Saturday, October 29, 2016

albuquerque international balloon fiesta

We made specific plans to hit Albuquerque, NM for the International Balloon Fiesta, and it did not disappoint. I'm not sure I would recommend going to Albuquerque for any other reason than the fiesta, but this event, which draws people from all over the world, was one of the highlights of our trip.
We were told that people start getting to the park at 4am. Since we didn't want to miss out on anything, we too set our alarm for 3:30am to be able to hit the road by 4am. What this got us was very, very close parking and that's about it. We sat in the freezing cold for over an hour before any of the festivities began. And while there was coffee and food stands open, it was a long, cold wait. At 6am, the "morning glow" started where about 10 balloons lit up the dark sky with their heated air. It was beautiful, but I'm not sure it was worth the early wake-up.
The real fun began at 7am with the mass ascension. I have never seen anything like this! Over the course of a few hours, hundreds and hundreds of balloons filled the air. You are allowed to walk on the field and go right up to the balloons as they are prepped for take-off. It is the craziest spectacle. There are standard balloons, but also balloons in all kinds of shapes and sizes (such as Darth Vader, a pig, a pirate etc.). It reminded me of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The mass ascension happens all over again at 7pm in case you want to come back in the evening for round two. So, my recommendation would be to sacrifice the good parking for not having to get up super early. I would just make sure you leave in enough time to get to the park by 7am, which could take up to an hour with all the traffic.
If you do find yourself with extra time in Albuquerque, we enjoyed the following:
Dog House Drive In - a small, but cute hot dog shop that was featured many times in the show Breaking Bad.
Speaking of Breaking Bad, we visited The Candy Lady who made all of the "meth" for the show (which was actual candy). She has lots of Breaking Bad souvenirs, and you can purchase the blue rock candy used in the show.
Featured on the Food Network, the Monte Carlo Steakhouse is a total win. This is not your average steakhouse as you actually enter through a liquor store. It's got an old school vibe with big leather booths, dark lighting and a dive vibe, but the prime rib is amazing and the drinks are stiff.
If you want to see some amazing petroglyphs, Albuquerque has some impressive and easy to reach ones right in the city. Check out the Petroglyph National Monument. The hikes are very easy and very short allowing you to see lots of petroglyphs without much effort.
Here are some photos from the Fiesta. I couldn't stop!
The Morning Glow

Saturday, October 22, 2016

santa fe, nm

Our third stop on our epic road trip (first stop here, second stop here) was to Santa Fe, NM. The town itself was much smaller than I had realized, but it's very cute with a lot of character and killer food. The plaza is a great (albeit expensive) place to get SW gifts and jewelry, but what I really loved was everything there was to explore surrounding the city. Here is what we did:
We visited the Ojo Caliente Hot Springs about 50 miles north of Santa Fe. You can stay here (it's a hotel), but you can also visit for the day, which is what we did. They have 11 different pools (with 4 different minerals!) all of varying temperatures and they even have a mud pool, where you cover yourself in mud, let it bake on you in the sun and then soak in a mud pool. It's wonderful and relaxing
New Mexico is actually home to quite a few vineyards. We checked out the cute and quaint Estrella del Norte winery, where I fell in love with their dessert mole wine. It's spicy and pairs perfectly with chocolate.
We checked out Bandelier National Monument where you can see dwellings from the ancestral pueblo people dating back 11,000 years! It is truly incredible and can be easily seen with a short hike.
We hiked Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. This hike is fairly easy (it gets a little steep towards the end, but it's mostly flat) and takes your through unique slot canyons with views of the interesting cone-shaped rock formations. It's a must.
We visited the interactive art museum Meow Wolf. I don't even know how to explain this place. It's part art installations and part mystery solving and the whole thing is just a trip. The show changes from time to time, but regardless of what is currently there, I imagine it's worth a visit.
Take the Turquoise Trail south from Santa Fe to the cute town of Madrid. There is a small strip of road lined with the cutest art shops and restaurants. Check out Sugarman's Little Chocolate Shop for some amazing chocolate bark.
We ate at Jambo Café, a African restaurant by head chef, Ahmed Obo. The meal was one of the highlights of our whole trip, and we got to meet Ahmed that night who was so kind and humble and happy we were there. We bought his cookbook that night and have since made his chicken curry recipe, which turned out so flavorful! It is going on permanent rotation.
Our other favorite restaurant was Café Pasqual's located by all the fun plaza shopping. It's the best place to get your SW food fix!
I also have to mention that we had the best experience at the Santa Fe Motel and Inn. This motel was extremely affordable and walking distance from the plaza. The rooms were spacious and had so many cute details all over the property. The breakfast was free and plentiful and served in a little SW decorated space with a burning fireplace to keep you warm on cool desert mornings. We loved it and highly recommend staying here.
 Roadside stop for a treat when driving into Santa Fe
 Soaking in the Ojo Caliente hot springs
 Try their mole wine!
 Cute details at the Santa Fe Inn and Motel
 Visiting Bandelier National Monument
 Look closely. You can see a ancient parrot sketch (called a petroglyph)
 These circular "huts" were called a Kiva and used for religious ceremonies, family gatherings and making important decisions
 Hiking through the Tent Rocks National Monument
Always, always keep an eye out for rattlers
 Ancient petroglyphs can be found all over New Mexico!
 An original kokopelli! This area is known for the famous hunch backed flute player.
 The weird and crazy Meow Wolf
Inside Sugarman's in Madrid, NM

