Posts Tagged 'vacation'

Butterfly Wonderland

Subtitle: How to Creep Out Your Sister

black with blue on white flower

After viewing Taliesin West it’s a bit of a challenge to find something to do that is as stupendous. So we switched gears entirely. We moved from architecture and bringing the outside geology and flora in, to getting up close and personal with the fauna. We went to Butterfly Wonderland (we also made a stop at DSW for shoes, but I’m guessing you won’t be much interested in THAT stop – the shoes were for my son. Oy, shoe shopping with guys is just NOT shoe shopping. *rolls eyes*).

black and red

I’m not sure why Butterfly Wonderland is described as a “tourist attraction”. It seems to me that it is an attraction whether you are a tourist or you are a resident. Nearly everyone loves butterflies and enjoys seeing them up close and personal (we’ll discuss the exceptions in just a moment). Butterfly Wonderland not only has butterflies but, as we discovered to our great surprise, it has fish and reptiles as well. It also has a honeybee hive but that is not, in my opinion, an especially exciting attraction.

underside of electric blue butterlfy

So who doesn’t like butterflies? Well, butterflies are a lot like moths. In our family, the word “moth” is a very, very bad word. You see, long long ago, when I was a mere child, there was an incident. Oh, not MY incident. *I* slept (happily) through the entire event. No, it happened to my sister. She was doing that teenage thing and was out at a party. An outdoor party. I don’t know how this happened and as she is traumatized to this day it’s difficult to get a coherent description, but apparently a moth flew in her ear. I understand that in fact this is NOT that uncommon. Apparently our ears are warm and smelly and there is warm smelly air from our ears that attracts flying insects, including moths. It does leave unanswered how they can actually fit. Anyway, at the time when my sister was the main attraction we were not so well informed.

tan and brown

Looks like a moth, don’t you think? 🙂

My father had to get my sister from the party and take her to the emergency room. This is where the truly horrific part of the story happens – the part that to this day elicits a bitter cry from my sister, who is unable even now to forgive. My father said to the ER doctor: “She SAYS a moth flew in her ear.” Oh the pain!!!! The betrayal!!!! He DOUBTED the existence of a moth in her ear. Now understand that we both loved and adored my father immensely, and he adored us, so to have him DOUBT us???? Salt in the wound.

brown with blue

Anyway, as it became evident, there WAS a moth in her ear. The doctor extracted the moth, cleaned her ear, and she was all better physically. The emotional scars have lasted til this very day.

Is it gone yet???

IS IT GONE YET?????

This event proved soooooo traumatic to our family (okay, not to ME *grin* I laugh. Remind me to tell you the story about how Mary and I ran across the floor at the Y, and my sister walked and SHE fell and broke her ankle. *laughing* ), so traumatic to our family that MY SON now has a slight phobia about moths and butterflies. He’s a lot like my sister. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he inherited this. Whenever we visit a butterfly world, my son cringes as the butterflies swerve near him. Should they land on him, rather than enjoy the experience he begs me to get it off of him. *grin* Okay, maybe not BEG, but trust me – until it’s OFF he is NOT happy. He recites the sister/moth story and empathizes. The shoulder that serves as a resting spot for a butterfly in these photos is his unhappy shoulder. 🙂

orange and black bf on red flowers

When we entered Butterfly Wonderland we were just in time for a movie about the life cycle of monarch butterflies. The movie was okay, but it didn’t answer my question – WHY do monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico? Apparently all monarch butterflies do NOT migrate, and of the families that do, not every generation migrates. My understanding from the film is that the 3rd generation migrates back to Mexico. The film never explained what triggers the migration.

a very very large butterfly

A very, VERY LARGE butterfly ?

After the film we went into a room where there were cocoons and emerging butterflies. It is fascinating to see how difficult it is for the butterflies to get out of the cocoon. They have a matter of seconds to get free and clear before their wings are hardened in a crimped position. We cheered the ones that made it out safely and felt very sad for the ones that just couldn’t do it, even in such a protected environment. They told us that these butterflies that had just emerged would be released into the exhibit in about 30 minutes.

orange with black on white flowers

We headed into the big butterfly enclosure and wandered about. There were some stunning electric blue butterflies but they moved so quickly and so high that I could not get a picture of their open wings. I have many shots with their wings closed but the outside (underside?) of their wings is brownish/black, not that electric blue. We did stay and enjoy (well *I* enjoyed) the exhibit for quite a bit, waiting to see the newly hatched insects released. After that we headed out and discovered the fish and reptiles. Pictures for a different day. This post is butterflies. (and moths)

orange butterlfy with purple flower

2 butterflies

Taliesin West

Trivets available for sale

Trivets for sale

I have nothing I can say about this experience except that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Everything we saw at Taliesin West was fascinating, engaging and desirable. The absolute genius of the man takes your breath away. It must have been close to unbearable at times to live with him or interact with him, but his work makes heaven on earth.

