Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bio Park and Heritage Farm

Butterflies, groupers, hybiscus and cows, Oh My!

Albuquerque's BioPark is an amazing place! The botanical gardens are attached to the Zoo, on the other side of Central Avenue, by a train that runs under the road and along the river. A single ticket can be purchased that covers the Zoo, the Aquarium, and the gardens (also known as the Bio Park) and the Heritage Farm.

The gardens consist of a children's fantasy garden built to make you feel as if you become smaller and smaller as you go deeper inside. Overhead a large bee buzzes as it sucks nectar from an enormous flower,  and a bit further on, a watering can of grand proportions sits at the ready for a giant hand to take hold and give the larger than life plants a good long drink. Redwood sized trees lie rotting on their sides as termites the size of German Shepards guard eggs and wiggle their antenna about.

Outside colorful tiles decorate a fountain and undulating bench seat. Beyond the shade trees a large pond glistens in the bright sunlight while geese and ducks nest on center islands prepared specifically for their little families. The trails and walks lead to a Moorish garden, a rose memorial garden, a beautiful trellised sanctuary clearly set up for a wedding later in the day. Two glass terrariums rise on the horizon, housing a desert landscape that can't survive Albuquerque's colder winters and a jungle environment that can't live without artificial moisture constantly sprayed in by foggers. Further on is a "curandera"garden of native healing herbs and plants, a manicured Japanese garden and the Heritage Farm. Butterflies have been released in a special screened room, set up only in the summer, so people can experience the delights of hundreds of these beautiful flitting creatures.

Across a plaza, the aquarium houses jellyfish, a tank with millions of gallons of salt water complete with eels, groupers, turtles, and sharks. In smaller tanks - anemones and clown fish, sea stars, urchins, and corals. It's not huge, but the displays are quite colorful, and informative.

We arrived after noon, so we only visited the Bio Park, not the zoo. It's a lovely experience and one I would hope most tourists get a chance to see, as well as every kid in the metro area.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Artesanal Snowcones and Choco-Canyon

Being evacuated to Albuquerque might have afforded me an opportunity to see a bunch of attractions that are new or redone since I moved away 13 years ago. But I spent most of my time at Anna's house helping out, cleaning the screened porches, cooking, shopping, surfing the web for word about the fire, and just hanging out visiting.

My son and I did go to the Museum of Natural History. It has changed a lot since I volunteered there back in the 80's. It has an IMAX theater, a planetarium, several new evolution exhibits, and a lot of my old favorites including the wonderful polarized artwork of Austine Wood and the lighted "hot-spot" map of the world which shows the locations for volcanoes and earthquakes around the world. The Jurassic hall has new skeletons and a wonderful teen aged docent who was enthusiastic about showing us real fossilized dinosaur bones, teeth, and turds.

Anna lives a block from the botanical gardens, but we never got around to walking over there to check them out, mostly because the heat was rather stifling at 103 degrees. Ah, but it's a DRY heat. Right. That's what they tell you, but that kind of heat, wet or dry, makes you feel like a potato about to burst its skin.

On Saturday mornings, there are several grower's markets around the city, one is at Robinson Park, at 8th and Central. What a delightful carnival atmosphere! The park is shady and the affair begins at 7am, while the air is still cool and ends up around noon. The growers park their pickups and set up tents on two sides of the park while other food vendors take up the middle with craft sellers filling out the other sides. In the shade of the huge elms, two musicians entertained us with hurley-gurleys (yes an actual instrument!) while people sat around on the grass nibbling breakfast burritos, grilled sausages on a stick, fresh pies, or warm scones and whole grain breads. It's a community gathering and clearly very popular with people from the neighborhoods that surround downtown and Old-Town. Heidi's Raspberry Farm had a booth that sells her famous Ginger-Raspberry and Red Chile Raspberry jams, plus they had home-made raspberry syrup for snow cones. A $3 Artesanal Snowcone! It was memorable, and probably the best snowcone I've ever eaten. In the craft area, you could purchase handcrafted knit things from a turquoise travel trailer cerca 1955, or pinon and carmel chocolates from Choco-Canyon (a take off on our famous state attraction: Chaco Canyon), photo cards from all over the state, jewelry, handpainted silk scarves, or get information from the Master Gardeners on how to keep your vegies from roasting before the monsoon season starts.

Later in the afternoon, as the sun set red & orange through smokey clouds, I went for a long walk in the Golf Course area, a subdivision of older mansions built in the 50's and 60's: some classic New Mexican Territorial styles, a few with Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and a southern antebellum mansion tossed in to mix things up. The area is full of old shady trees, mature lush vegetation, and a few "for-sale" signs. Overhead flew big military helicopters fighting the bosque fire. Reminders of why we are in Albuquerque and not at home in Los Alamos were ever present.