Escape from February

Happiness at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler – becoming my home away from home

I am a Jersey girl, born and bred. My idea of Paradise is the Jersey shore, more specifically somewhere on LBI (Long Beach Island for those of you who need a translation). But no matter how deep my roots, and they are very very deep, I can no longer endure February in NJ. My memory tells me that once upon a time when I was younger our winters were COLD but sunny. We had snow more often than rain. Now it seems that we are lucky to see the sun once every 2 weeks. The temperature is in the high 30s, low 40s, not cold enough to feel like winter but too cold to be at all enjoyable. Add to that covid and the 2nd year in a row when I can’t throw my blow-out-Superbowl party –> well, I need to run away.


I planned to head to AZ to spend a week with my son around his birthday. One thing and another and I decided that week was not going to work well. I picked a different week and HE couldn’t make it. 2 days after I cancelled THOSE tickets/plans, we had another disgustingly damp, gray, miserable northeastern weather event. I told my son I didn’t care if he couldn’t take off to join me, I was coming to AZ. I neeeeeeed SUN and HEAT.

Flowers. In February.

I guess a lot of people felt the same. I could not get tickets for the days/flights I wanted. (I learned that the PGA Phoenix Open was happening this weekend.) So I made a shorter itinerary and got the plane & the hotel. I am staying at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler, where the people are absolutely wonderful. It’s becoming my home away from home. 🙂 I flew out on a Thursday afternoon, arriving that night. I took Friday as a vacation day and my son took off Friday afternoon to join me.

I spent the morning reading at the pool, soaking up warmth and light. We headed to Tempe to the promenade along the Rio Salada. I guess they call that area, or part of that area, Tempe Town Lake. We parked by one of the boat launches. When we got out I heard the most interesting bird chirps. Of course the moment I tried to record it he stopped cooperating but I did manage a very short bit. We started strolling along the river. It was heavenly. 🙂 There are plaques set into the concrete wall along the river. Some plaques are pictures, some have inspirational sayings, some have thoughts to ponder. My favorite image is NOT here because apparently a bird did not agree with my opinion and left a physical comment on the plaque. I liked the picture a lot but not enough to clean it off for a photo. 🙂

After walking for a bit we went and got some lunch at the Varsity Tavern. This was NOT where we thought we’d end up. We ate here back in October 2020, during the depths of the pandemic, and we were very very disappointed. Perhaps because we were comparing it to The Corner Room, a Penn State tradition, and a very fond and special memory for us. We were hungry and they could seat us so we gave it another try. I’m very glad we did. Our meals were delicious, and our waitress was great. Without question Varsity Tavern is back on our list of places to dine. 🙂 After that I had a somewhat unusual request: I wanted to go to a book store. When my son first moved out here, and I flew out to help him look for a place to live, we often had to kill time between appointments. One such time was spent in a bookstore, Changing Hands. It was a wonderful wonderful bookstore, with all the side gifts and items you want in a book store, as well as a HUGE inventory of new and used books. We discovered 2 new authors that day. We headed there after lunch and I had the joy of buying books for my son (we read a lot of the same authors).

If you are interested, I bought him Arkady Martine’s “An Empire Called Memory” and “A Peace Called Desolation” and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. In return he has loaned me 3 very heavy books: Margaret Weiss & Robert Krammes’ The Dragon Corsairs trilogy. The amusing bit about THOSE books is that I have actually read at least the first 2. I’m not a very careful reader most of the time and have a habit of skipping parts that don’t interest me. 🙂 It was YEARS later that I discovered that the pirate ships were in the SKY, not water. Which finally cleared up that whole section where they sailed DOWN to somewhere else and all the action was happening, so I thought, under water. 🙂 Oops. There was no way I wanted to carry that weight on the plane so I have handed them over to the front desk to mail home for me. Yes, I AM a princess, why do you ask? 🙂

Travel Fragments

IMG_8858We saw this Arizona license plate when we were up at a mall in Scottsdale. It was too wonderful not to share.



IMG_8912I love the road art out west. I’ve seen this in Nevada and it was everywhere around Tempe as well. The highways have rock designs along the embankments. The bridges and walls have decorations. Most of the time we were moving too fast to capture any decent images. I was able to take 2 pictures from my hotel finally.


We drove through what seemed to be a sandstorm on our way to the airport for my flight home. I couldn’t catch the sign that was warning of reduced visibility due to blowing sand, but I think this picture can give you an idea of what it was like.



IMG_8926There were many things to love about Tempe: the variety in cuisine, the friendly people, the acceptance of dogs at restaurants and in stores, the road art, the wide highways and the awareness of all things ecological and green. This shot is from the airport restroom.






IMG_8952One of my all-time favorite views: Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook in the distance (top of the photo).








IMG_8961The sun rising over Port Newark.

Flora and Food


IMG_8864My son is settled in Tempe, and my renovations have leapt forward. I do have just a bit more to share about Tempe before returning to the kitchen, although food is on my mind.

There is soooooo much good food in Tempe!!! My first meal was at Snooze – an A.M. Eatery. It was the perfect post-flight meal. Lox, cream cheese and artisan bread, and a sparkling strawberry mimosa. We even ate outside because the terrace was lined with misters to cool the air. Most of the upscale outside spots had misters. Definitely not tolerable without misters and huge umbrellas for shade.

After that it was a combination of simply finding whatever sounded good or heading for specific restaurants. There are so many choices available – pretty much any kind of cuisine you can imagine and many you might not. There were fusions of Mexican/Asian and Mexican/everything else. Truly a foodie’s paradise. IMG_8824We had yummy Thai food for dinner my first night and it was the perfect meal for such a long day.

The next morning I woke up early and decided to plan out part of our day. I found what sounded like a great restaurant 5 minutes from the hotel – Biscuits. Absolutely fabulous biscuits and everything else was tasty as well. The service was wonderful and warm. That night we treated ourselves to a “known” experience by heading up to Tommy Bahama restaurant in Scottsdale. TB had always been one of our meals when I went down to Florida. Friday breakfast was back to Biscuits because it was too good not to do it again.

IMG_8892We spent a lot of Friday meeting people and looking at places. We were in downtown Tempe and we thought we’d just walk a bit and see what looked good. We ended up at Rula Bula, which was fantastic. It’s an Irish pub and has all the traditional food and drink. I indulged in a traditional Pimms cup. 🙂 Once again the atmosphere was warm and upbeat and the waitstaff was great. Saturday morning we headed back to downtown Tempe to try somewhere new for breakfast, even though we’d no complaints about Biscuits. It simply seemed we OUGHT to be trying new things. We went back to downtown Tempe for First Watch. My son had some fabulous egg concoction. I’m very boring in my breakfast choices but what I remember about that breakfast was the phenomenal bread and the delicious coffee, and the helpful, pleasant waitress.

IMG_8886We ran MORE errands on Saturday and didn’t have time to eat until nearly 2:30p. We thought we’d try downtown Tempe again but once we saw Rula Bula we knew that was the place for us. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender, Vinny. Vinny told us his views on where we should be looking for apartments, and other key things to know about the area. He was of the opinion that the room we’d just seen before lunch was in a great location and would be a great choice. We were coming to that conclusion ourselves. As we sat there chatting, my son got a text that one of those 2 available rooms had just been taken. He texted back that he would take the other, even though we had one more meet-up to do that day. IMG_8845We made arrangements to do the paperwork Sunday morning. (That would be after the night in the inferno of a hotel room.) We stopped for dinner at an Indian restaurant, the Curry Corner.We found it using search and it was 10 minutes from our location. Once again we had a tasty, filling meal. I’m beginning to think that there is NO bad food in Tempe area. 🙂

Sunday morning we fled the hotel, did the room rental paperwork and went back to Snooze. Wow, does that place get crowded for Sunday brunch! Especially since school was going to be starting in a week or so. They have a seating concept I’ve not encountered before: open seating. This was a high table with stools, with seats for 8. There were 6 people there already (3 groups of 2).We took the last 2 seats, facing each other. It was like eating at a bar, instead of sitting at a private table. It was fine, and it meant we got seated immediately instead of a 40 minutes wait. Worked for us. 🙂

IMG_8830As we drove about and around Tempe, I made my son stop the car so I could take pictures of flowers and trees and cacti. Unlike some with whom I’ve traveled, he was very tolerant and WOULD pull over and indulge my attempts at being a photographer. The cactus with the face is only a few houses away from his new lodgings. We cruised the neighborhood noticing the artistic touches on many of the houses. I’m not sure how comfortable that flamingo can be in the desert, but there it is. I took photos of the iron work art on the houses as well. I kept waiting for a police car to come by and check out the “suspicious car, occupants taking photos of residences”.

IMG_8865I took many photos of things that appealed, only to deny them a place in this blog. When I looked at what else was in the picture, I’d see green grass. I consider growing grass in this area to be a ridiculous (or even, perhaps, obscene) waste of water and effort. Since no one has asked my opinion on this matter, I am indulging in my own private rebellion by refusing to display grass. 🙂 Sunday night we spent at the hotel, as mentioned in a prior post. Monday we treated ourselves to a fine steak dinner at The Keg Steakhouse – a reward for 1st day of work for him and birthday for me. 🙂


I Thought I Liked It Hot

I like summer. I like heat. I love the sunshine beating down on me. I am a Jersey gal born and bred – hazy, hot and humid is in my blood. I turn on the a/c only when the temperature exceeds 90 and the humidity is up as well (or when I see the cats or my husband are suffering). I thought being in Arizona would be no sweat, play on words intended. After all, it’s a DRY heat.

I may have to update my profile a bit. After only 5 days in Arizona I have learned to:

– park the car in the shade whenever possible, no matter how sparse the cover
– tell the difference between temperatures over 100 and under 100
– carry a full water bottle with me everywhere I go
– stand in the shade whenever possible
– understand that 103 degrees is too hot for swimming

IMG_8796I walked out of the airport to wait for my ride and the air was the proverbial wall of heat. The first errand, before we even reached the hotel, was to buy gallons of water and a water bottle. The very next errand involved buying protection for the car: cloth seat covers and a leather steering wheel cover. We tried for Rx sunglasses for my son but we didn’t have the Rx so we ended up buying clip-on shades for his driving glasses. We became skilled at searching parking lots for nearly denuded trees that cast even a sliver of shade. We noted the position of the sun, east and west, rising and setting. The sunroof was closed and covered (my sunroof at home is open unless it’s raining). The car a/c was on full blast all the time.

IMG_8820Even the birds in Tempe have the brains to shelter from the sun. We came out of one store the other day and started laughing. There was a flock of pigeons gathered UNDER the car next to us. No fool THEY!

There is a lot to love about Arizona but I’m not sure that Tempe in July is the best tourism ad. We were hunting for a place to live for my son, and then buying supplies for him and for wherever he ended up. IMG_8813.jpgWe spent a good part of both Thursday and Friday parked in the Chandler Sunset public library – free wifi, a/c, water and bathrooms. 🙂 What a fantastic library! It is everything a modern library could be. I was so envious, because I live in a town with a much older library, which is also much more constrained in square feet. I’d be thrilled to have a library at home like the spacious, well-equipped Sunset library. We could spread out our maps and check room and apartment ads against the areas we’d been told to avoid and told to seek. IMG_8859Even so we would have to go out to the car and drive to view apartments, get lunch, meet prospective landlords and achieve other objectives (found a congregation so he’ll have some place to go for the upcoming holidays – even met someone from that congregation). Once we found living quarters, we were hunting for furnishings. We have also learned which phone gives the best directions. I regret to say that while my phone would get us to the right place, she’d often have us in the back of the building with no access. 🙂 We did quite well, however, figuring out how to circle about to get where we needed to be.

IMG_8834Everyone assures me that Tempe during the “season” is idyllic – I’ll love it. I was quite willing to believe that until we spoke to Luisa (a native Arizonan) yesterday. SHE told me that in February, when I hope to return, the temperatures can range from 50 to 70. Fahrenheit. I’m sorry – that is NOT idyllic – that is COLD. *unhappy expression* I do hope she was exaggerating the low end of that, although 70 is not warm enough for me either. I guess I’ll find out for sure come February. There are also wonderful mountains on the horizon, and in some cases, right at the end of the street. 🙂 The one at the end of the street is at the other end of the street from ASU.IMG_8836

In the meantime, the heat produces wonderful wonderful cacti! I’ve been having a GREAT time seeing all the variations. Cacti are SO fascinating. Many of the yards have well-done gardens with assortments of different species. I’ve seen flowers also that I’m not sure I’d find in NJ, and definitely the trees are different. I’ve been taking pictures and I hope I can research them to find what exactly I’ve been seeing. And may I add – I’m very very grateful for the shade from those trees!


