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by Gloria Casale

The 12-foot spire of an Agave parryi, the desert plant that blooms only once in its lifetime, stands regally on a quiet side street … the 300-year-old San Felipe Neri Church, quiet and peaceful, draws worshipers and visitors through its arched, stucco gates … Native American artisans sell their wares on blankets beneath La Placita’s portal, just as they’ve done for centuries.

You needn’t be a historian to appreciate New Mexico’s richly textured past. But these days, it isn’t only history that draws visitors to Old Town Albuquerque — it’s also art, food, and unique accommodations.

At several co-op art galleries, you’ll find whimsical clay “flatheads” with nails and other bits of metal sticking out at odd angles. Hand-woven shawls drape gracefully in glowing jewel tones. Painted gourds, wooden boxes sanded buttery smooth, and functional pottery imprinted with ferns and leaves make wonderful conversation pieces, as do paintings that capture the glorious colors of a New Mexican sunset. 

When you shop at the Amapola Gallery or Yucca Art Gallery — both member-owned — you save by buying directly from the artists.

Casa De RuizA double treat awaits you at the Church Street Cafe.  Originally Casa De Ruiz (one of the very first residences in Albuquerque) the restaurant maintains the look and feel of an authentic old world hacienda.

Adobe walls, more than three feet thick, keep the structure warm in winter and cool in summer.  Kiva fireplaces and authentic Native American art grace each room. Relax in the traditional central courtyard for outdoor dining spring through fall.  Their New Mexican Food, flavored with green chili, is unsurpassed.

Nearby, the Bottger mansion stands like a lovely Victorian dowager waiting to greet you.  You’ll cross the courtyard where goldfinches and sparrows flit from tree to tree, mourning doves coo in the eaves of the house, and hummingbirds sample the nectar from honeysuckle, butterfly bushes, and aromatic hyssop. Charles Bottger built this historic mansion in 1907.

Today’s owners, Steve and Kathy Hiatt, offer gourmet breakfasts, gracious Southwestern hospitality, and eight tastefully decorated rooms.  Cable TV, private baths, telephones, air conditioning and wireless internet access are available.

Check out:

Amapola Gallery, 205 Romero Street (upstairs), Old Town Albuquerque, NM 87104. 
505 242-4311 www.amapolagallery.com

Yucca Art Gallery, 206½ San Filipe St. NW, Old Town Albuquerque, NM  87104. 
505 247-8931

Church Street Café, 2111 Church St. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104. 
505 247-8522 www.churchstreetcafe.com Open 8 AM–4 PM daily for breakfast and lunch; Thurs – Sat

Bottger Mansion, 110 San Filipe, NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104. 505 243-4378  www.bottger.com

 

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