After leaving California, we headed for Flagstaff, Arizona. I love Arizona! It has a beauty that is uniquely its own. We spent the first night in Flagstaff and headed to the Grand Canyon the very next morning. My husband had never been to the Grand Canyon, and we were excited to enjoy the experience together.
I won't try to describe everything that's great about it. I don't think anyone ever could. There are different parts of it, and I can't imagine how long it would take to see it all - which would include exploring the floor of it. We chose to only explore the parts we could drive our Jeep close to and get out to walk a bit. This time of year, they run shuttle buses to many of the trail parts, and you aren't allowed to drive yourself. Neither of us had any desire to stand in line and get on a shuttle packed with people.
One of our favorite stops was to have lunch at El Tovar, which gave us a lovely view from the rim. We also enjoyed visiting the Hopi House and one of the National Park Service's stores. It was at the store that we met a retired teacher named Gene who worked there. He was very helpful and suggested we take the east exit out of the Grand Canyon to see the Desert View and other interesting sites we might not otherwise see. Gene was also kind enough to give me a real map of Arizona, as my phone's GPS did not work in that area at all.
I can tell you, without hesitation, that Gene's suggestion was our favorite part of the Grand Canyon. No one had ever told us about the Watchtower at Desert View. We loved it! We ended up staying there longer than anticipated. The view was incredible because you were able to see the canyon, the Colorado River, and a volcano! Exploring the tower was another great adventure, with even better views of the canyon from the top of it.
We made it to Sedona by nightfall, and we were starving. We'd been so busy looking at the sights around us, we realized we'd not eaten since lunch at El Tovar in the Grand Canyon. We were both tired and agreed we didn't want to go too far for dinner. It was late, our choices were limited, but I found a place that had good reviews and was right across the street from our inn. You couldn't see it from the inn, as it was located in the back corner of a shopping center.
I'll be honest. I didn't have high hopes that a place located in the back corner of a shopping center was actually going to be any good. As we crossed the street and walked through the parking lot to find all the stores were already closed, I held out even less hope.
Now, here is where I tell you just how wrong I was...
As Tom and I approached the restaurant through the dark parking lot, the first thing I noticed was how inviting their patio looked. It had nice tables, umbrellas, plants, and little, white lights strung around it. (Who doesn't love little, white lights?) The closer we got, we heard music emanating from the building. Right as we approached the sidewalk, two couples walked out of the place laughing and talking. One of the men looked at us and said, "You two better get in there!" Then, one of the women looked at us with a big smile and said, "Yes, we need some more people on the dance floor!"
When we walked through the door, you could tell everything was in full swing and everyone was enjoying it! There was live music and some people were up dancing on the dance floor, located right in front of the band. Others were eating dinner, while their bodies kept rhythm with the music. Either their head was bobbing or they were tapping their hand or foot. It was a happy place!
We were welcomed by a lovely lady at the door and told it was 'Sock Hop' night. While we loved the lively atmosphere of the place, we really were a bit tuckered out. I asked if we could sit on the patio. She assured me we could and escorted us to our table outside. It was perfect. We were the only people on the patio, and we could still enjoy the music and watch the fun because the walls to the patio are glassed in. From our table, we could clearly see the dance floor and the band.
Our waitress, Heather, was fabulous! She made suggestions about what would be good, what the local favorites were, and what the night's specials were like. Tom had the fish and chips, and I had chicken quesadillas. I mention the food here, specifically, because every bite was delicious! Tom couldn't stop raving about the fish and chips, even after we made our way back home later in the week.
We had expected to just find a place that "would do" after a long day of being outside. We had hoped to just find a decent place, grab a bite, and hit the sack in preparation for the next day. Instead, we had a wonderful experience, a relaxing evening, and lingered on that lovely patio for much longer than we would have thought we could stay awake. I made sure to mention to the hostess, on our way out, how much we enjoyed both the food and our excellent server. To my surprise, she seemed genuinely interested and asked what we had for dinner and what we liked. She wished us a good evening, and we felt the warmth of such a wonderful place stayed with us long after we were gone.
So, if you're ever in Sedona, be sure to visit The Marketplace Café. You'll be glad you did!
We also had great experiences the next day, as we explored Sedona. I suggest, if you ever go there, you make sure to enjoy something out on the patio of Canyon Breeze. We chose to start our day there with coffee, looking out over the Red Rocks of Sedona. Later in the day, we had lunch at the Open Range - another place I recommend highly and not just because of the fantastic view. The service was great and the food delicious. We shopped around a bit that day and found that the owners of the small shops were interesting and friendly. We enjoyed several little conversations with some of the shopkeepers. We bought some interesting things and had an overall pleasant day.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
When we headed out of Sedona in the afternoon, we planned on driving all the way to Amarillo, Texas. However, we changed our mind about an hour outside of Albuquerque.
I have to stop here and mention that there is a soundtrack of music I have collected over the years that plays in my head. I don't think I've ever thought of Albuquerque and not heard The Partridge Family's song in my head. So,...I just had to pull the song up on Youtube and play it as we approached the city. I mean,...it was a must. ;)
Hotel Tonight found us a really nice hotel in this lovely city for a good price. We had a good experience at Hotel Albuquerque. We were on the top floor with a balcony that gave us a beautiful view of downtown. Even though we arrived after dark, we had no trouble getting a delightful dinner in their Mexican restaurant and top-notch service.
Through Amarillo and one last stop...