Day: February 24th, 2007

First Look: Grand Canyon

Saturday, February 24th, 2007 | All Things, Travel

J’s flight into town — unlike mine — came in on schedule, so after I retrieved her at the airport, we were off. Grand Canyon, here we come! The four-hour drive north brought us through the Sonoran desert, deep into a landscape that changed from cacti and brush to snow-capped mountains.

Once at the park, we checked in at our Lodge, and headed straight to the Bright Angel just in time to register for our mule rides the following morning. After clearing our required weigh-in, we collected our canteens and bright yellow “Mule Rider” windbreakers, and then spent some time exploring the South Rim trail, just taking in our surroundings.

The sun was setting over the Canyon, and it was a majestic sight.

Grand Canyon Dusk

Grand Canyon Dusk

Kolb Studio

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Phoenix Ranch Market

Saturday, February 24th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Travel

A few weeks before our trip, SC pointed me to a timely travel piece the New York Times did on Scottsdale, in which was featured local shopping mecca, Phoenix Ranch Market. Described as a “a 53,000-square-foot emporium of groceries featuring a food court full of Mexican goodies,” the superstores are part of a chain of the California-based supermercado empire of Pro and Sons.

On the way to PHX, I stopped in at the South Phoenix branch, the first of the half-dozen Valley-area Latino markets to open. As described, it was a Disneyland for Mexican-food junkies: complete sensory overload from the moment I pulled into the parking lot. Loud music blared from the speakers indoors and out, delicious cooking and baking smells, and bright, multi-colored displays of a dizzying variety of goods I’d heretofore only ever encountered in limited doses.

Phoenix Ranch Market

PRM Tortilleria

The carnicería (butcher shop) comprised the entire length of one side, and was loaded with almost every part of cow and pig imaginable: everything from the standard prepackaged steaks and loins, to less common stacks of long, lolling tongues and one whole, skinless beef head.

PRM Carniceria

At the opposite end of the market was the produce area, impressive in its sheer abundance. Overflowing piles of limes, squash, tomatillos and the like… barrels of sugarcane, yuca root, jicama, bundles of cinnamon sticks and every variety of dried chile pepper I could think of.

PRM Chiles

In between, there were aisles upon aisles of specialty food items (where I picked up some treats), a cheese shop, a pescadería (seafood shop) and a hulking steel tortilla-making machine churning out neat rounds along a swiftly-moving conveyer belt.

PRM Tortillas

I easily could have spent an hour or more here, exploring the possibilities, but time was of the essence, so I made my way to La Cocina (“the kitchen”) — really more of a cafeteria-style dining area with grill and steam table offerings, sopas (soups), tacos, burritos, tortas…

PRM Tortas

PRM Carne Asada

It all smelled divine. After some dithering (and valiant attempts at speaking Spanish), I finally decided upon a pair of hefty meat, queso fresco, chile and avocado-loaded tortas for me and J.  They just seemed the most manageably portable option.  I started into mine at one of the picnic-style tables, in full view of the straw-roofed agua fresca  stand, where cheery women were ladling out juice libations from multi-hued jugs. Had I not been already stuffed like a piñata from just my half-sandwich, I wouldn’t have made it past the adjacent panadería (bakery) with its mouth-watering displays of tres leches cakes, churros, and an endless supply of sweetbreads.

PRM Cocina

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Parada del Sol

Saturday, February 24th, 2007 | All Things, Events, Travel

The woman from whom we got last night’s terrific dinner recommendation tipped me off to a celebration taking place in downtown Scottsdale this morning: the Parada del Sol, which I’ve seen translated as a “walk in the sun” but which I think actually means “stopping of the sun.” (Maybe one of you native Spanish-speakers can help me out here…)

However you define it, the month-long event takes place annually in “The West’s Most Western Town,” and culminates in a parade along Scottsdale Road, featuring over 150 entries (including marching bands, floats, musicians and dancers) and nearly 1,000 horses, earning the Parada del Sol the distinction as the World’s Largest Horse Drawn Parade.

I didn’t have to meet J’s plane until 1, and besides, as well-documented in this blog, I love a parade. This town of a quarter-million people — 7th best place to lve in the country — did not disappoint. By Saturday at 10AM, the brightly sunny Old Town streets were lined with spectators: families and retirees, young couples with schoolchildren, gaggles of teenagers, more than a few cowboy hats… and me, clicking away.

Parada del Sol

Parada del Sol

Five judges were on hand to judge the entrants in categories including: authentic Western vehicle, honor guard, mounted Western group, musical marching group, nonmusical marching group, and school band.

Parada del Sol

Parada del Sol

Parada del Sol

Parada del Sol

Girl Scout cookies for sale! I could not pass up a box of Thin Mints – my favorite, and their best seller.

Girl Scout Cookies

I did not stay through to the finale for the “Trail’s End” afterparty, featuring an art show, Old West gunfights, pony rides, and music performances. Off to the airport…

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