The dusty Saturday afternoon went from from Mission San Xavier to downtown Tucson, an area that has been struggling to revitalize for years. The indicators are apparent - renovation of two historic theatres, a collection of art galleries and music stores, almost-hip cafes and a thriving music scene. It is not, I imagine, an area of Tucson that visitors flock to, because it is the business district (never a sexy term); but significant history threads through it, as Spanish conquistadors, missionaries, Mexican & US armies have all left their footprint there. And so we made our first footprint at Hotel Congress, a place to anchor ourselves, and get out of the heat.
Hotel Congress was the scene where John Dillinger was arrested and extradited, due to a fire that drew him out of hiding in 1934. Built in 1919, it was once a stop for well-heeled travelers from the east who were traveling by train to the west, and still carries a genteel Western atmosphere. The hotel is still in operation, and with two bars, one that serves as a live music venue, and a restaurant, it's a great place to catch some local color. Feeding my desire to try and find the underbelly of the city, we chose to have lunch in the bar instead of the Cup Cafe, a well known establishment that has received several "Best of Tucson" awards . Our lunch was decadent, cowboy-inspired fare alongside cold beer, and seated under a ceiling fan spinning 103 degree air - the atmosphere was perfect.