Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tucson Botanical Gardens Butterfly Magic

Tucson Botanical Gardens Butterfly Magic is awesome because there are so many butterflies in such a small space. It was especially fun for me as a photographer because the photo ops just don't stop. The light was perfect. Wear something bright, preferably a flower print if you really want to attract these winged darlings, but don't forget to double check that none of them are taking a ride out of the exhibit - on you.

The Catalina Highway

Andrew and Frida take in the view from Windy Point Vista off The Catalina Highway.

Tucson Sunsets

Tucson sunsets are always amazing. Say goodbye to the old year by catching a sunset at Gates Pass or even better, at Signal Hill. It is completely worth it every time. Not to mention, when you turn around and drive back into the city, the night lights are pretty spectacular.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas in Tucson

Christmas in Tucson is awesome. I didn't like it the first time - I was too used to the snow and cold and the manic brand of Winter Holiday traditions that permeates the Midwest. Tucson does everything a little more relaxed, including Christmas. (*Please note that although I respect and disrespect all religious traditions equally, I come from a Christian family tradition so the winter holiday I have been most exposed to and have my psyche most enmeshed with is Christmas.)

I like Tucson's arms length approach to Christmas because it allows you to decide for your self what you want out this freaking season anyway. Do you want to overspend on presents for people who don't care enough to give you anything? Send impersonal cards to nearly 100 people? Overeat and battle seasonal depression disorder with chocolate? Act pleased to spend time with people you barely like? And let's not forget my personal favorite: a nice whopping serving of religious guilt. I don't believe in half the things most churchgoers do. I can't really call myself Christian because according to most of them, I am not one. But the truth is I don't need anybody else's labels and practices to be tight with God. Even so, that doesn't mean I don't feel the pressure to conform.

Anyway, enough Christmas theory. I'm not here to give Christmas a bad wrap. The point of this post is to let you in on my favorite Tucson Christmas traditions. Enjoy!

The Tucson Downtown Parade of Lights and Festival - Andrew, Frida, and friends sat outside at Enoteca to watch the parade go by over dinner and wine for the first time this year. The whole experience had a unique downtown Tucson feel, which is hard to describe since downtown Tucson is so weird (but good weird) - especially for me after living in Chicago.

Tucson Botanical Gardens Luminaria - Andrew and I also went to this event for the first time this year. The lights are lovely (for lack of a more fitting, less old-fashioned word) and just strolling around with hot cider, listening to the musical acts is romantic and festive. I really liked the cute old white white hairs singing a capella and the bagpipes. The toy trains were fun, too.

Winterhaven Festival of Lights - Unfortunately, due to Andrew's cold our plans to attend fell through, but I really want to take a hayride through Winterhaven next year, especially to cancel out the negative act of some person who decided to drive a pick up truck through Winterhaven lawn decorations this year. Whoever you are, that was mean.

Reid Park Zoo Lights - This was also part of double date plans that got canceled, but next year I'm there!

Feel free to add your own favorite Christmas in Tucson events and traditions!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I always, always, always enjoy going to The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I don't care that it is a major tourist spot nearly smothered in visors, blue blockers and pancake butt bermudas. Nothing keeps me from feeling awe at the magic of the wildlife of this desert. To know that they are of this land and I am now of this land makes me feel a mystical bond. Okay, I know that sounds so hyper romantic. I mean, they are in a zoo, basically, but this zoo is more natural. In fact it's the only zoo I can swallow. It's actually peaceful.