Happy Birthday to Me

IMG_8905 (1)So now a post about a hotel that does things right…. Okay, that’s probably not fair. The staff at the Four Points did all they could to help make a bad situation (no a/c) better. The complaint really should be directed at the management in charge of the infrastructure. Be that as it may, we fled the Sheraton Sunday morning and spent most of the day running around again in the 100+ degree temperature.

We arrived at the Hilton Phoenix/Chandler a little after 5pm. I have no idea how many miles we’ve logged on the car by this point. We have been all around Tempe, around Chandler, to and from Scottsdale, pretty much everywhere but Phoenix itself. I was hot, headache-y, dehydrated (my fault) and thoroughly done with all of the errands we’d been doing (more about that in a different post). Today is my birthday. I’ll be spending most of it alone at the hotel. When we checked in at the front desk yesterday we told the front desk clerk how thrilled we were to be there. We began to tell her the highlights (lowlights?) of the last 4 evenings. When we mentioned no a/c she looked truly horrified and said that she thought that might actually be illegal in Arizona. We told her our woes and she immediately wrote a voucher for 2 free drinks from the bar. 🙂 I thanked her and said that it would be a wonderful birthday treat as my birthday was the next day.

We went up to our room on the Executive level. The room was nice, had WORKING a/c, access to the Executive lounge, free breakfast, and I have a late, 2pm checkout. We changed into our bathing suits, stopped at the lobby bar to get directions to the pool and ask about hours for our free drinks. The bartender offered to put our drinks in plastic cups so we could take them to the pool. *huge grin* We accepted. We had the pool to ourselves. IMG_8918It was great. There was a faint breeze (warm of course but at least moving air). After the pool, it was perfect (I even was a bit chilled). We went into the whirlpool. Ahhhh, jets on my aching back. We sipped our drinks. The woman in charge of public areas, Luisa, came by and we had a great chat with her. She was the first native-to-Phoenix area we’d met. We talked weather, and which Hilton I should use when I come back to visit my son in February. (I confess, I’m going to miss my yearly February trip to see him in FLORIDA.) Luisa was lovely and very helpful. When we went back inside she introduced us to one of the managers and mentioned my birthday. *grin*

We changed and went back to the lobby bar/grill for dinner. The food was fantastic, much to my surprise. I know we are off-season and it did not appear that there were many people there, so it could have been possible to have the kitchen off its game. Not the case. The same bartender also took our order and knew how to make my G&Ts (yes, plural) just the way I like. I had a very interesting chat with my son and learned more about his writing work, the details of which I’d never quite understood. At the end of our meal the front desk attendant came to comp us a dessert for my birthday, and the bartender comped me a drink. It was absolutely lovely. We came back upstairs and luxuriated in the COOL room.

This morning we took advantage of our executive breakfast privileges. My son headed off for his first day of work at the new job, and I came back to my COOL room to blog. 🙂 In a bit I will change into my bathing suit and head to the pool. Keeping with this theme of hardship and suffering today, I need to search for a place for birthday dinner and first-day-of-work celebration. We’re thinking steak. I have a red-eye out at 11pm tonight. I have checked in and it seems that I am still in 1st class, and my plane is on time. May it be so – don’t fail me, United!!!! Let’s end this travel on a positive note!!!!!!

If it sounds too good to be true…..

If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably missing some fine print…..

When you travel, much gets compressed into a very short span of time. Although this was only 5 days ago – it feels like last month.

My son and his friend picked me up at Sky Harbor terminal 4 and we headed off to terminal 2 to drop off the friend for his flight out. *smile* Learning the signage of a new airport is always interesting. Suffice it to say we had a very comprehensive tour of the Sky Harbor before stopping at terminal 2. We headed for the hotel to address the little hiccups of our reservations.

