Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking a Personal Day on the Road

Can you have too much of a good thing?
Family travel is wonderful.  Seeing famous sites with my husband and kids brings us closer together. I love that I saw the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon for the first time with my entire family.  We have stories to share throughout our lives about the places we’ve visited.  
Family travel is fantastic.  Learning new things at the same time has created a common bond between us because we have “AH HA” moments together.  We witnessed how jelly fish hypnotize, how sea otters eat, and how easily someone could fall over the side of a cliff (Pacific Coast Highway’s or Grand Canyon’s.)  However, too much of a good thing can make you want to do a little nudging along life’s cliffs so I have come up with a new travel tip for family trips:  
Everyone needs a PERSONAL DAY! 
Or hour... or twenty minutes.  Any time your schedule allows for each person to retreat to their separate corners and relax is needed by parents and kids alike to cope with the extremely close quarters, the traffic, the waiting in line, the “seeing one more thing before we eat”, and especially the “let me take another picture.”
While in Phoenix for a week, we took advantage of spending a little time and space from each other.  After a trip to Barnes and Noble, the kids each retreated into their books with Anabel and Wyatt reading the latest installments of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Dork Diaries in one day.  Greg took daily solo bike rides through the lakeside neighborhood with its beautiful parks and culverts and convenient bike path to Starbuck’s.  I looked at art.

At times while traveling, everyone is not on the same page so whenever possible it's important to be flexible and try to meet everyone's needs.  For example, Greg and the kids wanted to visit Alice Cooperstown Restaurant.... 

Alice's Restaurant

Wyatt tackling the "Big Unit"

Happy Family... away from Mommy

And I did not.  I wanted a Girls' Day!

Historic Scottsdale
With Anne at the wheel, we headed to the fashionable town of Scottsdale, Arizona. Aimlessly strolling from art gallery to art gallery, I felt the knots in my shoulders loosen and my mind wander.  Relaxed for the first time in weeks, I discovered southwestern art.  We saw the ubiquitous cowboys and indians in bronze, on canvas in watercolor, acrylic and oils.  There were wall size paintings of the Grand Canyon and the desert; beautiful, sweeping landscapes that tried their hardest to capture something elusive.  Then, the modern art jumped out at me.  I window shopped for my dream home. (Remember the one with the jelly fish relaxation room?)  I found ceramic boxes of Crayola Crayons and Good and Plenties a hundred times their normal size that would be perfect in our new game/play room.  Who wouldn't want a giant Prozac pill hanging on their bedroom wall?  No, maybe that would fit better in the relaxation room.

by Liz Tran at the Bonner David Galleries

My favorite art spot was the Bonner David Galleries where an old friend of Anne's family, Claudia Hartley, had an exhibit.  I loved her happy colors and pointillistic style and knew right where I would put one of her colorful interiors in my dream home.  However, it was the work of Liz Tran that caught this art novice's eye.  My first reaction to her unique form of mixed media paintings was to smile.  Simply put, her art made me happy.  Then, on closer inspection, I was intrigued.  Her combinations of ink, acrylic paint, graphite and layers of Japanese art paper were candy to the eye.  For the first time, I wished we weren't spending all our money on travel this year.  I would have loved to take one of her pieces to my real home, no dreaming.  I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners of this charming art gallery, Christi Bonner Manuelito.  She and I had instant rapport discussing our kids, movies, baseball, family travel, and of course, art.  I hope to visit the gallery again when art is in our budget.

Relaxing at the Historic Arizona Biltmore

Continuing our personal day of culture, Anne and I luncheoned at the Arizona Biltmore, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's contributions to the Southwest.  As consulting architect for four months, Wright oversaw the masonry bricks created on site; however, Wright's apprentice, Albert Chase McArthur, designed and built the original 1929 building.  While enjoying my salad al fresco, I tried to imagine Irving Berlin composing songs poolside while Marilyn Monroe strolled by.  It doesn't take a great imagination to have a little fun in beautiful, historic places.

Arizona Biltmore
We ended this day of indulgence and personal renewal with Anne and Jackson treating us to a decadent meal at Kai, located in the Wild Horse Pass Resort.  Kai, meaning seed in the Pima language, serves local and Native American cuisine.  We started with the sublime sage martini, delicate barbecued wild pork and sweet desert quail.  For the main course, I had the most incredible filet of buffalo and all I can say is I understand why it was almost hunted to extinction.  Ranking high on our best food list, I place it number one in best service.  The wait staff doted on our table.  Though completely unobtrusive, we never wanted for a thing.  At times it felt as though our meal was a beautiful song, orchestrated by our head waiter.  All plates on the table were removed and replaced gracefully and fluidly at the same time.  We ended the meal with coffee and chocolate soufflĂ©, completely content with great food, incredible service and incomparable company.

Buffalo... It's what's for dinner!

Our personal day was the perfect antidote for family claustrophobia and frazzled nerves.  We were ready for our next family field trip to Tombstone, AZ completely confident that the gunshots would not be family-fired.

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