Fall in Arizona means desert dwellers and out-of-state visitors swarming to the north and east parts of the state to the mountains to see aspen, oak and maple leaves changing color. They often overlook a visit to the Verde Valley for the cottonwoods, willows and sycamores. Along the Verde River, Oak Creek and Sycamore Creek they’ll find a wide array of spectacular scenery and fall color changes. One Sunday in early October, we opted to make a way to Sycamore Creek Canyon to hike the Parsons Springs Trail. Although it was a bit early for the most dramatic colors below the Mogollon Rim, we were still able to spot a few splashes of yellow, splashed against a canvas of azure blue.
Parsons Springs Trail is a beautiful 7-mile out and back walk along the creek, crossing about six times and before reaching Parsons Springs. Unfortunately, due to some tire issues on the way into Cottonwood, we had to cut short our hike on this particular outing.
Sycamore Creek serves as swimming hole for some brave, hot souls during the summer. On this particular fall day, water flows were slow. The creek appeared stagnant, buggy and muddy in spots. No wading or swimming this time!
We loved the 360-degree views of the canyon at the trailhead. The parking lot has plenty of space for a tailgate picnic after hiking. The trail was quiet; we only encountered a few hikers on the way in, a few more coming back. A few had overnight packs, indicating they likely had set up camp in the wilderness area north of Parson Springs.
A clear, sunny and relatively cool day in Sycamore Canyon reminds one of a creekside landscape in an eastern or midwestern state: Shady with lush, thick growth along the path. But you only need to look up to the red rock walls and your thoughts will be transported back to Arizona. Watch out for poison ivy; we spotted several patches.
The trail is relatively level, with only a slight incline heading back to the parking lot. Molly was getting hot and tired toward the end of the afternoon, and after a couple of hours, we had our appetite worked up for a bite to eat at one of our favorite cafes in Old Town Cottonwood.
It was too bad to see our shiny, new Subaru Forester so dusty, but that’s why we bought it, to award it with a little dirt and dust while exploring Arizona and western states. We didn’t need to use the 4WD for this trip, but it was nice to know we had it, plus we easily cleared any high spots on the road.
Late September through November is prime time for fall foliage excursions around Arizona. Get out and explore!
Not that kind of gas! Gasoline. Fuel for your Ford or Fiat. Over the past few months, we’ve noticed that some of the best taquerias are those located immediately adjacent to gas stations. Combine your fuel stop with a food stop. Location, location, location!
Las Palapas Taco Grill
One such restaurant is Las Palapas Taco Grill in Yuma, Ariz. Our trips to San Diego recently have been more frequent and we have made it a point to stop in Yuma for gas. (It’s also a few cents per gallon less here than in California.) Next to the Chevron off of Interstate 8, on Fortuna Road is Las Palapas. It’s a counter service eatery and each meal is made to order. Expect a little bit of a wait during busy times, but we’ve always been very satisfied with the quality of the food and quick service.
We’ve been a patron of Las Palapas probably four or five times and all the tacos we’ve eaten have been delicious: Ensenada fish tacos, Baja shrimp tacos, pastor and carne asada steak tacos. There’s no scrimping on the fillings. The fish tacos are among my favorites. Although the menu says it’s Alaskan pollock, the fish tastes so fresh and is perfectly breaded and fried; it actually melts in your mouth! You’d think you’re sitting next to the Sea of Cortez eating a fisherman’s catch of the day. The salsa bar provides a variety of tasty hot and mild choices for both topping and dipping. Tortilla chips are crispy and fresh.
Don’t be discouraged by a few negative comments on some restaurant review sites. To us, Las Palapas Taco Grill never disappoints. We look forward to our next taco lunch!
El Salsas Taco Shop
Another taqueria we have recently discovered, is on the route from Phoenix to Las Vegas in Kingman.Just as Yuma is sort of our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and San Diego; Kingman is our unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Immediately adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 40 and State Route 93 is El Salsas Taco Shop. If you can’t find it on the map, just look for the Chevron gas station. It’s next door.
We’ve been to El Salsas only once, but judging by some of the other patrons’ reviews, it’s among the best you’ll find for a quick and convenient taco lunch on your next trip through Kingman. The entrance is unassuming; you’ll find it tucked neatly next door to the Chevron’s convenience mart.
The time we stopped, I ordered the fish (my favorite) and Chuck opted for the carne. Our tacos were fresh and very tasty, and like Las Palapas, they also feature a well-stocked salsa buffet. Tasty tortillas and plenty of fresh meat (or fish), and veggie fillings made these tacos memorable. We’ll have to return or another meal here soon. Who’s ready for a trip to Vegas or northwest Arizona?
Next time you’re driving through Yuma or Kingman, Arizona, take a travel tip from me: Get gas and eat tacos!
