Saturday, January 23, 2016

36 Hours in Phoenix

When I started this blog in 2008, I thought it would be about beer, wine, and food in Philly. I had no idea that I’d leave the area for a few years. With little to write about in Western MA, the blog evolved to a focus on travel. While I’m back in Philly, I still prefer to write about other places. I’ve found that travel enlivens me. The experience of being “out of place” is my reason to be. I like the unfamiliarity. I enjoy the anonymity. Perhaps more so than others, I'm compelled to travel.

On my way to San Francisco, this past October, I made a stopover in Phoenix. I was looking to add another stop to the trip; the price was right for Phoenix. I visited Phoenix when I was in 5th grade. I recall Sun Devil Stadium and little else. Before this visit, I imagined that there would be a sadness about the city. I visited Las Vegas in 2011 and the effects of the housing crisis were visible, if not inescapable. I thought Phoenix would be the same, but with slight recovery. Phoenix didn’t have much sadness; perhaps, simply, I was happy to be in the sun. I don’t know that the city is vibrant, but everything I did was lovely.

My main reason for choosing Phoenix was to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West School of Architecture. I signed up for the three-hour extended tour. It is worth the extra cost. I visited Fallingwater in June; that tour is about an hour and is over in a moment. I plan to revisit and pay for a longer tour. At Taliesin, the extended tour allows the visitor to linger, enjoy tea and sandwiches in the dining room, and view other structures on the property. I spent three hours taking photos and vaguely listening to the tour guide. It was relaxing and gorgeous.

My other stops in Phoenix included the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the ASU Ceramics Research Center, and Arcosanti. The SMoCA has a permanent James Turrell installation. I planned my stop to experience the hour before sunset. I was by myself the entire time. If you haven’t seen anything by James Turrell and you’re in the Philly area, checkout the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House. They open their Skyspace a few times a month. I fell in love with James Turrell at the Guggenheim in 2013. Since then, I seek out his work wherever I can. His art is an experience; it’ll challenge your conception of art. I could try to describe it further, but it would be pointless.

Knight Rise, 2001

With regards to food, I ate one meal in Phoenix. There was one item I wanted to eat: pizza. Specifically, I wanted to eat at Pizzeria Bianco. Pizza means more to me than one food should mean to a person. I hadn’t eaten pizza in five months. I wanted it to be very, very good. The lore surrounding Chris Bianco spans the continent. Admittedly, this was a very compelling reason to stop in Phoenix.
As a single diner, I can easily slip into restaurants with a long wait. Thus, I walked into Pizzeria Bianco around 7:00pm on a Friday to find one open seat at the bar. The service was rather off-putting; often, I think, people don’t know how to deal with a single woman. I ordered the Margherita and a glass of red wine. I’ve been educated in the pizza school of thought that you must try the plain pizza. Quite honestly, I ate the entire thing. The pizza was solid; the crust and the ingredients were good, and thus, you have a good pizza. It’s incredibly simple, but incredibly hard to achieve.

I stayed in Phoenix for a brief 36 hours. When I was in college I recall thinking that the NYTimes “36 Hours” articles were silly. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would spend such a short amount of time on a trip. In my head, every trip was a week long. Now, I understand the 36 Hours concept. It’s exciting for me to plan a quick trip somewhere new or somewhere I’ve been before. Certain places may not be great for a week, but they can be awesome for a brief stopover.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paolo Soleri is another modernist architect you might enjoy.