It's been a long
winter here in the Sandia Foothills of Albuquerque.
Unlike the lower elevation areas in town, we've been pounded with snow (relatively speaking, of course)
Our window and door installation has been dragging on, hindered
by measuring mistakes, weather delays and illness, and our
installer decided he wanted to work on finishing the drywall
windowsills and staining the newly installed doors and windows
all weekend. We needed to get out of here! We'd been talking
about going to Phoenix to enjoy some warmer weather and to look at some new dining chairs at Ikea
that will give a more updated look to our old wood table.
also had our eye on a couple different martini glasses (we've
become really into Hendrick's martinis lately) on-line at Crate & Barrel
and wanted to see them in person in order to make a decision.
Even though the forecast for the weekend was for disappointingly
chilly temps and rain, we decided to go anyway and let our
workers take over the house for the weekend, hoping for the
best on both fronts. We booked a room at the hip & trendy Clarendon Hotel
in Phoenix and hit the road at 2pm on Friday afternoon. It
was smooth sailing and we arrived before 9pm, in time for a
pleasant stroll around the Roosevelt Row/downtown and sports arena
area of Phoenix. It was temperate and dry...for now, at
After our initial exploration, we
checked into the Clarendon, a '60s-era motel-style property that
had been recently renovated with hipster aspirations and that
has received very mixed reviews from other travelers. Now
I know why. They have a great concept; they've created a kind of pool area/roof-top
deck lounge scene and you can order at the bar inside
and bring your drinks outdoors to enjoy. It's a pleasantly
casual and relaxed system. The pool area is nicely
outfitted with plenty of stylish chaise lounges, tables and
chairs and also giant lounge-y beds with fun striped cushions.
Hip lounge music plays throughout. Near the giant hot tub,
there is a 'waterfall
wall' on one whole side of the pool area that offers privacy for
the first floor rooms. Quite clever and very cool.
It 's got a good vibe - hip but not pretentious. The focus
is definitely on the pool area, unsurprisingly, and they've done
a great job there. Unfortunately, the overall feeling
is that the hotel is going broke. Even though it was very
dark, the furnishings on the roof-top deck appeared quite worse
for the wear, lacking any small resemblance to the beautiful
photos on their website. The lighting was poor (non-existent, in
fact). Of course it didn't help that it was too cold to
sit up there so it was almost deserted on a Friday night.
The rooms had the same oops-ran-out-of-money vibe and also just
seemed poorly managed. Upon entry, our room had that old
motel smell, aptly described as "dank" by a previous guest in a
review Caroline had read. Our room was extremely spacious,
feeling cavernous even with a king-size bed, but it had very little
additional furniture. The only
seating besides the bed was an upholstered desk chair, although all
of the other
rooms we peeked in each had a stylish wood Nelson platform bench
at the foot of the bed (hummpphh). While the color scheme was very
pleasing - a red accent wall and suede-like upholstery, espresso-color wood
furniture, white bedding with chocolate brown accents - the bedskirt was torn and had a stain, the furniture was chipped,
the desk lamp was missing the light bulb and the room was set up
for only one person - coffee supplies and cup for one, 2 bath towels
and one washcloth (no hand towels???), etc. To their credit, the towels they
did supply us with were quite nice, new and of high quality.
We also had to request robes for the hot tub (which was drained
and out of
service upon our arrival and usable but barely lukewarm
on our second and final night), which the website clearly states are
included in every room. It was just a shame that the hotel
wasn't better run because it really had huge potential.
It was just the kind of place we would conceive of, if we were
to open a hotel of our own (only we would hopefully be able to
manage it better!).
We awoke in our comfortable bed to
rain on Saturday morning and this would prove to be a continuing
theme of the weekend. But no time to waste, let's drive
around (it's kind of what you do in Phoenix, right?)!
After bagels from Safeway and a visit to Crate & Barrel (in
Scottsdale) we had plenty of time to see some parts of Phoenix,
which had previously been a mystery to us as we typically find
ourselves in Scottsdale (and Ikea) when in the area. Upon
leaving the decidedly upscale Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall
with 6 new martini glasses, we toured the lobbies of the
well-known Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced Arizona Biltmore hotel
and also the super cool, recently renovated mid-century Hotel
Valley Ho as we began our unofficial architecture tour of
Phoenix. As we continued on our drive around town, we
meandered through the Marlen Grove neighborhood, which is
comprised of a few blocks of gorgeously renovated mid-century
homes and also through the Historic Roosevelt neighborhood, with
its older but charming and well-kept homes conveniently located
close to downtown. In addition to cool neighborhoods,
Phoenix also has an impressive collection of parks and outdoor
spaces and at the south end of town, we checked out the
expansive views from the summit of South Mountain Park.
The rain even stopped long enough for a short hike on one of the
parks many desert trails.
After that welcome chance to
stretch our legs, we returned to the hotel for a quick change of
clothes, and then it was back to the Valley Ho for happy hour at
Trader Vic's, the famous Tiki-themed restaurant there.
Happy hour, first on their great patio and then in the bar when
it started to rain (again), turned into a fabulous dinner, as we
sampled nearly every small but delicious dish on the happy hour
appetizer menu! With a few drinks in our systems, we were
ready to face Ikea, where we bought 6 dining chairs and a small
shelf as planned, before returning to the Clarendon to climb
into bed (after a dip in the aforementioned lukewarm hot tub, of
course) after a rewardingly full day.
Sunday morning was reserved for a
tour at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright's famous architecture
school. We chose the hour-long 'Panorama' tour (the most
cost-effective tour but still pricey at $24 per person).
Even in the light rain it was an enjoyable hour of walking the
property, taking in the gorgeous desert landscapes and views,
observing the rustic architecture and learning a little about
the history of the school and of Frank Lloyd Wright himself.
Sadly, we felt it prudent to leave the camera in the car due to
the wet weather and so there are no pictures of our visit to
Taliesen. After the tour, it was time to think about
getting back home to the Land of Enchantment, but not before a
little more shopping at the Container Store, where we bought a
door-mount spice rack for the pantry...
Dobbin's overlook in South Mountain Park - note the puddles in
the foreground from all the rain!
Dobbin's overlook in Phoenix's South Mountain Park - yes, it was
cold enough for gloves!
We had just enough blue sky to take a short hike in South
Scott sets off on one of the many trails in South Mountain Park
Scott humors his photographer, agreeing to pose like a
felled saguaro off the trail
Hot tub (with prisma-colored mosaic tile divider/bridge)!
The snippet of blue sky we saw - better luck next time...