Walk from parking lot at TW

Walking from the parking lot

I loved the tour so much that I signed up to become a member of the FLW organization, I bought gifts for every member of my family, and I ordered a wall hanging for my house. If I could have bought every single item in the gift shop I would have. This has strengthened my resolve to get to Falling Water this year before it is too late for either me or it. 🙂

Entrance to Taliesin West

View from the entry area, looking down towards the triangular pool (out of sight, all the way at the end on the left)

The pictures here are in the order of the tour. We started in the gift shop (it was air conditioned) and then moved past the large triangular swimming pool to look out on the once-unbroken vista, then to the entry courtyard for the living quarters.

Petroglyph at TW

Petroglyph in entry area

We saw the living room, the family courtyard, FLW’s study, the indoor meeting room/movie theater, the first stage theater they built, and then the second, larger theater/stage area. We could look into the communal eating area but we did not enter there or into the working studio, although we could look in somewhat through the windows as we walked by.

View from Taliesin West

Vista from the triangle pool.

Sculpture in courtyard at TW

Sculpture in entry courtyard to living areas. Notice the workman on roof. That and the pool are undergoing extensive repairs.

Entrance Courtyard at TW

Outside wall of the living room. Doorway is out of sight on the left. Can’t look in the windows.

Doorway into living quarters

Doorway into the living areas. Yes, the buildings really are that low. FLW was not tall. 🙂

Living Room at TW

The living area. Everywhere is comfortable. Everywhere has a view. The windows allow you to look out but prevent those outside from looking in.

Table and chairs in living room

Table and chairs in the living room.

View from living room to family courtyard

Looking out from the living room to the family courtyard with the moongate in the wall. Piano in the foreground. The armrests are designed to fit an adult in a resting position.

Family courtyard with view into living room

Family courtyard looking in to the living room. Looking in by the family/those inside the house is ‘okay’. Otherwise windows are situated to give privacy from ‘outside’.

Family courtyard with moongate

Family courtyard with moongate that leads to the private family rooms.

About this point in time I began to give up on trying to take photos. 🙂 It was ALL so magnificent and I wanted to remember EVERYTHING. I knew that none of my pictures were doing justice to what I saw. Even with that resolution, I kept taking pictures anyway.

Small pool at TW

Small pool between the living quarters and the meeting room, which also was the movie room. None of my photos could do justice to the recessed lighting and other forward-thinking amenities there.

View out to the mountains from a walkway

View walking from the meeting room to the first theater building.

Dragon Sculpture that breathes fire

I believe this dragon sculpture is designed to breathe fire. FLW did not miss a trick.

We learned so much about the man, the work, this location. I contemplated trying to put some of that in this post and realized I’d be writing for ‘pages’ and I’d undoubtedly get it wrong. If you can get there or to any other of the FLW organization sites, take a tour. There are so many features tucked away that you might not notice on your own. FLW had recessed lighting and lighting in the floor and so many other features that we think only came about recently.

Walk to movie theater

Aisle walking to the theater, which is carved out of the rock

Movie theater with perfect acoustics

Inside the theater. The Panel on the side of the theater was for showing the director’s cut of the movie, which is larger than the commercial version. The theater has perfect acoustics. There is a piano in that cutout in the wall on the right – you can hear every note perfectly despite it being in the wall.

Courtyard before new theater building

Courtyard in front of the second, larger theater.

Sedona

sedona 2

On the third day they rose early, filled the car with fuel, filled the backpacks with water and headed north to Sedona.

