on January 14, 2008
Albuquerque's Old Town is composed of a few blocks of what was once the central district of the city prior to the arrival of the railroad, which caused the downtown to develop near the rail service.The church, San Felipe de Neri Church, established in 1706, dominates the area and is the subject of much photography. You should see it in the Christmas season! They have luminarias everywhere (paper sacks with candles lit inside). We were there for the holiday stroll which is an event in early December that is like a huge block party, with streets closed, all the luminarias lit, live entertainment all over Old Town, and shopping bargains galore. They have a giant Christmas tree and a tree-lighting ceremony to kick off the event. The central plaza (a park with gazebo) had live entertainment, and there were roaming mariachi bands as well.There are lots of art galleries, souvenier shops, and restaurants serving Mexican style food for the most part.Be sure to stop at the Visitor's Center in Plaza Don Luis, just West of the church. They have tons of brochures that fill you in on all that there is to do and enjoy in Old Town and the surrounding area. They have public restrooms there too, so it's a good pit stop.We enjoyed the shopping a great deal, and had fun designing our own jewelry at a bead shop upstairs in Plaza Don Luis after stopping to pick up brochures on all the attractions we liked.They had a gun fight reinactment, which was held in the middle of the street, and there were some Ecuadorean musicians playing beautiful music just outside the Visitors Center. There were ladies dressed in old style attire (something like ladies of the evening) who greeted people on the street. There was a charming old style trolly car that shuttled people from downtown to Old Town, but we took the Rapid Ride bus which runs up and down Central Ave. every 15 minutes. A bus ride was only $1.00. but we did not have to pay anything, as we had a Rail Runner ticket which made bus rides free.We enjoyed listening to them while we drank our green chile cocoa, which was sold there as well. They had several patio tables and chairs that were available for people to sit, relax, eat, or just listen.Don't miss the many museums just down the road (Mountain Road) from Old Town. There are also some special museums in Old Town, like the Rattlesnake Museum and the Turquoise Museum.The variety of items available for sale was spectacular. There were local jewelry and craft artists selling their wares on the sidewalk, and the galleries had many works from local artists.The shops also had Mexican imports, as well as imports from all over the world . We had been shopping in Santa Fe, and the prices in Albuquerque's Old Town were much more reasonable.It would be easy to spend a whole day just exploring. It was well worth the time.
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