Friday, May 1, 2015

Beyond the Cacti and Canyons of Arizona

Ever wonder what it might feel like to visit Mars?  Standing on the red earth, starring out among the gigantic, oddly shaped mountains!  Parts of Arizona can give you a glimpse;)
My Husband and I recently visited this breathtaking state together, my first trip there and it was incredible!!!  Arizona has found its way straight into my heart and soul, I can't wait to go back and visit again and again!!!
We flew into Phoenix, rented a car and began our long journey north to Flagstaff.

I swear every 30 miles we drove the landscape changed dramatically!  We started out with a dry, tan landscape with mountain peaks in the distance and deep valley's off the highway.  Then the landscape was peppered in cacti of every size and shape and dry grasses swept over the dusty earth like waves rolling onto the beach.  Then we spotted dry red earth, covered in lush greenery with huge red rock mountains pushed upward toward the blue skies.  My eyes were glued to the picturesque landscapes that stretched out before me in every direction.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before in my life, it was truly enchanting!!!

When we drove into Sedona I wanted to drop my bags and call out, "Baby, I'm HOME!!!!"  What an amazing city!!!  Stunning views, amazing shopping and restaurants that will keep you full and completely satisfied:)  

My little brother and his fiance lived here for a time and frequented this little gem, so we had to stop and try it out for ourselves!  El Rincon boasts Sedona's best Mexican eats with a Navajo flair and we were pretty impressed from the moment we walked in the door!  The frozen margaritas here are awesome and for those of you that really know me, I love fish tacos, and here, they're excellent!  My husband is an enchilada man and we both love freshly made guacamole, everything we ordered was pitch perfect!  On a nice day, sit outside under an umbrella, you are sure to spot little lizards darting in and out of the surrounding bushes, they're too cute!!!

What better way to end a fantastic meal than to walk off those calories while checking out the local shops!  The surrounding shopping district of Tlaquepaque is going to knock you off your sandals!!!  Shops, galleries, restaurants and ice creameries are all at your fingertips, just pick a direction and start walking, you can easily spend a full afternoon here:)  Nectar is divine, a shop filled with Native American jewelry, interesting decorative imports and collectibles.  I took home two Day of the Dead Dolls that captured my heart!!!

The courtyards here are beautiful, landscaped with huge umbrella like trees, fountains and topiaries throughout.  It has a very secret garden ambiance about it!

The art galleries here will blow your mind!  Gorgeous landscapes and still life oil paintings will remind you of the culture here.  Navarro Gallery was my personal favorite, this gallery included bronze sculpture, handmade jewelry and some of the most fascinating paintings I've ever seen!  Stephen Day's work was lovely.  Don't leave without taking something home to always remind you of your time in this beautiful place:) 

With so many different artists and styles featured in this gallery there is truly something for everyone:)

You'll also wander in and out of many other specialty boutiques that hold treasures abound!!!  You're bound to see a lot of Frida artwork, which made me so happy since I am such a huge fan, pottery and hand woven textiles too!!!  Enjoy:)

When our time was up we continued our journey to Flagstaff in preparation for our tour of The Grand Canyon!!!  As we made our way, again the landscape seemed to move through different dimensions.  A once powerful red, rocky, dry landscape grew thick groves of vegetation and soon we were driving through lush, green forests.  It was pretty crazy!

Finally we had made it to Flagstaff and it was time to check into our hotel, relax by the bonfire and watch the sunset and then catch a good nights rest to begin again tomorrow!

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we woke up early to catch a hearty breakfast and make our way to The Grand Canyon.  If you search "Best Breakfast in Flagstaff" on your smartphone, it's a pretty good bet that La Bellavia will appear, and the people are right!!!  For one heck of a good breakfast without all the frills, check this place out:)  Steven definitely approves;) 

We hit Macys European Coffee house the next morning and it was just as good, plus, they're right next door to each other, so you don't have to hunt down your next breakfast spot;)

We were geared up to go when we spotted an outdoor market a few streets over....uh, you know we stopped to check that out!  And I'm so glad we did:)  The Flagstaff Community Market is a wonderful mix of fresh farm produce and local creatives gathered in a one stop shop for all things yummy and pretty, we took some goodies to give to loved ones back home and some produce for our long hikes on the trails later that day:)

The drive from Flagstaff to The Grand Canyon was another landscape warp, the landscape was flattening out and fields and fields of wildflowers stretched out from the highways in every direction.  In the far off mountains natural fires burned and sent small, billowing clouds of smoke up into the pale blue skies above.

As we drove into Tusayan, the town of The Grand Canyon, we parked at the Visitors Center and took a bus straight into the canyon, we even made some new friends on the ride, French friends:)  Good thing Steven speaks better French than I;)

When we arrived at The Grand Canyon, we grabbed a map and hit the trails, HOLY MOLY this place is breathtaking!!!  I kinda had no idea, until I actually stood at the cusp of a cliff overlooking the canyons below, just how dramatic and overwhelming this place is, the experience will stay with me the rest of my life:)

Steven and I found peace and almost a sense of enlightenment as we took in the views.  We hiked along the trails, we perched out on cliff edges and let the wind grace our faces.  The landscape here is quiet and peaceful, this place enters your soul in a most religious way and stays with you long after you leave.