Sedona 1

Words fail me. Of course I’ll use several score attempting to describe the beauty anyway, but be aware that nothing I say will truly capture how I felt. My photos also fail. To be fair – no photo can capture for me the splendor of the mountains in Sedona. For starters – the mountains are so perfect and the sky is so blue that no matter who takes the picture, it’s going to look fake. Nothing can be that perfect, that awe-inspiring, that breath-taking. But the mountains of Sedona are all those things and more.

on the hike to devils bridge

I had three reasons to go to Sedona. The first was a bit snarky and pretentious. I’d heard how it was so new-age, all about energy and crystals and vortexes. It’s not that I’m not a believer. It’s more that I think I’m not receptive in the least. In the last several years either I’ve become more sensitive or less-blocked. There’s no question that it seems to me that some folks radiate “bad energy”. But other than that, I’ve not ever noticed crystals having much impact on me. I wanted to see if I would be able to “feel” Sedona. The second reason was much like the first. EVERYONE says that you MUST go to Sedona. How could I take a vacation in Arizona and confess that I missed Sedona? (Yes, Mom, if all my friends were jumping off a cliff I WOULD jump with them.)

hiking to devils bridge

The third reason goes back to my wonderful Super Shuttle drivers. Not only did they wax enthusiastic about Sedona, the non-driver pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures he’d taken in Sedona. They were enough to convince me it was worth a trip, even though it would take a good 2 hours to get there. I was intrigued by his picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the rocks. He recommended that we hike up to Devil’s Bridge. He told me that it was not a difficult hike until the last quarter of a mile, which was steep. We’d heard that description from our waitress the day before. (Oh I should add a postscript to that post – we had a great lunch at a local brewery after hiking South Mountain – Four Peaks Brewery on 8th Street.) She had also said it was an easy hike until the last quarter mile, which is steep. It certainly sounded do-able and after our success at hiking in South Mountain we were ready for more of a challenge. Hah.

sedona flowers 1

We rose very early and I took over the driving that day as I wake up “better” than does my son. 🙂 The directions couldn’t have been simpler: go straight on this road until we reach Interstate Rt 17 and then go north til we reach Sedona. 🙂 Wikipedia calls Interstate Rt 17 one of the most scenic highways and I am in full agreement. It climbs a mile high on its way from Phoenix to Flagstaff, passing through desert and forest. Like my dear friend Honour, my son also refused to take photos out the window of the car so you will either need to drive it yourself or believe me and Wikipedia that it is scenic. 🙂

sedona 3

We took Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch, which has a parking lot for the trail to Devil’s Bridge. It was just about 9:00 am, but the lot was full. A car pulled out but that spot was taken immediately by another. I found a place that I figured could be a spot as long as no one had to use the passenger side door. I tucked the car into the brush and dirt and we headed off. There were families and solo hikers and folks with dogs and folks wearing babies. There was all manner of attire. As we walked along Vultee Arch (which seems also to be called ‘the unpaved part of Dry Creek Road’) we were passed by the occasional jeep – tour groups going to Devil’s Bridge. There is obviously another way up there because the jeeps keep going along Dry Creek Road when we pedestrians all turn off to follow the path.

sedona 4

There were still flowers in bloom, and we saw an adorable lizard, who posed. Unfortunately I still have not done anything about getting either a new camera or a photo app for my phone, so no cute lizard pictures. We walked slowly, drank water, and conserved our energy. We met people returning from their hikes. Either they live a lot closer or they got up a LOT earlier than we did. We were impressed that we had actually made it to the trail by 9:00 am, our goal. 🙂 We figured it would be a good 90 minutes up and a good 90 minutes back, and that was just about what it took. The hike was easy until, as expected, the final ascent. That was steep. And narrow. With significantly increasing drops on the left.

the path

I found that I don’t really trust my legs on uneven, steep, rocky, loose gravel paths. I’ve had 2 surgeries on my right foot and I damaged my left knee decades ago. They do just fine for most of my life but steep ascents and descents can be strenuous. I was doing fine until I happened to glance to my left at one very narrow, very steep part of the trail. There was a lot of ‘nothing’ to my left. Oh sure, a tree or two and then nothing. I would have said that kind of view wouldn’t bother me but I happen to have a very deep fear of falling. The strength of my reaction stems from an early childhood event and to this day I have dreams where I reach the top of a hill and there is nothing there. In my dreams I have learned how to take control and ‘fix’ the dream so I don’t fall. There on the side of the mountain there wasn’t too much I could ‘fix’. My face reflected my stress as did my comments to my son. We met people who were on their way down who would encourage me and tell me we were almost there – hang on. As the only other option was to turn around and go back down, I kept going up. We reached the top, the high point of the trail. Devil’s Bridge was below us. It was stunning. If I looked OUT, I was fine. If I looked down, my stomach turned over.

devils bridge

From the high point of the trail you need to move down again and out to get to the bridge. There was a steady line of people doing just that. On the bridge itself we could see people lined up for their turn at being alone on the bridge for their experience and photo op. I sat down on the rocks with some other folks to catch my breath before we headed to the bridge.

