I nearly missed my flight out of Seattle (due to sleeping past my alarm by an hour) - but luckily I made it just in time!
I had planned to sleep on the flight, but ended up having a great conversation with the girl next to me (who also almost missed takeoff). Her name was Chelsea, a Washington state native - and she told me that it was only her second time flying ever (which I could relate to - this being my first ever solo trip). She offered me a piece of gum, which I gladly took - because I certainly didn't have time to brush my teeth before leaving Amanda's apartment haha. We were both dying of thirst, and agreed we would definitely be taking up that free complimentary water once the flight attendants brought it around. When we landed, neither of us was prepared for the blast of 116 degree dry heat. (It was both of our first times in Arizona).
Immediately, I went to the bathroom to change into shorts and flip flops LOL. And not to sound like a sissy, but I also made a stop at the Starbucks in the airport because I desperately wanted something cold to drink. I couldn't believe how much cheaper my drink was (compared to NY). I found that over the course of the next few days - EVERYTHING seemed to be cheaper - and everyone was so nice.
(click any image below to enlarge)
I met up with Lisa, who graciously picked me up from the Phoenix airport. We made our way to brunch at Flower Child. I got a quinoa bowl with eggs and also a strawberry cucumber juice. We shared hummus with pita bread. It was SO satisfying and delicious - the perfect healthy post flight meal when you've been traveling for a week plus. I filled my cup with ice before we left because I had this paranoia of getting dehydrated, haha. It didn't take long for it all to melt to water. ;)
Afterwards, we popped into a few shops in downtown Phoenix. One of my favorites was Frances - a modern / vintage boutique where I bought a few pins and a card to give to friends back home. They also had a fun photo booth there! Next door, is a record store called Stinkweeds - which we also checked out briefly.
We stopped into a few thrift stores - White Dove Thrift Stove - which honestly wasn't the greatest, LOL. It was a little too organized and.. sterile (???) in my opinion. We also hit up good ole' Goodwill for good measure. Tons of pottery and paintings of the desert. In the parking lot, I noticed a Water store - which was amusing for me. We definitely don't have those in NJ, haha.
116 degree heat calls for ice cream (duh) - so we stopped into Churn. I got peach honey and Lisa got strawberry - so good! We didn't feel like death after, either - in a good way. They had an entire wall made up of cassette tapes in the back.
Nearby, I saw this place called Stuff Antiques - with some incredible bougainvillea at the entrance. It was so hot, the owner had the lights off to keep cool. We had to a ring a bell to enter, which was super charming. This place was more up my alley - so much to look at!
Our next stop was the Roosevelt Art District! The area is mostly known for its public murals, and it was so fun to see those with someone else who equally loves / appreciates them.
We browsed some cute shops in that area - like GrowOP and Made (where we mooched off the AC a bit and I did some polaroid show-and-tell with the cashier, haha). Both specialized in vintage / handmade / art (similar to Frances) - making them perfect for finding unique gifts or souvenirs.
There's also an ice cream shop called Melt - which we actually decided to skip that day (so as not to eat ourselves sick) - but had we not stopped at Churn earlier, I probably would have indulged here!
We made our way into Scottsdale, and I checked into The Saguaro - my choice hotel for my time in AZ.
For dinner, we got the most delicious street corn queso and tacos from Diego Pops. I loved the whole vibe of this place, and if I was a local - I'd probably be there every week, haha. The custom sauces were also an absolute dream, and I had to try all of them (of course)!
Our last stop for the day was the Sugar Bowl! I loved the retro diner atmosphere here. We each both got a big scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and it was the best way to end my first day in Arizona.
The next day, we made the long day trip drive out to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. When I was planning my trip initially, I did not think that in a million years I'd be able to find a way to see the Grand Canyon. It seemed so intangible being a 9 hour round trip drive from Scottsdale, but it felt like a crime to go to Arizona and NOT see it. I proposed the idea to Lisa via email months prior with zero expectation or hope that it would actually be possible, and much to my surprise - Lisa told me that it wasn't impossible. A long day, yes - but not impossible. I don't think there are words to express how grateful and lucky I feel to have gotten to experience a day like this.
The further north you drive, the terrain actually changes pretty drastically. Cacti disappear, and you start to see tons more trees. The temperature was way different, too! It blew my mind how it could be 116 degrees back in Phoenix, but 64 and raining up north.
We stopped off at Pita Jungle in Flagstaff for a cheap and delicious lunch. I got the chicken shawarma with garlic potatoes. The waiter refilled my water for free, and pretty sure Lisa got coffee on the house, too. (Everyone in AZ is just so dang nice!)
Sometime in the afternoon, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon! It was sunny, and the weather was perfect. I still can't believe I was actually there.
We drove around to all the lookout points, and stayed until sunset. The weather changed over to rain, which added this layer of moody ambiance that I wasn't expecting at all. Apparently monsoon season was just beginning - and I feel weirdly extremely lucky that I got to experience one of the world's greatest natural wonders in both the sun and rain (all in the same day), haha.
On the drive out, we saw the most majestic elk - and stopped to take photos. I totally wasn't expecting to see any wildlife in Arizona for some reason, and I couldn't have planned those last few moments of daylight better.
We stopped off in Flagstaff again to grab a quick pizza dinner at Grimaldi's. It was such a pleasant surprise to see them out in Arizona - they are famous for their Brooklyn origin, and I actually had no idea they had locations elsewhere! Their bathrooms were yellow taxi cab themed, which I couldn't help but love.
Got back into Scottsdale around midnight, and passed out like a total beached whale.
My final morning in Arizona - I had a couple hours to myself at The Saguaro to explore the grounds and take photos before my early afternoon flight back home to NJ. I made sure to set aside some time to do this - because the hotel was a reason in itself for me to stay in Scottsdale. I couldn't get enough of the dreamy, bright, and colorful decor - not to mention the incredibly welcoming and friendly staff. I already look forward to going back some day - hopefully soon!
On the way to the airport, we pulled over so I could shoot off my final polaroid - which ended up being one of my absolute favorites from the 2 week long adventure.
Again, a huge thank you to Lisa for making AZ so wonderful, memorable, and easy - for picking me up and dropping me off at the airport, showing me all her favorite places in Phoenix and Scottsdale, driving 9 hours round trip with me to see one of the world's greatest natural wonders, and overall for being great company!
And thus, concludes my first ever solo trip - I hope you enjoyed following along! It's amazing how I started off clueless and anxious AF, but by the end of it all - I felt like a total pro. I feel like now that I've pulled all of this off - I can pretty much go anywhere I want, now. So I guess my next question is... where to next? ;)