Often our trips to the Palm Springs, Calif. area involve little more than dining, shopping, relaxing poolside with an icy drink and a good book. We wanted to do a bit more this visit; we planned a couple of hikes, a tramway trip to the top of San Jacinto Mountains followed by the inevitable dining, shopping and relaxing poolside. But we found ourselves in the first week of this month with temperatures well below the average, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and at the top of the mountain: snow. Which brings us to the number one travel tip: Always have a “plan b.”
The first morning we started out with a short hike. The winds were whipping around the desert at 30 mph, so we located a short hike that was somewhat protected by nearby hills and a thousand or so palms: the easy 1.7 miles to McCallum Pond at Coachella Valley Preserve.
Our second hike on this getaway weekend was also fairly short. We made the 1.8-mile climb up to Tahquitz Canyon Falls.
Both hikes are excellent for all ages and abilities. Both offer great views, geographic variety and photographic possibilities. Both can be prime activities for those looking for one to two hour excursions to supplement a day of shopping, sightseeing, a round of golf or lounging poolside.
In the case of inclement weather, always have a few indoor activities lined up. Several museums, shopping malls, galleries in the area provide indoor things-to-do. Because both my husband and I enjoy craft beer, we opted to visit two of several craft beer breweries. One is La Quinta Brewing in La Quinta, a 15-20 minute drive from Palm Springs. Old Town La Quinta is a picturesque and pleasant array of shops, galleries and eateries.
Beers sampled at La Quinta included the Poolside Blonde, an easy-drinking, light blonde ale, the Bloody Hot Summer, a refreshing, fruity beer, the Even Par 7.2 IPA, a smooth, perfectly balanced IPA, the Heatwave Amber Ale, a tasty brew with malt and caramel, and the Koffi Porter, with rich coffee, chocolate and malt.
Coachella Valley Brewing (or CVB) has many types of brews with a wide variety of flavors and blends, something for almost everyone, except the amber, red or brown ale drinker. Beers we enjoyed were the I-10 IPA, a lower alcohol session IPA, the Kolschella, a refreshing Kolsch-style German ale, the Harvester, an imperial IPA with grapefruit, and the Palms to Pines, a triple IPA at 13 percent APV!
After a weekend of wind and rain, we wrapped up our getaway with a day of abundant sunshine next to the Westin Mission Hills pool. We like to recommend: Allow ample time on the last day to let the events of your vacation soak in. Let the intermittent bursts of kids splashing and laughing blended with faint sounds of different styles of music and low rumble of adult chatter lull you into relaxation as you turn the page of your book or magazine or swipe your Kindle. Gaze up at the sun through the palms, take a deep breath and know: no matter what the weather or other environmental factors; you’ve had the time to unwind.
Most travel writers will inform readers about all the highlights, most iconic things to do and see in a particular part of Arizona. Sedona Arizona is a prime example. Guidebooks and information centers are plentiful, offering the most popular (and most populated) sights. They steer people to such sights as Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock, Slide Rock and Bell Rock… all those rocks! But so many excellent activities and sights are not given enough due in other websites. Here are a few:
Many folks travel to nearby wineries for tasting. Most will sample the vintages at Page Springs Vineyards and Oak Creek Vineyards. We suggest also including a stop and spending a bit more time at Javelina Leap. Step behind the winery’s original main tasting room into the new “Arizona Room” and you’ll find a larger gathering spot for trying out the best vintages from Javelina Leap. There’s even a airy patio for nibbling and noshing when the weather’s right. We not only sampled wines, but some excellent appetizers — tapas — to cleanse our palate.
Before you spend an afternoon instagramming rock cairns at Red Rock Crossing, which by the way will now cost you $10 to park, visit Red Rock State Park. for a short stroll along Oak Creek or a moderate climb to Eagle’s Nest. It’s amazing what you may see along the way.
Many Sedona/Cottonwood visitors may have Montezuma’s Castle on their itinerary, but Montezuma’s Well — maybe not so much. Stop at Montezuma Well and follow the trail to the end. You’ll see the native inhabitants’ cliff dwellings and natural springs which feed the well. Roaming rangers and docents will provide the history of the well and its original water users.
The Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas is coming up fast! Trek fans: Do you remember your first Star Trek Convention? If you were like me (a convention newbie in 2011), for your first convention you wanted just three things: to see everything, do everything and know everything. In an attempt to be the most prepared as possible for my first convention, I searched the Internet for any advice or tips I could find for Trek convention-goers. Some of you may remember asking the same questions: Do I need to wear a Starfleet uniform? Do I need to dress up as a Klingon? Do I need to learn the Klingon language? Do I need to eat gagh, drink blood wine and participate in mating rituals? (Okay, maybe not the last one.)
Well, this blog post is NOT an attempt to answer those questions, but I can offer a few tips to those who are new to the convention. These tips may also be useful to those of you who are ‘con veterans’ but are new to the next week’s event, which runs August 8-11.
