Travelogue: Tucson 1999
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Tucson Photo Itinerary: 11/18/1999 - 11/25/1999: Tucson, Arizona, USA by Andrew Sigal

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Fodor's Arizona

Thursday 11/18/99

Flying from Seattle to Tucson via LAX on United. The first leg was on the oldest Boeing 722 in the fleet. Even the flight attendants were joking about the age of the plane! Nonetheless, it was a very pleasant and smooth flight. We had an added bonus of very clear weather, and the most stunning views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens I have yet seen.

The Red Carpet room at LAX is really nice, large and attractive. There are excellent facilities for hooking up a laptop with both power and phones. I do have to keep reminding myself that Red Carpet clubs have little or no food. I keep on thinking of international lounges, which often have great spreads. Hi Ho.

My United Shuttle from LAX to Tucson is a Boeing 737. I used one United upgrade coupon to upgrade to First class, which in this plane is a two row affair. I couldnít decide whether to go for the upgrade or not, but they had the space, and I had been in coach for the prior flight, soÖ why not. It's an insanely beautiful looking day in Los Angeles, the views of the offshore islands are wonderful. I feel great and am looking forward to a terrific time in Tucson. The views out the window down onto the brown desert and hills are crystal clear and craggy sharp. Like Mars but with water and people (at least - I assume there is water and people down there!) The patterns left by wind, water, and the other miracles of geology are amazing. A band of dune covered sand is clearly visible on the horizon in one direction, and ridges of rock crawl towards the horizon in the other.

Got in to the Tucson airport without a hitch, grabbed my bags and picked up a Grand Prix from National Car Rental. As usual, National's rate was very good, and the person behind the counter was unbelievably sour. I gave her my best smile and my winningest attitude, but it didnít make a dent in her icy manner. Where do they find these people?

I'm staying at the Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites - a very good motel. The chipboard furniture is covered in high quality vinyl veneer. It is located in a totally random part of town with nothing else of interest nearby. This place would be a good deal at about $50 a night. At $100+, it is overpriced. I definitely can't recommend it, but it doesnít really rate an "avoid" either.

I got together with my friend Dan for dinner with at a Mexican restaurant called Miches (2908 S. 4th Ave.) It was very ordinary. I had an uneventful Carne Asada Burro. After dinner we went over to a really cool coffeehouse near the University of Arizona called "Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea". It as a great place to sit and talk, and they were having a kinda-fun open-mike night too. Recommended.

Friday 11/19/99

An insanely bad buffet breakfast was included with the room. How do they get the eggs to be like that? The scrambled eggs had the consistency of curdled eggs. Do they curdle them? Do they cook them in a blender? I can't believe I managed to choke any of them down. It made the buffet at the Hotel Gellert in Budapest seem like a feast.

Went downtown and walked around, then had an excellent lunch at Little Café Poca Cosa at 20 South Scott (520-622-6400.) There are two Café Poca Cosa's a block away from each other. The main restaurant is medium sized and serves gourmet Mexican/southwest fare, while the Little Café Poca Cosa is a tiny 8 table restaurant serving great home-style Mexican. Sandra, the supercharged waitress, takes care of everything and everyone and does so with enthusiasm and wit. During the time I was there every table was constantly full, but there was rarely a wait. As if by magic a group of people would enter the door just as a table was finishing up. I had the combination plate which include the special of the day - fish tacos. It was a strongly flavored fish, which stood up well to the fresh cilantro and other spices - really nice. The chili relleno was terrific too, but it was the tamale that was the highlight. Absolutely the best tamale I have ever had. Sandra told me that the chef doesnít use ground corn meal, but instead mashes fresh corn. Wow. I washed it all down with an amazing Tamarindo (tamarind soda.) In the past I have always had tamarindos made from Italian bottled syrup. This tamarindo was made from crushed tamarinds and was superb.

