A recap of our impromptu trip to Arizona for the college football national championship game, complete with stops at a snow covered Grand Canyon, hiking in Sedona and lots of yummy Mexican food!
Okay, so I promise this is the last travel recap you'll see for awhile! We really weren't planning on going anywhere after our string of travel this fall....but then Clemson made it into the national championships for the first time in 30 something years, so, we decided to make a trip of it!
We took an early morning flight out of Columbia and arrived in Phoenix around lunchtime. Lucky us, the in flight magazine had an article about new Phoenix restaurants, so we took notes and decided to check out DoSoto Central Market, an indoor dining hall. It's a really neat concept if you haven't been to one. I was in the mood for Asian so I got steamed buns from Adobo Dragon, a latin-asian fusion stand. I ordered one with green curry carnitas and another with roasted mushrooms and soy-adobo. They were good, but not great - a little disappointing for how tasty the ingredients looked! Scott definitely won the meal with his roasted pork dip from the larder and the delta. Normally a sandwich piled high with meat and no veggies just isn't my thing, but his was filled with perfectly cooked pork and the most incredible relish.
With full bellies, we hit the road for a 3 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. A 3 hour drive after a long day of travel normally wouldn't be something to write home about, but the drive was gorgeous! The highway took us through deserts of saguaro cacti, then all of a sudden, we were in forests freshly covered with over a foot of snow. It was so gorgeous I couldn't stop taking pictures out the window!
It was dark by the time we got to Grand Canyon, so we just checked into our hotel and set out for food. Everything looked really touristy (why oh WHY don't national parks ever have good food??), so we were excited to stumble upon Sophie's Mexican Kitchen with a giant sign exclaiming 'VEGETARIAN FOOD!" We ordered $1.50 craft beers (yes really) and a massive vegetarian feast - a vegetarian taco on Indian fry bread with green chili sauce for me and a vegetable and black bean bowl for Scott. I don't think I'll ever eat a non-fry bread taco ever again.
The next day we woke up (not so bright) and early to meet with our friends from Clemson and watch sunrise at the Grand Canyon. The sunrise itself wasn't memorable since there weren't a lot of colors in the cloudy sky, but what WAS memorable was just how cold it was! Our car thermometer registered at 3 degrees! There was actually a point where I was concerned my toe may have fallen off! But it was totally worth it to see the Grand Canyon freshly covered in a layer of snow. Really, there are no words. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking for me.
After warming up and grabbing a quick pizza lunch, we took the scenic route down to Sedona. I still couldn't get over all the snow, so it was another long drive with my camera glued to the window, stopping at every overpass we could find.
Once in Sedona, we all went out to eat at Mariposa, a latin restaurant with the most incredible sunset view of the red rocks. Since it was early, we all split tapas and a bottle of wine. Wish I took pictures of the food because it was pretty incredible - fried avocados with pimento aioli, corn and queso empanadas, picadillo empanadas, shrimp ceviche with spicy popcorn, and yuca fries.
The next day, all of us went hiking at Cathedral rock. If you've never been to Sedona, it's surrounded by all these incredible red rock buttes. Cathedral rock with it's four massive spires is one of the most famous. The trail is a steep scramble up the rock face - my old rock climbing skills definitely came in handy!
For breakfast, we refueled with a hearty meal at Red Rock Cafe. I had blue corn tortillas chilaquiles in green chili sauce (are you sensing a green chili sauce trend?) with the crispiest hash browns and an extra side of vegetables.
After the rest of the group went down to Phoenix, Scott and I went on one more hike to the top of Bell Rock. If the hike to Cathedral rock was crazy, this one was insane! Parts of it were really steep with hardly any footholds. There was one part that we literally just slid down because there was no traction whatsoever! But again, the danger was well worth the view.
From there, we headed off to Phoenix for all the Clemson fun! We stayed at a condo right by the stadium with Scott's family and it was so much fun to be immersed in everything Clemson. Our fans have so much pride, even when we don't have a national championship team. I mean, I know everyone loves their college, but ours is actually the greatest. I think it's official. Or at least it's what I think, so that's as good as official :)
I hope you got a chance to watch the game because it was truly one of the best national championship games of all time (and that one's not just my opinion!). Even though we lost, there was so much energy and passion in that stadium, and I truly believe if we played that game 10 times, we would have won 6 or 7 of them. Can't wait for the natty next year in Tampa, cause you better believe we'll be there!
The next morning we woke up a little sad so we drove out to Scottsdale to drown our sorrows in the worlds best English muffins at La Grande Orange. I am so mad at myself for not picking up a bag to freeze! We also split an heirloom brown rice and quinoa bowl with greens, black beans, pistachios, feta, a fried egg and harissa. If I lived in Scottsdale, I really think I would eat here every day!
After brunch, we went out to meet up with friends at Desert Botanical Garden. It was really pretty fascinating to learn all about desert biology. After wandering the garden and taking a break to check into our hotels, a few of us went to Craft 64 for local beer and the most delicious fig, ricotta and arugula pizza.
From there, we wandered around old town Scottsdale with our friends Todd and Tara. It was kinda of a touristy town, but we had a fun time exploring it regardless. For dinner, we stopped at Bandera after the guys spotted them roasting whole chickens in a giant woodfire oven. I tried a few bites of Scott's, but I was in the mood for lotsa veggies, so I ordered the vegetable plate, which came with the most incredible green pepper salad, sauteed red cabbage with goat cheese, roasted red peppers with feta and kale salad. We also split their cornbread, which comes overflowing from it's own cast iron skillet. The perfect way to cap off our trip!
We had such a great time in Arizona, we definitely want to go back and spend more time there. Have you been to Arizona? If so, would love to hear your travel tips and recommendations!