I suppose the only way for me to kind of explain why this place is special to me is embodied by the website my fiancee and I made together in 2005. He wrote the code and I wrote the text and helped design it. View Un Tour Azteca del Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. If you can read Spanish you'll be impressed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bisbee is cool - literally

With elevations ranging from 4,500 to 7,300 feet, Bisbee enjoys cooler summers than Tucson. It's the southernmost mile-high city in the country, which give it an average year-round temperature of about 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bisbee is Capitalism - Shopping

I'm not much into buying things I don't need in tourist traps, but window shopping in Bisbee is an okay way to pass the time. The history of Bisbee Blue turquoise is actually pretty neat.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bisbee is Haunted - El fantasma de Don Ramon

Another unique aspect of Bisbee is its hauntedness. It is pretty famous for its ghostly activity, especially at The Copper Queen. (This is what everyone says, but if you go to their website, insterestingly enough they make no mention of it.) Apparently most of the hotels in Bisbee are somewhat haunted. Well, I saw a ghost myself and photographed it. Here it is, ladies and gents: la fantasma de Don Ramon!

Bisbee is awesome - The Dog-Cat-Mouse Guy

Bisbee is awesome for many reasons, and one of them is definitely Greg, "Bisbee's dog-cat-mouse guy".

I found him in the middle of his gig, on the sidewalk, stacking his pets one on another - that's right: a dog, cat and mouse. I guess there used to be a bird. I wonder what happened to it.

Here is a pic of Booger, Kitty and Mousie, respectively. (Sorry mousie is not so visible.)

POSTDATA MAY 2008: The Dog-Cat-Mouse Guy no longer lives in Bisbee. He has been sighted most recently in Santa Barbra, CA. What a loss for AZ. Click here to view the piece CNN did on him.

Monday, June 05, 2006

El Deseo/Desire by Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda

Borderlands Theater is presenting this bilingual play - there are a few more shows this month, June 15th - 18th. Don't miss it! I went this past Sunday and it was really worth it. The story is pretty well summed up by the description on the Borderlands Theater website and by the following reviews:
Tucson Weekly

Tucson Citizen

(My favorite of the reviews is the Tucson Weekly's.)

Personally, I agree that it was very intense - so much so that I had to avert my eyes at times. The Beowulf Alley Theater is such an intimate venue, that it makes it that much harder to take the raging emotions playing out so close to the audience. I thought the characters were very stereotypical in a sense: the American who goes abroad and brings home the foreign lover who they find so exotic (and erotic) but totally fail to understand. I guess what turned this old story on its head for me was the fact that the culturally insensitive gringo in this play is not only a gringa, but a academic - not the usual suspect. Then of course, the fetishized object of desire isn't the girl from Ipanema, but the boy from Cartagena. I found myself sympathizing with him and charmed by his innocence and childish fantasy while I was experiencing very hostile feelings toward the "first world bitch" who couldn't tell love from the need to control and posses. It was unexpected and somehow - refreshing. I guess I enjoyed feeling pity for a Hispanic male and seeing him as an innocent victim for once. (Which is not often the case when I read about the dreadful male characters who oppress the struggling females in Maria Luisa Bombal and Angeles Mastretta, for example.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sabino Canyon Gila Monster

Sabino Canyon is one of the most popular places to hike in Tucson, and as I was getting acquainted with the area last year I took to hiking alone. One morning I was hiking in Sabino and on my way back to the parking lot something came toward my trail fast. Being a newcomer to the southwest, I had no idea what it was, but I thought it gorgeous indeed. This huge lizard had the most incredible black and bright orange pattern in its skin - it looked like tiny beads glued on. It was remarkable. And his tiny black tongue, darting in and out was so charming. I kneeled down and starting taking photos immediately. He let me so get surprisingly close, I was delighted to take pretty good shots from only about two feet away. He finally crawled off and I went about my business, feeling thrilled about my brush with this stunningly exotic looking creature. I had no idea what it was. When I got home I went online to discover that my reptilian friend was a Gila Monster. What is a Gila Monster? Well, there are only two poisonous lizards in the United States, and he's one of them. To quote Desert USA, "Gila Monster's teeth have two grooves that conduct the venom, a nerve toxin, from glands in the lower jaw. The toxin is not injected like that of the snake, but flows into the wound as the lizard chews on its victim." Oh lovely. Despite these revelations, I must say Mr. Monster (or should I just call him Gila?) was very polite and almost a ham for the camera.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What the heck is going on with this doggone blog?

