Trip Reports IICarene Lydia -- Thursday, July 27, 2017 -- 07:24:32 PM
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Phoenix – Day One and Two: 3-4 November 2018
I arrived late on Saturday night because JetBlue only had one direct flight from NYC to PHX (and one direct flight out) and I was not spending eight or more hours flying and making stops. My sister Denise picked me up from the airport. She is renting a nice three-bedroom house and lives with her three dogs, Tally, Waldo, and Nona, and her three cats, Mama, Pumpkinhead, and Magica. Waldo was the first dog she rescued in Puerto Rico and it happened when we were still taking care of my mother. I had put him in the carrier to bring him to the house and we bonded a little before I left for NYC. I was surprised that he remembered me (I have not seen him since October 2014) and he has been underfoot and sleeping with me since I arrived.
I had brought Denise a chicken cutlet parmigiana hero from her favorite restaurant and found out that she is now a vegetarian. But she ate it and enjoyed it. Next time I will have to bring an eggplant parmigiana hero instead.
The address of the house is 1313 and Denise told me that she found rocks in the backyard arranged in patterns and stuff under the rocks. Turns out a Voodoo priestess lived here before her. Denise has taken some of the stuff from under the rocks for herself (for her crafts that she sells) and I think that is a bad idea karma-wise. The woman before the priestess died in the house. But Denise said the house has been good luck for them, so whatever.
View on Denise’s street:
Denise had to work on Sunday (she cleans homes and AirBnBs for a service but is going to open her own business soon), so we drove to Scottsdale, where the AirBnB was. It is supposed to be a four-person crew but the others usually flake off and Denise is left to clean the houses alone. That is why she was made supervisor almost immediately after being hired. She only has four hours since the old guests check out at 11am and the new guests check in at 3pm. When we got there at about 11am, there were four families, all with small children, saying goodbye. So we walked around for a bit.
It was 11:20am and they were all still outside saying goodbye, so we started unloading the cleaning supplies from her jeep to give them the hint. Which, thankfully, they took. One guy said to one couple, “See you next week,” which made me wonder why they were taking so long to say goodbye.
The AirBnB was beautiful – four bedrooms with a master bedroom, bath, and closet that would be an extremely expensive NYC studio by itself. The bathroom had two sinks but on separate walls – no side-by-side sinks. The rain shower had a door on one side that opened to the outside to an outdoor shower. There was a pool and outside deck with a TV. The loft had an impossible to climb ladder – it was bolted straight onto the wall instead of slanted – so that you had to have major arm muscles to climb up.
I sat with my feet in the pool and read for a bit and then watched TV. At the end I helped Denise make the beds and fold the beach towels that she had washed.
People who rent AirBnBs go food shopping. And leave the food at the house. So Denise has a very full refrigerator from all the food and drinks left at these homes. This group had had a birthday party and there were three quarts of ice cream – chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Since we could not take that home, I ate some of the ice cream. You know, you do not want to waste food. There were also chicken wraps and a veggie plate, which I ate some of and we brought the rest of the chicken wraps home for the dogs.
From there we drove back to Phoenix to have dinner at the Barrio Cafe, which two Facebook friends who live in or near Phoenix had recommended. But before that we had to stop at the local Goodwill. This was a Phoenix Goodwill that Denise had not been to yet and she was interested to see what they had. The neighborhood was obviously Latino/Mexican with a hint of gentrification happening. Denise shops Goodwill regularly to get items to resell or for her crafts. She also shops at a Nordstrom’s outlet at which she has a $500 Missoni dress that she bought for $17 and an almost $2000 Dolce and Gabbana dress that she got for a similar very very very low price. She going to resell both.
Outside and next to the Barrio Café are murals.
Along the wall are paintings for sale. They brought out bread and a light salsa, which were delicious. I ordered a Flor de Jamaica Margarita (Siete Lenguas Tequila, Hibiscus flower reduction, and Grand Marnier) because I was remembering the Jamaica Margarita I had had in Guadalajara. This one did not compare favorably to the other. Denise liked her Chata (Agua de Horchata, Crema 1921 Tequila, and Kahlua). Later I ordered a Barrio Bomba (Patron Silver Tequila, Cointreau, orange, pineapple, and fresh lime juices, and grenadine), which should have read Tequila Sunrise to me based on the ingredients but it did not register in the moment. It had a sugar rim. Both drinks seemed lacking in alcohol to me and really great flavor based on the ingredients.
We started with esquites, which were not broth-like as what I had in Guadalajara but a bowl of butter roasted corn kernels topped with chipotle cream, aged cotija cheese, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Denise and I both loved them. I had the Cochinita Pibil (pork marinated in achiote and sour orange, wrapped in a banana leaf and slow roasted overnight and served topped with pickled red onion and Yucatán-style pico de gallo), which was the recommendation of my friends and a specialty of the house. It was served with zucchini and spicy mashed potatoes. You can also have that pork served as tacos or a torta. Denise had a stuffed poblano that I do not see on the current menu – I know it was either vegan (cannot remember if it had cheese) or vegetarian but it looks like it was similar to the Chiles en Nogada on their posted menu. Both of us loved our entrées and could not finish the meals. We did have room for dessert and we shared a Flan de mi Mami, which was a traditional flan topped with candied pecans.
