Plazas, the focal point of community life, were a common feature of Spanish colonial towns. In 1706, when Albuquerque was founded by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, it was no exception. Today, over 300 years later, the original plaza and the area around it still draws community life and visitors to it. However, today it is referred to as Old Town Albuquerque, or simply Old Town.
Old Town Albuquerque encompasses about 10 blocks of historic adobe type buildings. It is full of shops, restaurants, hotels, a church and, of course, the plaza. We could not be near Albuquerque and neglect to stop by to see a historic district that is older than our nation.
Old Town is located between Mountain Rd. and Central Ave. (Route 66) just East of Rio Grande Blvd., in Albuquerque. There are multiple places to park. If you park on the road, there are limited parking spots and you have limited time. However, it is free. If you park in the parking lots, there are more spaces and the cost is $5 per day. We chose to park in the parking lot as you enter Old Town, on the corner of Rio Grande and Mountain. You can get a downloadable PDF map here.
Once parked, we walked down Charlevoix to our first destination. We heard about this place before we came to New Mexico. The place and its owner seem to be a permanent fixture and a visitor’s tradition in Albuquerque and within Old Town. I am referring to The Candy Lady. This is a candy shop owned and ran by Ms. Debbie Ball.
We headed over with little to no expectations. I had heard that she had “naughty candy” shaped like various body parts. Mama Nomad had read that she had candy like the blue meth on Breaking Bad. We walked in through the door, past the small room filled with maps and brochures, and into the main part of the store. Sure enough, to the right was the “naughty candy.” And just beyond it was Breaking Bad souvenirs.
As I walked to the back, I saw an open door with a huge tray of blue, crystal-like candy. One of the employees asked if we would like a picture holding the “blue meth” candy with a Heisenberg hat and glasses and a Jessie “Let’s cook bitches” apron. Without hesitation, Mama Nomad and I said “sure!” We snapped a few pix and headed back into the main area. We bought some sweets, I bought myself a shirt and we talked to Ms. Debbie for a bit. She gave us all kinds of useful advice and tips for touring the area. After the conversation, we thanked her and were on our way.
As we walked down San Felipe towards the plaza, we passed many patios. These were areas that had walkways to them, all outdoor, with shops situated around them. They were back from the road. Each one seemed to have a different aesthetic.
We arrived at the plaza and saw a church that had a very inviting outdoor, landscaped area. We crossed the road and immediately noticed a painting of the Virgin Mary in a tree. After admiring the artistry, we continued onto the church and its grounds. The church is called San Felipe De Neri. It is the oldest church in Albuquerque and has served the community, without interruption, since 1706!
The landscaped grounds that attracted us over to the church turned out to be an area dedicated to prisoners of war and those missing in action. What a great dedication and some truly beautiful grounds.
We left the church and made our way back to San Felipe to continue on around the plaza. We saw, down a walkway in a patio area, a replica of the Breaking Bad RV. You can tour the Breaking Bad locations in the RV.
We continued on around the plaza. We visited some of the shops to look at their wares. There was also a lemonade day that was going on in the center of the plaza as well as some live music. Once we made our way around the entire plaza, we decided to head back to the parking area.
Visiting and exploring Old Town Albuquerque was truly and enjoyable time. The day was sunny with a cool breeze, live music, happy faces, cordial employees in the shops and wonderful architecture. What a great afternoon. If you come to Albuquerque, put Old Town on your list to visit. And, tell The Candy Lady that the Nomads said “hello.” Safe Travels.