Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

So, I admit I love shopping, but what I love best is buying bargain clothes and shoes.  My favorite price is $9.99.  It’s like a game with me to find gorgeous things that the stores want to give away at ridiculous prices.  There are only a few people I buy for when I am traveling and while I enjoy that, I don’t usually hang out in retail establishments.

Bill is a lot more likely to shop on vacation.  He loves consignment stores and will wander around a shopping mall just to see the architecture.  Since we’re not going to buy anything, I sort of see it as a waste of time, but I accommodate his desires.

When we are in Sedona that all changes.  We both love Tlaquepaque with a passion.  We can’t afford most of it, but we want all of it.  Come along with us.   

What’s Not to Love?

So, to begin with, Tlaquepaque is in Sedona.  We pretty much love everything in Sedona.  Even when we have a pizza and think the crust was way too thin, we enjoy it and look back on it fondly.  Maybe there is something to that whole vortex thing.

Next up, Tlaquepaque is visually appealing.  You do not have to enter a single store to enjoy it.  Wandering among the archways and courtyards, listening to the splashing fountains, smelling the delicious food cooking, people watching…it’s all good.  The architecture is part Spanish colonial, part southwest –  tile roofs, black rod iron ornamentation, brick walkways, desert foliage…all the stuff we like – all gorgeous.

But what’s more, the shopping in fun.  It is perfectly OK to wander around for hours, stopping into shops, some multiple times and not buy a single thing.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Maybe they’re just nice.  Whatever it is, everyone is thrilled to see you.  They greet you and chat you up.  They do not hover over you as if you are about to steal the whole store or try to sell you everything you linger at.  They want your opinion on the goods they are unpacking or will ask you if a particular wall is a good place to hang something.  They will let you try on every ring in the case without huffing or puffing and won’t be the merchandise monitor limiting you to one item at a time.  Here – try them both on, go show your husband, step out in the courtyard to see it in the light.

Some of the stores are also studios, so you can watch someone do whatever they do.  Or there’s a partially finished something that allows you to see how they arrive at finished products.  You smell clay and leather and paints.  You’re just as likely to smell magnolia blossom essential oil, patchouli perfume or burning incense.  

How It Went This Time

Bill made friend in one of the first shops we entered.  He didn’t so much love the merchandise as he discovered the proprietor goes to Egypt every year – so Bill being Egyptian, they had a lot to talk about.  So much so that I had time to discover the bargain of the day – a pair of blue topaz earrings set in silver – but it was that blue topaz that is visually interchangeable with aquamarines, which are my birthstone.  They were quite a bit more than my $9.99 price, but a steam nonetheless.  So much so, that Bill bought them for me!

Then we wandered – for hours.  We barely scratched the surface.  We strolled without any particular pattern.  We had a marvelous time enjoying all the things I just described to you above.  About halfway through, I found a cute shop with unique hand-blown wine stoppers – not cheap, but reasonable.  I’d found the gifts I wanted to buy.

The weather was a little gray and a little nippy, so it didn’t beg us to linger outside or take photos.  Sorry about that.  Bill did fall in love with these pieces in one of the galleries, but they didn’t come home with us.

We could have gone on for hours more, but we had a plane to catch.  El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano was wafting amazing aromas into the courtyards.  We followed our noses and had an amazing meal before heading out to the airport.

Home Again

The drive back to Phoenix was without incident.  We returned our rental car with ease and the shuttle bus delivered us to our terminal without a hassle.  The Southwest plane was on time and the flight was fine.  Our car was right where we left it and we got home with no trouble.  See we can go on a trip without a single hassle.

What’s next?  Right this minute I don’t know.  It’s July as I blog about this February trip and our lives are dominated by the pandemic.  I tried to plan another trip out west during December, but there are so many unknowns right now that I finally gave up.  Stay tuned, though.  You know I won’t be able to stay home!!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Downtown Sedona

TRAVEL THERE: ROLLING UP THE SIDEWALKS

As we made our way from Oak Creek Canyon to Downtown Sedona, I have to confess that Google was not much help.  Perhaps they need me there to help them get on Google My Business or maybe they just don’t care.  Anyway, what was listed was either fast food or pizza.  In self-defense, we chose pizza.