In case you were wondering what is going on with this blog, (especially if you've been here before), let me explain:

Tucson Querido is usually about Tucson but I've been traveling a bit lately so I expanded it to include posts about a few cities in South America (namely Montevideo, Punta del Este and Buenos Aires).

So far I have been too busy to actually add the text to the posts, so lately you are only seeing a string of photos (mostly of places that are not in Tucson). But do not fear! I have previously covered a myriad of Tucson institutions and lesser known gems. If you check out the archives you may find what you are looking for.

If you are interested in cities in South America on the other hand, stay tuned because I will eventually add some text to these posts and be adding reviews from one more South American city (Asuncion) this summer.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Reid Park Rose Test Garden

We went to Reid Park to meet friends for Easter Sunday Brunch. It was totally hopping with families setting up picnics. We strolled through the Test Rose Garden, which I vowed to blog about since it is a must-see for anyone who enjoys flowers. They also have some unusual species with cool names like "Marilyn Monrose". Actually, I made that one up, but they are cool.

Bog Spring Trail - Madera Canyon

This is Frida Yoltzin Romero Haberbosch, in case you were wondering. She is a four pound chihuahua but her deminute size does not keep her from being a champion hiker. Since she has decided to grace us with her presence, you may notice more dog-friendly reviews than before.

So, due to its dog-friendly nature, Bog Spring became our first hike at Madera Canyon. It's cooler up there than in the valley (the best thing about elevation gain) and it boasts lovely views of evergreen cloaked mountain sides (the second best thing about elevation gain). I would highly recommend this trail to about anyone.

Tucson March for Immigration Reform

I was at the Tucson March for Immigration Reform in April where I took this picture of a guy protesting for the rights of household appliances among chants of "Viva la lavadora! Viva la aspiradora! Viva el lavaplatos!" Hey buddy, I appreciate washers and dryers as much as the next person, but there's a place for everything and this march is about immigration reform!

Just kidding. That was the BACK of his actual sign. I couldn't resist the photo opp.

Sycamore Reservoir Trail - Coronado National Forest

Sycamore Reservoir Trail is a little too hot to hike on warm day because it's not high enough, but keep it on file for a winter day.

It's a notable trail for several reasons. For one, it starts out along a raised old federal prison camp. (Does anyone know any history on this prison?) You can still see some of the cement slabs. It also ends within a desert oasis with a little bit of water, and therefore is a veritable birder's delight. We saw lots of hummingbirds, especially.

The other thing that comes with the birds are, well, the bees. We were a little freaked out by the massive droning hum that turned out to be bees everywhere: the trees were in bloom and there was a bee on every blossom. Somehow we resisted the urge to do a 180 and run all the way back to the trail head. We didn't bother the bees and they didn't bother us.

Tambo El Sosiego - Punta del Este

We went to Tambo El Sosiego for merienda. This little farm is the place where they make dulce de leche Lapataia. We had freshly made crepes (dulce de leche or strawberry filled) served by a a guy with breasts. I mean real breasts, not man tits. Rare for Punta.

El Sosiego is just what its name connotes: a tranquil place to relax. The rolling country side is cool and green - very refreshing after a day at the beach. The goats and bunnies and llamas are fun to visit, as you can see from the picture. The place seems like the ideal setting for the International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este which they host each summer.

Filo Ristorante - Buenos Aires

We ate our last meal in Buenos Aires at Filo. No, much to the chagrin of myself, Nicolas Repetto was not there, but apparently other famous people have been. For example, if you go to their website they will be sure to let you know that Madonna, Lou Reed and Fito Paez, among others, have been spotted on the premises. But they leave out that every gringo with a Frommer's guide goes there, too. We all sat around, the only ones having dinner at seven, checking our digital photos of the day as we waited for our orders and tried to ignore each other.

