Arizona — the land of the Cactus.
WHEN: February 1 to February 6, 2014
Our visit to Phoenix, AZ was our main reason for our road trip in the first place. My DH visited Scottsdale, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix) and absolutely loved it! “Let’s move there!” he said. I figured I should check it out first before I made any commitments to the place.
Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the state of Arizona. It is the most populous state capital in the entire United States (nice to know), as well as the sixth most populous city nationally, after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia — impressive, no? Residents of the city call themselves Phoenicians (very sweet).
Scottsdale is adjacent to the Greater Phoenix Area. The New York Times described downtown Scottsdale as “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach” and as having “plenty of late night partying and a buzzing hotel scene”. Its slogan is “The West’s Most Western Town”. Well, we did see plenty of horses and stores that sell western clothing. Scottsdale is also affectionately nicknamed “Snotsdale” due to its financially affluent white population. Needless to say, Scottsdale is a clean and modern neighborhood with some fabulous malls and restaurants!
Travel time from Palm Springs, CA to Phoenix, AZ: A 3 hour and 50 minutes drive via I-10 West for 268 miles.
On the road from Palm Springs, CA to Phoenix, AZ. An easy drive through acres of cacti and sagebrush.
Hotel: We stayed at Casa Mescal-Phoenix, AZ, a B&B run by Pat and Dave — two of the nicest guys you would ever meet! Our room was nice with a private entrance and bath. This room was nicely decorated in dramatic red and beige walls with a large comfy bed. On our arrival, the tray on our bed held a nice bottle of Merlot and a small pumpkin bundt cake — how lovely! After we settled in, we spent some time socializing with Pat and Dave (and their four dogs of various sizes) by the pool over cocktails — how civilized!
Dave was an amazing cook! Every morning at 8:30am, he made us breakfast (my DH and I have rediscovered our love for blueberry muffins, french toasts, and all things carb). While we enjoyed breakfast, Dave and Pat would answer all of our questions regarding our plans for the day. The dogs had their tennis balls at the ready in the event we were willing to participate a game of catch (we were). Yep, we would stay here again.
Activities: Mostly, we just hung out in Phoenix and Scottsdale enjoying the weather, the malls, and the restaurants. We also drove around the neighborhoods looking at houses through fences and gates. However, we did do a couple of touristy things…
The highlight of our trip to the Phoenix area was our visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. On this visit, they were featuring the glass work of Chihuly, strategically positioned among the cacti. Personally, I think the cacti doesn’t need any help to look interesting.
Really, this garden is all about the cacti…
… and some of the cacti are scary huge!
The Musical Instrument Museum was a pleasant surprise — it was really interesting! Each country has an exhibit of their musical heritage here. There are also exhibits for each musical genres (like rock, country, jazz, and the symphony). Above is just a small part of the guitar exhibit.
Our visit to Taliesin West was interesting. We toured the house built by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and learned about the school he had here. This house is all about triangles — as inspired by the winter icicles that would hang from the eaves of his home in Wisconsin.
This is the view of Phoenix from Taliesin. When the power lines went up, Frank was furious! He threatened to tear down the house and to relocate the school elsewhere. But his wife said “No” — Frank did not have the money to be so impulsive.
The desert make a great backdrop for some wonderful sunsets…
…the heavy traffic gave us plenty of time to enjoy those sunsets.
Our one cloudy day while in Phoenix — just in case you think our road trip is just too perfect.
Food Memories: There was no lack of places to eat while in the greater Phoenix area. Here is a list the places we enjoyed. Also, just so you know — it only took me four days to finish off the Merlot and bundt cake! I showed a great deal of restraint, I think!
Rebel BBQ (181 S Lovekin Blvd, Blythe, CA) — BBQ and Burgers. On our way from Palm Springs to Phoenix, we stopped here for lunch. MY DH had the Brisket Sandwich and I had the Pulled Pork BLT. Both were fantastic! The baked beans and the potato salad were tasty too!