Sedona Pizza and Pasta

It was only about 6 PM, but they really were rolling up the sidewalks.  There was one jewelry store that seemed to have some activity, so we strolled in.  Everything cost the world and the proprietor was an as er… a jerk.  We didn’t stay there long.

Across the street was a little plaza where there were a couple of restaurants open.  The sandwich shop had big plate glass windows featuring the view, but it was virtually empty and the light was fading fast, so the view wasn’t going to be visible in the next few minutes.

We opted for Sedona Pizza and Pasta.  The prices were more than we would have expected for a casual dinner, but we didn’t have a choice.  So, we ordered up and watched the guys behind the counter cooking up and serving meals.  When our pizza was delivered we were disappointed.  We already knew it was going to be a thin crust pizza, which is not our favorite, but we’d never seen a crust so thin.  We’re talking paper thin.  The service was good, it was clean and the staff was really nice, but we really can’t recommend a pizza place that virtually puts their pizza fixings on paper.

Back at the Adobe Village Inn

We stopped by a convenience store on the way to the Inn and picked up a bottle of wine.  Back at the inn we chose some free DVD’s to watch – a documentary about Sedona and High Crimes with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. 

We also took advantage of the Inn’s hot tub.  We’d let the manager know we were interested and he had it all cued up for us.  It really was quiet nice.

After the hot tubbing and a shower, we crawled into bed and watched our selections.  After all the activity we had in Scottsdale and Phoenix, it was nice to take it easy – and after all the challenging driving we’d done during the day, we were pooped.

Up and Out

Breakfast was served from 8-9, so Bill could not linger in bed.  The Adobe Village Inn’s website is very proud of their breakfast tradition.  As soon as we made our reservations, they emailed to ask about food preferences.  I confessed to my prejudice against eggs and that resulted in a breakfast that was way too sweet for both of us.  I mean, in small bits, all of it was delicious, but breakfast is an important meal and we needed something besides carbs, sugar and fruit.  I’m betting if you didn’t tell them no eggs, you could get something absolutely perfect.

Our target for the morning was Tlaquepaque, but we took a driving tour first.  Come back next week and join us!

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Music, Performing Arts, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Waterfront Wine & Art Festival

TRAVEL THERE: WHO KNEW SCOTTSDALE HAD A WATERFRONT?

Across the street from Fashion Square was a mixed use complex project.  My husband the real estate photographer wanted to go take a look.  Once across the street we saw signs pointing the way to the Waterfront Wine and Art Festival.  I was thrilled.  It had been on my wish list, but I didn’t have a clue where there was a waterfront was in Scottsdale or Phoenix.  Having happened upon it without a commitment to be anywhere at any particular time, we decided to check our the art festival.

Admission With and Without Wine  

Bell made from copper fire extinguisher

Following the signs we wandered around until we found the Waterfront.  It cost only $3 a person to get in, if you didn’t want wine.  Bill didn’t want wine.  Had this been a girl’s trip, Deb and I would have ponied up the extra $10 for wine tasting, but I was happy enough to enjoy the art sans the tasting.  What an entertainment bargain it proved to be!

This was a completely different show than the Celebration of Fine Art we attended a few days before.  Like the Celebration, this was a juried show, but the jury for the Celebration was a lot tougher.  Instead of a studio setting, this was more of a retail opportunity with lots of hopeful artisans lurking at the edge of their awning.  In spite of the lurking artists, we enjoyed the visit. 