At the Rio Las Vegas Resort & Casino:
Sign up for a Total Rewards card. Even if you don’t plan to gamble, it’s worth the five minutes it takes to apply online. Have your card number handy when you check in to your Rio suite and you can start earning reward points immediately. Show your card everywhere. Not only can you continue to earn points for comps and deals for future visits to any Caesar’s Entertainment resort, but you’ll immediately reap benefits with shopping and dining discounts while at the Rio. Look for the reduced Total Rewards prices on Rio restaurant menus. Read the FAQs and fine print and shop through Total Rewards retail partners throughout the year — inactivity will cause your points to expire in six months.
Make advance dinner reservations. Why wait in long restaurant lines with a bunch of overpowering Jem’Hadar? Advance dinner booking may work best if you’re confident you’ll be dining on a particular day and time. For example, if you’re already planning a meetup with your fellow Ferengi for a 7 p.m. Friday night dinner at the All-American Bar & Grille, know you can make that reservation online and not wait for a table. (Not available at all Rio eateries.)
Enjoy the resort and the city. Gamble, shop, eat, drink, go to shows — do all that Vegas-type stuff. Get to know what’s playing and who’s performing, whether it’s part of the convention or not. Relax at the pool. Check out the VooDoo Lounge. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment. Explore one of the new casinos. Smart con-goers pad their stay with a day or two before or after the convention for this purpose. (Also see “10 reasons to stay at the Rio.”)
Ask for a map. Especially if you’re new to the Rio, a small map or smartphone image helps immensely. There’s nothing more humbling (or embarrassing if you’re not alone) than walking for half an hour down the wrong hallway… of the wrong floor… of the Ipanema Tower. Only you suddenly realize your room is in the Masquerade Tower! You could ask for one at check-in or find some handy maps and property info on Caesars’ properties website.
At the Convention:
Pack some snacks. Speaking of long walks, it’s a fair jaunt out from the room towers to the convention wing. Now I (almost) understand why so many ‘non-disabled’ people use those mobility scooters! At my first two conventions, I found it helpful to pack some granola or protein bars to nibble on between panel sessions. Hopefully, again this year a deli-type food concession will be set up adjacent to the registration rotunda for light breakfast and lunch. You may want to bring along a plastic water bottle to fill up at one of the many water stations.
On a related note: Wear comfortable shoes. Standing, walking, waiting: you’ll need them. Even if you need special footwear to complete a costume or to comply with strict Starfleet (or Guinness World Record) uniform regulations, you’ll eventually want to slip into a pair of flip-flops or sneakers.
Don’t forget batteries and chargers — for the laptops, tablets, cameras, phones, phasers, tricorders or portable transporter devices. I like my Mophie Juice Pack for iPhone – it gives me almost an extra day of usage, while on my cell service network. The alternative is paying $13.95 per day wireless internet access in the room or $22.95 per day for access throughout the resort. Of course for some, like those who require WiFi, those extra fees may not seem like a such a bad deal.
Take your time in the dealers room. You may want to plan your tour around the dealers room. For example, you might compare the dealers room to the galaxy: Divide it into quadrants and get ready to explore… or assimilate. Back in 2011, I had the temptation to run around and see every vendor and celebrity in the first hour of the first day. Now I take my time: talking to the vendors, enjoying the parade of fans, chatting with the celebrities, shopping for souvenirs and collectibles — posters, shirts, jewelry, accessories and props.
Take advantage of phone apps, websites and social media. Regularly check Twitter using the hashtag #STLV. This is a great way to stay in the loop with all the impromptu meetups, breaking convention announcements or last-minute schedule changes. Keep track your convention activities with Bloodhound, a smartphone app developed for business conferences. With Bloodhound, you can customize your own schedule of events, view maps, connect with other attendees, and link to Twitter and Facebook.
Help set a new Guinness World Record for most Star Trek costumes in location. After my blog post on Trekmovie.com about the record attempt, I found a webpage outlining the costume regulations. It’s from a Texas Lottery promotion’s attempt from earlier this year. Please set your alerts and alarms to be there. Hopefully the powers that schedule events this year won’t put competing sessions during the half hour or so it takes to complete the World Record attempt.
Finally, and probably the most unnecessary tip: Have fun! I say “unnecessary” because at my first two conventions, I was so amazed and impressed! There’s no dispute — Star Trek fans are the best! They’re the most friendly, patient, courteous, helpful, fun-loving, tolerant convention attendees! Where else can you find several thousand people with different backgrounds, ages, nationalities (or from different planets?) with one common bond? If the Star Trek community is like a big family, the convention is a big family… on vacation!
Please add to this list: What convention tips can you suggest?
