South-West Vacation

(Originally published Feb. 28, 2007).

For the pair of you who follow my blog (I know of at least two people and a possible third who read my meanderings), I offer my apologies for not producing an entry last week. This was because my husband and I abandoned Ottawa’s ice and snow for a 12-day respite in the sunny south-west, namely Texas and Arizona.

I have always wanted to visit this part of the U.S. and, happily, it lived up to its reputation.

First stop, we visited my sister-in-law in Houston, Texas. Since her husband was out of town, the onus of entertaining the Canadians fell on her shoulders. She rose to the challenge admirably. We spent the first night in their luxurious patio home in the city and arose bright and early the next day to drive to her farm. This is an 84-acre cattle ranch (at least, the neighbours use it for their cattle and she receives a tidy tax write-off). We dined in style at a local bistro, and then enjoyed a bottle of wine in front of the fire before heading to bed in the small but comfortable farm house.

After a breakfast of smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels, we headed to San Antonio, a beautiful Texas city with a small-town feel. During our 2-day stay in San Antonio, we wandered around the flower-studded River Walk, took the obligatory boat cruise under the spreading live oaks and historic stone buildings, toured the Alamo, guzzled down Margaritas, and ate. And ate. And ate. I will return to San Antonio some day for the finest ice cream in the entire world.

Two days later, we flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to our hotel in Scottsdale, city of art galleries and money. We walked for miles, checking out the art, jewellery, and beautiful glasswork. On occasion, my husband was forced to wrestle me out of several galleries where hugely expensive paintings had caught my attention.

Deciding that Scottsdale, although lovely, was too urban (and costly) for us, we soon headed north through desert country to Sedona. As we drew close to the town, the massive and hauntingly beautiful red rocks captured our attention. I have never seen anything like them. Rumour has it that several of the rocks are the center of energy vortexes (masculine, feminine, and neutral) that promote well-being in all who experience them. We spent the next few days hiking the rocks in search of the elusive vortexes. Even my husband, the eternal sceptic, joined in the hunt, although he kept voicing irritating questions. Do vortexes have a recognizable center, sort of like a cyclone? How big is a vortex? Have scientists actually measured the magnetic or electromagnetic energy? How do we recognize a vortex if we stumble over one?

Unfortunately, opinions differ and we couldn’t find any answers, but it was fun trying to locate them.

One of the high points of our Sedona vacation was a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Stupendous, magnificent, and awe-inspiring do not come close to describing this wonder. The sheer magnitude of the canyon (10 miles from rim to rim) is a humbling, almost spiritual experience. The canyon was totally different from my expectations. Sure, I anticipated a deep hole in the ground, lots of pretty colors, and a great view. After all, I had seen pictures, even movies. To my surprise, the deep hole in the ground was far from empty. It was filled with mesas, hills, towers of rock, and limestone pyramids with names like The Buddhist Temple and Isis Temple. Most of the time, we couldn’t even see the Colorado River, even though we knew it was down there somewhere.

All-in-all, we had a great time. The weather cooperated, with temperatures hovering mainly in the 50s and sunny. People were friendly. Scenery was outstanding. Food was tasty, hotels comfortable.

Two days ago, I waddled onto the plane, many pounds heavier than when I started out, and knowing that we would return to the South-West some day. After all, there’s still Tucson, Tombstone, Santa Fe, Aspen, Vail, and many more wonderful places to explore. And I get to claim my trips as a tax write-off for research purposes. Who knows? My next book may be set in Sedona or San Antonio.