Worth the Time

Most of the wine was on one side of the canal and most of the art was on the other.  Shortly after we arrived we made our way to the artsy side.  I will confess, while most of the pieces on display were interesting, they didn’t pass the I’d-hang-it-on-my-wall test.  We don’t collect art.  We can’t afford to.  But often we stand in a gallery or at a festival longing to take something off the wall and carry it home with us.  That happened a lot at the Celebration of Fine Art.  Not so much at the Waterfront Wine and Art Festival.

Periodically, there would be musical acts or various things to eat or drink.  We were still very full from our late morning breakfast buffet, so we weren’t interested in the comestibles, but the entertainment was appreciated.  This violinist was among our favorites.  Bill took many pictures trying to capture her pure enjoyment of her own music.  This is as close as he got.

Up Next?

After a sojourn at the festival, it was time to satisfy another of Bill’s requests.  Yes, we made a potty stop at McDonald’s and enjoyed a little hydration break, but that doesn’t count.

Bill wanted to see some desert scenery.  There had been plenty at the golf course the day before, but he’d been otherwise occupied.  I’d hoped to go to the Desert Botanical Garden, but by the time we were ready to see it, there wasn’t much of the day left, so we doubted we’d get our $15.00 worth.  We opted for the McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve.  Come back next week and enjoy it with us!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

What Now Scottdale?

TRAVEL THERE: SIGHTSEEING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

Bill was loving the pace of this vacation.  We focused on one big thing for each day and then stuffed a few things around the edges.  I’ll admit we were having a great time, but now we had a full day with no primary event to build around.  What would we do with ourselves on our last day in Scottsdale?

Museum Girl vs. Adventure Boy

Were Museum Girl in charge of the world, I’d start each day at the entrance of a museum, historical home or palace about 10 minutes before opening.  For variety, I would visit gardens.  How long I spent there would depend on where I was.  It took all day to visit the Chicago Institute of Art and I would have been happy to go back the next morning and give it another shot.  My visits to the Dallas Arboretum last 2 or 3 hours, but I go frequently. Bestie and I can hit multiple venues in one day, going from bright and early to evening openings.

Adventure Guy likes to wake up slow.  He doesn’t mind sharing my cultural venues, but he likes to mix it up with golf games, shopping and perhaps a boat ride – stopping for coffee and ice cream when it suits him.  He saw everything he was interested in seeing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in about an hour. He really doesn’t want to plan out a whole day.  He just likes to ramble from one thing to the next and take naps from time to time.

Adventure Guy sometimes acknowledges this laid back approach to travel requires more research and planning on Museum Girl’s part than he even wants to know about, but he prefers to luxuriate in the fantasy that it all just comes together magically.  I’ve endeavored to make him interested in my more structured approach to travel, but after 26 years I know one thing – if Adventure Guy ain’t happy, Museum Girl is going to be miserable.  So, I’m in charge of seeing that everything goes the way he wants it to.

While I like some structure to my travel days, I learned one very important fact on the Anniversary Cruise. Seven days of 10.5 hour shore excursions do not make for a pleasant trip.  We’re trying to find some sort of balance between our two styles, because my style could be called Death by Vacation and his Loosing While Snoozing.

Fashion Square Art

Our Slow Start

I try to sleep in on vacation, but it just doesn’t work.  I’m doing good if I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 AM.  On this particular morning I woke up and tried to get my thoughts organized.  We’d hit all the must-dos and had really enjoyed ourselves, but in researching for this casual approach to our vacation, I had found a whole lot of other things that I wished we could do, including some repeats, like Taliesin and the Desert Botanical Garden.  I prepared myself to present the potential activities in the most unbiased way I could, but I was really hoping for a peek at the Musical Instrument Museum.

Though I was up early, we didn’t walk out of our room until 11.  We headed over to Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Cafe for what we thought was going to be Sunday Brunch, but come to find out, said brunch had been replaced by a fairly expensive breakfast buffet.  We had a $75 gift certificate we needed to use, but who would have guessed it all went to breakfast.

