Thursday, 22 December 2016

USA Fam Trip Day 6: 19th November 2015

After an amazing sleep in THE comfiest bed I've ever had the pleasure to sleep in we had a bit of a more laidback day ahead,  I skipped breakfast to have a little wander around the hotel and down by the creek  - beautiful setting beside the water for dining and further along is the spa.  Managed to have a peek in some of the rooms too - all different to each other and all very spacious.  I'd certainly come and stay here again, excellent staff and an all-round very chilled out place.

Paul took us on a lovely walk at Airport Mesa Loop Trail - stunning views over the Oak Creek Valley and home to one of 4 vortex in the area...

Now, I've never heard of a vortex but Sedona is regarded by Native Americans as sacred and it is recognised as a place of healing and spiritual renewal.  A vortex is an area of "enhanced energy" which is thought to provide inspiration and wellbeing and, according to the local tourist board, people travel from all around the world to "experience these swirling centres of energy that are conducive to spiritual healing, meditation and self-exploration"
The Airport Mesa formation is said to contain a masculine power vortex and is named for it's location next to the airport.

We climbed to the top and the views were simply beautiful...

I didn't feel the earth move or find myself but it was certainly a lovely walk and looking down over the town and the stunning red rock formations was very peaceful.

 Paul dropped us off in uptown Sedona to have a look around the shops while he sorted out provisions for our picnic lunch.  A very pleasant little place, clean and a bit touristy we bought the obligatory key rings and fridge magnets and generally wandered around in the warm sunshine - a welcome change from the cold and snow!

Named in the early 1900's after the wife of the city's first postmaster, Sedona has been inhabited since around 9,000 BC when Paleo-Indians were present in the area - they had left by 300 AD and there is no further evidence of inhabitants until around 650 AD when the Sinagua people arrived with their rock art and cliff dwellings.  They were followed by Yavapai and Apache tribes until they were forced from the area in 1876.  They returned in 1900 and have lived together since.

Our next stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross...

Commissioned by Marguerite Brunswig Staude - a local rancher and sculptor at a cost of $300,000 the building was completed in 1956.  Unfortunately there was extensive renovation work going on so we couldn't get inside but what we did see was beautiful.

We stopped off for our champagne picnic lunch, with the biggest sandwiches I've ever seen at a lovely walk site (shame we couldn't do the walk) and enjoyed the warm sunshine before making our way to Montezuma Castle.

Montezuma Castle was declared a National Monument in 1906 and was built and inhabited by the Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425 AD.  Building took over 300 years and the main structure is 5 stories high with 20 rooms.  The name suggests it was dedicated to the Aztec emperor Montezuma - however, it was abandoned over 40 years before he was born, neither is it a castle but never mind...

we enjoyed a lovely walk (accompanied by a volunteer guide) who gave us loads of historic information about the area and the different communities that lived here.
It is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America, sitting around 90ft up a sheer limestone cliff face opposite Beaver Creek.  It covers almost 4,000 square feet across the 5 stories and shows that the Sinagua were not only skilled engineers but very daring builders.  It's not clear whether it was built so high to escape enemies or nature (flooding from the creek) but either way, I think climbing ladders that high must have been pretty scary!  We continued our walk back to the visitor centre, pausing for a few pictures along the way...

On our way to Scottsdale Paul wanted to stop off and show us the various cacti which grow like weeds in the area so we headed up into an area of the Sonoran desert to do a cactus walk.
The Sonoran desert is huge and covers large parts of Arizona, California and Mexcio and contains a number of endemic plants and animals including the saguaro cactus...

They grow as one large spear and then develop arms - usually around the 75 to 100 year mark and they live to around 150!
Of course, we had to have a picture of us doing our cacti impressions...

We also found a fabulous development opportunity ...

I'm not sure what we decided to develop it into but we liked it!

We arrived into Scottsdale in the late afternoon and seeing traffic and so many people was strange after spending most of our time away from crowds (I must admit I'd have preferred to stay in Sedona a bit longer).  We were very excited to be staying at the luxurious Phoenician hotel for the final 2 nights of our trip but it was bittersweet as we had to say goodbye to Paul.
I can't praise him enough, such a fun and friendly guy he really brought something special to the group; absolutely full of information and his sense of humour was great, we did so many little things that he squeezed into the schedule just for the fun of it.  He and Curtis were like a double act and bounced off each other so well it was like they'd known each other for ages.
He seemed genuinely sad to see us go and we all got big bear hugs and waved him off.

Walking into the huge Phoenician was a little daunting but it was nice to get unpacked properly.  My room had a lovely view over the main pool area ...

Stacey had what can only be described as a corner suite - it's the biggest hotel room I've ever seen and well worth the walk all the way along to the far end of the building!
We were given a site inspection by the leisure accounts manager Joanna and then treated to a wonderful dinner followed by a few prickly pear margaritas!!

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