Since this blog is entitled “New Mexico to Italy,” I thought it was about time to give a shout-out to the place we’re leaving. I also thought you readers from abroad would appreciate a view of this side of the pond (on a semi-related aside, my assignment for Italian class this week is to present this post in Italian – gasp!). This is specifically about the place and not the people (you know who you are and that we’re gonna miss you!). Here are just a few of the cool things about our current home we’re going to miss:
International Balloon Fiesta – this is the largest balloon festival in the world, with upwards of 800 balloons coming from all over the world each year (for 9 days in early in October). In the morning they take off and in the evenings they stay tethered to the ground for a “balloon glow.” Balloons are pretty common here (when the winds are calm I can always see at least few on my morning run) and we have been up in one a few times (the unwritten rule is that you “crew” – help man the balloon – to earn a flight). I have no idea how we got on the topic of balloons in my school in Italy but everyone seemed amazed when I said they could come visit and go up in one – reminding me how truly special/unique the experience is! Here are just a couple of the many hundreds of photos I have take over the years…
Sandia Mountain – this is the beautiful mountain that turns “sandia” (watermelon) colored in the evening. It is great for hiking and skiing. It is also the way I have not gotten lost for the past 18 years (you can see it from everywhere in town so you always know which way is East). A couple of years ago I hiked up to the top (9 miles total, to over 10,000 ft.) and then took the tram down (the signs claim it is the world’s longest tram, but I have seen similar claims at other trams…). (you can read more/see more photos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains).
The Fiery Food Show - this is the HUGE spicy food festival here that we have been attending for most of the past 17 years (first weekend of March). There are hundreds of booths where you can taste-test the latest in spicy foods – some are so hot that you get a sticker or some-other trinket if you can actually stand to try them! Here I am with my sister-in-law a few years ago (and here she is after tasting something VERY spicy!):
Run for the Zoo (and other runs) – I really love running in New Mexico. Except for the middle of summer, it is almost always perfect weather here in the mornings for a run and there are so many cool organized runs. I started off with 5k’s, then after many years worked up to 10k’s, then finally to half marathons. The biggest and most fun is the “Run for the Zoo,” where you actually run both for the zoo (it’s a fund-raiser) and through the back of the zoo (in how many 10k’s do you get to wave to elephants?!). Just ran this year’s on May 6.
Huevos Rancheros (and all other Mexican, Tex-Mex and New Mexican food!) – It’s always about the food with me! The best thing about food in New Mexico is the Hatch green chile. Every year at the end of the summer, the chile is harvested in Hatch, NM, and brought to groceries and stands all over the state. The tradition is you buy a huge sack full and then wait in line outside to have it roasted in a big roaster (you can pick from gringo mild to HOT – we like it HOT!). You bring it home and peel it (an all day affair, and one which we learned the hard way our first year here requires wearing gloves!), then bag it up and freeze it to see you through the year of green chile stews, huevos rancheros, green-chile-cheese fries, and just about anything else you can to add green chile to. YUM!
There are many more great things about Albuquerque – the nearly perpetual sunshine, rollerblading along the Bosque (nature area that runs along the Rio Grande), our very cool Zoo and BioPark, funky Nob Hill where you can stroll and shop and eat outside (closest thing we have to a European city center). And, yes, there are also not-so-great things we won’t miss… hearing about yet another visitor having their vehicle/belongings stolen from a motel parking lot, the fact that police have shot and killed dozens of people in the past couple of years, Walmart (and the other Walmart, and the smaller, but no less annoying Walmart), the spring winds, and having to drive almost everywhere! But, as with most things, I am sure we will look back with rose-colored glasses and miss the balloon-filled sky come October…