Of all the things I offered up to see, Bill opted to start at Fashion Square.  To be fair, I wanted him to see it.  Mom and I had visited when we came through in 2003 and it had been a great experience – upscale people-watching in a beautiful shopping mall.  I’ll be kind and say it just wasn’t what it used to be.  It’s still a gorgeous place, but all upscale people go somewhere else and the downscale people weren’t there either.  The caliber of stores had nose-dived since my visit, also.

That behind us, we decided to walk a little bit and come to find out, the travel god were with us – or at least with me!  Come back next week and we’ll visit the Waterfront Wine & Art Festival.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Vacation Club Intro

TRAVEL THERE: SAYING NO AND MEANING IT

Our extraordinary bargain came with a caveat.  We had to give them a couple of hours for a vacation club introduction.  It was the first time for a “vacation club.”  Other similar experiences were offered as a time share.  We’ve been through some elbow twisting in our travel adventures and we hoped we weren’t in for another.

Starting at Mickey D’s

To fuel up before the sales pitch ordeal, we opted for McDonald’s.  It was just around the corner and we grabbed several meals/snacks from there.

On this particular morning I had the obstacle of 10K runners and the policemen directing traffic had no sympathy for an out-of-towner.  While I’m trying to negotiate the runners, police, roads and parking lots, I had Bill frantically texting me to be sure I got pepper to go with his order.   I may have cussed a couple of times.  

Checking Things Out

After breakfast we had a little time before our vacation club appointment.  We headed over to the pool and entertainment areas to see what they offered.  We’re not really resort people.  Flying across the world to hang out by a pool, play golf and enjoy the spa is really not our kind of vacation.  We understand why people with kids would do it, because Lord knows they need a break, but we go to an area to see it and one resort looks pretty much like another.  Besides, while a lot is included, it’s not all-inclusive.  A golf game here, a spa appointment there and a few drinks by the pool and you can be spending some serious dough.

As resorts go, the Westin is a nice one.  We checked out all the pools, the golf course and various entertainment venues where games and classes are offered.  When we reported for our appointment, we were anxious to get it behind us.  In fact, we were early.  They sent us to some lounge area with a fireplace to wait our turn.  Anxiety was building.

The Dreaded Appointment

All in all, it wasn’t so bad.  They introduced us to our guy and took us to his office.  He chatted us up a bit to get our measure and then took us to view the available floor plans.  They have something they call the Two-Bedroom Lockoff Villa, which is really two One-Bedroom Villas, which can be used separately or in tandem.  Our room for the stay was a One-Bedroom Villa with a kitchenette, about 530 square feet.  Were we to actually invest in the property, we would want the One-Bedroom Premium Villa with a full kitchen and about 870 square feet. 

Then there was the pitch, which we softly but firmly tossed back.  We explained I was a devoted cruiser and that the timing wasn’t right for us to invest (not that it would ever be the right time), even if we were interested.  Our guy happily turned us over to the closer.  She was ready to wheel and deal, but Bill said if we were to buy-in, it would be with cash, not financing.  That took the wind out of her sails and her sales.  They wanted to sell it to us like a car – so many dollars a month for the rest of our lives.

Then we were released.  We’d lived through yet another timeshare vacation club sales pitch without signing on the dotted line.  I must say this.  Were we actually good candidates for this product, a two career family with four kids, three dogs, two cats and some extended family, I would think this was a deal.  They showed us some magic we could pull off with my Marriott credit cards points, but we don’t do points, we go for the 2% rebate on another card.  They knew as well as we did that we weren’t going to buy, so they saved us and them a lot of effort.

Oh look!  It’s time to go golf.  We ran to a Chipotle for lunch and then drove to the golf course. Come back next week for a round of golf at Dave Valley Ranch.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Phoenix Friday Art Walk

TRAVEL THERE: WILD & CRAZY ART EVENT

Still going with the flow, I was ready to sacrifice the Phoenix Friday Art Walk (#phxfridays) for the sake of harmony, but Bill proved he was up for it.  We changed into something more casual and headed for downtown Phoenix.  By the time we arrived, things were going strong.  The Phoenix Museum of Art seemed to be the epicenter of activity, but parking there was an impossibility, so we began to look for something else.  We did find an office building that allowed us to park and it really wasn’t far from the museum, but we were like the only people parking there.  Worse case scenario, it was a rent car and none of our belongings were in it, so if they stole it, fine!

