A Town Painted Red – Sedona, AZ (Road Trip Series, Part 6)


It brings to my mind the word associations: STOP, attention, fire, love, and power. It evokes images of blazing sunsets, a Burgundy wine, and a bouquet of Valentine’s Day roses. It is considered a lucky colour in the Chinese culture, yet red is used across the world in warning signs – an indicator of danger and caution. I don’t know about you, but few people I know would paint the interior of their home in Pantone 188 (Brick Red) because of the sheer impact – walls like that demand constant attention.

Yet it’s Sedona’s redness that will mentally stop you in your tracks and round your lips as you silently mouth, “wow.” You know you’ve arrived in the town when you see red from the ground up; your eye will trace skyscraper red rocks layered intermittently with beige and orange all the way to a sky laced with cloud wisps. These rock formations are the town’s framework, sculpted over the years into jagged buttes and abstract shapes. The beauty of Sedona’s red environment is that the colour is ever changing – upon waking, your eyes may rest on sculptures of rusty red, only to have you return to the same scene at sunset and witness them donning a burnt sienna hue. There’s a bit of mystery to it all too: Sedona’s red rocks have a meditative effect yet instinctively they pull at you – they will you to explore their nature.

You may not necessarily paint the town red though Sedona will leave its mark on you, and your dusty sneakers, forever.

View over Sedona from Cathedral Rock

View over Sedona from Cathedral Rock

View from Cathedral Rock

View from Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

Bell Rock

Bell Rock

WHAT we did

Hikers in a past life, Sedona is where my husband and I ignited our passion for the adrenalin rush of a good rock climb. In our previous home of New York, we were urban dwellers where entertainment included theatre, restaurant, and navigating museums; where travel was via subway, car, or ferry. In Sedona, we used mainly our legs to get around and reignited long dormant muscles to explore this outdoor natural history museum.


30 years ago, Page Bryant declared  that Sedona was a key area for vortexes – subtle energy that interacts with the being of each person that comes within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of it. Vortexes are a key draw to Sedona, especially for those on a wellness vacation as they purport healing powers. There are 4 hikes to choose from to experience this energy – Airport Vortex, Cathedral Rock Vortex, Boynton Canyon Vortex, and Bell Rock Vortex. I recommend the Cathedral Rock hike for its beauty and ease (a little steep in parts but the views from up top are infinite) and Bell Rock for the sheer fun of climbing the slopes of this “bell.” We didn’t take a tour and used the map and tips given to us by the hotel concierge.

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

Cacti on Cathedral Rock

Cacti on Cathedral Rock

You can also hike around Bell Rock, in distance

You can also hike around Bell Rock, in distance

Hiking towards Bell Rock

Hiking towards Bell Rock


How to find the strongest points of energy? One way is by observing the Juniper trees around those rock formations pinpointed for their vortex strength. “Juniper trees respond to the vortex energy in a physical way that reveals where the energy is strongest. The stronger the energy, the more of an axial twist the Juniper trees have in their branches.”

Twisted tree trunks - a sign of the powerful energy of the vortex

Twisted tree trunks – a sign of the powerful energy of the vortex

A twisted branch on Bell Rock

A twisted branch on Bell Rock

Interesting Factoid

Long regarded a spiritual land by the Ancient Indians, “the Yavapai-Apache tribe consider this sacred ground their Garden of Eden, believing this is where the first woman mated with the sun to begin the human race.”

Sun streaming on Cathedral Rock

Sun streaming on Cathedral Rock – early afternoon

Bell Rock at sunset

Bell Rock at sunset

WHERE we stayed

If you’re going to go to Sedona, you must stay at least two nights (3 full days) in accommodation that allows you to wake up to the Red Rocks first thing in the morning. There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing such natural and unexpected beauty from your balcony.

Amara Resort and Spa

Amara Resort and Spa

My husband and I stayed at the beautiful boutique Amara Resort and Spa. Ideally situated in Uptown Sedona, it is located along Oak Creek, has a Red Rock backdrop, and is within walking distance of the main street’s boutiques and galleries, restaurants, cafes, and tour services. We were there in early November – an excellent time because of fewer crowds and warm weather, yet our morning yoga class was wall-to-wall packed.

Breakfast al fresco at the Hundred Rox Restaurant was a daily highlight. For me at least, there’s no better way to start the day than with fresh fruit, eggs, coffee, wonderful company, and a spectacular view, now etched into my memory. This mental visual is a lovely scene to reflect upon, months after my visit. In the evening, ordering a prickly pear cactus cocktail while lazing by the saltwater infinity pool felt decadent after a day of climbing and hiking. Bonus: All hotel rooms are located steps away from the outdoor area; the bed’s pillowtop mattress is the softest and most luxurious present ever after an invigorating day outdoors. If you stay here, I assure you an excellent night’s sleep.