After lunch I went back to my wanderings. When I came down here I really had no idea what to expect from Arizona's second largest city. I was pleasantly surprised. Downtown is something of an odd place. There are lots of funky shops selling books, arts, and used clothing, plus cafes and pubs and nightclubs. Each place looks inviting in its own way. On the other hand, there are also lots of empty buildings and vacant lots. Without the perspective of time, I donít know if this is a hip place that is in decline, or a depressed place that is getting hip. I suspect it is the latter.

Went with Dan to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is about an hour drive west of the city. The drive is actually quite nice, out of the city, past the developments, and out into the desert and cactus. The road crosses over a high ridge with some really nice views, then heads down into the valley on the other side, where the museum is located. "Museum" is a bit of a funny word for this place, since it is mostly outdoors, and the exhibits are alive. It is really more like a combination of botanical gardens and a zoo. It is a nice, easy introduction to the region's deserts; their flora and fauna. For people who cannot go hiking in the desert, the museum is especially good since it provides access to the desert experience on nicely paved trails. Even for those who can and do go hiking, the desert museum is a good way to see the plants that inhabit different parts of this area, and the many animals which prefer to hide in their natural habitat. The information signs and kiosks are helpful and interesting.

We had a really good time wandering through the place. The mock-up of an underground grotto is kinda silly, but the mineral exhibit is very well done. The wolf exhibit was especially exciting, as two of the males were fighting for dominance and putting on quite a show. The prairie dogs were cool, and the Javelina exhibit was really engaging. (Javelinas are animals that look like hairy wild-boars, but apparently they are not boars at all.) They had a large area set up for the Javelinas, and a series of signs teaching you how to find the critters. Neat idea. And, of course, there were the hundreds of species of cactus and succulents, which were most excellent. Since childhood I have been fascinated by cactus, so this was hog-heaven for me (or, perhaps it was Javelina-heaven.)

My only complaint was that my favorite parts were at the very end. Many of the most interesting plants were at the end, the butterflies were at the end, and my very favorite thing - the hummingbird house - was at the very end. No fair. We got to the hummingbird house as the museum was closing, so I was only able to sit and watch these amazing birds for a few minutes. I think I would be inclined to follow the trail in the opposite direction from their recommended route.

We had Dinner at Maya Quetzal, a Guatemalan Restaurant on 4th. Dan enjoyed his meal, but my chicken with an orange sauce was impressively bland, colorless and tasteless. Blech. We wandered around the small downtown area, especially the areas around Congress St. and 4th Ave. Had an after-dinner coffee at Café Quebec (Broadway at Arizona) - a hip place with cool art on walls. We followed that up with a drink at Club Congress - a great room (311 E. Congress 520-622-8848). The first floor of the historic Hotel Congress includes a café and two different bar rooms. The music in the "Tap Room" was way too loud, so we just hung out in the main lobby bar. It's a very attractive room and an interesting crowd. Walked around the area of 4th Ave south of 6th St. Stopped into a few bars, saw some good music and some bad. This place is full of lots of "college bars", which is fun for a while, but eventually I think we just started to feel old. At one point we stopped by a dance club called "Metro". We were informed that the cover was $5.00 with a college ID, and $25 without. We took the hint and didnít bother going in.

Saturday 11/20/99

Late breakfast at Bobos Restaurant on Grant Road just west of Country Club Rd. A very local greasy spoon diner which was clearly big with the hung-over student crown. They made a really interesting French toast, which seemed like it was cooked in cinnamon-sugar-butter. Yum. It was a fun place and the price was definitely right.

Afterwards, went to Fair Wheel Bikes (1110 E 6th, right across from U of A, 520-884-9018) to rent a bike for the day. They were pretty well rented out due to a big annual Tucson bike ride happening today. However, they did have a nice Trek 6500 that fit me. Fair Wheel seems like a pretty fair shop. I am a bike shop fiend and this one rated well.