Joining the Hordes

We discovered we were about a block from the museum, which meant we were soon part of the insanity of Art Walk.  We noted most of the participants were decades younger than us, but we did not let that deter us from our opportunity for adventure.  The museum, which has free admission on Fridays and was the focus of my attention, had ridiculous lines, so with little in the way of info, we hopped aboard one of the very full free trolleys and we were off into another world.

Both sides of the street were filled with revelers and the noise level was wild.  Bill pulled me off the trolley and we tried to get our bearings, but it was sort of what I think an acid trip might be similar to.  We were sharing the crowded sidewalk with people who didn’t look like us.  Hair was in every shape and color, except what we might consider normal.  Everyone was tattooed and pierced.  They wore clothes I’d probably throw away if I found them in my closet.  There was pushing and shoving in every direction, but there was no clear indication of which way one should head.

I did mention the noise, right?  It was Bill who pointed out, that in the immediate area where we were standing, five different bands were vying for the crowd’s attention.  While we were standing next to five bands, if we looked in any directions, we could see, not far down the sidewalk, crowds flowed around even more bands.  The result, cacophony. 

Just about that time, we both needed to visit restroom facilities and by some odd piece of luck we got into a nearby restaurant with minimal hassle.  I think the doorman took pity on the senior citizens lost among the millennials.  We took care of business and made our way out to the street, heading away from the five bands.  We found a sort of alley with various booths set up along the way.  The mob seemed less frenetic here and the noise of the various bands was tolerable.  We began to stroll along.

Abandoning the Hordes   

Though spread more thinly, the denizens of this art vendor alley were of the dread-locked, tattooed and pierced variety of the five band locale.  While they looked scary to us, they did seem to be minding their own business, so we entertained ourselves by looking in on the booths.  There were some artists selling their wares – nothing we’d hang on our walls, but interesting.  The most readily available merchandise seemed to be CBD oil, plus everything and anything made out of hemp.  Bill was sure he could smell “hemp”smoke wafting above the crowd.

After about a block, we ran out of booths and it began to look like an area senior citizens would not be welcome or safe, so we made a U-turn and visited the booths on the other side of the alley.  When we returned to the sidewalk, a band made of pre-teenagers and their parents, had begun to play headbanger/punk rock (?) at a remarkable volume.  Bill wondered what the best way back to the car was.  I pointed to a landmark on the skyline and we decided to walk back, instead of trying to find another trolley.

We crossed the street and discovered,what had been an alley on the other side, turned into more of a street.  On the street, vendors only took up one side, but they seemed to have pretty much the same merchandise as the previous guys.  On the other side of the street was a series of restaurants with outdoor seating – only all patrons looked as if they belonged to biker gangs, so we weren’t at all tempted to sit down for a respite, even though sitting down for a drink sounded like the perfect thing to do.

We kept our eye on the red neon sign we’d recognized earlier and when the street made an abrupt left, we headed right through what seemed to be a park.  The art you see on this page was displayed throughout the area and it is huge.  After the park was the library.  We could no longer see our landmark, but I had my bearings and continued that way.

Suddenly, we were back at the art museum and the lines had disappeared.  Our visit was delayed, but I was going to get to take advantage of the free admission.  Come back next week and enjoy the museum with us.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Breakfast Snooze and Cruise

TRAVEL THERE: SNOOZE, THE QUARTER & MORE

The next morning gave us the chance to try yet another breakfast place recommended by the Phoenix New Times: Snooze, an AM Eatery.  We visited the location at the Kierland Commons.  We totally endorse the New Times choice.  There are multiple locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix so don’t miss it.

