Italia. Where to begin? At the beginning of course, but what beginning would that be? The first day of the trip itself, or do I go all the way back to when the idea of visiting Italy first glimmered in my brain? And who knows when that truly happened? Certainly the thought had been percolating somewhere in those vast empty spaces inside my head for many years, if not decades, so long that I really can’t say where or how the notion first took root. I claim no Italian blood on either side of my family, yet I’ve always felt drawn to Italian art, food, history, language, music, and particularly football. Yes, that’s right, soccer to Americans.
I first fell in love with Italian soccer in the mid 1990’s and I’m still not sure why. Is it that much better than English or German or Brazilian football? No, but it is different to my eyes. Some combination of their style of play, the passion on display, the history and winning tradition of Italy on the world soccer stage and who knows what other intangibles all contribute to my love of calcio, the Italian name for soccer.
What does this have to do with choosing to travel to Italy? Nothing, other than to illustrate just how mysterious the whole process is of what draws us to one thing and not another. Of course, if I could explain or understand all this in some rational, scientific manner it might lose the allure that attracted me in the first place. Perhaps, in this case, the unexamined life (or notion) is not only worth living, but the better option.
So by whatever means you come to Italy, you must come to Rome. All roads lead there, right? To visit Italy without seeing Rome would be like visiting England without London, or France without Paris. We flew into Rome and spent three days there, which is only scratching the surface of the Eternal City, but that gives us good reason to go back some day.
This time we’re visiting two of New Mexico’s iconic landmarks and attractions, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Monument.
(White Sands National Monument)
One thing you quickly discover while driving around New Mexico are the vast distances involved traveling from one point of interest to the next. Case in point was this day of our Southwest trip. We left Santa Fe in the north-central portion of the state early in the morning, heading south toward Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico’s extreme southeast quadrant. In fact the Caverns are located mere miles from the Texas border.
(That’s a big hole in the ground – entering the main cave complex at Carlsbad)
When you are in the Santa Fe-Taos-Northern New Mexico region, there are a myriad of interesting things to do and see competing for your time and attention. One you may never have heard of but which I would highly recommend is Bandelier National Monument. Located about 30 miles west of Santa Fe, Bandelier is one of the premiere ancient Native American dwelling sites in the southwestern U.S.A. Ancestral Pueblo Indians inhabited the area from approximately 1150 to 1550. After this date the evidence indicates they moved on closer to the Rio Grande.
(Cliff dwellings along the Main Loop Trail)
The Monument covers 50 square miles of the Pajarito Plateau in the Jemez Mountains. Over 70% of the Monument is wilderness, with more than 70 miles of hiking trails and a one mile-plus elevation change from highest to lowest point. The Bandelier Visitor Center and heart of the Monument is located in Frijoles Canyon, not too far from the town of Los Alamos. Yes, that Los Alamos, birthplace of the atomic bomb. But long, long before scientists converged in New Mexico to split the atom, there were Native Americans living and dying in this very same region for centuries. Bandelier protects those Ancestral Pueblo archeological sites, along with a diverse and scenic landscape, and the country’s largest National Park Service Civilian Conservation Corps National Landmark District.