Phoenix: Day Three: 5 November 2018
Denise had the day off, so we got up early and started on our way to Sedona. It is almost two hours out of Phoenix but a scenic drive. I have never been to this part of the country before. It reminded me of the bus trips I took in Mexico in June and sometimes reminded me of Puerto Rico (PR is obviously not desert country but it is very mountainous).
And then you get a glimpse that you are getting near to Sedona and then you are there.
Along the way we some animals that had been hit by cars. Denise does not like to see that. There was an intact raccoon on the bike lane and she made a U-turn to get him off the highway. She wore rubber gloves and used two plastic bags on top of that and when I tell you the stink off those gloves when she came back in the car – it was overwhelming. She threw them out as soon as she could.
Getting into the first town.
We wanted to stop at the place to walk around Bell Rock because it is one of the Sedona vortexes but the lot was full. And so was the next one. And the next one. It looked like we were never going to be able to get out of the car and walk around. I wanted red dust on my sneakers and to rub my fingers in it!
We went up to the airport where the Airport Mesa vortex is and passed two lots. One was very big and charged $3. We passed both to go to the Mesa Grill at the airport because Denise was hungry. There is a nice view. I had looked up restaurants in Sedona and had found the Cowboy Club, which serves “high desert cuisine” and looked like fun in addition to the sometimes unusual menu. We did not realize it but had we turned right instead of left on Airport Road we would have been there and could have lunch there. As it turned out we did not have time to look for the restaurant later in the day and when I looked it up the next day I saw how close we had been. Next time.
I had the chicken chorizo quesadilla (leeks, sweet corn, jalapeño, roasted red peppers sour cream, roasted tomato salsa, and guacamole) and they had fried the tortillas, so it made for an unusual dish but okay. Denise had a black bean burger that she raved about.
We drove over to the first lot but it was now full. So it was on to the $3 lot. Denise had a conversation with the guy watching the lot and taking the money. It is a busy season now, which is why all the small scenic view lots are full. He said it is wall-to-wall people during the other busy seasons. Across the street is a scenic view. Then on the side with the lot, you walk down a small path, make a right and open a gate (they fence off the area so that the animals do not get onto the airport runway – there are bears, raccoons, javalinas, and coyotes). The path is extremely rocky but you have a wonderful view of the town and the mountains. The trail leads to the Airport Mesa but we did not walk the entire way. I am old and fat and not a hiker.
Driving out we stopped near one of the scenic views near Bell Rock and I got out and rubbed red dust on my sneakers and put my fingers in the dust. The lots were still full, so Denise waited in the car.
On the road back out we stopped at a Goodwill so Denise could see what a Sedona Goodwill had. Even the view from the mall is beautiful.
We then stopped at Tlaquepaque, which is a shopping mall with high-end shops and galleries. It was constructed in the 1970s to look like a beautiful Spanish Colonial village with the open courtyards. They kept the sycamore trees that were already there and built around them and you can see them growing through floors up through the ceilings and walls of some of the shops. The tiles, grillwork, carved doors, lanterns, clay pots, and benches were imported from Mexico.
Denise and I wandered around and found ourselves delighted with the place despite it being a shopping destination. I ended up buying several gifts/souvenirs for friends there. And I met Mark Twain (and rtb says our handshake is creepy).
Further down the road is the anti-Tlaquepaque, Son Silver West, which calls itself a gallery but it is so much more. It is several buildings and courtyards and filled with jewelry, handmade ladders, cords of wood, Asian art, African art, Mexican art, art made from found materials, walls of crosses, courtyard of tin flowers, pottery, long and short strings of chiles, and old things that you display. There was a bench with a vortex sign that was called the #1 vortex in Sedona. I sat there but did not feel anything spiritual. But I also got some gifts there.
Then it was back on the road to Phoenix and to the Crescent Ballroom, where Lucero was performing that evening. The area is part financial district and part hipsterville. Denise had a quesadilla (Tillamook cheddar and Oaxaca cheese) and I had a Sonoran Dog (hot dog wrapped in peppered bacon and topped with mayo, refried beans, onions, jalapeños, mustard, and diced tomatoes and served on a toasted bun). I got guacamole and sour cream on the side and put that on top also. I was told it was one of the things to have if you are in Phoenix. It was very good although difficult to get your mouth around.
(Deleted message originally posted by Carene Lydia on Thursday, November 08, 2018 -- 10:33:21 PM.)
Phoenix – Day Four: 6 November 2018
There are several interesting sounding museums in Phoenix. Denise had suggested that I go to Old Town Scottsdale (she had to work) and I looked up what was in the area and saw the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art was in that area and the two exhibitions sounded very appealing to me. The write-up for the museum trip is Art and on my blog.