Scottsdale Quarter

The Quarter imagines itself to be superior to its “Commons” cousin across the street.  The Commons is upscale.  The Quarter endeavors one ups-manship.

Though the Quarter is just across the street from the Commons, it’s a busy thoroughfare that separates them, so we moved our rental Jeep to a closer position.

One of the anchor stores is a huge, monolithic gray block.  Upon exploration, we discovered it was a Restoration Hardware showroom.  You don’t buy anything there and load it up in your car.  You lounge around on ginormous furniture and let gracious salesladies talk you into letting go of enormous amounts of money.

We confess, we’re not your basic Restoration Hardware customers, so we didn’t realize they had transitioned into this showroom format over the stores we’d visited in the past.  However, we had a lovely time hanging out there.  The restrooms were spectacular!

One of those gracious salesladies chatted us up about their transition to showroom and said some of their showrooms actually included a sort of restaurant, where they hosted dinners.  One imagines exactly how much money you’d have to invest in Restoration Hardware goods to be hosted in their dining room.  For all we know, common people like us might be able to go in there and pay for our meals, but we got the idea that wasn’t the point.   

She also said they had a surprise coming to Dallas.  I don’t know how much of a surprise it is, since a June 2019 edition of The Dallas Morning News announces the location with a restaurant is coming.  However, a quick look at their website doesn’t mention the potential restaurant, so one wonders if it is a victim of Covid.

The Quarter Beyond RH

The RH was lovely and I’m guessing we spent an hour enjoying their store.  It was a lazy sort of morning – a filler before what was to come next.  I was happy as a lark, because later in the day, we had reservations for Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician Resort.  In the meantime, I was perfectly content to wander around the Quarter.

Though the Quarter presented itself as an upgrade to the Commons, I noticed they had more in the way of empty retail spaces than their cousin.  The RH showroom is the only store we actually wandered into, but we did stroll throughout the complex, noting a number of restaurants we’d love to try out.

This is sort of where we started talking about our next trip to AZ and saying things to suggest that while we wouldn’t have time for everything on this particular visit, we’d be back to the Greater Phoenix Area sooner rather than later.

Enjoy the pictures below of the Quarter.  It was a lovely development and I hope it thrives through Covid and will actually be there next time we go to the area.  After taking the pictures, we had to get back to the resort and get all dressed up for the afternoon activity.  Come back next week for tea.

 

 

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Head to NORTH Hungry Person

TRAVEL THERE: FOODIE FUN

Well, there we were in Scottsdale, running around the Kierland Commons like 9 PM is the usual time we head out to dinner.  Only it’s not.  We’ve just crashed a private party at Anticus and now we’re going to have dinner.  Not our usual travel experience, at all, but I’ll take it.

NORTH Italia

It’s hard to go wrong with us if you are serving Italian.  At NORTH, there were no missteps and we fell in love.

We were greeted at the door by a charming, attractive hostess.  She led us to a table with a great vantage point.  We could see the kitchen peeking through the stacked dishes and hanging pots.  We could see almost the whole restaurant and I could even see the action on the street from my side of the table.

Our waiter was a nice guy who was ready and willing to chat about the menu.  I know we had delicious crusty bread with olive oil, but I forget what the entree was.  We couldn’t have gone wrong if we wanted to.  All around us we saw delightful servings of Italian food and people were obviously thrilled with what they were eating.  However, I can’t remember exactly what we had.  

We’d had enough free wine to be very relaxed and the service was also VERY relaxed, but that’s not a complaint.  The place was busy and we were having a great time.  

NORTH in Dallas

I interrupt this travelogue to tell you something exciting.  We may have discovered NORTH in Scottsdale, but on a recent ramble through Uptown Dallas, we found out there’s a NORTH here, too.  Our Sunday afternoon goal was to find a rooftop bar and pretend the pandemic wasn’t boring us to death.  Instead, we found a sort of food mall tucked on the second story of a high rise and there it was, a NORTH!  Plan A was ditched and we immediately made our way to their patio seating.  Great afternoon! 

