Desert drifting

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The song, Take It Easy by Jackson Browne, was my first encounter with Arizona – thanks to my parents’ admittedly admirable taste in music. Its first line goes, “I’m standing on the corner of Winslow, Arizona; such a fine sight to see …” Almost 20 years later, “fine sight” is an understatement (although observant readers may point out in the song he’s actually talking about a woman – so go figure). While Winslow wasn’t on the itinerary, Phoenix, Sedona, Williams, Route 66, Grand Canyon and Page were, and it was these places which, in much contrast to one another, make this part of American desert one fine place to be.

The visit to Arizona took the form of a road trip – intercepted by some fantastic activities (tales of helicopter rides, houseboats with hot tubs and walking in to canyons will follow), stopping overnight along the way at some very different but equally difficult-to-leave hotels. Those who like the romantic existentialist side of a road trip should opt for a winnebago experience, but if you’re a sucker for information and history of the places you visit, a tour guide via people carrier is by far the best way. Paul, our super nice host from Detours AZ certainly knew everything you could want to know and more.


Dark Monument Valley Arizona

After a 10-hour flight with BA, the resort The Phoenician, located at the bottom of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix (which we hiked up the next morning before it got too hot) provided the first injection of luxury accommodation. A regular celebrity choice, the hotel boasts a championship golf course, tennis courts, nine pools, a well-being centre and a spa. There is even a resort-within-a-resort here (the award-winning Canyon Suites) and varied dining options (Relish Burger Bistro offered the first big classic American burger experience). It has everything you need or want, thus leaving was a struggle.

Lunch at Otro Cafe cured my withdrawal symptoms though, (good Mexican fare with produce sourced locally), an independently run relaxed establishment run by chef and owner Doug Robson, whose passion for food is certainly visible in the delicious dishes he serves up.

A two-hour drive after that gave us just enough time to let lunch digest which was fortunate, because next was a roller-coaster ride in a Hummer 4×4 over the brick red rocky plains of some of Sedona’s most stunning parts. Notably, the Hummers run purely on vegetable oil making it incredibly eco-friendly, which one would expect from a place like Sedona, who concurred that if MacDonald’s had to exist on its grounds, the M sign must be jade green, in keeping with the colours of the landscape. Sedona is also a place where the vortexes all have names because they are believed to hold the right energy levels for meditation, healing and prayer.
Sedona is definitely a spiritually driven place, and the people residing there seem a lot happier for it (certainly a lot happier than many of us stressed out city dwellers). Much emphasis is placed on embracing what’s around you, the presence of the desert, sky and plants, so this makes it an ideal place to spend a week if you are open to exploring your spiritual side. It has an appeal, or an aura perhaps, that is revitalising, and a fantastic massage I had at the eforea Spa at the Hilton resort where we stayed on our second night reinforced this.
Auras and chakras are a big part of spiritual massage and ones my masseuse educated me about – so a massage in Sedona is, wonderfully, not like your usual massage. Dinner at L’Auberge de Sedona hotel at the Creekside topped of a fantastic stay in Sedona, as did the random chance to clearly see the planet Saturn through a massive telescope. Admittedly it looked like one of those glow in the dark stickers I put on my ceiling when I was 10 years old, but it was a hugely impressive sight. One box ticked in the planets I’ve seen category.
Entering Arizona on I-10 Westbound

Williams which Route 66 fuses with, was the next stop, with the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel the place to stay before the wonderment of the Grand Canyon consumes you. Dinner at Red Raven was incredible as were the wines, and the Wild West Junction in Williams is by far the best place to visit for a drink. The whole town is authentically Wild West with cowboy boots on most residents’ feet. And if you’re lucky enough to meet the Mayor, (in cowboy boots and stetson) you’ll never forget him … an ex-Sheriff who I imagined might have a presence in Williams similar to that of Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire – less the organised crime.

After a great train ride on the Grand Canyon Railway, we arrive at one of the wonders of the world. However many articles I’ve read about it, or photos I’ve seen of it, nothing compares to being right in front of The Grand Canyon. Interestingly, some tribes still live within it, and accommodation by way of camping is available to those wishing to trek deep within it.
Antelope Canyon is another stunning experience, with light shafts and an expanse of red rock making an expert photographer out of most who go in. It’s certainly fair to say that Arizona is not far off being one breath-taking scene after the other, and a helicopter ride to Tower Butte with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters is definitely a great way to see Lake Powell and the beautiful red rock landscapes – save for a swift drop off Tower Butte at the end for a bit of fun – that was certainly breathtaking.


arizona sunset

The last part of the trip, two nights on Lake Powell on a houseboat (which do note: are incredibly easy to drive, even for a non-driver like me) near the outskirts of Utah made for a perfect ending – and made a welcome alternative to the beach holiday. If you’re partial to a bit of sun-tan time on any trip away, Lake Powell is a great candidate. Not only are you surrounded by gorgeous scenery and calm waters, but there are countless spots on Lake Powell to moor the boat in your own secluded spot.
Whether swimming in the lake, lying on the sand dunes, sitting in the hot tub or having a barbecue in the evenings, there’s little pieces of paradise here, which will remain unforgettable. The 75’ Excursion houseboat boasts five double bed rooms (though the boats sleep up to 20), a large kitchen meets dining area, a music system, a hot tub on the top and a barbecue area.

Beat that for an experience of America …

by Ruthie Holloway
Glass magazine flew with British Airways

Take advantage of The Phoenician’s 25th anniversary summer offer, rates starting at $199 (Valid until September 30 2013.) Visit or call (480) 941-8200

Houseboats on Lake Powell Rates for a 75’ Excursion houseboat start at £6,750 for four nights.
With special thanks to Kevin Gibson and Tall Paul

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