Dan and I headed off from Fair Wheel for a few hours of tooling around Tucson. We rode through the historic barrio district, downtown, past St. Augustine Cathedral, through the extremely slumy South Tucson, back up to downtown, and through various residential neighborhoods ranging from scary to nice. Eventually we ended up at a coffee shop near the U of A called Cafe Paraiso. It was warm but not too hot, the coffee was good, and it was just a great day to sit and watch the students go by. A thoroughly pleasant day.

Dinner tonight was at Pinnacle Peak Steak House (6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., 520-296-0911.) A very goofy place. Pinnacle Peak is a whole "old west" theme park with a miniature train and recreated old-west buildings. The Steak House is a giant emporium and clearly very popular. The place was full when we got there, but our wait was only 20 minutes. This is only remarkable because of the size it - they were clearly serving a lot of people. To emphasize the informal credo of the restaurant, they have a gimmick of cutting off people's ties. If you show up with a tie (and many people do just to play the game,) they cut it off and tack it to the wall. Practically every vertical surface was covered with severed ties. If on a subsequent visit you are able to find your tie, you get a free meal. Given the thousands of ties on the walls, balconies and rafters, I doubt they have to pay out very often.

Sunday 11/21/99

This morning I checked out of the lame Sheraton and moved to the Arizona Inn (2200 E. Elm St, 520-325-1541 or 800-933-1093). Wow is this place great! 25% more money and 2000% better. Beautiful manicured gardens, a gorgeous library/sitting room, a great southwest-styled pool area with verandas and cushy deck chairs. The room is spacious, quiet and beautifully appointed. This is so great, I'm overwhelmed. I was mildly dissatisfied with the Sheraton before. Now, by comparison, the Sheraton was a dump. Given that I had a mediocre experience on the phone making my reservations and the place was so disappointing, I'm afraid some of my positive feelings about the Starwood hotels are now tarnished. It's funny; it takes forever to build customer loyalty and an instant to loose it.

This afternoon I grabbed a quick lunch then went on a drive following Fodor's "A Good Tour: Downtown" (click to buy Fodor's Arizona on now). The first stop was "A" Mountain/Sentinel Peak just outside of town. It is a pretty short drive, and provides a fairly boring lookout over the city. "A" Mountain got its name from the giant "A" written on the side of the mountain in white painted rocks in celebration of the University of Arizona football team. Its somewhat interesting from far away, but a trash-covered letdown up close. Coming back into town I retraced parts of yesterday's bike ride, stopping to see some sights in more detail but only loosely following Fodor's recommendations. I shopped a bit on 4th Ave, had a great fruit smoothie at a place on the corner of 4th Ave and 6th St. and finally returned to the hotel to relax and write.

The University of Arizona brings to Tucson all the things that colleges bring; coffee houses and pubs, arts, hand-crafted trash bins and bike racks made from old bike parts, funky used clothing shops, etc. Without the influence of the University and all its benefits, Tucson would really be nowhere. With these boons, this is really a pretty hip little big town.

For dinner I just stayed in and ate at the hotel restaurant. All the other restaurants I was really interested in trying are closed on Sundays. I was much more excited by the appetizers than the entrees, so I decided to go with an all-appetizer meal. I started with a tremendous huntsman-style beef stew which was strong, good, and very filling. It had a nice hint of sherry, and beautifully sliced mushrooms. Moving on, I proceeded to a salad of shredded spinach on a bed of filo with smoked tomatoes and a balsamic-bacon dressing. The spinach and filo provided a really interesting contrast in textures, but the smoky flavor of the tomatoes was so subtle as to be irrelevant. Next up was a great dish of huge scallops in a corn, lobster and cilantro cream sauce. The scallops were succulent and perfectly cooked. Moreover, to my surprise the sauce was not stingy with the lobster. The dish had a very nice play of flavors, and was plentiful enough to serve as a main course in a lot of stylish New York restaurants. For desert I had a pumpkin mousse served in an almond-roca cup with candied pecans on top. A terrific dish, though it clashed rather badly with the Mondavi Muscat desert wine I had chosen, and the coffee was definitely not up to Seattle standards.