Meanwhile, Back in Scottsdale

Sorry, about that!  I just couldn’t resist.  We loved our Scottsdale visit to NORTH and are so happy it’s available to us here in Dallas.  We also found out there is one in Plano.  So, we’re happy about that, but back to Scottsdale.

At the end of the meal we were happy we had a bit of a stroll back to our parking spot and that was a good thing.  The Commons was still hopping.  Stylishly dressed patrons of all ages strolled back and forth and in and out of local hangouts.  The most popular place was Shake Shake which had a sort of backyard scene as their front yard.  Happy families eating burgers and sipping shakes dominated the area.

We found our car and headed back to the Westin.  In spite of my nap I was seriously ready for bed.  The next day promised to provide the highlight of my travels, but it would be later in the day.  Come next week week and see how we spent the next morning. 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Lucking Into a Good Time

Scotttsdale’s North Italia Restaurant

TRAVEL THERE: AN UNCOMMON EVENING AT KIERLAND COMMONS

So, we’ve had an amazing day.  Early morning travel, fun shopping, spectacular art show and an itsy tiny set-back that was quickly resolved.  The Westin provided us with a brochure called “Local Restaurants” and using what we discovered there, we headed our for round two.

A Confession

It’s hard for a leopard to change it’s spots, but not impossible.  I’d vowed to be easy-going on this vacation and not let the schedule dominate my thoughts, but I had done my homework.  I knew it was Thursday and so Scottsdale Artwalk was happening in Old Town.  I had plotted out the trolley route on my handy dandy map and was ready ready with information to make it a good time. 

However, I also knew we’d spent the best part of the day in the endless studios of the Celebration of Fine Art.  Mr. Bill was ready to eat and trying to coordinate him with the trolley schedule to view more artists’ studios did not seem like a wise thing – even if Artwalk was happening.  I recommend it to you every Thursday evening, but we didn’t make it.  

Heading to the Commons

So, instead we headed to the Kierland Commons, a nearby playground full of restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities.  Parking was a challenge akin to parking at NorthPark on the Saturday before Christmas, but the travel gods were with us, so we did find something.

Next we strolled around to take in the atmosphere and check out the dining options we’d seen in the brochure.  After a little strolling, North, the restaurant chosen most likely to succeed back at the hotel, did win out as our choice.  However, something was definitely happening across the street, so we went there first.  

The Anticus Gallery Re-Opening Party

Describing Anticus challenges traditional categories.  Yes, it’s an art gallery and studio.  Yes, it’s a book store.  Yes, it’s a jewelry store.  Yes, it’s also a gift store.  It’s most similar to a really good gift shop in a great museum, but instead of the museum you’ve got a studio AND they have a bar.  

When we got there, Anticus had outgrown a space two doors down and was hosting their grand re-opening.  We didn’t realize it was a by-invitation-only kind of thing, but the host soon found us and let us know it was cool for us to be there.  I think it should be noted that Anticus has moved again and they are now down in Old Town (where Artwalk was happening), but please put them on your list and tell them I sent you!  Spreading the word about them is the least I can do after they showed us such a good time.

Though we were serendipitous guests, we thoroughly enjoyed the party.  Bill was feeling very artsy after his afternoon at the Celebration of Fine Art.  He chatted up anyone who’d stay still long enough to start a conversation.  We drank a couple of glasses of cheap wine and handled a good portion of the delicious merchandise.  I doubt the folks at Artwalk had anything on us.   

Closing time rolled around and even though no one was exactly running us off, I felt we’d more than worn out our non-existent invitation.  Besides, we’d headed out to get dinner and hadn’t ticked that off our list, yet.  With some resistance on his part, I dragged Bill out of the shop.  I was afraid he was going to head back to the bar for his third glass!

North waited for us across the street.  Come back next week for that delicious conclusion to an uncommon evening at the Commons.