I am writing this on a comfortable armchair in a wonderful hotel room with the warm red light of the sunset shining through the window. The room is nice and cool, Mùm is playing in the background and I am tired. Santa Fe is heaven on earth.
After sleeping for around 6-7 hours after being awake for more than 24, I woke up in Albuquerque and went for my breakfast. It was nothing special – hashbrowns, sausage, biscuits. Tasted good enough and the availability of decaf coffee was a nice surprise.
I had a brilliant idea of heading to the train station a few hours before my train would go, store my luggage and look around the town a while. The plan started well enough, a woman from the hotel took me to the train station and we had a very pleasant conversation while driving. She had apparently grown up in Albuquerque and said it was a nice small town. She wanted out though – apparently it’s hard to leave a small town and head to California. All the while I was thinking to myself – Albuquerque, small town?
The weaknesses in my plan started to surface as we were nearing the train station and she said she doubts that there is a place to store my luggage. The train stop was without a building and she wasn’t sure the bus stop would have lockers. Well there was little to do but to go see so I thanked her, gave her a tip and went to look around.
As she had thought – there really wasn’t any place to leave luggage. Better yet, as it was Sunday the center of Albuquerque was as empty as Västerås on a very lazy Saturday morning – and that’s saying a lot.
There I was – two hours until my train, luggage slowing me down and nowhere to go. Luckily I stepped into a restaurant opposite of the railway station. It was a Brazilian grill restaurant and because it was father’s day, the place was packed. Since I was alone, it didn’t take long to get a table. Since it seemed like a nice enough place, I decided to stay and have a father’s day lunch to celebrate my father. Unfortunately he wasn’t there although, I am quite sure he would have enjoyed it.
The system was quite simple. You sit down, get a drink and head for the salad bar, which was packed with incredible vegetables and fruits with some additional cheeses, sauces and cold cuts. When back at the table, you notify the serving staff that you are ready for the meat service by turning a wooden block green side up. Then people will come to your table with skillets of meat and vegetables giving you a piece of everything until you just can’t continue. At that point you turn the wooden block red side up. It was very tasty… I ate too much, Luckily I declined the dessert.
Since I took my time with the lunch, enjoying the always friendly service and good food, I didn’t have to wait long for the Rail Runner – a New Mexico train with a road runner as a logo and a “meep-meep!” sound as the doors close. It takes you from Albuquerque to Santa Fe through some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable and through American Indian reserves.
I looked out the window most of the time but kept wondering if there are many on this train, like me, heading for the conference. As I started to feel a bit weird from the climbing elevation, I did notice a few people carrying posters and asking around for the way to the convention center. This gave me a good chance to get some new acquaintances and offered my help to guide a South-Korean professor, currently on sabbatical in Miami and his former PhD student to the conference.
As we walked through the town everything was very different from Albuquerque. So much so that I couldn’t even connect the two if I didn’t know how close they were. Everything is so mellow in Santa Fe. I cant find a better word for it. It’s just… very nice to be here. Since it is located at an elevation of around 2200 m from sea level, it does however take some getting used to. The kilometer long walk to the hotel got me a bit out of breath – something that has never happened before.
The hotel I am staying in – Eldorado Hotel & Spa – is amazing by the way. The view from my room is amazing and the room itself is not much worse either. An iPhone dock next to the bed with reasonable speakers is also a good bonus. It feels nice to take off ones shoes and put on some good tunes. I listened to Estonian/Swedish jazz band Maigroup while unpacking.
Since it had been a long day, I didn’t really feel like walking around too much. I went to a nearby pharmacy to get some sunblock (SPF 85+ seems to be the standard here), bought some food from a local farmers market, registered for the conference and went to bed. After all, tomorrow was a day full of algae and I needed my brain to be active.