Note: Please check out Trekmovie.com for “all things Star Trek,” including news, information and opinions about Star Trek TV shows, movies, events, science & technology, and celebrities. This article is cross-posted there.
Travel sizes, trial sizes, samples, small regular sizes — so many sizes! What size do you pack for your trip? Do you simply toss into your suitcase your regular-sized, daily use products at the last minute? Do you make special shopping trips to the Target travel size aisle and stock up your supply for your vacation? Do you save up complimentary hotel products for future trips? Do you wait until you reach your destination and hope for the best? It seems there’s a different travel-size behavior for every traveler.
First of all, let’s talk about trial sizes and samples. The only time I pack trial sizes would be for a one or two-night road trip, because trial sizes and samples probably won’t provide enough for any longer stays. However, sample colognes, hair treatments and lotions may be a really nice way to pamper yourself while on vacation or at the end of a long day after that out-of-town business seminar.
Some travelers just have to use their own personal products. Of course, if you need specialized hair and skin products because of dermatologist’s recommendation, then you either pack your regular size products or buy refillable plastic travel size bottles to accommodate your specialized shampoos, lotions or soaps. I love my Cerave skin cream, but I’m not tempted to bring a five-gallon tub of it when I travel. My skin will survive a few days with a travel size Eucerin or Lubriderm or even a hotel product.
Some folks are like free spirits when it come to travel sizes. They pack their toothbrush and comb and then depend on the hotel or resort for shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion… and they’re good to go… and stay. If they’re staying at a fairly decent hotel or resort, there’s no problem. Nicer hotels often will provide better lotions and mouthwash. Some may even make available an entire dental kit, with brush, paste, floss, mouthwash and denta-picks. Some luxury resorts may also provide more kits: shoe shine kit, sewing kit, shaving kit, nail care kit and eyeglass kit. There may even be a kit for kaboodles.
Travelers may find some nice locally-made products such as lotions and candles in the hotel gift shop. These make wonderful mementos. Also, there’s a lot to be said for discovering great new lotions and potions when traveling. It’s part of that “ooh-ahh” resort-spa travel experience. At the Wild Horse Pass Resort’s Aji Spa shop, I discovered an excellent, aromatic exfoliating foot soak. I couldn’t leave without buying some “to-go.”
Some travelers like the luxury experience when they choose travel sizes. They will pack their expensive mini bottles of shampoos, conditioners, masks, rinses, mists and lotions in carefully packaged bottles from home. Some will shop onsite for the top local products. They may go to extra lengths to pack them — taping the bottles shut, wrapping in plastic wrap, putting them in waterproof bags then packing them in upscale, luggage-coordinated hanging toiletry bags and shaving kits.
Other travelers are more practical. These folks like to plan their travel size packing, comparing products’ weight, mass, volume, “leak-ability” and make purchases according to trip length. That’s the category I’m putting myself. (Okay, I may be a bit OCD when it comes to travel sizes.) Occasionally, I’m really happy with a certain shampoo I’m currently using, so I’ll buy a refillable container for that, and maybe one for a conditioner. Soaps and shower gels: I’m not so picky. I usually just use whatever the hotel housekeeping staff sets out on the bathroom counter.
For deodorants and anti-perspirants, it’s another scenario. I used to buy a “travel size” but then I realized: the regular size of my favorite deodorant is usually not much larger than the travel size. It doesn’t make much sense to buy a special travel size when the regular size is sold for much less per ounce. And the regular size weighs only two ounces more than the travel size. Next time I see my brand at CVS on sale two-for-one, I’ll grab one for my bathroom cabinet and the other for my travel bag. The same point can be made for hand sanitizer. The small, regular hand sanitizer isn’t much larger than the itsy-bitsy travel size hand sanitizer. Why would you need this miniscule orb rolling around in your luggage or carry-on? Items that small go into some sort of trans-dimensional portal in my bag and are never seen again.
With toothpaste, it’s a toss up. If you’re bringing only a carry-on, you’re required to carry the one-ounce toothpaste, rather than the small regular six ounce size tube. But if you’re checking your bags, a few extra ounces of paste may not make a difference. I could go either way. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can make a travel size tube of paste last a long, long time.
Now you can’t say the same for mouthwash. It’s a no brainer. Few travelers I know will carry a big jug of mouthwash with them in any kind of luggage. You almost have to get the travel size of Scope, Listerine or other brand. Refillable bottles don’t work well for mouthwash. You may need two or three of these travel size mouthwash bottles — since an ounce and a half of Scope mouthwash is probably only enough for a two mornings. Listerine has a 3.2 ounce size but, if you have a carry-on, what do you do with the 0.2 ounce? Gulp it while waiting in the security line just so your breath is minty fresh for the TSA agent?
Common sense will dictate your travel size product usage. Just ask yourself: Do I need to take my specialized products? How long is my trip? Can I buy items upon arrival? Can I use hotel products? Do I need to be concerned about additional weight and mass in my luggage?
