Wild West meets Feelin’ Groovy. That’s the vibe I got during a quick visit to Madrid, New Mexico. The main street through town (on Highway 14’s “Turquoise Trail”) is lined with funky shops selling colorful gemstones, jewelry, clothing and other handmade items.
But, it’s the people that make Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid) so colorful. Those I met were friendly, with a twinkle in their eyes that made me want to have what they were having! I visited Madrid with two girlfriends on a snowy Saturday morning.
We only had about an hour to spend – so we started at one end of the town, in the General Store, picked up some hand-dipped candles and greeting cards featuring the work of local artists. Next stop was Java Junction for vanilla lattes (best ever!). We went through a few more shops, each unique, most converted old homes.
We stumbled into the Crystal Dragon, which was filled with amazing handmade gemstone jewelry and artifacts, at reasonable prices. Shopkeeper & jewelry designer Geoffrey Stewart told us how Madrid came to be – as a mining town located not far from where Turquoise was first discovered in the USA (that’s how the road was nicknamed ‘Turquoise Trail.’). I couldn’t resist taking home a couple of gemstones from this store, including a shiny opalized ammonite spiral-shaped fossil, at good prices.
Next stop: Food. My friends and I were in need of some take-out to take with us to the airport. Stewart recommended The Hollar, a funky diner located next door. Brooke, the waitress, happily took our order and – bright-eyed and bubbly – suggested that we come back in the Spring or Summer for one of the many music festivals, when the town came alive and the weather was much nicer.
There are few dozen shops and galleries, with names like “Mama Lisa’s Ghost Town Kitchen & No Pity Cafe,” and even a community radio station, KMRD 96.9 FM. Clusters of brightly-painted mailboxes lining the road are more hints that we were in a funky-artist town.
Located less than a one hour drive from both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid is a fun and easy side trip. And, if you are traveling between Albuquerque Airport and Santa Fe, it’s right on the way (when you take Highway 14). It’s definitely worth a visit, and maybe even an overnight stay in one of the local bed and breakfasts.