Out of the blue one day Pathik asked me if I wanted to go with him on a work trip to Tempe, AZ- the location of ASU. I had no idea where Tempe was, never heard of it before, or even knew how to pronounce it. He told me it’s somewhere near Pheonix, and Sedona- that’s all I needed to hear to say a quick yes, without thinking twice about it – even more than during the half hour lunch break in which he asked me. Even though it was really hot, I was able to do a variety of different things- from eating out, spending time in the pool and even the hot tub, and of course being in nature. I’ll say being in nature instead of hiking because we didn’t really do any hiking except up some hills to see certain spots on the map while in Sedona- we weren’t really in any shape to do 5 mile hikes in the heat, and Pathik was still recovering from his soccer playing.
Tempe, where ASU campus is located, it is a modern city very amiable to pedestrians, bike riders, and drivers alike. It is health-conscious, urban, and cosmopolitan at the same time. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in Tempe downtown. It was actually really close to a lot of the things I wanted to see, a short walk for Pathik to his conference, and they even offered shuttle service to the airport and some nearby attractions. Their hot tub was on even during early summer, the hottest part of the year, which did feel good at night because it was pretty much the same temperature inside the hot tub as it was outside, although I just couldn’t stay in there for too long. I was armed with six months worth of magazine reading to catch up on, and chilling by the poolside allowed for just that- it was a typical but comfortable lounge space. Going back to the shuttle; I was able to ask them to drop me off at Tempe Beach Park. I read that it was good for biking, but when I got there I was disappointed to find that there were no bike rentals actually at the beach park, but there are plenty in downtown Tempe. I was lucky to be armed with my magazines though, because the best thing to do was to sit under a tree and read. I wish it was more like an actual beach, but it really wasn’t- the body of water the park opens up to isn’t even a lake, its called Salt River. There’s no sand leading up to the water, the pavement along the riverfront is actually fenced in by concrete. There are some nice places to sit around there though; they did a good job of adding benches in key shady areas and putting in some tables and chairs under artsy sculpted overhangs. It seems like people working in the buildings surrounding make use of this park for lunch, but as a user on Yelp rightfully stated there aren’t many students who come here to hang out, and I can see why. I stayed for a few hours but even under the shade the sun was too much to bear, and there wouldn’t be a breeze even if I could summon it by magic.
The Tempe Center for the Arts was nearby the park and the shuttle chauffeur told me I could walk about 15 minutes from the park to the Center, since I couldn’t be dropped off at the Center, but I didn’t care to see it that much to suffer so through the heat. Pathik and I did want to go check it out at some point we never had the chance to go back after his conference when he could drive me there (the rental car was in his name and I was too chicken to drive it even around town). From reading about it, it seems like it is mainly a venue for shows which can also be rented out for events, but it has a small free gallery one can visit for free which changes every so often. I did get a chance to walk around downtown Tempe while Pathik was at his conference- and it is BEAUTIFUL. Very modern-looking buildings with the right touch of desert beauty. Take this random courtyard for example:
And this side street: I never ventured onto campus, but did come close enough to it to see ASU pride around me and the name on the buildings from afar: Downtown Tempe has really nice places to eat that are chic, modern, and have tons of vegetarian options. I even found a vegan cafe, Desert Roots Kitchen! It’s a neat little place where they make a new menu each day out of the ingredients they already have on hand, so it changes every day. It also seems like each person working there contributes to the menu, as they were all pointing out what “their” item was. It was a competition between them to see what I would choose- and here is my yummy plate! I also went to this place called Ncounter for brunch, it’s a great place although not as many options for me, as they are vegetarian-friendly but not vegan-friendly, even though I eat dairy just not eggs and meat. Nonetheless, their food was fresh and great-tasting. They even made the dressing on my salad, it tasted way better than Kraft does! I had a great time sitting and listening to music studying for my CEU here while I had brunch on my last morning in Tempe: I know I talk a lot about food, but Pathik and I are seemingly becoming foodies as we are always trying to find good places to eat when we travel. The last place we went together on Friday for lunch, La Bocca, was AMAZING, and fancy compared to the other two restaurants I mentioned: Look at that cheese plate! Doesn’t it look amazing! We’ve discovered that cheese+nuts=great combo. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant…. I’ll dig it up somehow. There was another restaurant I went to for dinner once, Ztejas, but all I ate was the appetizer chips and salsa (so yes I did pay for it haha) because I didn’t feel well that evening and sip some non-alcoholic fruity drinks. With that being said, even though I was not eating much the service I was given could have been much better. I waiting for about half an hour I think before somebody came by; I swear I was being ignored because I was there by myself. And yes, this is the first time I’ve gone out to dinner all alone. Back to downtown Tempe- we had some fun in the sun before heading out:
