Technically, Arizona has already made an appearance in this travelogue when I posted about our Grand Canyon adventure. But, luckily, Arizona is a very diverse state and has plenty in store beyond its key attraction.
The landscapes we descried while approaching the Phoenix city limits were alone scenic enough to convince us of the worthiness of the trip.
Despite being located in the middle of an urban area, the Papago Park (our first Phoenix destination) appears as if a fragment of some remote canyon. But the panorama from inside the Hole in the Rock certainly gives away its location.
Phoenix immediately makes an impression of a neat and well-attended modern American city.
Though there is an apparent southern theme in much of Phoenix’s architecture and design, I appreciate how organically it blends with the city’s landscapes. Take St. Mary’s Basilica, for example; you can no doubt tell it is a house of worship, yet the palette and geometry of the structure almost unmistakably point to its provenance.
Or the Capitol building: certainly a governmental edifice but one that does not stand out against its urban surrounding.
Nonetheless, occasional inserts of foreign architecture, such as the Rosson House Museum, do not spoil the general picture one bit.
The Phoenix Art Museum was, unfortunately, closed, and we proceeded to the outskirts of the city towards our next few destinations. Mystery Castle was one of them.
South Mountain Park was the other.
For a big city like Phoenix the list of attractions was unexpectedly short, partly because we did not want to go golfing or navigate through more parks or mountains, which we knew we would deal with in abundance in the remainder of the trip.
We started off Tucson with the Mission San Xavier del Bac. A truly remarkable site in the midst of desert-like terrain.
That was followed with a ride through Barrio Historico, which features a few dozen lovely houses with often motley ornamentation.
St. Augustine Cathedral was another gorgeous sight.
As far as I could gather, Tusconans love exuberant colors and originality in their residential layouts.
That is not to say they are alien to more traditional and grandeur forms, such as those employed in the Pima County Courthouse.
In a streak of bad luck, the Etherton Gallery, our second art stop or the trip, was also closed. I cannot say that the situation was completely amended by the discovery of impressive wall paintings in the Fourth Avenue neighborhood, but they were, nonetheless, a welcome find.
Next in the list was the Hut bar, or rather the artful rendition of an Easter Island idol on its premises.
The grim black wall of a tattoo parlor next door, a crimson-flowered tree, and a motor bike parked beside them struck me as a particularly harmonious sight.
For our next destination it would have been nice to fly up a camera-equipped drone and take a proper aerial shot or two; but, alas, we do not have a drone, and while the design of the Rattlesnake Bridge is rather clever, the thing is just impossible to photograph in its entirety from the ground.
In Tucson one gets to enjoy nearly 30 miles of Arizonian scenery along the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway.
Seeing thousands of cacti blanketing vast hill slopes on that splendid evening, I fancied a clichéd image of the American Old West—a silhouette of a cactus sticking up against a bright setting sun—and wondered if the opportunity would arise to capture a similar view with our own camera. Unfortunately, the mountains stood in the path of the sun, rendering the profusion of cacti completely useless for our purposes. In the end, this is the best shot I could manage:
For our last stop of the day we traveled to the Trail Dust Town, a sizable Western-themed shopping center, featuring dozens of stores, restaurants, and historic exhibits of the cowboy culture, and running daily stunt and magic shows as well as train rides. A decidedly amusing and family-friendly place.
To be continued…