Z’Tejas @ Fashion Square (7014 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ) — Tex-Mex, American (Traditional). When I visit the southwest, I always think of Tex-Mex food. When I mentioned this to Dave, he suggested this restaurant for dinner. According to Yelp, there are multiple locations of Z’Tejas in the area, but we decided to go to this location to check out the mall. Scottsdale has some big malls and Fashion Square is one of its biggest. Z’Tejas was upscale and noisy! But the service and the food was surprisingly good for a chain. My DH ordered the Roasted Trout in an attempt to eat healthfully. I had the Pesto-Rub Chicken with the same thought in mind. Both were flavorful dishes. But, oh — the cornbread…
Spinato’s Pizza (1614 E. Bell Rd. Phoenix, AZ) — Pizza. After our visit to the Desert Botanical Garden, pizza and a cold soda sounded good! This place was hard to find. Apparently they had just moved recently and their sign consisted of a piece of typing paper that said “Spinato’s Pizza” taped to a window under the shade of a tree. In any case, we did find it and the Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza was worth the effort!
Cafe Aleggro @ MIM (4725 E Mayo Blvd. Phoenix, AZ) — American (New), Desserts, Pizza. Normally, we have a policy never to eat at restaurants in museums because they are generally over-priced and the food is sub-standard (with the exception of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris where the Restaurant is over-priced but the decor and food are worth every penny). However, on this day we were not prepared for how good the museum was or for how long we would be there. We were starving by the time we emerged from the gallery! My DH ordered the French Roasted Chicken and I ordered a bowl of the Black Bean Soup. Both meals were affordable and excellent. We even told the chef we enjoyed our meal — high praise indeed!
Citizen Public House (711 E. 5th Ave. Scottsdale, AZ) — Gastropub, American. It always seemed to work out that by the time we got to the shopping mecca of Scottsdale on 5th Avenue, all the shops were closed. Lucky for us, the restaurants were open. Even though we are not into beer, we heard the food was good here. My DH ordered the Lamb Burger and I ordered the Beef Belly BLT — EXCELLENT! The dining room was dark and noisy even though it was not crowded — I thought I would just mention that.
George and Son’s Asian Cuisine (11291 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, AZ) — Asian Buffet. It appears that my DH cannot go very long without some sort of Thai or Asian food — he had been dropping hints for days! So we decided to finally, finally, finally try an Asian buffet in the area after an afternoon of neighborhood cruising. We arrived just a few minutes before 2pm as they were closing the buffet. Fortunately, George took pity on us and let us finish off the buffet! The Egg-Drop soup was very good! They made up some more of the Broccoli Beef and Asian Noodles for us. All the food was very good! We were happy campers!
Pizzeria Bianco (4743 N. 20th St. Phoenix, AZ) — Pizza, Italian. This restaurant was written up in the Wall Street Journal. As avid readers of the Wall Street Journal, we had to go here! The restaurant interior was minimalist chic and we opted to eat at the bar because there was an hour wait for a table. However, there was nothing minimal about the pizza! The Pizza with Cheese and Basil was tasty on its thin crispy crust! We also ordered the Wide Noodles with Meat Sauce because the bartender talked us into it (and we were hungry). That too was delicious!
Bootleggers BBQ Modern American Smokehouse (3375 E. Shea Blvd. Phoenix, AZ) — BBQ and Steaks. Yep, this was my choice — the name had me at “BBQ”. And this BBQ place did not disappoint! First, the place looks very “Urban Cowboy” but without the spinning bull. Second, the BBQ was smoky and tender just as it should be. My DH and I shared a plate of brisket and pulled pork. There was way too much protein for two little people like us — not that that stopped us from eating it all!
Departing Thoughts: We enjoyed our time in Phoenix. We enjoyed the newness and the abundance of Scottsdale. But, the place is getting big! Like, L.A. BIG! Our conclusion is that the Phoenix area is a nice place to visit.