Monday 11/22/99

Well, I spoke a little bit too soon on the joys of the Arizona inn. My first night wasnít quite up to par. Though the room is really pleasant, it turns out that the bed is extremely hard. I like a firm mattress but this was more like sleeping on a carpeted floor than a bed. Then, I was awakened at 6:00am by the neighborhood garbage men. I donít really know where they were, but for a good 15 minutes I could hear them clanging, banging, and grinding garbage. I am told that garbage is picked up twice a week in Tucson. This could be a problem.

I went back to my favorite spot by the pool for some excellent French toast and sunshine. This is the life. Wow. Clear skys, cool air, perfect French toast and a good book. By the way, I am reading The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. It is very good.

Today I am finally going to go hiking at Saguaro National Park. The National Park is actually in two pieces, one part to the east of town, and the other to the west. The guidebooks imply that the western part is better, so off I go. It is about 1/2 an hour beyond the Desert Museum, so I already know the drive. The park has a beautiful visitor center where I stocked up on water and got a map. I decided to hike up the Hugh Norris trail to the Sendero Esperanza trail to Dobe Wash and back down Hohokam Road closing the loop. It looked like a nice walk on the map, but turned out to be a rather strenuous 7-mile hike. The trail gained elevation very steeply for the first 2 miles. Though it was a well-maintained trail, the sun and climbing really took its toll; I started to wonder if this was really a good idea as I pondered my one power bar. Oh well. When I was young I had a collection of cacti, and even raised some from seed. I had a great interest in Saguaro cacti because they were rare and unattainable. It was quite a charge to be out hiking in the desert surrounded by Saguaros on all sides. It must have taken almost 3 hours to cover the first 3 or 4 miles, where the trail finally started heading down again. Except for one valley I crossed, it really seemed like it was all uphill. Fortunately the last 3 or 4 miles were all downhill or flat, and I was able to make it back to my car in about one more hour. I really didnít want to be out there after sunset. All in all it was a completely excellent hike, but I returned very tired and very very hungry. As soon as I got back to my hotel I called the highly rated Janos restaurant for the earliest reservation I could get.

After searching and searching for Janos restaurant downtown, I finally called them and found out that they have moved and are now located 1/2 hour northeast of town. Fortunately they were able to push my reservation out 1/2 hour, but it was still frustrating since I was starving and had driven 10 minutes southwest from my hotel. Oh well.

Janos attractive high-ceiling décor seems a bit flashy by Tucson standards, but matches the Westin that is its host. I started with a trio of excellent breads and a well deserved cup of tea while perusing a fascinating menu of French cuisine prepared with southwestern ingredients. I had wanted the tasting menu, but surprisingly, few of the items on the tasting menu were as interesting as the main menu fare.

Traveler's Tip: For some reason, Tucson restaurants have the bad habit of bringing a basket of bread with the main course, not when you are seated. Thus, if you arrive at a restaurant in Tucson and are as famished as I was, be sure to ask that they bring you bread right away. You might need to ask twice, since this seems to be such unfamiliar territory to them. Go figure.

Fortunately for my hunger, the gratis pre-appetizer of salmon garnished with grated cucumber was excellent and prompt. In fact, all the dishes were delivered quite speedily and the service was outstanding. For my real appetizer I chose a Brie and exotic mushroom chili relleno with a "tower" of jicama salad in a smoked tomato coulis. Yowza. This was just great. The presentation was picture perfect: a beautifully browned egg-batter dipped chili in a sea of orange sauce offset by waves of crème fraiche and cilantro infused olive oil. And the flavor - wow.

The main was a rather complicated dish of veal on a bed of spinach in a marinated portabella cap with melted house-made mozzarella. Say that one 3 times fast. Not only is it hard to say, it's hard to do. The flavors of portabello, spinach and cheese were in danger of clashing, but the chef managed to pull it off well. The only flaw to the dish is that the delicate veal was definitely overwhelmed, though when eaten separately was very nice. The veal itself was very tender, and cooked to a perfect medium-rare. And again, the presentation was perfect. I chose to skip wine with my dinner, but I think a nice white would have complemented this dish well.

