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.
Dan left me this weekend to
frolic work in Budapest, covering the Acer Global Press Conference. It actually seems like a big event, and he's already written about it. Impressive, considering the gorgeous city he is in.
It's June, summer has almost landed in New York and people are spending their weekends in the Hamptons/the Cape/at the Shore. The warm weather and lazy days (or those that I dream of, anyway) make me crave a road trip and recently I've been thinking about heading south. It's totally against my nature because I'm kind of a cold weather girl, but maybe it was that Mint Julep I had a few weeks back at Death & Co that has me dreaming about lounging on a veranda under oak trees and spanish moss; or baking in the desert sun, margarita in hand as a wicked summer storm thunders in the distance.
Last July, I spent a 105-degree week under the Tucson sun attempting to turn my Northern skin golden brown and stressed mood into a more relaxed one. It didn't take long - a 30SPF afternoon by the pool at Loews Ventana, followed by dinner at Hacienda del Sol watching the sun set over the Santa Catalina mountains and suddenly I couldn't remember where New York was any longer. Nor did I care. The sublime beauty of the desert had put everything into perspective.
Like how difficult it is to get really great, authentic Mexican food in the Northeast.
We'd been directed to Cafe Poca Cosa, told it was the best Mexican in the city. At the time, the restaurant was housed on the first floor of a crumbling old hotel. Part of the experience was entering through the decrepit white structure into the explosive red and green interior, warm with the scent of chiles, chocolate and cinnamon. We ordered the chef's menu, happy to let someone else decide what we should eat, and it included her (chef Susana Davila) famous Mole. It was Like Water for Chocolate in downtown Tucson.
The city was quiet in July, as half the population was probably up North somewhere, which appealed to my need to slow down. We found the underbelly at Hotel Congress, a historic hotel where John Dillinger was captured in 1934. It's now a haven for local artists and musicians, restored but feels very old West in a cow punk kind of way... the kind of place where you kick back with a cocktail at 4 in the afternoon and hang with the colorful locals. Which seems like the perfect thing to do on a summer afternoon... and what I think of as I run my fingers across the map wondering where to run off to this summer.