I was juggling many things at the time I needed to book a hotel. I really hate having to make travel decisions when I am faced with many options. In such situations, I turn to my sister. I asked her help for booking me into a hotel for 5 nights. I gave her my son’s new work address, I gave her a price range, and my basic “musts” – free parking and free wifi. She is a devotee of Bookings. com and came back with an amazing find: The Four Points Sheraton only 15 minutes or so from my son’s new office. The amazing part was the special deal being offered on $47/night. Normally I’d be looking for a 4 or 5 star luxury hotel on the theory that this trip was my vacation. But this deal was too good to pass up, and Sheraton is a good brand, and the hotel not only had my “musts” but claimed there was a spa onsite as well. I booked my 5 nights. I heard from my son that they were almost to Tempe and they’d booked a different hotel. I said let’s just have you in the same place I’ll be so you don’t have to change. I went online and got them the same hotel, but for $52/night for the 2 nights before I arrived. Unfortunately (and not unreasonably) the hotel needed my okay before they would roll my son’s stay into mine (think about packing luggage and all that). He had a delayed checkout so that’s what we needed to address once I landed and before we did anything else.

Let me stop here and say that this hotel should have been an absolute perfect choice at an amazing price. The rooms were nice, the beds were comfortable, the lighting was good (enough light to read in a comfy chair in the room and great lighting in the bathroom – white, not yellow, for people who might want to apply makeup), the water pressure was excellent, electrical outlets and USB ports everywhere, and fantastic staff. The room had both a safe and a refrigerator. The refrigerator was large enough to store two gallon-jugs of water. The room and the hallways and the common areas were clean, the elevator prompt, and there were desks and tables for business use in the lobby area. There was a pool. There was NO spa, despite the claim on The clerk explained to me that it HAD been right next door but that it had moved across the road. This hotel really has/had a lot going for it. All WE really needed was a place to sleep at night – we were out all day long every day doing business.

As we drove to the hotel, I learned more details about the previous 2 nights, and why there was a special deal for $47/night. When they had checked in to room 203, there was a slight problem – the a/c was not working. Given that Tempe was under a severe heat advisory for temperatures reaching 117 degrees F, a/c was a necessity, not a luxury. They went back to the front desk where they were booked into 218 which had working a/c. Ahhhhhh. But the wifi was sporadic. The next morning my son attempted to extend 218 into my reservation. He was told no problem, happy to help. But when they attempted to update the computer, room 218 could not be changed (dates couldn’t be updated). Odd, they said. We’re sure someone can help with this tomorrow which is when you need it. When the men went up to room 218 for their second night, their keys didn’t work. Okay, that often happens with these digital keys. They went back to the front desk and got the keys reactivated. Everything was okay except for the broken desk chair, which really was not such a big deal, and the wifi – which kept cutting out. Even so, it was okay. The men spent time chatting with the front desk clerk, Jimmie, and learned that the hotel was being sold by Sheraton to Marriott. I’m not sure at what point of the transfer-to-business they were at, but both Sheraton and Marriott are reputable hotels and things should have been maintained.

Let me reiterate that the staff a this Sheraton have been wonderful, cheerful, helpful – not a single complaint here about the people involved.

It was now the 2nd morning for the 3rd night stay and we went to the front desk. But they couldn’t change room 218 to be for additional evenings. Jimmie said no problem! I’ll book you into a better room (I’d mentioned casually that I was really a princess and liked luxury). He booked us into 106 which was a suite!!! A living room, and a separate bedroom. Uh oh – it was a single king-size bed. I love my son very much but I do NOT want to share a bed with him. We went back to Jimmie and explained this and he said no problem – I’ll get you a room with 2 queen beds. He did, but the room was not yet available. We left our luggage in 106 and took off for lunch and errands.

When we got back a little after 3, we got keys for room 233. We went there and all seemed fine. The wifi worked, the room was cool, everything looked good. I showered (good water pressure, hot & cold water) and we rested awhile before going out to dinner. We came back and noticed that the desk chair was missing a roller on one of the legs. Not a big deal. We went to sleep but noticed that the room was really not as cool as the thermostat was indicating. In the morning on our way out the door we mentioned the a/c and the chair.

Back to the hotel late on Thursday evening and up to the room. Our room keys didn’t work. We went back to the front desk to get them charged. Up to the room again and – wow, it was warm. Chair still broken. We lowered the thermostat as far as it would go and put the fan on high. We went to sleep. Yeah, it was warm all night, not all that comfortable.