I finished off with decaf coffee, a Handley Late Harvest Riesling, and a trio of sorbets (passion fruit, kiwi, and mixed berry.) When the wine arrived it was extremely cold and completely boring. No taste, no bouquet. After I let it warm up however, it developed into quite a nice desert wine. Clearly they are serving it much too cold. The sorbets were good, but not really special, and the coffee failed by Seattle standards.

Overall Janos was excellent and attracts a very well heeled crowd. The service and presentation are impeccable and the food is very very good. On the downside, it is well outside of town, the prices are high (it would be hard to get out for less than $50 per person without wine), and most of all, it didnít feel like Tucson. This restaurant could easily be in LA or New York.

While dining I got to talking to a couple of guys at the table next to mine. Turns out that they are originally both from Tucson, but have moved to other parts of the country. They were both back in town for a reunion. I told them of my plans for the next day (to go to Nogales, Mexico.) They gave me a number of suggestions on local restaurants, and also that I should go to the town of Bisbee, Arizona instead of Nogales. I'll have to look into it.

Tuesday 11/23/99

Another yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs by the pool. Cool morning air, sunshine and steam rising from the pool in little streamers. I sat, read, ate, made phone calls, and generally passed a lot of time. Finally I dragged myself away and headed over to Dan's. The plan had been for us to head down south to the Mexican border town of Nogales, but I wanted to run the Bisbee idea by him. After a bit of discussion, we decided to stick with the original plan. After all, I had never been to Mexico at all and had never seen one of these famous Mexican border towns.

We got going, and realized that our route took us right by the Mission St. Xavier del Bac; a local mission which includes the oldest Catholic church in the United States still serving the community for which it was built. So we pulled off the highway and into the mission's parking lot. It really is a pretty neat building. The outside is attractive and the inside is remarkably ornate. Neither of us had expected such an intriguing building. Among the most interesting things for me were the early photos of the building that are on display in the adjoining museum. In the photos, this relatively large church is sitting in the middle of absolutely nothing. It's quite a stunning notion - a large white building sticking up on a flat plain with nothing for miles and miles. Quite unlike the town churches of Europe.

After examining the church, the photos, and the displays on the restoration process, we headed back outside. It had gotten so late that it was now lunch time. The parking lot was bordered by a number of stands all selling Indian flatbread. Flatbread is basically deep-fried dough. So, we had a couple of flatbread burritos filled with meat, which were surprisingly good. Judging by the size of the couple that ran the booth we were at, the flatbread is no doubt also substantially fattening, and I imagine they ate quite a bit of their own cooking.

Back on the highway we zoomed towards the border in one of those great 75mph zones. Oh, I do love 75mph highways. For much of the way the highway was bordered with huge terraced mounds of tailings (waste left from mining operations.) The whole area is rich in copper ore and at various times copper has been the major industry. The tailings piles were the size of mountains, and I must say they look quite intriguing. Dan once worked at a copy mine, so he was able to tell me all about the process of digging up ore rock, grinding it into a fine powder, and then extracting the copper dust from the rock dust. Interesting stuff. What I hadn't realized was that the tailings piles were actually piles of fine rock powder. As a result, the big challenge is to keep them from just blowing away. Apparently it was not uncommon for windstorms to blow tailings all over adjacent towns. Sounds awful.

Even with the stop at St. Xavier, we made it to Nogales, Arizona in about 2 hours. We quickly found free on-street parking (there was plenty of $4 parking lots, too) and walked across the border to Nogales, Mexico. No one stopped us, no questions were asked, nothing was inspected.