Saturday, October 15, 2016

telluride, co

Our second stop on our big road trip was Telluride, CO, the cutest little mountain town. Of course, it's known for its epic ski hill, and we were there in the fall when there was no snow, but we still had a wonderful time. We rented mountain bikes one afternoon, which is the thing to do when there is no snow. Turns out, it's not my cup of tea, and I may or may not have walked my bike down the entire mountain. All well. The leaves were changing on all the aspen trees turning everything yellow (funny enough, there are no reds or oranges in Telluride, only yellow). We stayed around the Mountain Village, and used the free gondolas as transportation. The gondolas would take you all around the park and down to the town of Telluride itself. I have to admit, it was a fun way to travel for the few days we were there. The downtown is small but has cute shopping and restaurants!
Our recommendations:
Brown Dog Pizza - Probably the best pizza we have eaten anywhere in the world. Do not miss this place.
Baked in Telluride - A delicious and impressive bakery with everything from donuts to stuffed croissants. Great for a quick bite before hitting the hill.
Diggity Doggs - Located in the Mountain Village, this is the place to grab an awesome dog for the road! It has some crazy sauces, and they are all delicious. Load that dog up!
New Sheridan Hotel - This hotel was built in 1895! We did not stay here, but they have a rooftop bar, which is a great place to grab a drink. The hallways of the hotel are framed with old pictures from Telluride back in the 1800s. We loved it.
Mountain Lodge - This is where we stayed, and it was great. To be honest, the rooms were a little lack luster, but the hotel itself was wonderful. They have a incredible restaurant, a steam room, heated outdoor pool and hot tub. It's also walking distance from the gondola, which will take you down to the village.
 Our hotel's pool and hot tub with a view of the mountains and the gondola
 Mountain biking
 So happy to 1. not be mountain biking and 2. eating a Diggity Dogg!
 View inside the gondola headed to town
 The cute town of Telluride!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

moab, utah

Anders and I just returned from a two week road trip through the SW. We started in Moab and made our way to Telluride, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Page, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. It was an incredible trip with a lot of different landscapes. I thought I would post some of the photos here (I know! It has been awhile! Hi!) starting with our first stop, Moab, Utah.
We were only there a short while (two days to be exact), but we managed to cram a lot in. While the town of Moab doesn't have a ton going on, the scenery is breathtaking and it was one of my favorite places on the trip. Here is what we did:
  • Hiked to Delicate Arch Rock in Arches National Park
  • Drove to Dead Horse State Park at 6am to watch the sunrise over the Canyonlands
  • Visited Castle Creek Winery. They have a movie museum that showcases all the films that have been made in the area!
  • Drove the scenic Hwy 128 and pulled over to check out the incredible Fisher Towers
  • Hiked to Morning Glory Arch, one of the longest natural bridges in the world!
  • Ate a delicious breakfast at Eklecticafe
 Hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
 Delicate Arch
 Scenic Hwy 128
 Visiting Castle Creek Winery
 More from Hwy 128 with a stop at Fisher Towers
 Sunrise at Dead Horse State Park
 Overlooking the Canyonlands
 The red rocks during our hike to Morning Glory Arch
 A bit of color in all that desert
 A desert hare!
 It's a bit hard to photograph, but Morning Glory Arch is one of the longest natural bridges in the world.