Driving With the Top Down | Arizona, USA

My trip to Arizona was last minute. Unexpected. I decided to take my Level I course in Healing Touch energy medicine in Sedona after a class in Delaware cancelled. When I told my friends they all lamented, “We feel so bad for you!” As winter was drawing to a tiresome close in the mid-Atlantic where I live, escaping to the desert sounded like a real hardship (not).

The last time—actually the only time—I’d ever been to Arizona was decades ago, a brief stop at the Grand Canyon, so I was excited to visit places in the state I’d not been. With the help of the Internet, I had my entire six-day adventure planned in about three hours. One nonstop roundtrip flight, three hotel bookings and a rental car later, I was all set.

These are my helpful tips for a three-city visit in under a week to the Valley of the Sun.

Forever-Flat Phoenix

The most efficient way for me to get to Sedona was in and out of Phoenix, which meant renting a car. This also allowed me to visit three places I learned about from watching Samantha Brown’s travel show “Places to Love.” I’m a huge fan of Sam and her show is fun and informative with just enough off-the-beaten-path things to pique my interest.

Because cars were in short supply, I ended up taking a short cab ride from the airport to the Enterprise, Phoenix East location on East McDowell Road.

[PRO TIP: Car rentals are often much cheaper outside the airport, and this was no exception.]

The staff was particularly adept and friendly when handling a lot of customers who had been waiting for their cars beyond the time they expected. My patience and good attitude paid off, after all I wasn’t in a hurry to get to my hotel. When my turn was up, the car they offered me was also unexpected, a canary yellow Mustang convertible! “Yes please.”

The following morning after a hearty and delicious breakfast from Trash Panda Vegan, I drove straight to the Desert Botanical Garden. Making a return to the Sonoran Desert, the Garden was showcasing the work of internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly with Chihuly in the Desert featuring his stunning, large-scale installations nestled among the Garden’s world-class collection of desert plants. Both were amazing!

[PRO TIP: Buy your ticket online ahead of time; entrances are timed.]

Another place I wanted to check out was The Tamale Store, a family owned and operated restaurant and market selling the most delectable handmade tamales and salsas. I had lunch there on my way home before heading to the airport.

Energizing Sedona

It’s roughly a two-hour drive to Sedona from Phoenix, without heavy traffic. I had no trouble, even though my visit coincided with the international film festival. Sedona’s hotels and restaurants were packed. I chose to stay at the Andante Inn of Sedona in West Sedona because it was close to my training. It turned out to be less busy, so I was grateful to be a bit outside the action. The hotel was nothing fancy, but it was comfortable and convenient. Just a mile or so away on the main highway was a Whole Foods market, so I bought some food and snacks for lunch for the next two days. The room had a decent sized refrigerator.

I ate at three memorable restaurants.

  • Thai Spices (next to the Andante Inn where I was staying) Fabulous!
  • Vino di Sedona (also next to the Andante Inn) great wine and craft beer bar serving food and live music!
  • Picazzo’s Italian Kitchen – It was crazy busy, so I ordered my food to go and, after a long day of learning, happily ate in the comfort of my hotel room, with a glass of wine, also purchased at Whole Foods.

I have yet to meet someone who does not love Sedona. There are loads of outdoor activities, hiking with spectacular views, and good food. The town is populated with people who have a penchant for both art and the healing arts. Travelers from near and far visit the famous Sedona vortexes, of which there are seven. These energy centers are thought to be conducive to healing and meditation and many people report feeling recharged and inspired after spending time there.

I didn’t have the chance to visit the vortexes, but I did hike the Airport Mesa Loop Trail, a short and very popular trail, open all year round offering sweeping panoramic views.

[PRO TIP: Parking near the main trailhead is limited, but if you drive further up the hill you can park in a public lot for a small fee opposite the Sky Ranch Lodge.]

Scenic Scottsdale

The final destination I’d learned of from Samantha Brown, was outside of Scottsdale. After hiking the Airport Mesa Loop in Sedona in the morning, I gassed up the Mustang and drove straight to the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin West.

Interestingly, Taliesin was exhibiting a second Chihuly installation. As you can see from the photos below, the works of the glass artist dotted the desert home, inside buildings, on the lawn, and floating on water. ‘The Desert Laboratory’ of Wright’s Taliesin West was an ideal backdrop for exploring the elements and principles of design, present in both Chihuly’s sculptures and Wright’s architecture.

A MUST see, if you ask me. I would return to this incredible and inspiring place.

[PRO TIP: Purchase your ticket online in advance and be sure to be on time for the tour; it will depart with the guide whether you are present or not! There is a small gift shop and restrooms, but otherwise no food or drink are served.]

I spent my last night in Arizona at the Inn at Eagle Mountain in Scottsdale, overlooking the desert landscape with Camelback Mountain watching over my slumber.

One Last Stop…

While enjoying my takeout Thai food from the comfort of my suite at Eagle Mountain, complete with fireplace, I perused a local magazine, learning of yet another famed architect ahead of his time, Paolo Soleri. A former student of Wright’s, Soleri was a true pioneer in the mid-20th century, building an intentional community, Arcosanti, an experiment in “arcology” his philosophy of creating balance between the built and natural environments for the benefit of people and the planet.

The historic locale in Paradise Valley, now called Cosanti, is a museum and working foundry. Like arcology, Cosanti, is a combination of two words that embody the spirit of Paolo Soleri’s emphasis against hyper-consumerism: the Italian words, “cosa” and “anti” translate as “against things.” The Cosanti Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1965 by Paolo Soleri and his wife, Colly, advances a philosophy of forming communities focused on living well with less, with less detrimental impact on Earth’s ecology.

Predating the Environmental Protection Agency and Earth Day, The Cosanti Foundation is supported in part by the sales of Soleri’s widely collected, artisan-crafted bronze and ceramic windbells at Cosanti.

[PRO TIP: Signup online for a very worthwhile tour, although you can shop and see the live bronze pours at certain times of day without appointment. Even if you can’t jump on a tour, it’s worth going and having a look around.]

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