Balloons Over Albuquerque
October 2002
Page 1

Old Town

Church on the plaza

This adventure began with a relatively short drive as we left our campsites in Moriarty, New Mexico and headed for a place to stay near Albuquerque. We arrived, in the early afternoon, at a nice campground on the west side of town. This would be the first time Kay and I targeted Albuquerque as the destination of a trip. In the past, we would simply pass through on our way to some other place or we would stop only for the night.

With our caravan arriving a day ahead of our original schedule, our group decided to visit the Old Town section of Albuquerque. As it turned out, the Old Town area looked very familiar. The layout is that of a Spanish plaza with a big church dominating one end of the town square. It reminded me of the plaza in La Mesilla, New Mexico.

The plaza was surrounded with gift shops, art galleries and restaurants. Our group began going from one establishment to the next. We found a great diversity of items to buy and information about the area. I was interested to learn that many of the buildings are adobe structures that have been around for almost 300 years.

Gift shops seemed to be everywhere

A common item seen hanging in front of many stores were clusters of red peppers. Some bunches of peppers were bright red while others were a darker shade of crimson. These seemed to be fitting decorations for the old adobes.

Peppers are a common sight all over New Mexico

As our small parade moved from one store to another we saw a lot of street vendors selling a very large selection of silver and turquoise jewelry. Many of the buildings have verandas with walkways in the shade. This is where many of the street vendors would set up shop. Some of the vendors were also the same people who crafted the articles of adornment. A few were making jewelry as we watched, a sometimes a delicate process of producing a wearable piece of art.

Craft people making and displaying their wares

Our group enters one of many shops around the plaza

After spending awhile going from one shop to the next for a couple of hours, it was time to find a place to have a late lunch. The restaurant we chose was located in a building that was an old adobe structure. I was impressed when I read a plaque that said the original building was built in 1706.

A good place to eat that is located in a very old building

Our table for our meal was located in a room that appeared as if it was an open courtyard at one time. The first clue was the mature tree growing inside the room. The trunk of the tree went up through the roof with the crown of the tree above the building.

The trunk of the tree growing next to our table

Just before finishing our meal. A mariachi band entered the dining room. They were playing as we exited the restaurant to pick up where we left off with our exploration of Old Town Albuquerque.

Mariachis serenading restaurant patrons

After lunch, our group continued to circulate around the plaza. We found ourselves in front of the church that dominates one end of the plaza. Near one of the entrances was a large bed of cactus plants along with other decorative flora.

Cactus plants growing next to the church

Close-up view of cactus plants growing next to the church

From the church it was on to the last leg of our visit. After a while it seems as if one store has the same stuff as the last. We didn't get around to all the stores and shops as we needed to leave early enough to go to the evening Hot Air Balloon Fiesta activities.

We visited Old Town Albuquerque again later in the week. We took a tour of the shops on a street that we missed on our first visit. The second time in Old Town came after a visit to a very interesting store on Central Avenue, which is part of the Historic Route 66. The store is Skip Maisel's where we saw a huge selection of Navajo rugs, pottery, and Native American crafts as well as silver and turquoise jewelry.

I am very impressed with the inventory carried in Skip Maisel's. I recommend that anyone visiting Albuquerque, wanting to purchase Native American crafts and jewelry should first check out Skip Maisel's. The selection of products is large and of high quality with reasonable prices.

Skip Maisel's — A great place to find Native American made products

Our group did not make it out of Skip Maisel's empty handed. Among the items Kay purchased were a couple of falsa rugs with the lowest prices we saw during our visit to Albuquerque. The women shopped and made purchases while the guys played the role of mules carrying the loads accumulated by the women. To add a bit of irony to the picture, the store used bright pink bags for us to carry our loads.

The guys end up carrying the purchases made by the women

With our burdens in hand, it was time for our group to head back to camp with the good stuff collected on our trip to Old Town Albuquerque.


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