Finally, some hotels have discontinued various complimentary bath and shower products over the years. Some of these I really miss. Holiday Inn used to provide a light but long-lasting hand and body lotion in some of its properties that smelled like a Creamsicle. Los Abrigados Resort’s Sedona Spa line of products at one time included a wonderful coconut-scented shampoo — and it was so rich and creamy. Fortunately most big name resorts often offer their products in online shops. That way, you can purchase that “ooh-ahh” spa experience for your own home.
Packing for your next vacation? What will you take? If you’re flying, there’s much to consider. Should you only use a carry-on or check your bags? You can find an abundance of tips online to help eliminate possibility of excess airline fees — and back strain.
When I was packing for my recent 10-day vacation to the United Kingdom, I decided to use the simplest methods possible — packing only what I thought was absolutely necessary — at least so I thought. I had not packed enough of some items, and had over-packed with other non-essentials. Packing for an international vacation is like any other trip. You want the least amount of weight in the smallest suitcase, but you want to take it all! Packing simply requires a lot of common sense and a little ingenuity. I know many of my readers who are experienced travelers have tons of tips. Feel free to add these to comments below and help me improve — for my next trip!
Make a list. Check it twice. (Sorry.) Categorize your list first by items such as clothes, outerwear, shoes, toiletries, medicines, hats, documents, electronics, etc. Then rearrange your list for each bag or container: carry-on, checked bag (if necessary), personal item, pockets.
Layout your items on a flat surface. See how much you’re really going to pack in your suitcase before actually start loading it up. This will avoid unpacking and repacking. If your suitcase has been in the closet, storage unit or garage, check it for stowaway critters such as scorpions. I was stung while packing for a Mexico trip a couple of years ago, and I’ve read accounts that passengers have been stung after boarding a flight.
Consider each item before tossing it mindlessly in your luggage. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? What happens if I don’t take it? Can I buy it at my destination? For example, I probably don’t need a full-size shower gel or a large bottle of Tylenol. I can survive with a smaller amount for a week long trip. Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, goos, pastes, gels — all of these pile on the luggage weight. Consider packing basics such as comb, toothbrush and paste, floss, deodorant, shavers, moisturizer and a little bit of makeup. You can probably purchase the remaining sundries at your destination.
Make good use of your shoes. Use Oxfords, sneakers and boots as containers for socks, belts, phone chargers and other small or even breakable items. I usually wear my heaviest footwear — such as sneakers — to the airport, just because I never know when I’ll be spending most of the day on my feet, or running through the airport. Then I’ll pack a pair of dressy shoes, boots or sandals, depending on my destination. My other only footwear is a pair of flip-flops which I pack in the outer, zip compartment of my soft-sided, zippered suitcase. Along with one magazine, these add some stability to my aging, worn suitcase.
If you can, try to eliminate the checked bag and only use a carry-on bag and personal item. I prefer a soft-sided rolling duffel, but currently for most week or 10 day trips, I use a rectangle case measuring about 20 x 14 by 6 inches. It’s small and light enough for me to lift on to the security check conveyor and the plane’s overhead compartment. Most airlines restrict the carry-on size to 22 x 14 by 9. Many passengers really try to push the envelope with those “expandable” carry-on bags. You know who you are.
My personal item is either a larger “hobo” bag or a smaller backpack which will fit under the airline seat. Personal bag contents: Wallet with one credit card, passport, cell phone, Chromebook, camera, sunglasses, headphones, tissues, prescriptions, mints, water and snacks. If I will need to check a piece of luggage, and I have room in my personal item, I will consider packing a change of clothing.
Consider getting rid of the “purse” and packing a small cross-body bag for use at your destination. I pack away small purse in my carry-or my personal item. I bought a small camera backpack in which I would put all my valuables and personal items. It’s a CaseLogic DSLR pack I found on Amazon that not only carries all my gear in neat and compact accessory compartments and zippered pockets, but also fits nicely under the the airline seat. This backpack also fits my Chromebook very neatly. Okay, it may weigh a few pounds, especially when I add a bottle of water, extra lenses and snacks, but I’d much rather tuck a bit of weight underneath my seat and carry it on my back, than attempt to hoist a larger, heavier pack above my head to the overhead bin and strain my back and shoulder pulling it in tow. (Sigh, I guess I’m either too proud or stingy to use a SmarteCarte.)
Carry-on (or checked bag if absolutely necessary) contents: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, sweaters, jackets — and roll them up tightly — even those unmentionables. I’m not sure if this is something to brag about, but I can fit 10 pairs of rolled undies into a quart size Ziplock bag. Rolls of clothes can wrap around every curve and cubbyhole of your luggage. If you’re unsure about your destination’s weather, plan to dress in layers.