Nogales, Mexico is a pretty unimpressive place. It basically exists to sell trinkets to Americans, but strangely the prices really weren't all that impressive. All of Nogales exists on one main street, which is lined with shop after shop selling various crafts; pottery, clothes, rugs, ironwork, bobbles and bangles and chatchkas. Virtually everything was also available in Tucson, and was only slightly cheaper in Nogales. The thing that really surprised me was that most of the shop owners really weren't interested in haggling! They would name a price that wasnít very good, and would hardly budge at all. A far cry from what I expected.

After wandering in and out of shops, we stopped into an outdoor bar where I had an excellent Dos Equis Lager, and we watched the stream of Americans go buy (pun intended). Virtually everything in Nogales was quoted in US dollars, but as we walked farther and farther down the street there were more and more shops that were for the locals, and fewer for the tourists. We spied a bakery with its windows full of Mexican pastries and cookies. It also contained a money-changing booth, which was closed. All we had were US dollars, and we asked the woman behind the counter if US dollars were OK. She said "No, money changer is closed." We pressed on that we didnít want to change money, we wanted to pay with US dollars. No luck. So, we left pastryless and continued down the road. Eventually we hit the end of the retail area and turned around. On the way back I stopped at an ATM and got about $20 worth of Mexican Pesos. We went back to the pastry shop and picked out a bag of treats. At the checkout counter, the woman behind the counter said "Four dollars." "What? Four dollars? US?" "Si, four dollars US." It turns out that she wanted US currency, not pesos! Since I now had a pocketful of pesos, I insisted, and she reluctantly gave me the price in pesos and accepted them with considerable distaste.

Walking further down the road we came upon a soft taco stand. We sat there and downed taco after excellent taco. When it came time to pay, the vendor was stunned and displeased that we wanted to pay in pesos. He accepted them, but clearly he would have preferred dollars. Unfortunately, there was really nothing else I wanted to buy and when we got back to the border I still had some $12 worth of pesos. Go figure.

Dan had wanted to buy some Khaluha and Taquila, but the prices weren't good, so we skipped it and headed back across the border to the good old USA. On the US side there was a duty-free shop, so we stopped in. There the prices were outstanding! It turns out that as a US citizen, you can buy liquor on the US side at the duty-free, then cross the border to Mexico, and then come right back. We considered it, but in the end just skipped the whole thing.

We really hadn't spent much time in Nogales, and realized that we could probably check out Bisbee too. It was definitely a round-about route, but hey, why do an out-and-back trip when you can do a loop? So off to Bisbee we went. It was a fairly attractive road, and we arrived in Bisbee at just about sunset. Bisbee turned out to be an incredibly charming little town! All the buildings were either original period buildings, or else were made to look like they fit in perfectly. Everything was clean, and impeccable, filled with arts and crafts and books and cafes.

The guys that had recommended Bisbee told me that the best restaurant in all of Arizona was there, but they couldnít remember the name. They instructed me to go to the hat shop and ask the proprietor there. Driving through the middle of town I came upon the hat shop and pulled right up as though I had planned it that way. The shop was actually closed, but as luck would have it Grant Sergo, the owner, was standing outside washing his windows. Grant turned out to be an exceedingly nice guy and talked with us for at least a half an hour about Bisbee, hats, restaurants, dining, hiking and all manner of things. And his hand-made hats are great. If you find yourself in southern Arizona and need a hat, Optimo Custom Hatworks is your place, and Grant Sergo is your man (47 Main St., Bisbee, (520)-432-4544.) His top recommendation was Café Roka (35 Main St., (520)-432-5153) but unfortunately they are closed on Tuesdays in the off season. His description of the place was absolutely mouth-watering, which made it all the more frustrating that they were closed. Grant's second choice was the High Desert Inn (8 Naco Rd., (520)-432-1442 or (800)-281-0510. The cordon-bleu trained chef is supposed to do an outstanding french menu, and Grant called over for us to make a reservation. Alas, they too are closed on Tuesday in the off season! As a distant third place, Grant directed us to a family style restaurant located downstairs from "The Stock Exchange" bar. Off we went.

