Monday, February 3, 2014

All Around the World: Arizona

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
Image via Babble


When I thought about doing a series on travel, putting Arizona on my list of Great Places To Go never occurred to me. Mostly because I live here and I do tend to think other places are more exciting, but sometimes it takes something small to make you realize how wrong you are.

Let's get the vibe going, ladies and gentlemen. Play this video song while you read. Also, watch the pictures in it. That's a lot of multi-tasking, but I believe in you.

I've lived in Arizona my whole life. I grew up in a teeny, tiny town called Payson, two hours away from the heat of the valley (Phoenix) and the cold of the snow (Flagstaff). This is probably my favorite thing about Arizona: the ability to go from desert, cactus, and heat to pine trees, snow, and lakes all in under four hours, all within the same state.

One of my most favorite places in the whole world is Jerome. Jerome is an old mining town/ghost town, where artists of all kinds set up shop, as well as some very famous musicians. Maynard James Keenan, anyone? Yep, he loves Jerome too. He has Caduceus Cellars, a pretty fancy schmancy wine store, and Puscifer, a little store with some weird things. Maynard fans will know what I mean.

Anyway, I've been going to Jerome since I was a baby. I love the eeriness of it. I love the motorcycle bars and the park that sits above these giant staircases. I love the winding road, the back alleys full of weeds, and my favorite place to eat there, The Asylum, part of the Jerome Grand Hotel. Yes, the food is great, but what's better is the atmosphere and the history. The Asylum is perched high on the hill and was formerly a hospital before it shut down due to the end of the mining operation. Thanks to its origins, many people believe the hotel is haunted. I've been there at least a dozen times and one very specific time I was pretty darn sure I was not alone even when I was alone. You get what I mean. It was creeptastic.

Not only can you go get yourself scared half to death, but you can go on a tour of the old mines with the Gold King Mine Museum. I will say that this tour has changed significantly over the years. There used to be a lot more to it than there is now. Before, you could walk into some of the old buildings that now, you can only see from a distance. They are old though, so I'm sure this is a safety thing. There used to be a larger trail to follow that even took you to a hermits cave, but that closed down a while ago. It's still fun in a junkyard kind of way.

A short drive from Jerome and you're in my next favorite place, Sedona. This little town is famous for all kinds of things. For it's red rocks, for the psychics and vortexes, for it's overall awesomeness. I highly recommend Pink Jeep Tours, if you go there. It helps to have a fun driver, but basically you go off-roading, up and down some very steep hills, while you get to check out the amazing scenery. And it is amazing. Just look. Ooo, ahh.

Sedona also houses a little place called Tlaquepaque. Got that? Tuh-law-key-paw-key. It's home to artists and art galleries galore, and my favorite little seashell store. While you're in Sedona, book yourself a horseback riding tour. You'll get some great old horse named Lady and you'll mosey along a very beautiful trail in the mountains, with a walk through a river and a picnic lunch. Mighty nice, if I do say so myself.
What else does Arizona have? I lamely just found out we also have one of the most beautiful canyons in the world- Antelope Canyon. All these years I've seen pictures of this place and never even knew it was here. Dummy. But I'm planning a trip now to go see this for myself. Check it out. It doesn't even look real, but it is.

Arizona has a lot of beautiful, wonderful, great places to visit. Tucson is great for the music scene, Flagstaff is home to lakes, snow, hiking trails, and the Lowell Observatory. Let's not forget the Grand Canyon, of course. Payson, my hometown, has more antique stores than is sanely possible to contemplate, given its size. Seriously. There are like 22 of them. Phoenix and it's neighbors (Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Scottsdale, etc.) have shopping and restaurants galore, which brings me to gelato. When you live in an oven 6 months out of the year, you need gelato. I would now like to introduce you the best gelato in the entire world: Frost.
Best in the world, you say? Yes. Here's why I, and others, confidently say this. First of all, I've tried gelato in 21 different countries, repeatedly in Italy even. I'm not bragging, I'm just making my case. You would think Italy would beat everyone out, but no. This is the best gelato IN THE WORLD. Another reason why? The former head master (head chef/guy in charge of gelato/whatever) of the gelato institute of Italy owns it. Yep. He retired and decided to open his own chain of gelato stores. This explains why gelato in Italy doesn't compare to gelato here. He must have taken his secret recipes with him. Oh man, is it good. It's so creamy and yummy and there's so much to choose from, and it's gluten free, and the samples...

Sorry, sorry. I'm getting hungry. Moving on.

As mentioned earlier, I had not originally planned on an Arizona post. So what changed my mind?

A sunset.

From every country I've ever visited and every sunset I've ever seen, none compare to what I have here at home. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of beautiful sunsets, they're just not Arizona sunsets. We are blessed with some of the most vibrant colors in the world. Almost every single night the sky lights up with flames of red and orange, and as we approach the darker hours the shades turn to rich purples and blues. I am constantly in awe of the sky. Constantly. This is what I get to see every day.

This all by itself is one heck of a reason to come visit. I'm sure I've missed mentioning some other great places, but come visit Arizona and I'm sure you'll find an adventure wherever you choose to go. Just don't come in, say, July. Or August. Or June, even. It's seriously hot as hell during the summer.

P.S. There's still time to participate in the Pay it Forward initiative! Email me a list of your favorite things (books, bacon, whiskers on kittens and dewdrops on roses) and I'll pick five people at random to get some free stuff  sent to them over the course of this next year from yours truly. Maybe it will even be stuff from Sedona. Who knows. That's all part of the fun with these random acts of kindness.

But seriously people, join in. I love shopping. And you get to participate too. See? Good things all around. Email Do it. You know you want to.

P.P.S. I found all of these pictures on Google and they are not mine. Whoever they truly belong to, good job. They're awesome.

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