I got lost in the beauty and spirituality of NKame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967-1999) and lost track of time. As I’ve mentioned, I have an ancient smartphone and cannot get any apps on it. Which is fine except when you are in a city without good public transportation and need a Lyft. I was able to get the Lyft via my computer to go to Scottsdale but now I had no way of getting back. And I was supposed to meet Kate Carmichael for drinks in Phoenix. I thought I would be able to pull up Lyft on the phone browser but no go. I called Denise in the hope that she could arrange a Lyft ride on her phone and she said she would be done in 45 minutes and since she was in Scottsdale, she could pick me up. So, I walked around for a bit.
Behind the museum is an outdoor mall with lots of restaurants. Beyond that was the Scottsdale Historical Museum (unfortunately closed) that used to be a schoolhouse. Across from that were statues of a couple I am assuming are the city founders, US Army Chaplin Winifield Scott and his wife Helen.
Old Town Scottsdale is basically a shopping mall made to look like a frontier Western town. Lots of bars, restaurants, and art galleries.
I was headed back to meet Denise when I ran across a gelato shop Gelato Cimmino. I got a chocolate for myself and coconut for Denise. She raved about hers and I thought mine was also delicious.
Siri decided to take us on a very scenic route to the highway. Denise said we basically made a circle around town. However, we got to see a section of Scottsdale that she was unfamiliar with and it was the ritzy rich section. Beautiful homes – some set inside mountains – and gorgeous estates. It was a very nice drive. But it made me even later and I had to tell Kate that I would be at least 45 minutes late. We decided to cancel because she had to do other things but promised to meet up the next time I am in Phoenix.
After changing and feeding the pets, Denise and I headed to The Gladly, where Kate and I were going to have drinks and one of the restaurants she had recommended to me.
The Gladly is a very nice space. We sat at the bar because I preferred a more casual dining experience. I had the Thai Margarita (Silver Tequila, lime, tamarind reduction, basil leaf, Thai chili sea salt on the rim, and served on the rocks). It was delicious. Denise had a Kahlua and cream.
We ordered three appetizers and a side. The Chicken Liver Pâté was all mine (pistachio in the pâté and served with sage mustard, pickled onions, capers, and small slices of crusty bread) but I put it on three slices of bread, which we gave to the dogs. We shared the Noble Bread Plate (lemon-thyme butter, sea salt, spiced Castelvetrano olives), Roasted Brussels Sprouts (served over sweet corn grits with shaved Pecorino Romano cheese and truffle oil), and the side was Ricotta Risotto. I was not so sure about that but Denise wanted it. Denise took a bite of risotto and she said it was too salty. I took a scoop (under the scoop she had taken from the top) and found it to be fine and I always find restaurant food to be too salty. I tried some of hers and it tasted like someone went to put salt on the food and the top had fallen off the salt shaker. It was just in the one section she had spooned up – the rest of it was fine. I do not know what happened in the kitchen but they should have made up a new bowl when whatever happened happened. I noticed the bread plate was missing sea salt (unless it was already on the bread?) and thought maybe that had spilled into the risotto. Who knows? We should have sent it back but did not.
Other than that, the meal was most excellent. The pâté was perfect and I loved the olives served with the bread. The bread was big slices with a hard crust and soft center and I really liked the lemon-thyme butter. The Brussels sprouts were cooked very well also as were the grits. And the portions for the appetizers were big. Had I known the portion size was so big we might have not ordered the side or one of the appetizers. It was more than enough for us to share.
Phoenix: Day Five: 7 November 2018
I spent most of the day inside while Denise went to work. Later I took the bus to the Musical Instrument Museum to see a concert and Denise met me there. My adventure to the museum and the concert are in Concerts and my blog.
Phoenix: Day Six: 8 November 2018
I was leaving for NYC late that evening and Denise had to work. My plan was to spend the day in the house, pack, and then go to the rally at the Capitol at 5pm. Denise would pick up my luggage and come and get me and we grab something to eat and go to the airport. But she finished early and would be back at the house just before 5pm. So I skipped the rally (because there will be lots of others), packed, said goodbye to all the animals, and we drove to Cave Creek. Cave Creek is another tourist town with lots of “Wild West” attractions and shops. Since it was dark I could not see much of it but it looked like it could be fun in the non-tourist season.
Earlier in my trip, Denise had mentioned Buffalo Chip Saloon as an Arizona-type of place. They have bull riding and I was surprised that she would suggest that, knowing her love for animals. I found out that she did not know that the make the bull buck, they irritate him. Turned out the bull riding was on Wednesday and Friday nights, so we could not fit it in the schedule for this trip. I suggested we have dinner there. We ate at the bar and I had a smoked pork sandwich with sides of biscuits and beans. I really liked the sandwich and biscuits. Beans, not so much.
The place is huge and kind of outside and inside at the same time. Besides the bull riding, they have mechanical bulls, and also mutton riding for kids.
We were watching the pedal steel player tune and the drummer dusting off his drums. The live music started at 8pm, which was too late for us but they have free dance lessons every night at 7pm. We saw several women sitting in chairs lined up against the wall of the dance floor. And some cowboys talking with them. Then I noticed a woman with a head-mic and then she was telling people to get a partner.
Then it was off to the airport. Ride was uneventful and I watched a movie (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot) (I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again on the flight there) and slept.