Pack apparel that can do double duty. For instance, maybe a nice performance workout tank can double as a tankini swimsuit top. Or maybe gym shorts can substitute as swim trunks.
My goal is to save money, and save my back — eliminate the excess: Less to pack, less to tote, less to lose, less to worry about on your vacation.
Who has packing tips and suggestions? I would love to hear some of yours!
If you’re looking for cool ways to spend a summer Arizona weekend, consider spending a day, weekend or — even an entire week in pet-friendly Prescott. Just like we do, our furry best friends also deserve an cool getaway during the coming ‘dog days’ of summer. Here are some suggestions for Prescott:
Start a Saturday morning by visiting the Prescott Farmers Market at Yavapai College. The market is held weekly from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the college parking lot, at 1100 East Sheldon Street. Find local produce vendors, crafty-types, ready-to-eat brunch and lunch items, artists and live music. We strolled the booths shopping for mesquite honey, artisan breads, homemade soaps and farm-fresh veggies while listening to laidback tunes such as a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” We snacked on authentic Kenyan samosas — a delicious baked pastry, puffed and stuffed with one of several meats — beef, pork, chicken or chorizo.
We shared our samosas with our border collie, Molly who politely walked along the aisles of this ample farmers market. Know that the Prescott Farmers Market has a policy for dogs — mostly just common sense — but we acknowledge some dog owners need to be reminded: Keep your dog leashed, close to your side, away from the market vendors’ wares.
If there’s a show, exhibit, fair or some other type of activity at Courthouse Plaza (and there usually is on summer weekends), you’ll want to check that out, so venture over to downtown Prescott. Because our visit fell on Memorial Day weekend, we were fortunate the 39th Annual Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale was in full swing at Courthouse Plaza. It seems most western art buffs must be dog lovers as well — numerous vendors, shoppers, both visitors and locals had brought their canine pets to the square.
Some events at Courthouse Plaza in fact, are just for dogs. The first weekend of June was Woof Down Lunch, a fundraiser to benefit United Animal Friends. The annual event is a pet fair featuring training demonstrations, contests, handcrafted pet food, music and pet adoptions. It was held on June 1st, so we just missed this event but we’ll mark our calendars for next year. Coming up in the fall on October 6th is the 7th Annual Dogtoberfest and Adop-a-Thon, sponsored by The Prescott Dog and the City of Prescott.
After the show, you’ll undoubtedly want a bite to eat. And you won’t have to travel far to find a dog-friendly patio restaurant in downtown Prescott. We opted for the Firehouse Kitchen, just half a block and around the corner from Whiskey Row. We did not see any Dalmations at this two-level firehouse, but we did notice some well-behaved dogs with their owners. Know there are TWO dog patio (one on each level) to allow enough space for pooches to spread out. Our server brought us our lunch meals without hardly any wait, considering this very busy weekend. Chuck ordered a satisfying crab melt with tomato and avocado, covered with cheddar cheese and served on an English muffin. I selected a delicious barbecue brisket sandwich on Kaiser roll with sweet potato fries. Molly noshed on doggie treats from home. She was very impressed that our server brought out a dish of water. Being on second floor, Molly enjoyed watching the street traffic below while we dined. A perfect lunch!
After lunch, you and “Fido” may want to exercise off some calories at a local dog park. Willow Creek Park, located at 3181 Willow Creek Road, is a City of Prescott dog park. Take some time to let your dog run off steam without the leash before heading back to the Valley or checking into your hotel room.
If you need suggestions for pet-friendly overnight lodging, more dining options or things to do with your dog in Prescott, there are a number of websites with information. Here’s a partial list:
One we checked out before our trip is The Prescott Dog, a locally managed website. The information seems to be fairly comprehensive, current and accurate, but we make it practice to confirm pet policies of restaurants and hotels before we go. Two downtown pet-friendly Prescott hotels at which we previously have stayed are Hassayampa Inn and SpringHill Suites Prescott. If hotel lodging isn’t an option for you, consider of several nearby campgrounds in Prescott National Forest.
Take the opportunity to visit pet-friendly Prescott at least one weekend this summer. It’s the perfect way to escape the Valley’s hot ‘dog days.’ We already have planned our next weekend in Prescott.
Tabacon is located at the base of Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna de San Carlos. Geothermal hot springs in the local area have made it extremely popular for tourists. Although there are several places to experience the hot springs, Tabacon — with its beautiful gardens, iconic waterfalls, natural wading pools and romantic private grottos — remains on the bucket list of many travelers. Here are some items to consider if you plan to visit this beautiful resort and attraction:
Opt for an overnight stay at one of the nearby resorts. If the nightly rates at Tabacon are out of your budget, if you’re visiting during a peak season, or if the only room available is one of the $1200 honeymoon suites: don’t despair. You can stay at a nearby resort such as the Arenal Lodge and still purchase a day pass for Tabacon. And unless you’re planning to stay a few nights and book several spa treatments, I’d recommend this option. For example, consider buying a day pass for a morning of soaking and strolling in the hot springs followed by a leisurely lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $70. Or you could get a pass for the entire day — from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. without a meal for $60. There are other meal/day pass package combinations available, and I would recommend having at least one meal at the resort, just to top off the experience.