We headed into Scottsdale the evening of the day Pathik’s conference ended; it has a great arts district on Main Street that has many galleries and jewelry stores, along with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art which is free after 5pm. We ventured into many galleries; one of the galleries was personally owned by the artist and she painted beautiful Arizona landscapes, many she said from the back of her jeep while riding around in Sedona. They were so serene, and she said that was the exact feeling she wanted to convey as she first began painting to cope with a family tragedy. I hope to paint that well someday. Yes, painting is on my bucketlist, along with learning to salsa and do photography. Main Street also had some great fountains, sculptures, architecture, and of course, gelato Pathik had fun wandering here as well (can you spot him?):
After wandering around on Main Street we met up with some friends at Top Golf in Scottsdale, which let me tell you has a BEAUTIFUL backdrop where the net is- it feels like shooting golf balls into the mountains. We also met up with a friend at this cute coffee shop, Caketini. We are lucky enough to have a HUGE network of family and friends that are down for catching up even if its been a while- I love that I am lucky enough to have those kinds of relationships where I can pick right where I left off. Fittingly, our last meal in Scottsdale was with someone I grew up with, at the Tortilla Factory in Old Town (an area of Scottsdale that looks like anything but its name- it’s gorgeous, and they had lights strung up down the entire street). This restaurant has the BEST Mexican food in AZ; well, from what I tried, remember I said Ztejas was not that good. It was a great night of catching up and sharing laughs, and we even got to sit in their new Tesla! Pathik’s night was made. I wish I took a picture of that night- it felt great to catch up with old friends in a wonderful well-lit outdoor seating restaurant in a gorgeous part of town eating awesome food. How could we sit outside? I think I’ve forgotten to mention that all restaurants offering outdoor seating have plenty of misters.
We are finally at Sedona!This was the last day of our trip before we headed back. Needless to say, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I could imagine the red rocks when I heard of them, but I did not know it would all be so overwhelming. The best thing we did when we got into Sedona was stop at a visitor’s center because we were able to get a map and ask the receptionist to circle the places we’d wanted to see; this helped a lot because the GPS on our phone kept cutting out. There really are two main roads in Sedona, highway 179 and highway 89A, which intersect. It’s really easy to keep track of where you’re going and in what direction.
Coming up 179A going north, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is definitely something worth seeing no matter what religion you are. It is kept surprisingly peaceful, and the majestic views hit you with a different type of serenity when you’re in there. I’m glad this was our first destination/introduction to Sedona.
Next we tried to hit up Slide Rock State Park, which is on 89A a very long while to the east- however it was the only part of Sedona closed because of the forest fire. The ranger said we could go into the Park but not by the water, and all we had wanted to do was slide down the rocks as we’d so famously heard about. So we went to Grasshopper Point instead, which had a decently high cliff from which we could jump into the river. I could only work up the courage to do it once, and that too after a little boy about 11 years old showed me how to do it first. Being in the water cooled us down for the rest of the day, and although we didn’t feel hot anymore we still didn’t feel we could take on any actual hiking trails.
It was nice to go to these so-called vortexes- where people believe there is a powerful spiritual energy- and be able to see the views for miles around. Once such vortex that is easy to access is off Airport Road going west on 89A. Going further west on 89A we went to this Tibetan Buddhist sanctuary called the Amitabh Stupa. It too was very peaceful; something about being at a religious/spiritual place in nature, more specifically in the midst of red-faced mountains- really makes me feel like I’m tapping into some inner energy. This location is slightly difficult to find, so if you are planning on visiting it you should definitely get a map and have a guide circle it for you.
Speaking of breathtaking nature, our last stop was at this star gazing site a few miles west of 179 as soon as you got into Sedona. The tour guides do a great job of emailing ahead of time to confirm the reservation and to email you directions on how to get to the location, along with instructions on parking and keeping touch with you via text throughout the day of your tour if there are any questions. I booked the tour a couple days before we went and I was still able to reserve two spots, although the time Pathik and I were visiting wasn’t during peak tourism season. I don’t know if I will be able to describe exactly how awesome was the star gazing experience. There is some light pollution in Sedona from Pheonix, but we were still able to see so much with a Dobsonian with a slightly higher power lens than the one we have at home. We learned of where to look so many new things to look for along with what we’ve already seen, including star clusters/nebulas, binary stars, and galaxies. During this tour, we saw all those things plus Jupiter and Saturn. It was kind of cold that night, but the tour guides did a great job of providing us with chairs and blankets. The tour itself was surreal and informative at the same time, as it is lead by astronomers doing research in AZ. Needless to say, this tour made my night! Here are some pictures of Sedona: