Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I'm having the time of my life in Thailand and can't wait to share stories and photos with you.  Until then, check out the photo albums at www.facebook.com/bethstravels.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

It finally feels like autumn in Phoenix.  I've waited months for this weather while I complained about fingers burned on car doors and flowers wilted by 9 in the morning...and yet last night I caught myself grumbling when my feet were cold because I wore flip-flops outside.  Time to mentally transition into our version of cold weather, so I hope this photo helps.

The foliage from Boston is perfect, of course, but if you look closely you can also see a single rower enjoying the Charles River on the morning of the annual Charles Regatta.
 
 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Finding the Fog

The first thing I loved about San Francisco was the sidewalks.  They were charcoal black with shiny particles that glittered in the fog-filtered light, giving the sensation that I was actually walking across the Milky Way.

My love for these sidewalks was helpful, since at several points throughout my week spent in the city I was convinced I would collapse on one of them.  To say the hills are steep just doesn't quite describe the heart-pounding workout I'd get on a nice morning stroll.

Not that I'm complaining, because I was thrilled to finally be there.  I lost track of how many trips I've planned to San Francisco.  I've planned them via airplane, car and bus, and yet life always got in the way and I have never actually stepped foot into one of the cities on my Top 5 in America list...until now!


I delved in with the enthusiastic ignorance of one erroneously confident in her own physical fitness, and marched up the hill to Coit Tower.  I quickly learned that those beautiful gardens along the way are strategically located to allow passers-by to stop to appear to adore nature while actually contemplating whether their heart has exploded or their lungs caved in upon themselves.  I am certain the multi-colored flowers laugh at human weakness as they calmly wave their petaled perfection in the cool breeze.
 
The hike was worth it, as was the claustrophobia-inducing elevator ride to the top of the 210-foot tower.  The views are amazing, of course, but I also loved the collection of global coins that made their way to the edges of the tower's windows and the note that mysteriously displayed so few words that it's impossible to decipher whether it's a tone of love, hate, hurt or sarcasm.  The only thing that could pull me away from the beautiful windows was the four Czech friends who sang.  Spontaneously, continually, and well (fortunately).  They accompanied our group for most of the time at the top of the tower and though they were not on my elevator going down, their harmony echoed down the elevator shaft - we could hear them until we reached the ground floor.
 

 
The challenge of walking in San Francisco can inspire one to simply sit in one place for large amounts of time, but fortunately the many forms of unique transportation in the city are delightful.  My favorite, of course, was BART, based entirely on the fact that "Bart" sounds like a lovely chap who was perhaps a chimney sweep in the old days and adjusted his skills to get people around town efficiently.  Nothing impersonal like "metro" or "the tube" - BART is an old pal, and an efficient one at that.  I was at first bewildered and then delighted by the rider's ability to hop on and off the BART trains anywhere on the above-ground track that I would sometimes walk far more than I had to just to enjoy the independence of leaving a train nowhere near a train stop.

Other times I would stay on the train long after my desired destination just to gaze at the colorful houses everywhere.  Since I'm a homeowner now, I can't help but admire the diversity in facades - even a single house boasted multiple colors of different shades.  Is the city as accepting of home art, I wondered, or is it just societal pressure in reverse?  I felt a moment of sympathy for any homeowner who just wants a simple brick house like mine but can't accept the raised eyebrows of his neighbors.

 
It's not just the house colors that made me happily think "quirky," though.  This city is confident enough in its own greatness to embrace oddities with grace.  The "closed for business" sign on a boutique door that features a winking man on the moon, the tourist part of town named entirely after a chocolate, the Bastille Day street festival in the French Quarter directly across the street from the lantern-crested streets of Chinatown: San Francisco embraces expression without regard to boring logic.
 
 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

I stumbled across this amazing place to rest on my stroll along the Charles River in Boston last week. 

 
You could take this (correctly) as a statement of my undying devotion to one of the teams in the World Series tonight or, if you're a Detroit fan like my beloved Aunt Sally who still hasn't forgiven the Red Sox, you can just assume (also correctly) that I love Adirondack chairs.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Tale of American Cities

Last summer I had amazing chances to travel internationally; this summer, I jumped every time I got the chance to see a new part of my own country.  Yesterday I wrapped up my domestic journeys and I can't wait to tell you all about them.  I've enjoyed a family-filled weekend of relaxation in San Diego, a return to my "home of the heart" in Washington, DC, an exploration of the hills of San Francisco and the architecture of Chicago, and a memory-filled trip to Boston.  What an amazingly diverse country we have.
 
 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Here's one of my favorite photos from the long walk I got to do in Rock Creek Park last weekend...happy Wednesday!


And since I got to go to the National Zoo before the federal government shut it down so they can continue fighting, here's an adorable panda to entertain you until the Panda Cam returns.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Needs the Grand Canyon? Things to Do in Arizona in Case of a Federal Shutdown

Okay so you traveled from near and far to see the magnificent hole in the ground, only to discover that the nation's politicians are ruining your plans with pesky little details like a shutdown of the whole federal government.  Fear not!  Arizona has much more to offer than the Grand Canyon, and since most of it is closer to airports and highways, you may be able to do much more than you planned in my lovely state. 

Here's what I'd pick if I were faced with free time in Arizona:

Flagstaff Extreme - If you were planning to do more than just look at the Canyon, odds are you're something of an action addict.  Put those muscles to work at Flagstaff Extreme instead, a public-private partnership that allows visitors to swing through the trees on increasingly difficult obstacles.  It's a unique challenge you won't ever forget.  It's right off the I-17 and I-40 - more details at http://www.flagstaffextreme.com.

After you conquer all four levels of the obstacle course, or if you're looking for a more relaxing approach to the region, enjoy downtown Flagstaff - it's the perfect combination of college town, tourist center and community.
Arizona State Parks - With no disrespect to the Canyon, our state parks are amazing...and there's no doubt they'll be open tomorrow.  They're spread across the state so there's a state park close to wherever you are - check out their website (http://azstateparks.com) for more information.  My favorites: Boyce Thompson Arboretum for a quiet stroll, Dead Horse Ranch for close-to-civilization camping, Kartchner Caverns for jaw-dropping underground excitement (reservations required), and Tonto Natural Bridge for good, old-fashioned appreciation of natural beauty.

Lake Havasu City - If your plan was to party at the Canyon, head farther west to Lake Havasu.  There's excitement of all kinds, at all hours whether you want water sports or casinos.
Speaking of Casinos - They're everywhere in Arizona.  Chances are that wherever you are, there's a Native American tribe that is eager to play host and show you the best food and games their casinos can offer.  Plus, you'll be doing good since a portion of gaming revenues go to non-profits in Arizona each year.
San Xavier del Bac Mission - This remnant of Arizona's fascinating history is a great place to feel for more information on tours and Catholic services.
like you're a part of the past.  It's the perfect stop along the way to other Arizona adventures.  Check their website (http://www.sanxaviermission.org).
Sonoita - It's a long way from the Grand Canyon, but when you get there you'll think you drove all the way to Europe...or at least Napa.  These sloping hills of vineyards are straight out of a postcard, and so is the award-winning wine.  There are many to choose from, but be sure to include Hops & Vines on your journey - it's a unique place owned and operated by two sisters who are more lively and interesting than any reality TV show.
Prescott - I'm biased because it's my hometown, but I think I saved the best for almost-last since Prescott is truly unique.  Read a book in the city park at the center of town, shop at boutiques for beautiful art and silly souvenirs, or hike at one of the mountains on the edge of town - it's not called "everyone's hometown" without cause.  Be sure to grab coffee at Wild Iris, my favorite place to meet locals or just enjoy time to myself.
Phoenix - It's the state capital, the business center and increasingly the urban hub of nightlife and outstanding dining and entertainment.  There's something for everyone, and Downtown Phoenix Partnership has all the information you need.  They also provide orange-shirted guides throughout downtown Phoenix, so feel free to pester them with questions.
Enjoy Arizona!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Today's photo comes from a happy Beth who is traversing her way across the continent all day.





Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

This time of year reminds me of how opposite Phoenix is from other regions of the U.S.  Facebook and Twitter bemoan the loss of summer, but in Phoenix there's hope in the air as fall nears.  It was under 85 degrees last night?  Happy days are near. 

So today's Wednesday Wonder stays close to home as I anticipate cool, or at least tolerable evenings on the patio and morning walks that don't burn the soles of my feet.
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Today helps us remember tragedies of the past, but it also is a reminder of the things that matter...like sunsets on the beach with loved ones.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Thanks to all the news about Diana Nyad's swim from Havana (if you decide to visit Cuba, just fly - it takes 90 minutes and there are no jellyfish involved) means I have Cuba on my mind even more than usual.  I'm breaking my Show Photos of Myself As Little As Possible Rule to share this fun memory with the Cuban artist Salvador Gonzales.
 
 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Today I'm missing the hills of Tuscany.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

It's been an unexpectedly hectic week, full of obligations that pull you from one moment to the next.  I often find myself flipping through photos of past travels to help bring my mind to a peaceful pace at the end of the day, and came across these two similar photos that both help me take a deep breath and move on with a calmer perspective.  The first is from my 2009 trip to Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle.  The second is from Swakopmund, Namibia almost exactly a year ago.  I hope they bring a peaceful moment to the middle of your week, as well!
 
 
 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happiness, Heartbreak and Home

Some words just go together.  "Ice" and "cream." "Peace" and "quiet."  But especially "road" and "trip."  Last weekend brought an abbreviated escape from the unusually muggy heat of Phoenix and I headed up the mountain for home.  The drive to Prescott wasn't spontaneous, since grown up summer schedules don't often allow for unscheduled weekend hours often enough - but the journey brought the kind of glee normally reserved for spur-of-the-moment flights from responsibility.
 
As I've written before, there's nothing quite like playing tourist in the town where you spent the first twenty-one years of your life.  The last time I visited, the town had pulled together to rebuild after a fire burned some of the cherished historic buildings downtown; this time, another fire had caused a much deeper wound.  Nineteen fire fighters' shocking deaths had united not only Prescott residents but many around the world.  Everywhere I looked there were messages of love and support, from the row of 19 candles from the San Francisco Fire Department in the hotel lobby to the t-shirts from other states left at the pop-up memorial outside the fire house.  Over the last months many reporters thought they'd grasped the core of what life in Prescott was like (news flash: they didn't) but they did get one thing right - this town knows how to be emotionally supportive.
 
 
Even after heartbreak life in Prescott goes on, but it doesn't necessarily reflect reality.  The streets of the courthouse square, the center of town where the tipsy, tourists, teens and toddlers gather to enjoy a nice day, were filled with ruffled dresses and Wild West attire.  I had unknowingly arrived just in time for the shootout downtown.  Lovely.  I'm proud to say that while I'll never adjust to reports of shootings in the big city (road rage deaths? REALLY?!), this girl can still ignore fake gunpowder with the best of them.

 
The years since I moved away from Prescott have brought many changes.  Some negative, like the wrought iron fence and increased admission prices to "my" rose garden in Sharlot Hall Museum, are unwelcome.  Most, like the much-improved restaurant selection in town, are delightful.  I checked on the landmarks that mark the memories of my time in Prescott - the bakery that served not only perfect bread but also the chance to see my first real college friend Autumn, the thrift store where I learned to perfectly steam a dress shirt, the sidewalk where a small crowd gathered to help my heroic mother remove the string that was cutting off circulation to a pigeon's leg. Even my actual home looks great - I drove by to check, though it long ago became someone else's home.  Since I still can't listen to Miranda Lambert's "House That Built Me" without weeping, I opted out of knocking on the door.
 
There were even options for entertainment, something I learned not to expect from my beloved Prescott.  The work week awaited, however, so I lived without the play at the Elks Theatre or the film festival at the community college.  There were two memorials to see on the way back to Phoenix - one, a happy place that is a rare bright side to the recent recession.  Mortimer's Family Farm continues the tradition of real farming that I truly loved throughout my childhood.  Corn fields, hay rides, pumpkin fields as far as the eye can see - Arizona almost lost a treasure when developers bought the land years ago.  They could never make their fortune on cookie cutter condos (I have no sympathy for them since they proved their ability to make millions cutting down other mountains and beautiful places around town) so now other Prescott children can have the joy of allergic reactions to hay rides and get lost in corn mazes. 
 
 
The other tribute was less permanent but just as important.  When I saw the news coverage of flags and posters left on the fence outside the Granite Mountain Hotshots' headquarters, it was touching both because of the sentiment and because of the location - I used to roller skate every week at the roller rink across the street from the fire house.  But the news reports couldn't adequately show how the quiet street had transformed into a full block of tributes to the firemen.  The variety of items was stunning, like a museum of sentiment.  The major items were nice, like those t-shirts from fire crews around the country.  Some things made no sense to me but I'm sure were meaningful to those who left them there.  Small things impacted me most, like the toy fire truck hidden in one corner and the family photo tucked behind an American flag. 
 
 
This is a rather somber end to a blog post about a day filled with laughter and spontaneity, but isn't that just like life?  Finding the joy in the pain and using bad times as a reminder of the experiences and places that always can make you smile.  Even when there's a Wild West shootout going on only a few blocks away.
 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Today's photo is from a few hours of blissful wandering I did in Prescott, AZ last weekend.   Big City Friends + Hometown = AWESOME.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

More memories from San Francisco...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Today's picture is from the always-bustling San Francisco Chinatown.  I'm staying just across the street from it...much more to come on my San Fran adventures soon.  But for now, I"m off to find a ride on a ferry boat.You can't do THAT in Phoenix!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Prescott, Arizona has been in the news a lot for the last 10 days.  The reason for the attention is heartbreaking but I've never been prouder of the city where I spent the first 21 years of my life.  I wish the media would take more time to understand the complexities that make the place as unique as it is, but now that the excitement is over they'll have to move onto the next story while the community helps heal those hurt by the loss of those who fought to save it.  Today's Wednesday Wonder is a silent celebration of the amazing place that helped make me who and what I am.

Friday, July 5, 2013

News and Bylines

It's no secret that I want to be a writer when I grow up...or rather, I want to avoid being a grown up in order to be a writer.  So imagine my delight about this announcement: I've added a new page to this travel blog, entitled "News and Bylines."  Currently it contains a rather eclectic mix of travel tips I've written for WeekendTrips.com - I'm hoping to add more soon! 



Click here to check it out, or visit the "News and Bylines" tab at the top of my website.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

Dust storms, fires and heat in Arizona have made for a rough week.  I hope today's photo helps you escape reality at least for a moment!  It's from my trip to San Felipe, Mexico in 2008.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

One of the many colorful streets of Bisbee, Arizona.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

What I Would Do in Five Days in Queensland

This blog post differs from my others in one simple way: this trip hasn’t actually happened.  It is instead a summary of my dream trip to Queensland, Australia for a contest hosted by Johnny Jet, Tourism and Events Queensland, and Delta.  If I win the trip you’ll get a recap of the dream come true!

No one ever asks “why?” when you state your desire to visit Queensland, Australia.  There’s no need – everyone, whether or not they like to travel, has something they want to do in this unique part of the world.  While many go for the spas and beaches, my five-day trip would be action-packed, filled with history and hiking.

To start, I’d grab my camera and become a part of the Walker Family, close-knit women who are members of the Kuku Yalanji tribe that has lived in Queensland far longer than I can imagine.  There are many aboriginal tours but this one interests me most because it shares the women’s insights and experiences, detailing life as they’ve known it for generations.  I’d see the impressive Bloomfield Falls waterfall through their eyes, taking a moment to listen to the roar of the water that has always accompanied all of their days.

I’d spend every moment that I could in the Wildlife Habitat animal encounters, feeding kangaroos and wallabies and cuddling with koala bears as much as they’d let me.  I’d learn about the animal rescue efforts that save Australian wildlife every day, and I’d experience the Wetlands by watching the birds and wildlife that dwell in the Australian ecosystem that is so different from Arizona’s.

When time required me to leave my furry friends at the Wildlife Habitat, I’d jump into a kayak and cruise down the Noosa River, looking for pelicans and quietly soaking in the experience as I paddled past slow cruise boats and fishermen.

I would tour the many islands of the Great Barrier Reef, stopping to stay the night at the quiet resort on the banks of the elegantly-named Lady Elliot Island.

Tanned and relaxed from my time near the water, I’d spend the remainder of my time in Queensland exploring the Australian outback.  I would gaze at wildflowers, take photographs of dinosaur footprints for my nephew, and after long days of exploration I would eat with locals at restaurants that proved the American Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain does not know real Australian food at all.  I’d rest at a sheep farm, waking up early to try my hand at herding sheep or making wool.

My trip to Queensland would end far too soon, but I would return home with memories to last a lifetime.  And with any luck, I’d pick up an accent while I was there.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Travel Tips: Santa Fe

One of the best parts about evolving into a traveler in others' eyes is the chance to provide travel tips and guidance from what I've learned.  So here's my first attempt to share warnings and wonders from my experience in Santa Fe:


Avoid Albuquerque.

