Funny. Did you know that Albuquerque was famous for things other than being the filming location of Breaking Bad?? It is! It has a long and storied history. It has part of Route 66, the “Mother Road.” It is home to the world’s largest hot-air balloon festival every October, the International Balloon Fiesta. And, it hosts North America’s largest pow wow, the Gathering of Nations.
Six or seven years ago, we took the self-driving tour of most of the real-life filming locations from Breaking Bad. The people who bought Walter White’s home have multiple No Trespassing signs, and they sat in lawn chairs inside the open garage, watching that nobody trespassed! It looked exhausting. We looked, and took photos, from across the street. So, this trip, we did not repeat that tour.
Instead, we visited Old Town and took a walking tour. If we didn’t know we were in Albuquerque, we would have thought we were in Santa Fe. There are many very old buildings with second-story balconies and lots of covered sidewalks. There are bunches of dried red chili peppers everywhere, and we mean everywhere! As we walked around, we kept commenting to each other how hard the merchants worked to keep the area clean and interesting. There is a lot of attention to detail.
There is a pretty park in the center of Old Town with leaves the color of sunshine. One of the most notable landmarks is San Felipe de Neri Church (St. Philip Neri), dating to 1793, which replaced the previous structure from 1706 that collapsed. And Old Town has a Breaking Bad store – if we had a home in which to put our favorite things, we would have bought quite a few favorite things! But photos will have to suffice.
Inevitably, there were lots of sugar skull-inspired pieces of art for sale, including full-size statues. These are here year-round, and one was an entire store devoted to all things sugar skulls, rather than a “pop-up”store for Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos (the Mexican Day of the Dead). And there is marvelous New Mexico cuisine here, centering around the hatch chile – it has a unique flavor and spiciness, which could be said of the entire city. It was great walking around and getting more of a sense of the city’s history. (And, if you don’t know what Breaking Bad is, the last three photos from the store won’t mean a thing to you – if there is anyone alive who isn’t familiar with the best television series ever created.)