The Stock Exchange bar was a really pleasant down-home bar with a tin ceiling and the original stock exchange chalk board showing the companies that were once traded here. We spent a little time at the bar, but decided to skip the restaurant downstairs and just head home for dinner. On our way out of town we popped into the Renaissance café (520-432-4020), a truly excellent café with a full selection of coffee, lattes and espresso drinks, and awesome muffins.

So, we drove back to Tucson and went to the big Café Poca Cosa, a restaurant full of bright colors in yellow, purple, red and green filled with extremely boisterous diners. In fact, it was so noisy that we had to have our table moved, and it was still a bit on the loud side. The portions were inhumanly (and unnecessarily) huge, and the food was good but not great. I had a special Chicken Mole, which was nice with interesting textures and sweetness, but just not the kind of stunning food I was expecting. The Little Café Poca Cosa was such an unexpected experience, that I expected much more than the big restaurant delivered.

Wednesday 11/24/99

Sitting again in the glorious sunshine by the pool, I perused the now-familiar tiny breakfast menu. What I really wanted were waffles. Hoping against hope I asked the waitress if they had waffles. She said "No, but I can get you one." Huh? Like she's got a box of "Eggo's" in the trunk of her car? "All the items from the main restaurant can be ordered here at the pool and we'll bring them to youÖ waffles, eggs Benedict, basil omelets." Holy cow! Breakfast was served at the main restaurant too? Somewhere along the way I had read a sign which said that breakfast was offered at the pool. Apparently I had misinterpreted this to mean that breakfast was only offered at the pool, where in fact it actually meant that it was also offered at the pool. Sigh. The part of me that always wants to try everything, and investigate every nook and cranny, was momentarily deeply wounded. However, it was so mind-bogglingly pleasant sitting in the cool air warmed by the brilliant sunshine that not even the allure of a full menu could drag me away. Now all I had to do was decided between waffles, eggs Benedict and a basil omelet!

For lunch I checked out El Torrero, 231 E 26th (520-622-9534). It was recommended by the same guys I met at Janos the other night, but turned out to be pretty standard Mexican fare - probably no better or worse than any of the other several restaurants in the area. Afterwards I did some souvenir shopping, then went back downtown to the Presidio district to see the Pima County Courthouse which I had somehow missed on my previous forays. It is a very attractive Spanish colonial style building, which a large open public plaza at the back. Right nearby is the Old Town Artisans building, an historic 1850's adobe building. Most of the building is devoted to little art shops, many selling very nice works. There is also a café (which I didnít go into). In several of the rooms you can still see the original walls and ceiling exposed, and one of the shop owners gave me a brief history of the building.

For my final dinner in town, Dan and I went to Zach's, a great pizza place for some excellent deep dish pizza and beer. Yum.

Thursday 11/25/99 (Thanksgiving)

Up bright and early with a bit of a backache from the hard beds. Thankfully, the hotel provides a nice coffee service in the bar with a roaring fire in the library, and the bellmen were working. As I was driving back to the airport, I realized that I was almost out of gas in my rental car and it was 6:30am on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, it turned out that there were several self-service gas stations along the way, so I didnít have to return the car empty. The sunsets here in Tucson had been nice, but the sunrise over the desert was spectacular. The mountains to the west were glowing a wonderful orange and pink and red. The air was really cold, everything was crisp and clear and on fire. A beautiful day to fly.


Tucson is a funny place. It really isn't much of a tourist destination, but seems like a very pleasant place to live. I'm a bit depressed about the Arizona Inn. I was really looking forward to praising them in this travelogue, and would like to go back. Unfortunately, the noise and the hard beds have to give me pause. I suspect that when I go back to Tucson, I will stay there again, but I'll have to be very explicit about what room I want. Not room 161.

I will definitely go back to Bisbee, and I'd like to see Pheonix as well. I would also want to spend a lot more of my time hiking and mountain biking. Also on the next-trip list would have to be the botanical gardens and the famous Biosphere, both of which managed to fall off the list this time.

© 1999, Andrew Sigal

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