Be sure to dress appropriately, we saw plenty of ladies in heels and dresses, men in nice shoes and suits.  We also saw people like us, our heads covered by hats or bandannas, sunglasses, hiking shoes, breathable, UVA protective clothing, backpacks with plenty of water and snacks like produce, granola, nuts and jerky.  When you're out there all day, you need to be prepared, you need to be safe and you need sunscreen and endurance.  Be smart and have fun!  Many a person has gotten themselves into a pickle here, falling while trying to capture a cool picture, dehydrating, fainting, or worse!  Be careful:)

The drive back was a long one and we were in need of a big dinner by the end of our extraordinary day!

Tinderbox was the place!  We started with fresh kale salads, pan roasted duck breasts and finished with chocolate lava cakes a la mode!  It was the perfect ending to a most perfect day:)   

Then we bid goodnight to Flagstaff and caught some much needed ZZzzzzzzzzz's...

The next morning after breakfast at Macy's we dug into Downtown Flagstaff before the drive back to Phoenix.  What a hip place!  We peaked in and out of some great vintage clothing shops, grabbed some Southwestern style in the fun boutiques and met some amazing gallery owners as well:) 

The street art here is awesome too!

As we made our way back I spotted some familiar faces, the cacti along the hillsides were calling me home, as if literally waving at me as we drove by with their long, stretched out arms;)
As you already know, I'm a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan and we were tooo close to his Taliesin West not to go for a tour, so we breezed through Phoenix straight into Scottsdale.

As you enter the property you finally get to see these crazy cacti up close and personal!  From the road they seem tall and mysterious, from up close they are!!!  Standing next to one of these things makes you feel pretty small, they are soooo cool!!!!

Frank was a huge fan of Asian art and you can see different pieces of art all over the property.  He also intertwines pieces of Native American art here to capture the local culture. 

As with most of Frank's homes, this one seems to hover over the landscape, long and flat, almost hidden, just like its entrance, classic Frank!  Made of rocks from the landscape it almost blends into the rocky, dusty earth it sits on, becoming one with its surroundings.

Apparently when the power lines went up in the distance Frank was terribly upset because they obstructed his glorious view!  He even went as far as speaking with the top members of the Government demanding they take them down, sadly, they're still standing.

Since this place acted as a school for his apprentices, Frank built a theater on the property and many performances and parties took place there.
While we were on our tour that day a huge thunderstorm rolled into town, landing directly overhead and our group had to seek shelter in Frank's living room for a while.  The windows shook as rain battered down on the roof and glass panes, trees outside seemed to almost fly away in the strong gusts of wind, but after about 20 min it passed overhead and the sun came back once again.  It was pretty cool just grabbing a seat and watching the storm from the living room, it made me feel like it would have felt like to Frank, having once done the exact same thing, I'm sure many times over while he was here:)  

Starved and longing to see an old friend of ours we made plans to meet up for dinner back in Phoenix at the Salty Sow, awesome place!!!  We sipped on Arizona wines, enjoyed fried green tomatoes with guacamole, slow-cooked beef shoulder and sweets!!!  Another amazing way to end another amazing day:) 

The next day we drove out to Queen Creek Olive Mill for breakfast and more experiences:) What a delightful little place!  We dined outdoors among the olive trees and afterwards shopped the local goods in the store and brought back more treasures from our adventure.  We spotted many birds including a few hummingbirds and many little lizards that darted to and fro around the patio:) 

Our trip came to an end when we finally toured Downtown Scottsdale with our good friend and she showed us where to shop and grab lunch before our flight.  Besides the sweltering dry heat in Scottsdale, we had a pretty great afternoon!

One of my very favorite stores was Bischoffs, inside you'll find a carnival of local craftsman's goods.  True art pieces include bangles, art, textiles and furniture!  Not to be missed:)

The art galleries around town pulled me in as well, especially this one!  The Signature Gallery here is filled with some of the most beautiful paintings I've ever laid eyes on!  Especially the Contemporary Impressionist works of luscious, swirling, thick globs of gorgeous floral still life's by Cara Pabst Moran!


If you're a lot like me and you LOVE vintage, stop into Fashion by Robert Black!!!  Beautiful vintage dresses and accessories await, Enjoy!!! :)

A late lunch a Barrio Queen nearby was the perfect way to end our time in Arizona, drinks, tacos and friends are always a good idea, and this place was awesome!  From the decor to the eats, we highly recommend it:)  Now it was time for our Guac, made tableside;)

:(  Phoenix Airport, here we come!  On to the next adventure!
Your turn, Go West!!!


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