New Mexico's largest city has been described as having one foot
in the past, one in the present, and its eyes firmly set on the
future. This certainly sums up this multi-cultural city, spread
across the desert plains beside the Rio Grande, known for its
high-tech research facilities, sentimentally proud of its historic
Old Town, and offering a mix of museums, galleries, spicy
restaurants and great shopping centres to satisfy the appetite of
every kind of visitor. Albuquerque has an ultra-relaxed attitude,
with shorts and t-shirts the unofficial uniform and locals cracking
jokes about living in a 'dusty hick town'. But the city's numerous
attractions are on-hand to prove them wrong.
Albuquerque was born back in 1706 when a group of Spanish
colonists decided that the point on the Rio Grande where the river
made a sweeping curve, backed by the wooded slopes of the nearby
Sandia Mountains, would be a useful place to start a settlement.
Water for irrigation and wood for building was plentiful, and the
local Indian pueblos were available for trading. The new town, at
first just a cluster of mud houses around a small adobe church, was
named for Spain's 10th Duke of Albuquerque. Today the original
church, San Felipe de Neri, stands enshrined in the centre of the
historic heart of the city, the hub of various special holidays and
feast days, drawing visitors and locals alike.
One of the most splendid sights Albuquerque has to offer happens
only once a year - each October the International Balloon Fiesta
has all eyes focussed on New Mexico's blue skies as hundreds of hot
air balloons sail past. Every day of the year, though, the city
offers up its attractions such as the zoo, aquarium, museums and
vineyards for enjoyment, as well as an array of activities like
skiing, golfing, mountain biking, hiking or simply dancing the
night away. If all else fails, you can always eat - mild or with
chilli, there is nothing to beat New Mexican cuisine to really add
spice to life.