Emerging from the natural history hours later, and returning to old town, I discovered that everyone else had woken up and joined me. Cars poured in and filled the once-empty plaza, but with them came pleasant music and even pleasanter sounds. Those bronze figures shared earlier were planted outside a museum of history and art, but from what I could tell the art was modern. My attempt in Las Cruces to find a southwestern art museum had resulted only in a large Japanese pottery exhibit, so I wasn't excited about the prospect of paying $12 and being dismayed again. I could see all the art I wanted on the streets!
Entering the outdoors 'mall', I drifted until I spotted a restaurant. This was the first and only time anyone asked me "Red or green". I'd been waiting all week to be asked, and I knew the answer. "May I have it Christmas?" I'd like to report on the experience of having red-green chile sauce, but the dish I had it on (a chimichanga) was so large that I didn't taste much of it. The only unqualified dining sucess I had all week was on Friday, since after a long day of driving I tended to either look for fast food I didn't recognize, or better yet grabbed a chicken and Hatch green chile burrito from Allsups gas stations. Those were quais-regional AND cheap.
As much as I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the plaza, one place downtown I wanted to visit was the Aquarium, Zoo, and Biopark. It turns out that the entrances of the Aquarium-Biopark and the Zoo are two miles apart, although on my map they were parked in a continuous blob of green. The aquarium-biopark was amazing, the zoo was an amazing disappointment. But first, the amazing.
The 'underwater tunnel' won me over immediately to the Aquarium, as I've been longing to see the one in Atlanta, but that place is an interstate spaghetti bowl. After a few minutes enjoying the sight of fish over my head, I next encountered a large tube of jellyfish, and a shallow pool of manta rays. One of the rays would 'surf' the side of the tank, flashing his underbelly, but they're so fast I never caught him in the act. The big attraction, of course, is a floor-to-ceiling tank that features hundreds of fish, including several sharks.
The basement of the aquarium included several model ships, and I spied an actual boat in the back of the place. It may have access to the nearby Rio Grande.
On to the Gardens!