Sometimes New Mexico does not cooperate, and a glorious weekend in the mountains gets canceled due to a ring of fire. Instead of pouting about the change of plans, I decided to call my unexpected time off in town a “staycation” and went seeking adventures right in my own backyard, the North Valley.I love staycations. When I lived in Austin, I took one every year during the SXSW music festival. It’s fun to spend your money on luxuries like wine, a nice dinner or a massage, while saving some cash by sleeping in your own bed. A staycation is also a good way to scope out local attractions for out-of-town guests (such as your parents) so you can confidently make a recommendation for a spa that won’t peel your stepmother’s face off. I started my staycation on a Thursday afternoon at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Cultural Center. This is Albuquerque’s organic gem on the Bosque, a beautiful lavender farm with a precious little gift shop. When I pulled into the driveway, the arch of lush, green trees made me feel as if I had been magically transported to the land of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. One look at the lavender hedgerows against the purple mountains majesty of the Sandias, and I could hardly believe 10 minutes earlier I was cursing the damn traffic on I-40.I bought some carrots, zucchini and rainbow chard at the produce stand, open Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m. Then I made friends with a goat. I left the farm feeling relaxed and refreshed, as if I had gone much farther away from home. My North Valley staycation continued on Friday with a trip to the Casa Rondeña winery a few miles north of Los Poblanos. The sultry weather was not good for anything but hiding inside a castle and tasting wine, so that’s what I did. The winery staff was pleasant and happy to discuss their selections with me. I tried a few reds and a few whites and made a mental note of the beautiful grounds, which in better weather would be a great place to bring a date for a picnic. Albuquerque isn’t Napa, so it’s not intimidating, even if you’re not a wine person. Casa Rondeña’s vintages are accessible—some sweet, some dry. It’s not hard to find one you like enough to take home. On Saturday morning of my staycation I set out early before the heat to bike up Rio Grande. I usually ride on the Paseo del Bosque Bike Trail just to get a workout in, but because of the high fire danger rating, I took Rio Grande instead. It’s a lovely road to bike on—slow speed limits, light traffic and lots of other cyclists. I pedaled past the pretty scenery of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and rode the back roads up to Alameda. On my way back, I stopped off to rest at the Flying Star and had some chai and a cookie. After my snack I made it a little further down the road to Betty’s Bath and Day Spa. Betty’s is comfortable and welcoming. I love it because it doesn’t necessarily feel like being at a fancy-pants spa—more like a cute adobe house. There are many options for massages and treatments, and you can make reservations online—a feature I adore. I didn’t make an appointment for any services, so I just took a soak in the hot tub. For $12 you get unlimited time in the women’s-only communal tub and sauna. There’s also a unisex tub, but make sure you call ahead to find out when it’s available to walk-ins. After my bike ride it felt good to hydrate, unwind and relax. The locker rooms are nice at Betty’s. There are hair dryers and bags for your wet swimsuit, and the showers are stocked with Betty’s yummy shampoo and conditioner. I love testing spa products in the locker room before I decide to buy. After my soak and in a state of Zen bliss, I headed home. For less than the cost of one night in a hotel, I bought some veggies, met a goat, rode my bike, tasted wine and soaked in a tub. I reaped the benefits of sleeping in my own bed, while feeling as if I had spent a few days in Spain.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Cultural Center 4803 Rio Grande NW • 344-9297 lospoblanos.com Casa Rondeña 733 Chavez NW • 344-5911 casarondena.com Flying Star Café 4026 Rio Grande NW • 344-6714 flyingstarcafe.com Betty’s Bath and Day Spa 1835 Candelaria NW • 341-3456 bettysbath.com
Get Out!: Playlist
“June Hymn” • The Decemberists • The King Is Dead “Along for the Ride” • Mates of State • All Day “Ocean in Your Eyes,” • Smokey & Miho • Tempo de Amor “Tanto Tempo” • Bebel Gilberto • Tanto Tempo
Elizabeth W. Hughes can usually be found speeding away from Albuquerque with her dog, Dixie Belle, windows down, music up, in search of hot springs, cold beer or both.