I wouldn't say the pizza was remarkable, but I was charmed by the little gallery in the basement.

If you're wondering about the picture of Repetto, the thing is, he was just launching a new show de la siesta and the whole city was plastered in advertisements for it. The slogan was "Las tardes son de Nico." Which in engrish reads: "The retarded son of Nico." Fitting.

Calle Florida - Buenos Aires

Somehow everytime I go to Buenos Aires I spend most of my stay walking up and down Calle Florida. I love it. (And I love Munchy's ice cream which is right on Florida as you can see in this picture - but do I love it more than Freddo? I won't take sides.) Calle Florida is a ped street lined with stores, tango dancers, other street performers, restaurants and businesses. I guess I like it because real live porteños and tourists intemingle there without overwhelming distinction.

This is a photo from the Centro Cultural Borges - must see for anyone who is Borges fan. (Although I wish someone would wise up and do a proper museum already!)

Floralis Genérica - Buenos Aires

After MALBA, it was nice to rest on a bench in the United Nations Park where Floralis Generica opens and closes its massive petals every day.

To find out more about this artwork by Eduardo Catalano click on his name here.

MALBA - Buenos Aires

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
is worth a visit. Home to the well known and not so well known contemporary artists of Latin America, Tarsila Do Amaral's Abaporu is one of my favorites.

By the way, don't go into Museo Renault next door thinking it is a museum. (It is actually an uber chic overpriced restaurant.)

Teatro Colon - Buenos Aires

Che Tango - Buenos Aires

Plaza Dorrego Bars - Buenos Aires

Kempinski Park Hotel - Buenos Aires

Kempinski is a small, centrally located, absolutely charming boutique-style hotel. Their staff is genuinely friendly and pleasant. We balanced out two nights in Sheltown with one night in Kempinski (there's a substantial price differential.)

Hotel Sheltown - Buenos Aires

Feria de Antiguedades de San Telmo - Buenos Aires

Caminito - Buenos Aires

Catedral Metrapolitana - Buenos Aires

Plaza de Mayo - Buenos Aires

Piegari - Buenos Aires

La Recoleta Cementery - Buenos Aires

Centro Cultural Borges - Buenos Aires

Plaza San Martin - Buenos Aires

Cafe Tortoni - Buenos Aires

Gorlero Street - Punta del Este

Cerro del Toro - Piriapolis, Uruguay

Horseback Riding @ Solanas Resort - Punta del Este, Uruguay

Chivitos Marcos - Punta del Este

Chivitos are more than baby goats.

Okay, so this man isn't really eating a chivito. (And he isn't really a man. He's a Micah.) Micah's pretending to eat a maraca in the shape of a plastic hamburger. But you're missing the point. I didn't take a picture of a chivito and that was a very big mistake.

This calorie-packed steak sandwich is sinfully served all over Uruguay but the fast-food chain that specializes in them is Marcos. (There are a few places cropping up in the U.S. that take their stab at them also.) Anywho, the ingredients are the following (give or take a few):

a bun
red pepper
green olives
salsa golf
fried egg

Punta Ballena - Punta del Este

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Casapueblo - Punta del Este

Casapueblo was founded by Carlos Paez Villaro. It's actually in Punta Ballena, 15 minutes from Punta del Este, It's open 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset and is visited by more than 60,000 tourists from all over the world yearly. I've never been to Punta without stopping by. It really is a special place. (And I mean that totally independently from all the snotty hype around it.)

Conrad Casino - Punta del Este

Three syllables: don't bother. The Conrad looked sooo impressive from the outside, but on the inside, it really had little going for it. We were far from titilated. (Gotta love that word.) There is, however, a pretty cool mural by Carlos Páez Villaró

Cerro San Antonio - Piriápolis, Uruguay

If you are ever in Piriápolis please do yourself a favor and drive up Cerro San Antonio to enjoy the sunset while drinking a sweet caipirinha mixed by none other than El Rey de Caipirinhas. It's the perfect way to end the day.

Piriápolis - Uruguay

Piriápolis is only a short drive from Punta de Este and even more relaxed and quaint. We had a lovely breakfast there off the promenade and then enjoyed a day at San Francisco Beach (which was named in honor of not only the saint, but Francisco Piria, founder of the town). The lifeguards sipping mate were friendly enough to take the time to tell us about the fish we saw jumping and feeding, and the man who ran the mirador was a great character and very friendly. Reminding me of Papa Hemmingway a bit, Gabriel Piria Huge is probably a decendent of the Don Franciso Piria. I enjoyed our chat because this man is obviously really dedicated to the community, the enviornment and the people. He talked to me about his love of fishing, hatred of littering, tourism and some of the beachfront properties available for about $USD 100,000...Let me know if you're interested and I'll send you his e-mail address. (And trust me, if you visit Piriápolis you will be interested.)

Solanas (Portezuelo) Beach - Punta del Este

I believe this beach is also called Portezuelo. It's 200 meters from the Solanas Resort. As you can see from the photo, it is celebrated as the best beach in Punta del Este to stroll at sunset.

Solanas Vacation Club - Punta del Este

Solanas is a little outside of Punta proper, the equivalent of three city blocks from Solanas Beach and not far from Punta Ballena. We had a blast there, eventhough the walls were paper thin and our bed was two singles pushed together, and they water the grass too damn much.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Playa Brava - Punta del Este

Playa Brava is a good beach for spotting white guys and seagulls. (See photo.) Site of the famous Sand Hand landmark, Los Dedos. The surf can be pretty aggresive, as the beach's name connotes. We couldn't really get in the water that day, as it was jelly fish infested.

Napoleon Restaurant - Punta del Este

Eat here. It's at the marina. It's awesome. (The Sangria's GREAT.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Finger Rock Trail

This is a photo of an ocotillo bloom off the trail.

On Tuesday I went to Finger Rock Trail because I just needed to get a hike in. Monday had been pretty stressful. I chose Finger Rock because it was close. I knew it was hard but I didn't know how hard.

But it's not the full body punishment, the hiking that is more accurately described as mountain climbing due to steepness, the painful slowness it takes to come down without rolling down, the extreme focus needed to choose one foot hold after another correctly, or the ghosts...none of that REALLY bothered me...

What bothered me was finding myself on my hands and knees on a slick rock with nothing to hold on to, sliding slightly towards the precipice and a thirty foot drop.

It had been showering a little, so it was slick. Real slick.

I knew that if I kept my center of gravity as low as possible I could make it across without sliding to my death, so I turned my body around and did a butt scoot very slowly until I got to safety. For a few moments I had to stop and wonder if it was going to work. Have you ever watched a movie where the rocks around the heroine get loose and fly down into the abyss? That happened.

The moral of the story: don't do Finger Rock when it's raining.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Punta del Este - Uruguay

March is definately the time to go to Punta del Este.

Punta del Este has been described by some as a cross between Miami and Ibiza, but if they had seen it in March I doubt they would have offended it with such remarks. It's true, Punta is traditionally the hot spot for wealthy Argentines and global jet setters to "summer" and escape the heat of January and Ferbruary - but by March, they are mostly gone. The playboys and girls who come to be seen and basically be pricks are no where to be found. The more down to earth are plesantly rewarded with open beaches. No fighting for a spot neccesary, no waiting in lines, no dealing with mad traffic, no dueling for tables at overpriced restaurants. In fact, most prices are down and many establishments are simply closed until next season. (But I promise there is no lack of excellent places to eat, snack drink, or what have you.) It is a little creepy to drive past one huge high rise apartment building after another to see only a few lights on, but it is fascinating in that it reminds you that most businesses here make enough money in two months to last out the rest of the entire year.