Tag Archives: salinas

Stunning ruins south of Albuquerque- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

The ruins of three pueblo missions scattered within a 30-mile or so radius of each other around Mountainair, NM were particularly stunning on a crisp sunny day with white snow blending with yellow scrubland, a blend of colors that reminded me of lemon meringue pie. Visiting the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in the Rio Grande Valley on a Monday in February also meant we had the ruins amongst entirely to ourselves. There was one other visitor at each of the two ruins sites we visited. (The visit is free of charge.)

We started at the visitors center in Mountainair, a small very quiet town in the middle of nowhere (with the best name ever!), where the helpful guide told us that the Gran Quivira site is her favorite (she loves the white stone and that it’s situated high on a mesa) but the fan favorite is the Quarai site, a more intact and massive red-walled structure, formerly a Spanish church. So we visited both, driving south 25 miles to the Gran Quivira, which rises seemingly out of nowhere but was once a thriving trading Native American center, hundreds of years ago. We ended up skipping the third site, Abo. The sites were thriving pueblos before Spaniards (conquering explorers and priests) arrived in the late 1500s and early 1600s and built their churches, among other intrusions. Our site brochure refers to the early inquisitors as “compassionate men,” contrary to the Inquisition’s deservedly bad reputation.

I can see why the Quarai site is so popular. Set against a stunning blue sky, with the added rare bonus of white snow, the place dazzled. Standing inside its former church, surrounded by high red stone walls in a huge courtyard, my mind wandered to memories of similar spaces…ruins in Peru and Cambodia, crumbling castles in rural Wales and Ireland, walled Tuscan cities in Italy.

Yet “Salinas” has a distinctly Southwest U.S. feel, thanks to the mountain landscape, high desert vegetation and light. (I’ve become a fan of juniper trees, especially their fresh almost minty smell. Juniper perfume anyone? Or maybe just a juniper candle or sachet?) Beyond the church (which looks more like a fortress), are the much lower, crumbled remnants of a village with round kivas and courtyard gathering places as well as small living quarters.

Because we were with dog, we couldn’t eat at the atmospheric old hotel in Mountainair but we found good sandwiches made to order in the deli at the back of the grocery store. I love visiting local grocery stores in these kinds of places! It’s a great way to get a feel for what life is like, what people eat, where they gather. I found some good homemake baked goods (blue corn muffins!) and local products (I brought a mesh bag of local dried pinto beans. Now I need to figure out what to do with them.)

“Salinas” is about a 90 minute drive south of Albuquerque, on very scenic two-land highways through the countryside. We drive through s few very battered small towns en route, one (Manzano) with a dazzling 1800s adobe church with what looked like fantastic stained glass windows. The Roots Farm Cafe in Tijeras, just outside ABQ, was closed because it was a Monday but looked as good as the write up I read in a the New Mexico visitors guide. next time!

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Our best of Peru

Most amazing train ride: Front seat on the train to the Sacred Valley. (on the way home, there was a fashion show on the train…)

Most dazzling monastery: Santa Catalina, Arequipa limaarequipaconvent.jpg

Best old world/Inca village with most intense cobble stoned lanes: Ollantaytambo 

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Most bizarre landscape: the salt pans of Salinas and terraced circles of Moray

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Best religious site with skulls and boxes of (human) bones: San Francisco Monasterio in Lima

Best church: That’s a tough one, in Cusco – the Cathedral and the Iglesia de Compania de Jesus and the church in San Blas. or the Iglesia de la Compagnia in Arequipa.

The Cathedral in Arequipa

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Best market: Also a hard call. Pisac, Arequipa (below) and Cusco are strong contenders

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Best folk art: Artesanias Las Pallas in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood

Best contemporary crafts gallery: Dedalo in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood

Best quality Andean Textiles: Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cuzco, on Av. El Sol or Shop of the Weavers of the Southern Andes on Tullumayo in Cusco.

Best hidden museum: Museo de Arte Popular, Cusco

Most spectacular site/ruins: Machu Picchu, hands down

Grandest plaza: Toss up between Cusco and Arequipa

Best service at a hotel: Apu Lodge, Ollantaytambo 

Best art at a hotel: Second Home Peru, in Lima (below)

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Most ancient-feeling hotel: La Casa de Melgar, Arequipa

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Best hotel to bring earplugs: Ninos Hotel in Cusco, lovely courtyard but carries sound especially people wandering through at 5:30 a.m.

Best sight for sore eyes: Our son.

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moray, salinas, urubamba…sacred valley

I am very glad we hired a driver to take us to the remarkable ruins in Moray and the super cool salt pans nearby because there is no way we could have driven safely ourselves. at first we didn’t think we would need the tall high ceilinged van the driver showed up in but it turned out to be pretty handy, navigating dirt and rock roads through the sacred valley a pond then winding up narrow switchbacks improbably carved into the tall mountains. we drove through glorious green fields of corn and rouge-colored soil where we think potatoes were being planted. and then we drove up and around and up and a little down Nd then up through high mountains with stunning views across the valley of snow capped mountains.

in Moray, we walked around and then into a huge ancient Inca site, rings of stone walls winding downward like an amphitheater. Rough stone steps hang down from each terrace for you to get up and down. Way cool. apparently the Incas used these as test plots for their crops. later we went to near y Salinas, a mountainside filled with glaringly white pools of salt.These are salt mines that have been used to harvest salt since the Inca days. We watched a few people in native dress harvesting the salt. For lunch we ended up at an excellent place, Tres Keros, where we had well cooked trout, chicken and the best logos Santeros (a beef stir fry) of the trip. our driver tried to steer us to some buffet we suspect was run by a friend of his and even told us that tres Keros was closed. but we found it very open when we walked in.

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