Morning in Catalina State Park
A few old favorites and new finds this trip. Catalina State Park did not disappoint. I never feel like I am really in Tucson without walking the Canyon Loop Trail, which this time had no water anywhere. Word has it, no rain since September. We had good street tacos at Seis Kitchen on River Road (al pastor and avocado good in particular).
I met my friend Mary across the street from the U of Arizona (Professor Mary) at The Dutch, where we ate salads and caught up at a pleasant outdoor table.
near the U of Arizona
Along S. Stone
I dropped by two places I wanted to try last trip— Bon Boutique, (beautiful, pricey French housewares) and 5 Points Market and Restaurant, which had a funky coffee house vibe and what looked like excellent sandwiches and pastries. Next time (if there is one). I drove down nearby Convent Street to see some lovely revived, brightly painted adobe houses.
This was my first time renting from Advantage, which cost as much as the Arizona Shuttle round trip to Tucson. (And gas was cheap – $3.17 compared to $3.6 3 here.) I ordered a compact car and ended up with a minivan. Not the newest or cleanest but it drove fine. Now trying Frontier Airlines direct Phoenix to Des Moines. So far so good (which is more than I can say for the last flight I tried to take on Frontier). I bought water and a sandwich before boarding since there is no free anything on board. The seats are hard and thin with a tiny tray but not too cramped. I had to pay for my seat ($9, i.e. way in the rear) and carry-on bag ($35) but c’est la vie. I flew out on Southwest (which I prefer for many reasons to Frontier) — one of the first new direct Des Moines to Phoenix flights, on what seemed like a brand new plane!
Hiked on a perfect morning on Pima Canyon Trail yesterday (Oracle Rd. to Magee Rd east until the road ends), with my neighbor from Iowa who is on sabbatical in Tucson, then had a really nice lunch at La Cocina with Dad in the courtyard at Old Town Artsans downtown, near the art museum and EL Charro (the famous Mexican restaurant serving carne secca). We had delicious small grilled artichokes at La Cocina and I bought a 1960s (we think) suit (jacket and skirt) for $23 (yes $23) at a vintage clothing store on the courtyard. Also restocked my girl-gift supply with some Thai silver rings.
We also drove by a store called Bon and next door Five Pointe marketplace and cafe, which I need to check out next visit, and mid-century architecture near Broadway and Country Club/ Euclid. Next trip!
For future reference (and to prevent a repeat of today’s long search), the stretch of the Rillito Wash bike trail in west Tucson that we rode started at the Ted Walker park trailhead just south and a little west of the Ina exit of Interstate 10. Dad and I rode 9 miles (which is great considering that dad is rebounding after some major health issues) north from the small park on a trail that began somewhat unpromisingly, with quasi industrial scenery but quickly became more scenic, bordering a small creek lined with palo verde and other desert trees, with the mountains off on in the distance to the east and west. I was impressed by how well tended the trail was and the artwork adorning it including several mosaic panels.
Dad was a good sport to go with me for Mexican food, which he doesn’t like. We tried Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe in west Tucson off grant road west of I 10. It’s a peculiar looking place, a round greenish-blue building behind a McDonald’s that looks a bit like a spaceship or an import from the Jetsons. Inside the restaurant is more traditional festive Mexican with colorful paper banners, ceramics and paintings and a nice mountain view out the curved window. The food was pretty good although to be honest I think my carnitas are better. Their’s were big chunks with considerable fat (and not the promised crispiness). They were in light green sauce that was tasty. The homemade tortillas were as soft and fresh as advertised (we didn’t get to see them being made in the open oven area in the middle of the big curved dining room.) We were also impressed with the guacamole. The horchata (my new drink – a milky looking sweet rice and nutmeg drink) wasn’t as good as the one I had at the barrio cafe in Phoenix. (Nor was the pork, come to think of it.) but I would give this place another chance because it is colorful and has potential. Their huevos rancheros is supposed to be good.
Always nice to have a hiking buddy and because my dad’s bum knee rules him out for this trip, I was especially pleased to hike with my neighbor Amahia from Des Moines who happens to be here on sabbatical. She hadn’t been to Catalina State Park about a mile from my dad’s house in Oro Valley so I showed her the Loop Trail, an easy and lovely scenic hike into the valley dotted with saguaros and bordered by high jagged mountains.
We had a really nice lunch outside in the garden at Tohono Chul, the lovely estate and desert garden nearby. For the first time ever, in my experience, we waltzed right in and were seated — perhaps a benefit of being here in January rather than our usual February or March. The weather was perfect, high 60s and low 70s, although quite cool at night.
Lunch yesterday with my old friend from London, Mary, who is a longtime U of Arizona professor, at a good Italian place called North in the ritzy Encantado shopping center. Excellent grilled artichoke, bruschetta with asparagus, cheese and proscuitto and even better company!
Gorgeous morning in Phoenix so I walked around on a Sunday morning near our hotel downtown. Very quiet and not many people around, except for occasional street people and farmer/conventioneers. I did find a lovely little pocket of urban pioneer hipness at the Public Market Cafe, just north of the convention center area.
The place was bustling with a mixed crowd, families, millennials, older folks, all drawn to a place with good hearty comfort food (and what looked like great bloody Mary’s.) How great was it to sit on the open air patio under a tin roof by a fireplace, estimg a light breakfast. Later I walked a little further north to the Roosevelt row art district which is still in process, with stucco bungalows in various stages of restoration or recreation as galleries or little shops and new modern loft complexes.
The development is still spotty — at that attractive stage where you sense change is happening and you feel a sense of discovery.
