On December 26 at 10 am Albuquerque’s streets were ice-covered, and San Felipe de Neri was the only place opened in Old Town. It was warm just inside its entrance and Mass was about to begin. The altar was covered with poinsettias and the pews were filled with families. I spotted a brochure on a table among many others. “A Year of Mercy” it announced. Pope Francis had proclaimed this. Interfaith dialogue was listed under “What Will Happen?” I have just found out that 100 years ago the Christian population of the Middle East was 14%, and now it’s 4% because an exodus is underway. I hope that the Pope’s year of mercy will make a difference.
After we warmed up, Ruth & I walked about Old Town Plaza admiring the old-fashioned Christmas decorations and talking to locals. They told us that authorities had ordered businesses to remain closed until 11 am because of the weather. However, the Amapola Gallery had just opened, so we walked carefully to it. It turned out to be an excellent cooperative established in 1980 to sell the arts and crafts of New Mexicans.
At 11 we went to a small plaza, Don Luis, to see if the information center had opened. It had not so Plan A to take the 75 minutes Old Town walking tour became Plan B. It was too cold anyway. We did look at the brochures in some outside pockets and learned that there were other tours too. One involved ghosts. Another called The Candy Lady took fans to Breaking Bad locations. One pamphlet said that tours were held regardless of the weather, but this day was an exception that had this city genuinely frightened.
Several travel sources say that Old Town has more than 150 shops, artist studios, galleries, etc. We had been in Albuquerque for less than 24 hours and already 3 people had told us that the best places to eat, especially for those who liked Mexican food, were in Old Town. This neighborhood, which is about a mile from city center, looks more like a planned tourist destination than an authentic native village. Nevertheless, it has been the center of town life for more than 300 years and is Albuquerque’s main tourist lure. Even though the weather didn’t improve much, Ruth and I returned to Old Town several times over the next few days and found some worthwhile attractions. The adobe San Felipe church that has been around since 1793 was one of them.
On our last morning, Ruth & I visited the only 5 Compass attraction we found in Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. It never opened for business on December 26. Inside was a detailed, fascinating history of the United States’ 32nd largest city. It was so well done that it made me feel differently about Albuquerque, which is sometimes and accurately described as being bigger than it looks.