ROAD TRIPS THROUGH THE DESERT I


April 2019

Right after I quit my job, Manuel and I went to the United States to visit his family and celebrate the first anniversary (our American wedding) there. It was my second time in the Land of Enchantment. It was one of the many honeymoons we have had :) We spent almost a month there, visiting everyone, driving to beautiful places and even going to Las Vegas (the first time for me)!


Manuel's mom lives in Albuquerque. We stayed with her and we visited the picturesque old town, we visited family members in different parts of the city and we celebrated our wedding with the family by having a vegan potluck; everyone made the "sacrifice" and brought delicious vegan food prepared with love and we got to tell everyone about our love story and our wedding in Menorca.

View from the Petroglyph National Park

The old town is very cute! All the shops sell touristic items (although they are pretty expensive), but I enjoyed walking around and seeing all the Spanish and Native American influences mixed in to the culture. The villa of Albuquerque was founded in 1706 by the Spanish settlers, and the old town keeps the flat-roofed adobe houses and historic buildings intact, like San Felipe Neri church, the oldest building in the city. The old town is where the settlers had their homes, shops and government offices, and today we find restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops.







We started celebrating our first anniversary with a box of vegan donuts from Rebel Donut, we still dream about their amazing donuts! We also ordered two giant donuts for the celebration with the family, to have instead of "wedding cake".



And we rented a car to enjoy our little honeymoon getaway in some small villages of New Mexico. We drove South to visit Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Bosque del Apache, the villages of Socorro and Escondida and we spent the night in San Antonio (NM, not Texas), renting an adorable van in the middle of nowhere. As you can tell by the names, the Spanish influence is big in this area.


Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge has the Rio Grande river passing through, and is the river that helps create a wide biodiversity with all kinds of wildlife. The name comes from the Spanish city of Sevilla. Before the Spanish settlers came, this area was the home of the Piro Indians, who left to the south during the XVI century.




                



Bosque del Apache is a refuge for thousands of birds who hibernate there each year. The place serves as a spot to rest and refuel, provides solitude and offers adventures too. The visit can be done by car, bike or walking. It was really beautiful to enjoy the silence and admire nature's beauty. And the man who gave us the map and the instructions was very enthusiastic!




San Antonio is known as the gateway to the Bosque del Apache Refuge. The town is so small that it has only 3 bars/restaurants. Two of them had already closed for the day, so we went to the super authentic one, the famous Owl Bar, but of course they didn't have any vegan food. We had a drink and enjoyed the scenario like if we were in a movie.


The other must-see in San Antonio is the mission church (after the trip we found out that Manuel had roots in San Antonio and his great, great, great grandfather Constancio helped with the construction of the church!); unfortunately it's closed to the public to visit, so it can be only seen from the outside.




The camper van in San Antonio were we spent the night was extremely cute, and we got to see the sunrise from the bed, what a privilege! 




In the village of Socorro we found a little fair with street food and live music. We had a delicious bean burrito and we enjoyed the concerts. There was not that many things to do there because it was Saturday and everything was closed, but we enjoyed walking around, it felt like traveling back in time. There are many art galleries and interesting shops if you go during the week days.
Socorro means literally aid/help in Spanish. It was named by the Spanish families traveling from the North of Mexico in 1598, who were welcomed by the inhabitants of the place, the Teypana Pueblo. The natives showed them the area and gave them corn as a gift, according to the Spanish official log.

San Miguel Mission church





The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, and of course we visited that city too. We already visited it the last time we went to the US, but I didn't mind going back, it's a very charming city. It's more expensive than the other cities (capitals usually are) and there is a big animosity between Albuquerque and Santa Fe; I guess it's like anywhere else, two big cities being enemies since the beginning of the time... But I convinced my burqueño to spend the day there!





And finally, the day to go to Las Vegas arrived! Still using the rental car we started our road trip with crossing New MexicoArizona and all the way to Nevada.  We were even lucky enough to pass through some roads on the famous Route 66! I was very excited the whole time, for me it was a very unfamiliar landscape and I couldn't stop taking photos and videos. For Manuel it was the same normal desert view that he had seen his whole life :)
We stopped in Flagstaff to have breakfast, I wish we had more time to explore, it looked like a lovely city. But the trip was long and we were excited to arrive to Vegas.

Leaving Flagstaff

Las Vegas was one of the last places on Earth I was planning on visit. I'm not a fan of the neon lights, casinos, loud music, nightlife and fast food. It's a place that doesn't match with my lifestyle at all. But life it's always full of surprises, and now that I have a sister-in-law living in Vegas and a husband willing to drive 8 hours to reach there, why not? :) I would never have chosen it on my own, but I have to admit that it was very fun and I really enjoyed the trip!

There was a long line of people waiting to take a photo with the sign!


One of the things I enjoyed the most were the murals. They are all around the city, especially in the Arts District, which is the old part of the city with vintage neon lights and buildings, art galleries, vintage clothing stores and restaurants. The district is also called 18b, for the 18 blocks that it originally had. There is also a Neon Museum (founded in 1996), which looks very interesting, although we didn't have time to visit.
















The hotels and casinos are located on The Strip, the main road with the famous lights that appear in the movies.  I recommend you to go for a walk during the day, is very crowded but more "peaceful", families with kids take advantage of the daylight to explore the city. It's very fun to go inside the big and famous hotels, the entrances are very spectacular! And it's free :)





At night the city transforms. There's lots of people inside the casinos and everywhere, street artists trying to make a living there, music stages and groups of Bachelors and Bachelorette parties enjoying their last hours of "freedom" in the city that never sleeps. 



Here is a cool list of things to do if you have time and money and want to see something else besides the hotels and casinos. 

Before leaving the city, we drove to the Seven Magic Mountains art installation created by the swiss artist Ugo Rondinone in 2016. It's an outdoors installation, the entrance is free and it's extremely "instagrammable", which means that you will find hundreds of people taking photos around the seven "mountains", trying to find the best angle. It is a really stunning installation, the neon colors of the rocks contrast with the desert landscape, and that's exactly what the artist wanted to transmit: the totems are visible alongside the road and it's a critique of the artificial city of Las Vegas, built in the middle of the desert. The natural and the artificial meet. The artist invites visitors to contemplate the desert space and its history of human intervention


Instagram girls on the right ;)


On our way to Las Vegas we stopped in the Grand Canyon National Park! I can't describe in words the feeling I had there, I had tears in my eyes when I had this gift of nature in front of me. I was totally speechless. I didn't know we were going, Manuel kept it as a surprise and I was sooo happy!! We liked it so much that we stopped again on our way back home! That meant adding three more hours driving to our road trip, but it was totally worth it! The photos don't show the real beauty, you just have to go and see for yourself!




Driving back to ABQ 

More road trip adventures on the next post!


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