Relax in the lobby bar. Okay, so you’ve decided to stay one or more nights at Tabacon, and maybe your bus or taxi has dropped you off before your room is ready. Know that you can explore the resort or simply relax in the lobby bar. This is a great place to catch up on some U.S. sporting events, or grab an appetizer while you wait for your room.
Explore the resort. Start out by walking Tabacon’s paths weaving through throughout the property. After getting settled in your suite, obtain a map and take some time to inspect the gardens. Take some dusk or nighttime photos of the spectacular plants and tropical flowers. Visit El Palenque Bar for happy hour at the far reaches of the grounds. Get to know your way around the resort before you spend the next day soaking in pools and being showered by warm waterfalls. You can learn at which water features you will want to spend most of your time.
Wear water shoes or at least flip-flops with some decent tread. Tabacon River rocks and stepping stones can be extremely slippery. Because this tropical paradise gets an average of 137 inches of rain and the springs supply a constant mist over the earth, almost every walkway seems constantly wet. Exercise extra caution when stepping into the deeper pools — and use care when negotiating a seat under the waterfalls — that water pressure is very high. Also, know that water temperatures vary. Some pools are a cool 77 degrees, while others are a steamy 102 degrees.
Schedule your spa treatment early. If you don’t reserve a massage or other spa treatment before you arrive, you may miss out. Consider making a reservation when you reserve your room — or at least a week before you arrive. These time slots will book up early — obviously even more so, during peak seasons such as late fall, winter and early spring.
Learn practical photography tips about shooting in high moisture areas. In an effort to save my new Canon from the moisture, I made the mistake of buying a single use, disposable, waterproof camera for my stay at Tabacon. Unfortunately, my prints — those taken while enjoying the pools and waterfalls — came out extremely grainy when I had them developed. I can’t say what exactly caused that, but I understand now there are much better ways to capture Tabacon experiences on film. I’ve heard this will help: Store the camera in an airtight plastic bag until it can brought outside and adjusted to the current temperature and humidity. Online searches will produce even more suggestions for photography in humid, moist, misty or foggy conditions. And just in case your photos didn’t turn out the best, you can always download some from the resort website.
Watch the volcano. You may not see much action, since Arenal’s activity level has decreased considerably since 2010. We visited in 2007, so we were fortunate to see Arenal still shooting up smoke and ash. And In the evening from our patio, we could distinguish a few strings of lava rolling down the mountain. Although volcanic activity has decreased, you may be fortunate to catch a rare display!
My recent vacation to Cambridge, UK was my first trip to England and with it, my first taste of dining and drinking at a ‘real’ English pub. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere of the pubs, I also learned some lessons the hard way about pub etiquette and I wanted to pass them along to readers.
Find an empty table, booth or place at the bar and seat yourself. When I first walked in to the Anchor Pub in Cambridge, UK I immediately assumed the comfortable looking couch and coffee table just inside the entrance was the place to wait for a host or hostess to show us to our table. Wrong! There are no pub hosts or hostesses – patrons just find a place and seat themselves. And ‘seat’ could mean any one of several options — couch, chair, bar stool, bench, patio chair. The pub’s interior furnishings look like it could be part of someone’s private home, and not a “public house” — hence the shortened identification form: pub.
Order from the bar
Not only are there no hostesses to show you to your seat, there are no waiters to take your food order at your table in an English pub. Patrons pick up a menu at the bar or at the table, and after having made their choices, one, some or all will go to the bar and place the order with the bar staff. (Best not to have all of you go to the bar, or you might lose your table.) You will also order your drink — and if you’re drinking a beer, it will likely be one of three or four Greene King beers or a “guest beer.” Greene King is a popular English brewery which distributes its beers to several of Cambridge’s pubs for draft service. Most pubs also seem to carry a variety of global favorites such as Guiness, Amstel, Stella, Peroni or Foster’s. You may even see the odd tap for Blue Moon or Corona. Another popular English drink is Pimm’s Cup — a kind of refreshing, fruity alcoholic drink often mixed with lemonade or ginger ale and splashed with fruit. It’s good for a warm English day when temps rise above 15 Celsius (which is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit — insert smiley face here). I prefer the ales and I found a couple from the Greene King brewery which I could ‘rather fancy’ — the Abbot Ale and the Morland Old Speckled Hen.