I could not get up. I was frozen.

devils bridge up close

I looked at where I had to walk, and despite all of the people navigating that path in front of me, in spite of all the people walking there and back safely, I could not make myself get up. I knew I was not moving until we headed back down. And I knew that heading back down was not going to be fun either. I had no idea that I would freeze like that. My son joined the procession of folks heading down to the bridge and I watched. Well, mostly I watched. When I saw 2 young children jumping up and down on the bridge I nearly threw up. So I stopped watching a lot of things. My son reported that walking out onto the bridge was easy – that it felt wider than it looks from above. He said that when he stopped walking he could feel the wind pushing on him, and there was an illusory effect of the trees below moving. Why does that not sound like something that I want to experience?

why i couldn't walk to devils bridge

The woman on my right was in worse shape than I. She wouldn’t even look at the bridge at all. Her family was heading down there and she simply could not look. The woman on my left told me that her first time up there she did the same thing I was doing – stayed on that rock until it was time to leave. This was her fourth time and she had been down on the bridge and back. I thanked her for telling me that. I don’t know how to explain to you how bizarre it was for me to be sitting there saying to my body – just stand up, and to not have any part of my body move in response. My logic might have been ready to go to the bridge but my primeval soul knew better. I was able to take many pictures of my son out on the bridge, but I could not stand. I was on the verge of tears because my body was so tensed and coiled. Don’t misunderstand – I LOVED looking at the scenery, I loved a lot of it. But there was simply a part of me that was deeply deeply unhappy.

sedona 5

As I sat there and waited some young women asked me if I could take THEIR picture when they were on the bridge. I said sure, as I had no idea if I was ever going to leave my rock. I wondered how many people needed to be rescued from that spot, frozen and unable to leave. By the time the young women were at the bridge, my son had returned. He pointed out to me that the women were waving at me to take a picture of the 2 people on the bridge currently – they were all together. I looked to do so and saw that THOSE 2 people had moved to the edge of the bridge and were sitting down with their feet hanging off. I swear to you I was overcome with nausea and had to turn away. I couldn’t stand to look at them. My son did the honors. They came back, collected their camera and headed back down the mountain. It was time for us to do the same. I waited until there was a break in the steady stream of arrivals so we could leave. When it came to leaving I could stand, thank goodness.

sedona 6

The path down was steeper than the path up. 🙂 Really. As my son’s landlord said: “going up it’s all muscles, going down it’s all joints”. I do NOT trust my left knee, no I don’t. A very awkward time to realize this. On the way up I’d seen many people coming back down on their tush. I knew that would be me as well, and it was. Every now and then we’d reach a spot where the path was sufficiently wide so we could let someone pass us on the way up or pass us on the way down. At one point as I paused on my way down (very easy to pause when you are on your tush) a HUGE yellow butterfly came and sat on my shoulder. It was large enough that it actually cast a shadow across my eyes as it flew. I don’t know what it was telling me but I decided to take it as a vote of confidence and encouragement. *smile* Shortly after that I was able to stand and do the rest of the descent on my feet.

sedona 7

The trip back to the car was uneventful but we both agreed that it was MUCH longer than the trip from the car to the path. 🙂 We headed back to town looking for some place to eat, and for me to browse for crystals. We found a place called Tlaquepaque, which is probably a huge tourist ‘trap’ but it had parking and restaurants. That’s what we wanted. We even found a spot in the shade! We were so hungry and tired that we walked into the very first restaurant for lunch, The Secret Garden Cafe. It was delicious and just what we needed. We ate outside in a shaded courtyard and relaxed and re-hydrated. Afterwards we wandered about the shops. Most of what I liked was too expensive AND too big to carry on an airplane so I was saved from myself. We did finally find a store selling all types of crystals for all different needs. Unfortunately it was the kind of place that also believed that putting scents and odors into the air enhances the shopping experience. Perhaps that is the case for some, but it causes me to sneeze and my sinuses to clog up and hurt. We had to flee the store without seeing very much at all, and certainly without buying a crystal. I am still crystal-less. We found an ice cream store and treated ourselves. As neither of us thought the ice cream was all that special I won’t share it. But if you are at Tlaquapaque I’d suggest you go elsewhere for ice cream. *wink*

sedona 8

The ride home took much longer than the ride there as there was a multi-car accident on Rt 17. Now here is one of the disadvantages of Arizona. If I was traveling on a major interstate in the greater NJ area, there would be multiple options for other routes. Not in Arizona. It’s Rt 17 or it’s Rt 17. So we were in bumper to bumper traffic for much of the way. Honesty compels me to admit that at one point I drove east-coast style and cutoff another car as I changed lanes. Just as in NJ, changing lanes really didn’t accomplish much, but at least I was behind a car and not an SUV so my sight lines were better. 🙂 We made it back home in time for showers and a change of clothes so we could meet my son’s landlords for dinner. We had a VERY tasty sushi dinner at Sushi Ken. The presentation was excellent and the rolls were large and filling. We had a bottle of saki as well. Like mead, this will not become my go-to drink, but it was enjoyable and suited the food. We got back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day and we had great plans for the next day as well!

sedona 9

sedona 10

sedona 11

heading home from sedona

heading home from sedona 2

Petroglyphs and Rocks

deer valley petroglpyph 2

Petroglyphs at Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve

On Day 2 of our great adventure in Phoenix we decided to “hike”. My son had checked about with friends for a “good” hike for us. Now his friends didn’t know me, and they know my son is not really a dedicated mountain hiker, so they were looking for “gentle” hikes.deer valley He’d also told them I liked rocks and desert and mountains and scenery. One of my absolute best vacations was the one where we went to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and saw the hoodoos, Zion National Park in Utah with the gorgeous rock colors and formations, and the Grand Canyon, which has rocks too. *grin* They had suggested Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve, which has some of the best petroglyphs in the Phoenix area. We decided to go there. Of course, being us, and NOT being my sister, who is incredibly organized and plots and plans HER itinerary, we spent a lot of time driving back and forth over the same roads. deer valley petroglpyphFirst we went from the hotel to breakfast, then to my son’s house to get more clothes for him, then back UP to Deer Valley and then DOWN again to the next stop and then ACROSS for the stop after that and then finally home to The Boulders. Had we actually decided what we wanted to do while we were eating breakfast, we’d have spent a lot less time in the car. But at least the car is air conditioned. 🙂
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SM 5
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Deer Valley is run by Arizona State University. There is a very small museum and then a quarter-mile walk to the petroglyphs. As I said, my son and I don’t always think ahead or analyze what we are going to do.sm 8 We had a little map that showed maybe 10-15 stops to see petroglyphs. We were at #7 before we realized that we were halfway through, and hadn’t noticed any of the other stops. Somehow we thought the path we were on was merely the path LEADING to the walk, and not the walk itself. The distance of “quarter mile” had not registered. We backed up and paid more attention. It is true that there are fantastic petroglyphs there – very well preserved and very interesting. I also appreciated the signs (and the warning from the desk attendant) about rattlesnakes. It’s good work and interesting but as far as our hike expectations, a bit on the bland side. We made an effort to spend 40 minutes there. SM 3 Once I was home I did some more research and see that there is an entire preserve with ‘real’ trails but that’s not where we went. 🙂

Although we did appreciate the petroglyphs at Deer Valley Preserve, we were in the mood for a bit more of a hike. We had a lot of water, hats, sun screen and energy. So despite the fact that it was getting on to high noon, we headed to South Mountain. We stopped in at the information area/gift shop to get a map and more water. The women there were extremely concerned for our well-being. I guess we appeared less than experienced or something.petroglyph at south mountain Maybe they are that concerned for everyone. We’d already discussed with my son’s housemate how much water and how far we should hike (before it turned into a more adventurous trail). The women repeated the warnings that were posted on signs out on the walkway: turn back when half your water is gone. I believe we had over 4 liters of water with us (which is heavy until you start drinking it). We reassured them that we only planned to go as far as the water tower (not that we knew what that MEANT exactly) and that we had water and we would turn back if we hit the water half-point before we hit the water tower. We drove down to the start of the trail and parked the car. We tried to guess which way the sun was moving and if the tree by the car would actually end up giving shade, but that too is not one of our strengths. 🙂
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sm 7

South Mountain was MUCH more the hike we expected. It was NOT strenuous but it was certainly not flat. There was enough loose gravel and steep inclines to have me rely on my son’s arm at certain points. sm 4I don’t really trust my knees and foot anymore so while I do want to ‘hike’, I know better than to do anything extreme.

South Mountain is gorgeous. The South Mountain Preserve is part of the Phoenix Parks System and is the second largest municipal park in the world (so says Wikipedia). It is black rocks and scrub and petroglyphs and dry wadis. We spent days trying to remember what “wadis” are called out west. We both use that term because that is the term used in Israel, the last place we had encountered wadis. We knew that wasn’t the correct terminology. Somewhere along our way I remembered the word “arroyo” but that still didn’t feel correct. We checked with my son’s landlord (and expert hiker/explorer) and he used the term “wash”.SM 2 Once he said “wash” all the old cowboy movies came into focus in my memory. 🙂

I took a zillion photos. I love looking at the rocks. I love looking at the scrub. I love looking at the cactus and desert plants. When I got home I treated myself to a electronic photo storage device that will hold my zillion photos and move through them as a slide show, so I can keep seeing the beauty of the desert even when I’m here in my mid-Atlantic green. 🙂

(The top 3 photos are from Deer Valley; the rest are from South Mountain.)

better petroglyph at SM

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sm 9

sm 10

SM 1

sm 6

What to Do in Phoenix

is it real cactus

I headed out to my Arizona vacation with only a vague itinerary. What I knew I wanted to do: hang by the pool, go to the spa, meet my son’s friends, see the desert, get to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home.weird plant 1 That left a lot of unplanned time. My Super Shuttle drivers had many suggestions for me. They suggested the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, a trip to Sedona, hiking to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, the Musical Instrument Museum and Taliesin West. They told me that it was a shame I was there then, because I should have come earlier when the botanical gardens (and all the plants actually) would have been in full bloom. They felt that I’d not get the true flower experience. Ah well, I got there when I got there. The point of the trip was escape, and that happens when it happens. 🙂

My son agreed with all of my plans and with the drivers’ suggestions. He’d also asked his friends for hiking suggestions for us. We woke up Friday morning and decided to have a comparatively relaxed day because we knew we’d be going out at night to meet up with his friends. Apparently mead and gaming are a winning combination. There are a lot of gamers in Phoenix and now there are meaderies as well.sundial Yes – multiple meaderies. The Scale & Feather Meadery in Avondale (part of the greater Phoenix area) is brand new – just opened in May. Jumping ahead to the end of our day I will say it was great fun to meet ‘the gang’ and taste the mead. There was live music and the place was full and it was a lot of good energy. I doubt I’ll ever be a mead aficionado but it was an interesting taste test. 🙂 There is another games & brewery right next door and there was a lot of back and forth traffic between the 2 businesses. I felt young again. *grin*

botannical garden desert hillOkay, so we needed to have a non-strenuous day so I’d be able to hang with the gang. We opted for a nice big breakfast at Chompie’s. This was actually a bit of an ironic choice in a way since it prides itself on being a New York deli. 🙂 Our meal was delicious and perfect for what we wanted. We headed from there to the Desert Botanical Garden. As we approached the entrance we saw huge lime green cacti rising up ahead. My son kept saying “those can’t be real” and I said “who knows – plants are weird”. We got closer and saw that my son was correct. The cacti were beautiful Chihuly glass sculptures. We paid the entrance fee and headed in. We realized that we had hats and sunscreen, but no water. You can’t go anywhere in Arizona in the summer without water.pink flowers and a cactus We stopped at a vending machine and got ourselves supplied. We wandered off to see the sights. I have to say that despite the pessimistic predictions there were still many, many flowers blooming.

Even had there NOT been flowers, the plants were fascinating. The layout consists of different garden areas – some are herbal, some contemplative areas, native american habitats, and more. Of course there are the wonderful surrounding mountains as well. Had NONE Of that been there, it would have all been worthwhile because I FINALLY saw a hummingbird.hummingbird closeup I do not think I have ever seen a hummingbird. Or if I have, for some reason I have been unable to retain the image in my memory. In one of the very first gardens we viewed, there was a hummingbird!!! I managed to take several photos. I was so excited! There were other birds and there were butterflies, and we saw a toad camouflaged among tree roots. For me the hummingbird was the star of the show.

both fountain pics

Fountain with alien/possessed water advancing on my son’s foot

There was also a possessed fountain. Oh sure, there will be those of you who are going to think I’m crazy, or that I have a vivid imagination. But I know what I saw. I didn’t take video, but I took photos. I’m telling you that it wasn’t really just water in that fountain. There was something alien and it was aiming at us. You want an explanation? We sat down in the shade, on a stone bench, near a lovely fountain.hidden toad As we sat there, the water began to flow over the top of the basin. It hadn’t been overflowing before we got there. It was a perfectly normal fountain. We sat down, chatted, took some photos. And the water came over the top of the basin. It began to trickle down along the bench, following the arc of the bench. It was aiming at my son’s foot. We moved down the bench. It followed. It kept coming. Right at us. Oh I’m sure some of you would say “what is WITH you???” But I have seen B movies. Everyone in the audience KNOWS that you don’t go in the empty house; you don’t sit in the deserted area; when the insects are buzzing and all else is quiet, you don’t stay.bird nesting in cool cactus 1 And when the mysterious liquid starts seeping towards you, following you, that is the time to FLEE!!! So we fled. I turned back to look. THE WATER HAD STOPPED FLOWING ALONG THE BENCH!!!! It KNEW we had left. I was right. We went to another garden. No mysterious alien water is going to touch us!!!

From the gardens we headed to the Musical Instrument Museum. My coworker had suggested this place before I left, saying that it was fantastic and well worth a visit.cactus and flowers Since the shuttle drivers had felt just as strongly about the museum we figured it should be on our list. I have to say – it is great. We got there in time for the next tour. It’s about 45 minutes and it’s set up to orient you to the museum structure and presentations. There are also audio guides which trigger automatically as you near an exhibit. It was very interesting to see the same kind of instrument being used in cultures all over the world. There was a good exhibit on the electrical guitar – so much I hadn’t known/realized and so much that triggered happy memories. The museum is worth a post for itself, but I didn’t take any photos.yellow puff flowers I was starting to fade a bit (probably from the heat in the garden and the 3 hour time zone change). We made it to the daily performance of the Orchestrion – a mechanical machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an entire band or orchestra. As it was the day after June 6, commonly known as “D-Day” in the US, the gentleman running the demonstration played a selection of military songs. I played the piccolo in our high school marching band, as well as in the marching band from our temple. I’ve marched in blazing sun and pouring rain, at football games, in holiday parades, in celebratory parades and there is one thing they all had in common – at least one song by John Phillip Sousa. Of course my favorite is Stars and Stripes Forever, where you can hear the piccolo above everything else. So for your listening pleasure I bring you the Orchestrion from the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, playing Stars and Stripes Forever. (and a little bit of The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

botannical garden cave hill

contemplation garden

2 cactus plants with flowers

Escape to Arizona

view from my room

The spring weather was rainy. It was cold. It was not at all spring-like. I may have mentioned that in prior posts. I decided that I needed an escape. My son used to live in Florida, and I used to escape down there in the winter to get some warm sunshine. Last year he moved out to Arizona, as I mentioned at the time. dining 1st classWhile AZ is very sunny and warm (actually, let’s be honest – it’s HOT), it doesn’t have an ocean. An ocean typically figures in my idea of “escape”. I decided that I would try a desert escape instead and see how it worked.

If one is escaping, one should do it with bells and whistles. I booked everything to be as self-indulgent as possible: first class seat on the plane, private car service to the resort, amazingly gorgeous upscale resort. I’m a little frustrated with paying for first class plane tickets and not loving my seat. Sure, they give you linen napkins and glass, not plastic, but it can still have drawbacks. On the way out I ended up next to a gentleman who wore WAY too much scent. I’m allergic to perfumes and aftershaves and such. I wish the folks who wear these things would not bathe in them nor wash their clothes in them. So sorry but you, sir, stink. 😦 On the way home, silly me, I thought I’d get to board among the first folks to board, thereby not having to worry about storing my carry-on bag. room at The Boulders By the time Group 1 got to board, every seat in 1st class was filled but 2. The seat next to mine was taken by a young man with headphones on, head down deliberately avoiding any eye contact with anyone. I’m short – 5’1″ on a good day. The overhead bins were not only nearly full, but folks had not put their bags in the “correct” way so they occupied more space than required. As both aisle seats were full, and neither “gentleman” (perhaps I should use the term “occupant” as a more accurate description) considered leaning away out of the aisle, I was struggling to lift MY bag, turn it properly and stow it. I thought there was a very good chance I’d end up hitting my seat-mate in the head. As I struggled from the lack of space, a true gentleman from 2 rows back came and placed the bag for me. morning cactus*smile* He also took it down for me at journey’s end. The young man did not stink, thank goodness, and was very quiet. The flight home was a red-eye, and it was delayed over an hour. I think that I am done taking the red-eye home. The last 3 times I’ve taken a red-eye, trying to not “waste” a day, the flights have had issues (2 from Arizona, 1 from Nevada). I think from now on I’ll just waste a day.

Absolutely no complaints about the car service. I took Super Shuttle. I got used to hiring them when I travel on business. I’m not interested in trying Lyft or Uber. I’ve heard too many bad stories and I’m not unhappy with Super Shuttle, so to date I’ve had no reason to change. My driver was being trained, so I had TWO drivers. They were charming, informative (my generation!) and not only drove me to the resort but gave me a running commentary on what we were passing and suggestions on what I should do/see while I was out there. I also learned about how those drivers get their passengers, and how the payment works and such. I am always interested in how other businesses operate.boulders map Although my pre-paid fare had included a tip already, these 2 were so engaging that I added to it. And I did follow 3 of their suggestions!

I stayed at The Boulders. I did very little research on picking a place to stay. I knew that Scottsdale, AZ was known for upscale spa resorts. I knew (or thought I knew) that Scottsdale was close to Tempe, which is where my son lives. I don’t do well when I have to choice from a multitude of options. I decided to narrow my search by starting with Hilton resorts, as I am on their frequent guest plan. (I LOVE the Hilton Orlando with its lazy river!!!!) I put in my key amenities: free wi-fi, a spa, restaurant on site, pool, near Tempe. Answer: The Boulders. I never looked at the building plans. I began to be very nervous when the car service told me I was “way out there”. Apparently The Boulders is in Scottsdale but it’s in Carefree, and the northernmost part of Carefree. spa viewThat makes it closer to 45 minutes from my son, not 20-30 as I was guessing from my last trip. Not only that, but as we drove the winding road through the grounds, I realized there was no main hotel building. There were separate low one-story buildings nestled about the landscape. The resort has a zillion golf carts to pick you up and take you where you want to go should you not want to walk. The map they gave me at check-in was intimidating – it looked like I’d be hiking EVERYWHERE. I took a golf cart to my room.

The room was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The view outside was astounding. The spa was a 5 minute walk from the room. I unpacked and headed there to spend the afternoon by the spa pool. The view everywhere was spectacular. spa pool The pool was refreshing. I was too late for the lunch menu but the server brought me a muffin to tide me over until dinner. I headed back up to the room after a few hours and fell asleep waiting for my son to arrive. He came up after work. By the time he got there, my body clock was telling me it was nearly 10 and I was HUNGRY! We decided to walk to one of the restaurants. *grin* We didn’t do all that well with our map. We might have been better off calling for a golf cart. But we did get there and dinner was lovely. The best part about eating in Arizona (and Florida) is that all the restaurants have huge outdoor areas. They have fans and misters and awnings – everything to make outdoor dining pleasant. We dined looking over one of the golf courses (there are 2). We did take the shuttle back to the main building and a golf cart home, which really was an extravagance. cottontail jack rabbit (There is no charge for the golf cart service. Or rather, there is, but it’s a daily fee added on to all the other charges so you don’t have to worry about tipping each ride.)

Over the next few days we tended to take a break up at the lodge pool. Again – totally beautiful with a manufactured waterfall in the background. Children are not allowed at the spa pool but I enjoyed seeing them in the lodge pool. My favorite recollections of our family trips when I was just a young sprout were the various hotel pools on our journeys. I was definitely a fish in those days and part of me joins in with the children I see loving the water.

I didn’t take any pictures inside the room – the resort website has completely accurate representations. morning companionsEvery time I went out on our patio/balcony I took millions of photos. I sat out there every morning, drinking my coffee and enjoying the company. There were birds that are not in NJ, there were desert cottontail rabbits, there were lizards and there were quail. OMG, the quail have such cute heads. I’d gaze up at the mountain in the distance and breathe in the air and the quiet and the cactus and the rocks. It was heaven. Staring at the desert produces the same serenity as gazing at the ocean.

My “tour guides” suggested that the next time I come out I should stay at The Biltmore. That is a fantastic suggestion. But if I can’t get a room there, I’ll be delighted to go back to The Boulders.

more view

OOTD 20150225

When you need a vacation, don’t wait for others to have time too. Go where you want to go. Make friends there. That’s a vacation in so many ways. Can it really be time for me to do this again ALREADY???


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