Out early again Friday morning, waved to Jimmie. Back late on Friday – hot, tired, just wanting to drop and relax. The room keys didn’t work. Back down to the front desk to charge the keys. Up to the very warm room. I suggested to my son that he take a cool shower and that perhaps the room would be more comfortable. He went in, and came back almost immediately. Great idea, he said, but there’s no cold water. I’d noticed that there was only a very short arc for the cold water the other day and then you hit the hot water. I went in to see if that was the issue. Not only was there no cold water at all, but the water coming out of the faucet was scalding hot – you could not keep your hand under the water. I did lose my temper at that point (having lost my cool a long time ago that day *smile* Tempe is HOT).

I went down to the front desk and, in a calm, quiet but very very forceful voice told Jaylen that he had 10 minutes to get maintenance up to that room to fix the water or we were out of there. That the a/c issue was bad enough, the room keys ridiculous, but only scalding water was completely unacceptable. Fix it or we were gone. (To be honest, even as I said that, I kept thinking why would Jaylen care if we stayed or went? But I suppose someone within the Sheraton or Marriott hierarchy might care.) Less than 2 minutes after I got back in the room, the maintenance man was there. When he saw my son he smiled and said Hi! how are you? as if they were old friends. Which I suppose they were by this point. He did fix the water and I pointed out the broken desk chair and he fixed that as well (all it needed was a new roller). The room was warm but at least we were both cool so we stayed.

Up early Saturday morning and out the door. Running all day, back to the hotel late again. We were getting wiser about the door keys. I went up to the room while my son got his key recharged. Wonder of wonders – my key still worked. Unfortunately when we entered the room it was hot. Not warm, hot. The little bit of a/c we’d been having seemed to be gone. Okay, we’ll take showers, relax. Scalding hot water again. Back down to the front desk to Jimmie, who really should not have been there at that time of night but someone hadn’t shown up and he was working a double-shift. (My son’s theory is that Jaylen couldn’t cope with the issues and quit. *grin*) Jimmie was looking a tad beleagured and there were people all over the lobby and at the desk. He looked up at me, smiled, and said – I know – the a/c, right? I said ‘oh no, we’re used to that, this is something else’. I listened as he explained that yes, the a/c was broken, yes, they were working on it, no, he couldn’t refund money, no couldn’t pay for an Uber to another hotel, no, he couldn’t pay for another hotel, he was happy to ‘comp’ guests to free food and drinks at the bar, but he could not do anything more. In addition, he was keeping the pool open all night for people to use to cool down. Amazing how many times people keep insisting on the same demands and refusing to accept the reply. Finally it was my turn and I explained about the water. The maintenance man came (same man) and did the same thing to fix the water. The room was still uncomfortable. I found that by propping the door open with a suitcase we could get air movement through the room and it was tolerable. Unfortunately we did need to shut the door ultimately to sleep. I said to myself that there was no way we were staying for the last night and I went down to tell Jimmie we’d be checking out in the morning. I went online and did what I should have done Thursday evening – I booked myself into a nearby Hilton.

I woke around 3:30 in the morning and I was HOT. I went to the bathroom to run my hands under cool water. I was hot. Really hot. If I was hot, my son must have been in total misery. I came out to find he’d moved off the bed to the chair. I touched his skin and he was burning. I went and filled the ice bucket and began filling plastic bags with ice and putting them on his pressure points (temple, wrists, ankles, feet) to cool him down. I had the door propped open again to try to get the air to move. I wrapped more ice in a wash cloth to wipe his back, arms and legs. This was ridiculous. He was finally cooled down sufficiently to go back to sleep. I shut the door again and also went back to bed.

We packed and went down to check out early Sunday. Poor Jimmie was back on the front desk. Honestly – he is phenomenal. He stayed cheerful and polite. I told the Hilton people to hire him away. 🙂 Anyway, time to check out and the final insult upon injury – they’d charged me $52/room, not $47. I couldn’t find my confirmation email on my phone, Jimmie couldn’t find any such rate in his computer. After perhaps 4 minutes of looking I thought – what the heck am I doing, just get the heck out of this heat trap. It’s $20. Kiss it goodbye and run. And so we did.

And thus ends the saga of our stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain.