Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Tourist at Home

Imagine that you're standing in one of the most wonderful places you've ever been, one that is relaxing while providing some new adventure or thing of beauty every time you turn around.  And then imagine that you 1) speak the same language as the natives, and 2) have a smug sensation that you have even more right to be there than they do.

That's how I felt when I spent a couple of days in Prescott, Arizona a couple of weeks ago.  I'm a Prescottonian born and bred, but after an education lured me away from its mountain majesty I stayed away - I hardly ever take time to visit.  It was such a delightful time that I decided it was time to dust off the travel blog and share it with you.

The thing I enjoy about Prescott is that you don't need to actually do anything to be entertained - there are always eclectic people to watch, odd stores to browse or conversations to start.  This time there was a new monument that echoed a tragedy but somehow became an expression of community and restoration: the graffiti tributes on the plywood covering the historic buildings that recently burned downtown.  It's such a great collection of locals, visitors, fans and foes of the restaurant owners.

And then there were, of course, the comedians:

Next door to this plywood tribute was a phoenix already arisen from what I thought was dead: Young's Farm has a store on Whiskey Row?!  The farm was always such a wonderful place to visit and I proudly admit to shedding more than a few tears when it was sold to developers....I'm happy that at least the namesake continues, though the focus seems to have shifted from pumpkins and sunflowers to slightly less wholesome pleasures.

It took exactly 20 minutes for me to turn to all-out tourism...when I lived in Prescott I didn't want to have the walk-too-slow enthusiasm of the summer visitors who blocked traffic and spent money in the stores that sold poorly-made trinkets and overpriced "antiques."  This visit, however, I happily became one of them (minus the cheesy old stuff in dusty stores).  I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to take pictures of saloons (please note that I was on Whiskey Row at 2:00 p.m. rather than 2:00 a.m. - even as a tourist, I'm not a night owl!):

I bought spices that I will never actually use in this amazing store - spices were organized by the portions of the world from which they originate.  Another amazing map discovery, though they wouldn't let me take their maps home.  (I bought oregano for me and mint-infused sugar for dad...I'm still not sure why, but it seemed to be a good idea at the time.)

I do remember why I brought home basil-flavored olive oil, however: YUM.  I could have spent hours tasting the "shots" of flavored oils and balsamic vinegars.  (Note to Phoenicians: there's a similar oil and vinegar store coming to 7th Avenue and McDowell sometime soon!)

Once I'd perused all of the non-dusty stores downtown, I just enjoyed the sights.  I listened to the uniquely rhythmic music from a small stereo near the woman teaching Renaissance-style dancing to two young men on the courthouse square, and discussed the merits of rusty old cars with a college hippie who was drunk and/or high.  I watched children toss coins in the fountain, and then watched a homeless man use the fountain to wash his hair.

And then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get the perfect picture of the beautiful courthouse building with its banner celebrating Arizona's centennial...

It wasn't an action-packed day of adventure - I only had a few hours before I had to go to meetings, and I never found time or energy to drive around remembering other favorite areas and activities of this city...but it was an enjoyable afternoon and I can't wait to be a tourist at home again!