 

I'm sure there are many lovely things to see and do in Albuquerque, but the airport isn't one of them. I spent many more hours there than I needed to because of the time cushion necessary for the shuttle trip to and from the airport.  Great Lakes Airlines offers flights into Santa Fe from several cities - you'll pay about $100 each way, but you'll save the cost of a shuttle (Sandia Shuttle was $48 for a round-trip reservation) and the time needed to drive to Santa Fe.

Have a car, but don't have a car.

As much as I loved the area surrounding the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe, after 24 hours I would have enjoyed wandering a little outside of the city center.  Hiking, eating and even just driving through non-touristy neighborhoods would have all been enjoyable but weren't possible without a car.  I learned that I need a balance between the avoidance of downtown parking nightmares and the freedom to flee when desired.


Take time to listen.

The sounds in downtown Santa Fe were consistently amusing and informative.  Diverse languages and outlooks, overheard suggestions of activities and insights from locals - all floated through the air while I sat in the Plaza or walked the streets.  But most of all, there was music.  The balloon artist who always carried an old-school boombox, an old man with a beat up guitar, and the young girl who was an amazing cellist...they were all much better than stuffing earphones in and ignoring the world around me.



Take time to watch.

The sights of Santa Fe are as notable as the sounds, though not as harmonious.  I never knew what I would see - from colorful posts across windows to inspiring/confusing Collections of Things on a street corner.

Carry dollar bills.

I will forever carry guilt that I didn't contribute to the fund in that cellist's music case.  She played some of the most beautiful music I have heard in a very long time and clearly poured her heart into the effort whether or not anyone was listening.  I was rooted to the spot for an hour and if I'd had some dollars in my purse I would have felt more comfortable openly turning the performance into my own personal concert.

Buy a newspaper.

I traveled to Santa Fe armed with years-old clippings from newspapers that a dear friend loaned me.  They were helpful but even more accurate was the entertainment section in the Friday paper.  Buy a copy on the street or sweet talk one from the concierge at the La Fonda hotel (you can guess which one I did) - it's a priceless addition to planning a weekend itinerary, or spontaneously delving into Santa Fe's arts and music scene.  It allowed me to find a free bell choir concert at a local church, country music in a restaurant and breathtaking flamenco dancing, all in a 24-hour timeframe.



Visit the train.

I wasn't lucky enough to take the Railrunner from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, but I spent a lot of time alongside it.  The Station coffee shop became my favorite place in the city - it made me feel both like a cherished visitor and an average local, which I consider to be an irreplaceable quality in any good coffee shop.  I basked in the sun one morning, watching residents with puppies and tourists with cameras walk to the nearby farmers' market, and I hid inside to avoid the blistering winds that arrived the next day.  Both were wonderful experiences and, combined with the thoughtful ability to both buy and mail postcards from The Station, it was the perfect Santa Fe hangout.

Read Willa Cather.

The churches of downtown Santa Fe are beautiful even to a newcomer, but my love for Death Comes to the Archbishop made me feel as if I was treading on sacred historical ground.  Befriend Jean Marie Latour and you'll have a much deeper, more personal connection to the cathedral loving overseen by the real-life Jean-Baptiste Lamy.


Order it "for here."

There were plenty of tourists grabbing food quickly or to go in between sightseeing stops, but my favorite times were in the uncomfortable table-for-one setting.  Whether over a meal or a refreshing cup of tea, from there I watched countless nationalities absorb the southwest, separated the best art galleries and the ones that people quickly left, and shamelessly eavesdropped on other visitors' thoughts of the town we visited.


Move in.
The downtown Santa Fe hotels all looked lovely, though I was partial to La Fonda because of the great location and that friendly concierge who gave me his newspaper.  But if you're trying to save money or want to find a home away from home, try one of the many home/apartment short-term rentals listed on sites like VRBO.com.  It's where I found my little Santa Fe haven and while the process of renting it was slightly more difficult than online hotel reservations, I really enjoyed having my own space at the end of the day.  And even in just three days, I felt like a part of the neighborhood - one neighbor moved out across the street and I learned which dogs to admire and which to avoid just like I was putting down roots.  Stability without roots: every nomad's dream.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Wonder

In honor of the Washington, DC travel tip published today by Weekend Trips (check it out here), today's Wednesday Wonder photo is from my trip to DC in 2011. 
 
 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tapas, Tea and Tempos

My last 24 hours in Santa Fe were filled with lots of my favorite things.  Since writing about the many hours I spent lazily watching House Hunters International in my rented guesthouse isn't very exciting (I never get to do that when I'm home!), I'll focus on the dancing and eating.

Flamenco dancing was the second dance I ever truly loved.  My first love was square dancing, due to my grandfather's regular performances when I was growing up.  He and his girlfriend would spend hours spinning around other couples at both inside and outside dances, and for most of my life when I thought of dance, it was the rhythmic swirl of multi-colored skirts and twirling couples that immediately came to mind.  While I'm sure dance aficionados will cringe when I say this, I see many similarities between square dance and flamenco.  The full, layered skirts designed to flare just the right amount. The stomping feet, the varied tempos.  Now that I've seen more of the world I definitely prefer flamenco, though I will always love those memories of Grandpa.  I love flamenco because of its solitude.  The dancer relies heavily on the musician(s), but really good flamenco dancers seem able to shut out absolutely everything except the music, the pounding of their feet, the movements that seem to be almost out of their control.

There are some chances to watch flamenco dancing in Phoenix but I don't pursue them often enough, so I was delighted to learn that I was in Santa Fe for the one night a month that El Mesón hosts a flamenco show.    With $10 for the entrance fee and some lucky timing, I managed to get a reservation at the "non-bar bar," a counter that ran along one wall near the stage.  The angle posed significant danger to my neck, which was twisted throughout the entire evening to watch the show, but it was definitely better than taking up one of the few tables while dining alone.  I have no problem dining alone - most of the time I really enjoy it.  It's a confidence-building exercise that sometimes leads to new friends and always causes deeper appreciation of the food in front of me.  But I'd never eaten tapas alone, an activity that suddenly felt like an extreme sport when I opened the menu and saw this introduction.


I laughed, then promptly ordered enough food for me, myself and I.  And we ate every bit of it.

The only thing better than the patatas dos salsas was the dancing.  Three dancers, one singer, one guitarist - all wonderful.  I learned that I much prefer flamenco without the singing - the drama of a diva clashed with the simple passion of the dancers - but it was easy to tune out the voice when the walls echoed with the pounding of feet and clapping of hands as the dancers cheered each other on.





Since Saturday included such memorable Spanish food, it seemed only natural that Sunday begin with a sinfully good French breakfast.  I braced myself for an inevitable touristy experience and entered The French Pastry Shop inside La Fonda hotel.  The aura was disappointing and not at all French.  Sleepy-eyed tourists were crowded around small tables served by waitresses who offered the bare minimum of care for the diners.  A radio station played Spanish music quietly between lengthy advertisements.  A pleasant bell rang whenever someone entered the shop, which I enjoyed until I realized it just meant more people crammed into the space around my table.  But while the shop didn't exude the relaxed yet fervent feeling I love about Parisian dining, the food was delightful.  I didn't even pretend to aim for health or balance, and enjoyed every bite of the overpriced whipped cream and raspberry crêpe.


I'm glad I gave the pastry shop a chance, but I much preferred the breakfasts I got at The Station.  A coffee shop located (obviously) in an old train station next to the still-operational train tracks, The Station became my favorite place in Santa Fe as soon as I stepped inside.  It's one of those perfect places that has a spot for everything: on a windy day I enjoyed a corner surrounded by windows and comfy seats, on a sunny morning I read a paper on the patio and eavesdropped on the baristas enthusiastically welcoming the locals who stopped by every morning.  There's a comforting familiarity in the sudden whoosh of a milk steamer and the clunk of an espresso machine, especially when joined with an aptly-timed soundtrack of "Hopeless Wanderer" by Mumford and Sons.
 
 
I loved the details of my last day in Santa Fe.  The cold wind that whipped around but allowed me to wear one of my treasured scarves that must remain hidden in the closet during Phoenix's blistering summers.  The solitude of being the only passenger of a quiet shuttle driver on the way back to the airport.  The admirable attempt at a Cinco de Mayo celebration with old cars (five  of them, appropriately) cruising the streets of the Plaza bedecked in paper flowers and overflowing with Mexican beats and enthusiastic shouts from passengers.  And the knowledge that even a short airplane ride still excites my sense of travel and adventure.