Early SoHo, I call it, harkening back to the days in the 1970s when I used to visit artists with my mom in the emerging soho district of New York, long before it became overrun with artists and over commercialized.
Dad and I stopped briefly for lunch in Scottsdale at a pretty place called Arcadia farms, again eating on the outdoor patio. 79 degrees today! nice change from subzero temps in Iowa.
A very quick trip to Phoenix but long enough to try some creative Mexican food at the Barrio Cafe north of the Hyatt (where D. has a meeting this week.) The place was fun, lots of interesting people including a woman sitting at the bar who has written a book about fixing up a house in the “west village” neighborhood of Detroit. She and her husband moved to my hometown from Brooklyn, so I guess this Detroit renaissance is really happening. The book is called Detroit Hussle. We also met a cute young couple from Australia (Perth, as it happens, which I have a soft spot for because I had two friends from Perth at my kibbutz years ago who I ended up traveling with in Greece.) Interesting to hear the places they are visiting during a month-long trip to “see America.” They were in Phoenix because they went to the Grand Canyon. Next stop Vegas. All other stops were on the coasts.
The food at rhe barrio cafe was interesting. We liked the guacamole (made with pomegranate seeds) and the long cooked pork, the margaritas and horchata (a light milky drink that came in a pop bottle). The chicken mole and corn appetizer were too rich for me. Slow service, as forewarned but a good live band playing what sounded like merenge not Mexican music.
Filed under DINING, Phoenix
Now in vegas, awaiting my connecting flight home after a short flight from Tucson marred only by a raucous crowd of fellow fliers who were in very high spirits and laughing and shouting so loudly that I finally remembered I had my iPod and could effectively block out the noise.
Yesterday in Tucson, dad and I ate poke Arizona style, which was listed at RA sushi, in a ritzy outdoor shopping mall, as a “sashimi bowl salad with poke sauce.” iT was a delicious mix of raw tuna and salmon, cooked shrimp, greens, sliced avocado and a tangy soy sauce-based poke sauce. gOod strawberry lemonade too and it felt healthy enough to almost justify eating for dinner a “convertible” burger (served on half a bun, as if…) with carmelized onions at Zinnburger. a few days earlier, we also had good pizza at skordatos in the shopping center at Campbell and river (I think) that is moving soon, nearby we are told.
Dad and I also took a really pleasant bike ride on a trail along the wash (the dirt gully in the desert that catches water during heavy rain) from near Frys in Oro Valley north and east (I think) to another outdoor shopping area across from Catalina State Park.
i feel really lucky to have had such great weather during what may be my last trip to Tucson for sometime (my father’s house is for sale) and lucky too to have been able to visit this refuge from Midwestern winters for some 20 years. Thanks mom and dad! Xox
Filed under Arizona, Tucson
Almost 30 years ago, I visited Tucson for the first time to attend the wedding of my friend Mary at the lovely old world Arizona Inn. Today, Mary and I met again at the Arizona Inn, this time for lunch on the patio, overlooking a wide green lawn bordered by pink Adobe casitas and an impeccably landscaped desert garden. It may be the last time we meet there or anywhere else in Tucson, since my dad has put his house up for sale but we enjoyed our meal and the peaceful ladies-who-lunch setting (although neither of us fit that description…we are working gals out for lunch.)
I wandered around 4th Avenue south of Speedway, which had more strung out homeless people hanging around than I remembered but the head shops, vintage stores and Goodwill shop were Balanced by some more upmarket but still affordable youthful indie boutiques including Creations, where I bought some Airy made-in-India attire.Leaving that store I was approached by an attractive Israeli woman in her own airy India attire who convinced me to visit her “very nice” jewelry store, Evon Perez, which was very nice and I eventually succumbed to her relentless but not obnoxious sales pitch and bought some silver earrings from Mexico.
My visit began yesterday, as it always does, with a hike on the canyon loop trail at Catalina State Park, an easy and scenic loop with classic desert landscape – rugged mountains with a blue sky backdrop, gumby-esque saguaro cacti, all kinds of other cacti (barrel, paddle, purple paddle, agave) and spindly ocotillo and purple wildflowers. It always reminds me of my mother and how much she loved Tucson where she and my dad bought a house here 20 years ago. I didn’t make it to Catalina this morning for the 7:30 am Wednesday bird walk but dad and I spotted a dazzling red vermillion flycatcher off in the desert preserve beyond his patio (with help from binoculars.)
It was cold last Wednesday so we braved a bike ride along the wash near St. Phillips Plaza at Campbell and River, riding west. Nice level ride but it was cold riding into the wind. For lunch we ate at the former Chopped, now Choice Greens, or some such. As good as ever. That night we ate at Zin Burger – big juicy rare burger but pricey. Tuesday night, we had a good meal – pizza and salad at Vivace Pizza (in st. Phillips Plaza) Best part of Tucson: Being with my dad!
I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a freak choosing Portland and Oregon for a spring break destination – everyone else I know in Iowa, if they’re getting out of here in March, is heading to Mexico or Florida or Arizona. Somewhere that warm weather is practically guaranteed – although not always as we’ve learned from our frequent trips to Tucson in March to see my dad.
Last I looked, Portland is usually in 50s, maybe 60s, in March – which isn’t exactly balmy but a heck of lot better than the sub-zero temps we’ve had here. There doesn’t seem to be any cost advantage to flying to Portland vs. Arizona during spring break from Des Moines. Both are expensive. But our Portland ticket is about $$150 more than our son’s ticket to Tucson. (And we both fly out on the same flight to Denver before parting ways for different destinations.)