Hot Chocolate in the Desert

On December 30 we boarded the plane leaving behind mild winter temperatures in our otherwise usually frigid mid Atlantic region to enter similar, if not cooler at times, temperatures in the Arizona desert. This certainly was not we paid inflated airfare prices for but we were happy to arrive with sunny skies.

I was led to believe that our room at The Phoenician  would be ready for an early arrival. It was not and it was hardly warm enough to stay at the resort and swim. (However the pool was filled for unbeknownst to us this would be the warmest it would get.) We decided to explore offsite and have lunch.

We  drove to St Francis – a place I had wanted to visit  and enjoyed a delightful meal sitting outside under heat lamps trying to pretend in our mind as we stared at the sand and cactus landscape eating unique southwestern dishes like flatbread with chilis, honey and almonds that it was indeed very warm outside. Heat Lamps can lead one to such a belief.

We returned and walked the beautiful resort property until our room was ready. Unfortunately our misfortune would continue by being given a room that did not match the category description. The hotel did correct the issue and put us in a Grande Deluxe Room – and it was very grande!

Of all the beautiful features at the Phoenician, one of our favorites was the Cactus Garden. It was lit up with Christmas lights.  We layered on clothes that we thought would remain in the closet during our stay.  With scarves and hats and coats on we ventured through winding and colorfully lit up trail.  Cactus with Christmas lights in the desert when it is 30 degrees. Juxtaposition indeed (and a reoccurring theme during our stay).

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Post Post about our trip to South Carolina

As I finish up sharing my journey to South Carolina,  I am sure it is apparent I am writing this after the fact.  I have not yet mastered the technique of setting aside time to write my blog as I do it.  Our days were filled with morning adventures, many already listed, but also a bike ride that was rerouted due to a bridge painting (Waccamaw Neck Bikeway),  swimming in the ocean and the two pools, and walking down to the crabbing dock to read.  Evenings were filled with great dinners eating in with fresh seafood from Murells Inlet and out – Bistro 217 to celebrate a birthday and River Room for our final night out –  (We arrived too late to fully explore Georgetown but did get to witness a marriage proposal on the dock while we dined.)   Our daughter suggested puzzles and so much to all of our surprise (I had never done a puzzle and was leery of the idea) we spent late nights working on the 1000 piece puzzle (we finished only one completely).  This trip was about downtime, relaxation, but still was filled with adventure, history, and good local beer and food.  Any why the delay from my return until now in finishing this?  Well… summer 2015 vacation is already in the works….

Huntington Beach State Park

This is an amazing park with so much to see and do!  Earlier in the week we went to do the kayaing but now we have returned to explore!  As you enter on the causeway, On one side you have freshwater and on the other saltwater.  There are so many birds! I read over 300 species have been recored here!   It was neat to explore the winter retreat of Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband after seeing her work at Brookgreen – what a unique home and neat to learn about how it was built (without any plans!).  The park is owned by Brookgreen Gardens and leased to the state of SC.  What is really neat is to walk down the historic road (no longer used to enter the park) with fresh water lagoons on either side –  this is where I got to see my first baby alligator.   The Kerrigan Nature Trail takes you right to the freshwater lagoon where we saw several alligators on land and in the water. How amazing is that 2,500 acres of ocean front property have been preserved for all to enjoy?  

Brookgreen Gardens is more then just gardens

As I leave Brookgreen Gardens, thinking back on my day, it is too hard to pick just one favorite thing.  Perhaps it is the overall history of the property and what it has become over time thanks to Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Milton Huntington. Wandering around the gardens, at every turn there is another sculpture just as beautiful as the first. I particularly liked Fountain of the Muses – a large fountain with 8 major figures & 7 secondary figures (formerly installed at the Met).   Or of course the Live Oak Allee  was particularly amazing that day for it had rained the night before. (I keep thinking the name of the gardens is Brooktree!)  Walking through the Low Country Trail, I felt more in tune with the former history of the property as I looked out over the former rice fields.  And as I entered the Aviary, I am not sure I have ever had such an encounter at a zoo.  I felt like the animal on exhibit as the birds surrounded me from all sides.   They have woven these three areas together.  However to take in everything in just one day is overwhelming …. This place definitely deserves a second visit. Oh .. and how could I not mention grasshoppers the size of your first… this was the first one we saw that day… but would not be the last 2014-08-19 11.00.54

GOODBYE RVA… But not just yet…

Although our plan was to get up early and begin our drive to our vacation destination, we decided we could not miss two final stops in RVA to tour by car. Our helpful guide at the Visitor Center mapped out the best way see them and get to them.  First stop was to follow the blue loop road around Hollywood Cemetery passing Historic Grave Sites – including two presidents.  (Next visit we will definitely take one of the walking tours) Just wish we had known about this great map –   to identify what we were seeing.  HollyWoodNext we did a drive through of Memorial Drive – quick for by that time we were starving!  We decided to once again venture into one of the neighborhoods for food.  Clearly this is where the life is in RVA. – We headed into Carytown and quickly found an incredible lunch experience.. Can Can Brasserie – very well themed (I just love that), with delicious food and great service.   Excellent! Good selection of Beer on tap and in bottles too… I passed for it was too early for me.  However I left with a huge loaf of French Bread!  Yum!   We hit the road, sad to leave for there was so much more to do. I will be back to this city… but would pick another place to stay.  Parking is abundant and so no worries if staying outside of the city and driving in to the see the sites (many of them will pay for your parking!)

It turned out working well for there was not much see to along the way.  We had planned to stop in Wilmington NC  to see where they film the Dome but the traffic was bad and Matilda (our GPS) diverted us another way down a lonely rode through the countryside.  With little to see but crop after crop of tobacco (at the time we had no idea what it was) —   Our one stop was for our first batch of Boiled Peanuts along with some local produce.

As the sun sets …. let the journey begin

Headed on a family road trip down south. Looking forward to some good family downtime at the beach in South Carolina.  Lots of fun outdoor adventures planned, low country cuisine and lots of fresh seafood.  Being a late starting journey we will drive straight to halfway point of Richmond VA. Looking forward to checking out this city for the first time.  Plan to begin this journey with exploring civil war history, eating southern food, and tasting local craft beers.