A short distance from Phoenix, in the aptly named ‘Valley of the Sun’, lies Scottsdale, a historic enclave surrounded by the cacti studded, rusty red desertscape of Arizona. Thanks to its booming art and culinary scene, a stopover in this vibrant city is the perfect base from which to explore the sun drenched Southwest. North America specialist, Bryony, discovers this corner of the USA.
As the sun started to rise over the red rock hills of Sedona, I was left with a feeling of sadness as we departed, leaving the golden foliage of fall and the region’s iconic copper colored mesas behind. Our next stop was Scottsdale and much like the rest of the trip, a yearning to spend more time in one place was offset by the knowledge that the next adventure was just around the corner.
Scottsdale’s roots go back to 1888 when former when Winfield Scott bought 640 acres of land on the south side of the Arizona Canal. Recently, the New York Times described downtown Scottsdale as “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach and as having “plenty of late night partying and a buzzing hotel scene”. Scottsdale’s slogan is “The West’s Most Western Town”, I was excited to see what it had to offer.
The two-and-a-half-hour drive to Scottsdale breezed by as we crossed the wide open arid expanse of Arizona, punctuated with sightings of the native Saguaro cactus and the expectation of a flying tumbleweed, not just as a result of a bad joke from my travel companion.
Upon arrival at the Andaz resort I was immediately struck with a sense of wonder at the inspiring art pieces scattered around the resort. Well known for its kitsch and quirky take on luxury accommodation, the Andaz offers a fantastic platform for up and coming artists to showcase their work and for guests to appreciate the stimulating artistic influences from the region. The complimentary locally sourced wine upon arrival combined with a glass window scrawled upon with heartfelt thanksgiving messages left me with a feeling that I was ready to create a masterpiece of my own.
After sufficiently scribbling on the Thanksgiving wall, I was led to my room and taken aback by its quality (despite being called a room it was more comparable to a Scandi art gallery or studio apartment). The mammoth walk in shower was an additional bonus and has been tried and tested with 25 people inside it, maybe a little irrelevant but nonetheless a feat worth noting!
The evening took us to downtown Scottsdale, a bustling area which was a hive of activity. Available tables were few and far between, however we luckily scored ourselves an outdoor table (in a prime people watching position) at a quaint Mexican eatery complete with a live band. After sampling the local cuisine, consisting mainly of tacos and tequila, we found ourselves singing along with the Mexican inspired Christmas songs and gazing into the fairy lit trees, followed by a peruse of the local art galleries.
Although unintentional (at least that’s what I told my credit card), our visit tied in perfectly with Black Friday, so the next day it felt obligatory to fill our bags to the point of bursting at the enormous shopping mall. When we could no longer carry any more, we returned feeling slightly overwhelmed by the volume of merchandise and somewhat confused about how we were going to fly it all home (thank goodness for British Airways’ two suitcase allowance!). Luckily the shopping bags held up and we made the less than arduous mile walk back, suitably refreshed with sundowners and steak.
The next day we awoke to yet another cloudless sky, ideal conditions for a hot air balloon ride and as luck would have it, we managed to jump on one the very same morning. The balloon ride was fantastic and allowed us to take in the dry mountainous desert landscape in style. Upon landing we enjoyed our last morning in sunny Scottsdale and learned about how it is tradition to carry champagne in hot air balloons which is given as a gift if you land on someone’s property, luckily for us no impromptu landings were necessary, so we were able to enjoy both champagne cocktails and a spot of breakfast. The perfect ending to the perfect trip!