Pay up front, tax included and no tipping
After you’ve placed your food and drink order, and before you’re ready to return to your table, you will first need to pay. Everything is paid in advance. Cash is preferred and sales taxes at retail establishments such as shops, pubs and restaurants are already built into prices. This makes it handy, so you will know exactly what you will be paying. This also means you’re less likely — unlike in the U.S. — to threaten refusal to pay because of poor service or food quality. Also, tipping at pubs is not expected, in fact you may get some funny looks. Or they may just brush you off as another ignorant American tourist. Also, courtesy and etiquette are very much appreciated, even at the pubs so make sure you mind your manners. It’s only ‘proper,’ of course.
Kitchen or bar staff will serve your food
So by now you’re enjoying your pint of ale and the pub ambiance. A few locals who are done with their day’s work shift are sitting in the next room may have a couple of rounds’ head start on you. A few of their ‘mates’ could start singing old pub songs. Okay, you’d probably not see this much happening in the U.S. — at least not in this decade, or outside of an East Coast or Midwestern big city. But this is a great scenario, because you realize it’s another reminder you’re really in England. After your bar or kitchen staff serves your meal and returns to ask if you’d like anything else, what he or she doesn’t mean: if you’d like additional food. I guess they’re asking if you might need need a steak knife, some salt or more napkins… something like that. I made the mistake of saying, “Oh yes — we’d like some dessert.” Oops! Remember: If you want to order more food, another beer or dessert, you’ll need to head back to the bar.
Pub hours are a bit different
Some pubs may be open from lunchtime through the dinner hour until about 11 p.m., but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be serving food during all that time. In fact, many pubs (if they are open for lunch) tend to close up the kitchen from around 2 p.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. then close the kitchen again around 8 or 9 p.m. (Speaking of time, it’s helpful to get used to thinking in 24-hour — or military — time.) If you arrive during a time when the kitchen is closed, or you reach the bar to place your order and the bartender suddenly announces, “the kitchen has closed,” you may be able to order bags of ‘crisps’ to soak up those beers or Pimms.
And If you enter a pub and it’s crowded, it’s not considered courteous to stand around, lingering for a table or place at the bar to open up. Many patrons who come to the pub are there to drink, watch their team and may occupy their spot for a long while — much the same way we do here in the US at our sports bars.
Pub food and prices
Most of the menu items include the traditional English pub favorites: fish and chips, bangers and mash, steak and ale pie and burgers. Chips are fries, of course and they typically are the larger cuts of fries — what we would normally call steak fries or ‘wedges.’ Try some jacket potatoes (like our stuffed or twice baked varieties) or a side of mushy peas which is… exactly that. Some pubs have upgraded menus with more eclectic, innovative selections. For example, at the The Eagle, my friend and I split the pan fried salmon with chive polenta cakes and buttered cavolo nero along with a roasted beetroot, goat’s cheese and walnut salad with mixed greens and balsamic dressing. Most meals will run about seven or eight pounds ($11) and pints are about three or four pounds ($5). By the way, a pint in the UK is 20 ounces. It’s possible to order a half pint. Sunday ‘roast’ in the UK means a traditional noontime pub meal, but I missed my chance to enjoy that. Next time…
No doggie bags allowed
So you can’t finish your plate, eh? Well, don’t embarrass yourself by asking for a ‘doggie bag.’ It’s just not done in England. It’s one thing to go and order food for ‘take away’ (take-out) but it’s entirely different if you can’t finish what you’ve ordered, in fact it’s largely frowned upon. I couldn’t finish a plate of chips and a large burger but I wanted to take the rest of my burger back to the flat. (Yes, as a matter of fact — It was THAT good!) I was informed it would be more acceptable to wrap it in a napkin and sneak it out in my purse rather than to ask for a box.
Most pubs are family friendly – especially in tourism areas
I had heard a few years ago that children accompanying parents in pubs was not acceptable or appropriate, and in many locations, that may be still true, especially later in the evening. However, at many of the Cambridge pubs we visited, I frequently saw signs at the entrances, “Children Welcome” or “Family Friendly.” And I witnessed many a family at the pubs for an early dinner — ‘er, i mean ‘supper’ — after a day of shopping in the markets of central Cambridge.
Find more info on the Web
Naturally, these above items are based on my own perceptions after visiting five pubs over nine days during my stay in Cambridge. Like LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Find out more about English pub dining and etiquette on the Internet. Here’s a great site I found after I returned and I wished I had sought it out before my trip to the UK: Cambridge Pubs. It’s a comprehensive listing, but I’m not sure how up-to-date it’s kept, so combine the information there with review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor or travel sites like Lonely Planet and Frommer’s before you make your pub tour of Cambridge.
Don’t forget to say “Cheers!”
“Cheers” can mean “thanks,” “goodbye,” “agree” or “cheers.” The Brits seem to say it often. However it’s meant, it’s almost always said with a smile.