BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE STORY IN THE JUNE 2011 ISSUE OF LATINTRENDS, AVAILABLE JUNE 1st!
The opportunity to experience some of the finest attractions in Albuquerque, Mexico was too tempting to pass up. And frankly, within minutes of finally touching ground, I knew my intuition had served me well. Yes, this hidden jewel in the Southwestern United States was everything I thought it would be -- warm, peaceful, culturally and culinarily rich and diverse, and abound with tequila-based beverages -- and more. But getting there was no vacation. After getting some inflammatory quotes from disgruntled New York Yankee veteran Jorge Posada (aimed at GM Brian Cashman) following the Yankees' 6-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, May 14, I raced upstairs to the press box, wrote my piece and went home to pick up my luggage. I left my apartment at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15, and made my way from 161st Street in The Bronx to 125th Street (Spanish Harlem) -- amidst a relentless downpour -- to catch the M 60 bus to LaGuardia Airport. There wasn't any time to sleep, as my flight from New York to Atlanta was scheduled for takeoff at 7:05 a.m. And from Atlanta to Albuquerque, still no sleep (and my clothes were still wet, to boot). Upon arrival, I, like several other writers from around the country, was directed to a dining area by Geiger & Associates employees and treated to lunch. From the airport, we were rushed to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, where an American Indian dance performance was being held. The routine was performed by four youths -- two girls, two boys -- donning traditional native dance attire. Prior to that afternoon, I had never gone out west . . . never. Combine that with the fact that I hadn't slept since Friday night/Saturday morning, the experience felt surreal, like I was seeing what I was seeing because I had taken whatever Doors frontman Jim Morrison used to take for his trips. It was beautiful, and the kids were kind enough to pose for a picture before we left to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. By the time we reached the museum parking lot, the New Mexican sun had dried my clothes. Our group formed the bulk of the very few visitors there that day, so the silence outside the car was perfect, absolute. It was the type of silence we'd get in New York City if every mechanical/electrical device and vehicle were to be turned off. The type we'd get here if, for once, all eight million of us would just take a moment to shut the f__k up. We saw a variety of aerostats (i.e., "lighter than air" aircrafts) and other flying vehicles (such as gliders, for instance), and learned about world records set as far back as the late 1700s and how the development of balloons contributed to making air warfare viable by the early 20th century. Our next destination, the Sandia Peak Tramway, gave us a chance to get acquainted with the high elevation those daredevils of aeronautic fame we learned about at the museum enjoyed so often. The epic, scenic view of the mountains from the tram car compelled me to develop a much deeper respect for the sheer scale of this celestial body we call Earth. Then there was a fete of sorts at St. Clair Winery & Bistro. We were greeted there by members of the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, hors d'oeuvres (nuts, shards of dark chocolate and assorted wine cheeses) and -- you guessed it -- various wines. The pesto pasta and skewered shrimp I ordered made for a fine combo; the pasta itself was among the best I've ever tasted. Our host, business development manager Sandra Pacheco, had a very graceful aura about her. She gave us the backstory of the establishment during desert, which for me was a particularly sumptuous warm apple crisp, the restaurant's interpretation of the apple cobbler. Finally, the cross-country flight and relentless Day 1 tour which deprived me of sleep had given way to Hotel Albuquerque. We checked in, I got to my room, showered and was delighted to discover that the hotel carried HBO. I ended up falling asleep that evening some 20 minutes into the fifth episode of Game of Thrones. Needless to say I slept like a king. ***** (Be on the lookout for LatinTRENDS' June 2011 issue for my take on Days 2 & 3.) *****