The Suitcase Lady


December 15, 2009, 11:07 pm

You know you’re out West when the downtown streets are named Iron, Coal, Lead, Silver, Gold and Copper. Specifically, you would be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, named after “His Grace, Juan Luis Carlos Adelberto ‘Chato’ Limon y Mas Cerveza de Alburquerque”, The Duke of Albuquerque. Time has mangled the spelling of the Duke’s name.

I count Albuquerque as my second home, even though I don’t own a square inch of it. Home is where you can find just about anything without a map and where friends will take you in at any hour of the day or night.

Albuquerque has no secrets. The city is sprawled out along the Rio Grande Valley. When you drive out of the airport at night, the entire town is glittering below you. The Eastern side is the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The oldest part of town is down in the valley next to the river, and is appropriately called “Old Town”. The main street, Central Ave, is a nostalgia trip: it’s the old Route 66.

Contrary to some guide books, Hispanic Old Town is not just for tourists. Ironically, one of my favorite French cafes is tucked into a charming Old Town plaza. The head chief at La Crepe Michel has been turning out exquisite meals in her diminutive restaurant for 22 years.

No visit to Albuquerque is complete without a stop at a Flying Star. The food and drink at the 9 “Stars” is wonderful and affordable, the decor is atomic. Order the “Red Stuff” to drink. Yes, that’s its real name – this town is casual.

Between the tramway, museums, biopark and hot air balloon ascents, boredom is not an issue here. Mention must be made about the beach. Residents of the Duke City love their Tingley Beach. I couldn’t fathom what these desert dwellers were talking about, so I followed the signs to the beach. It’s hard for a Midwesterner not to laugh. The “beach” is a bulge in the river with a heap of playbox sand at its side. You have to give these folks credit for trying.

2009 New Mexico-0

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