Crest from the tram parking lot. Along the way you will pass through several ecoclines and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and surrounding area. At the peak, enjoy refreshments at High Finance Restaurant and then take "The World's Longest Tram" back down. It is not the world's longest anymore, but it is the longest in the U.S. and it is probably too much work for them to change all the signs. Just remember, if it is too windy, the tram can stop operating. Don't get stuck at the top and then have to walk all the way back down!

After that nice long hike, head to Marble Brewery. They have amazing beer and a great outdoor space. On Saturday nights, they have a band outside. Get there early if you want to have a place to sit. Dogs are allowed on the patio, but not inside because they do serve food. Treat yourself to some delectable southern cooking when "The Supper Truck" pulls up. 


Start Sunday perfectly with a trip to The Grove in downtown Albuquerque. This place is popular (for good reason), so it is important to get here at opening (8am on Sundays). They are famous for the Croque Madam, but I enjoy the poached eggs, the breakfast burrito, the vegetable sandwich, and the salads. Definitely have a cappuccino. 

It is hard not to, but try not to linger too long. Drive South on 25 to Belen and get in a jump or two at Skydive New Mexico. They offer Tandems and do courses to to learn how to solo jump. Even just The ride in the small airplane to altitude is worth it; there are amazing views of the surrounding landscape that are harder to see after you jump. The air is clear and cool up high and the whole experience is very exhilarating and refreshing. The instructors here are some of the nicest, funnest people around. 

If the weather is not preferred for sky diving (gusty winds will shut down the drop zone), you can keep driving south and go rock climbing in Socorro. There are some easy beginner routes as well as more challenging climbs, but you will need your own equipment. 

Drop in for a Sunday evening yoga class at Grassroots yoga. They have a beautiful, vast studio with hard wood floors and mirrors. The teachers are all great and offer a challenging and fun class. Once a day there is a $5 1 hour class, and last time I checked, Sunday evening was one of those classes! The studio is conveniently located and easy to find with a storefront right on Central. 

For dinner, cozy up at India Kitchen: the best Indian food in town by a long shot. This restaurant is owned by an Indian couple and they provide authentic Indian food with excellent service. Their popadan is amazing. And, they will actually make your food spicy for you if you ask! 


Here are a couple more of my favorite things. Not everything could fit in one weekend!

Los Poblanos Inn & Restaurant: If you need a place to stay consider this, although it can be pricy and is often booked for weddings. The farm provides the food used in the restaurant, making the place beautiful, sustainable, and tasty. If you have a special event, this is the place to eat, but call ahead for reservations. 

Anapurna's Vegetarian Cafe: This Ayurvedic restaurant has the best vegetarian food. I always enjoy the South Indian Sampler, but really everything is good (especially vegan biscotti). Try their kitchari, the most basic of Ayurvedic dishes and don't forget a soy chai (and use your one free refill)!

The Nuclear Museum: A great place to spend the day when it is too cold or windy to do anything else. So much of New Mexico's history is wrapped up in the atomic bomb, it is worthwhile to investigate. 

Obviously there is much more to do and see in Albuquerque, but these are some of my very, very favorites. I hope this is useful to somebody new to the area or awaiting an upcoming move to Kirtland!