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Tohono Chul Park: Nature, Art, Culture, and a damn good brunch.

22 Sep

Yes, I have been a complete blog slacker in the past few months, I know. Let’s just pretend that a fresh new blog post is like waiting for a fine wine to ferment. Or for a long lost love to realize what they were missing all those years. Or like finally hitting it big after all those losing lottery tickets. No?? Well, it was worth a shot. Admittedly, this lapse in blogging has had more to do with my weekend social life than being an avid adventurer living the dream. Don’t judge! I contest that part of the adventure of being a travel PT is the blending into a new culture and, in my case, falling into the role of a Tucsonian townie in recent weeks. Rest assured, my dad’s ongoing prodding to post some updates and photos to my blog hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. Here’s the start of some good (and photo worthy) stuff that I’ve been neglecting to share…

A couple months back, I visited the Tohono Chul Park here in Tucson. This botanical garden (and tea room) is tucked just off of regular city streets and provides a unique blend of nature and art in a desert oasis. I keep hearing this reference to “there’s something spiritual about the desert”. Well, this place is truly unique and enticing. Perhaps what I assumed was the sweltering sun pushing me toward a heat stroke was actually a spiritual desert moment.

We started off with brunch on the patio before wandering the park…

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History and Hokeyness in Old Tucson

12 Jul

Winding on the mountainous road leaving Tucson in the distance, I blithely anticipated Old Tucson would be a hidden treasure tucked between the hillsides.  Certainly tucked away… in the middle of nowhere… it dawned on me that I just might be entering that pesky force field that sucks me into tourist traps once again.

Famed as the studios where many classic westerns were filmed (Arizona , in 1939, was the first), there is an interesting veil of movie history draped over this hokey, low budget theme park.   More than 300 films/tv productions have been created here, but it was a little hard for me to imagine film casts and crews making well known scenes amongst the western facades that seemed so cheaply staged.  The movie credits are quite extensive (check out the Old Tucson website for a full history) with a steady stream of productions flanking the Western primetime of the 1950’s.  Most in that era were unfamiliar to me, but there were quite a few productions that caught my pop culture interest.   I wandered around recognizable sets from Three Amigos, Tombstone, Young Guns, and Little House on the Prairie.  I posed beside “The Reno”,  an 1872 locomotive that carried passengers from President Roosevelt to John Wayne and starred in nearly 100 features. Character actors reenacted a shootout scene from The Quick and the Dead.  Horrendous cabaret ladies made me wince as they sang classic numbers accompanied by film footage shot at Old Tucson.  A miniature train ride around the perimeter of the studios provided many a view of desert dirt and scattered props.  Overall, I think the hokey outweighed the history.

Strolling through Tucson

20 May

Tucson has mapped out a walking tour of the city which was reminiscent of following my beloved Boston’s painted sidewalk line, “The Freedom Trail”, but without as many interesting historical sites here.   But despite my walking tour snobbery, this was a nice way to catch a glimpse of the city (although I didn’t quite finish it… so perhaps I missed something absolutely amazing).

Sentinel Peak (a.k.a. “A” Mountain).  In 1915, University of Arizona fans celebrated a victory by white washing a huge “A” on the mountain.  The tradition remains with a permanent red, white, and blue “A”.

The Arizona Superior Court of Pima County campus is speckled with traditional Spanish architecture and Sonoran landscaping.

To date, my best local meal has been at El Charro Cafe.  Pairing mouth watering spinach/artichoke/mushroom enchiladas and a cerveza brewed locally by Barrio Brewing Company in a dining space peppered with cultural zest, makes El Charro heaven.  This warmly colored restaurant, established in 1922, proudly distinguises itself as “the Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family”.

The historic Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is where the infamous bank robber John Dillinger was captured.

St. Augustine’s Cathedral

A creative, vibrant arch covering an outdoor stage on the Cathedral’s grounds.

What is it about the great American tourist trap?

16 May

Plunked on the side of the interstate where the desert sand whips and tumbleweeds roll is Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  Its sun-battered roadside signs spark interest, luring me toward the exit.  Surely a magnetic force field sucked me into its vacant dirt parking lot… what other logical explanation is there for a grown adult partaking in a random desert version of a petting zoo owned by the fictitious True Grit US Marshall?

I easily entertain the notion that one particular Miniature Sicilian donkey is most definitely smiling at me and has to be the Donkey from Shrek.  After all, why wouldn’t Rooster Cogburn himself have the REAL Donkey residing in his park?

Like an elementary school girl, I timidly extend my hand with a ration of pellets to the cluster of Fallow deer.  What was Bambi’s girlfriend’s name anyway?

I’m pretty sure it was the Ostrich Rancher extraordinaire (and most definitely not the infamous Rooster Cogburn) who taught me the secrets to duck and lorikeet feeding.   

And then there were the ostriches.  Despite the wondrous picture painted of these (really creepy when up close) creatures, I am here to refute that image.  Case in point: the sign that reads “Yes! Ostrich bite!”  Although they don’t actually have teeth, they have sharply snapping beaks.  And freakishly long necks with which they aggressively lunge forward to snatch pellets from your sensitive, much slower fingers.  No wonder there is a disclaimer freeing Mr. Rooster Cogburn and his associates from responsibility for any ostrich nips.  Good thing my fingers were a less easy target than those of the not-so-lucky kiddos nearby. 

Have you secretly enjoyed a tourist trap as much as I enjoyed this one?

(The material of this post is simply my personal anecdote.  I think everyone should consider having their own unique experience at Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  And don’t hate on ostriches.)

A love affair with wind chimes in Sedona

28 Apr

Every now and again, you just need a goofy blog post. This is that post. It’s well known that my mom’s enamored with wind chimes. Turns out, Sedona is like kindling for this love of things that sound sweetly in the breeze. Although I poke fun, I genuinely enjoy her blithe enthusiasm on the quest for Sedona’s chimes. (Secretly, I have a crush on windchimes, too.)

The love affair unfolds…

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