Dining al fresco means a million dollar view

Dining al fresco means a million dollar view

Poached eggs and crab cakes on a muffin

Poached eggs and crab cakes on a muffin

Throughout Amara Resort, touches that bring the outdoors inside add to natural appeal

Throughout Amara Resort, touches that bring the outdoors inside add to natural appeal

Something new to taste

You don’t have to be such an adventurous eater to dig into some Nopalitos Cactus Fries – marinated, breaded, and flash fried strips of Nopalitos cactus served with prickly cactus sauce. They don’t have the crunch appeal; instead, think fried bell peppers. Head to the casual Cowboy Club – a 50 year old Country and Western style restaurant/bar to try them.

Cactus fries

Cactus fries

The Cowboy Club and other galleries, cafes, and boutiques are located on the main road in town, N State Route 89A

The Cowboy Club and other galleries, cafes, and boutiques are located on the main road in town, N State Route 89A

HOW to get to Sedona

Driving to a town at an elevation of 4,500 feet means a steady ascent. As we were driving from El Paso, the State Highway 179-N guided us uphill and the Arizona 89A road led us into the centre of town – it also serves as Sedona’s main road. Expect to see a ground cover of columnar cacti and otherwise flat land prior to reaching Red Rock Country. The contrast is stark.

Red equals love

Red equals love


My San Antonio Top 5, Texas ~ Road Trip Series, Part 5

A few months ago, I passed through San Antonio in Texas. The bad news is that because we were on a cross country road trip, we’d only managed to stay overnight, and half of the next day. The good news is that this made it easy for me to scribe my top 5. This list is adapted from the etchings of my memory. Enjoy!

# 5  The San Antonio Museum of Art: I love to visit museums, and especially appreciate those with manageable, and varied, collections of antiquities, paintings, and sculpture.

Wreath of laurel leaves and berries - Greek, 4th -1st Century BC

Wreath of laurel leaves and berries – Greek, 4th -1st Century BC

Torso of a Woman, and Marcus Aurelius - Roman AD 140-150

Torso of a Woman, and Marcus Aurelius – Roman AD 140-150


"Double Scramble" (1968 by American, Frank Stella

“Double Scramble” (1968 by American, Frank Stella

# 4 Stopping by The Alamo: it’s the site of heroism and freedom encapsulated.



DSC_0979PS# 3 Lunching is always a highlight. Luckily in Texas they eat big… This spot is located along the city’s famed Riverwalk.




DSC_0962PSDSC_0970PSDSC_0963PSDSC_0955PS# 2 Sleeping like a baby in the haunted Emily Morgan hotel.

*Legend has it that Emily Morgan is the Yellow Rose of Texas. She was a Texan spy that helped distract the Mexican president as Texians staged an attack and paved the way towards independence.

DSC_0932PSDSC_0931PSDSC_0933PSDSC_0925PS# 1 Being greeted to the warmest day since we left New York City in October, 2012. Wide quiet streets, palms, flowers, and the warm sun couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the weather we had left behind in the Big Apple. It felt good.


Road Trip Series, Part 1: Washington DC (Night)

Georgetown – Though it is older than the City of Washington, the storefronts of this Potomac River facing town seem to have been updated to what now looks like the village version of NYC’s Fifth Avenue. In between the brand labeled facades, Martin’s Tavern is easy to spot for its corner location and Irish pub exterior. Having arrived late into the night, shopping wasn’t on our agenda, but dinner was.

DSC_0977PSChoosing Martin’s Tavern wasn’t left to chance. I had read of it being one of the few establishments still standing since the Great Depression; opened by an Irish family with roots stretching back to the 1800’s in this former blue collar labourer’s port. Perhaps more renowned for its associations with serving monumental figures such as Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and even Richard Nixon*, also knowing that this was the on-bended-knee location of JFK had intrigued enough to make a reservation.


DSC_0972PSMy husband and I held court in ‘The Nixon Booth’. Its history reads like this:

“Richard Nixon dined at Martin’s Tavern throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s while serving as a Representative, Senator, and Vice President. He enjoyed Martin’s Meatloaf and most often dined with his wife Pat or congressional colleagues.”

Though we cannot vouch for the Meatloaf, the seared tuna, and hamburger-with-the-lot were healthy servings of good pub fare.


Now, about that booth:

DSC_0991PSJFK and Jackie frequently dined in Booth 3 at Martin’s Tavern. Having returned from covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth for the Washington Times Herald, Jacqueline Bouvier accepted John’s proposal. The next day the Tavern was abuzz with staff and guests talking about the “nice young Kennedy congressman” proposing to his girlfriend in their favourite Booth. It has been known as “The Proposal Booth” since that day.

That’s how this history reads on the one-sheeter distributed at each table anyway. Cheers!

DSC_0988PS*All quotes sourced from Martin’s Tavern – website and in-restaurant

A Sunset, An Ocean ~ Panama City Beach, FL

For a town filled with white condominiums, amusement rides and seafood joints, Panama City Beach felt too quiet. I’m guessing it isn’t like that for long…

We traveled in the off-season through Florida’s Emerald Isle, s0 Panama City was a rest stop after about 800 miles of driving.

Awed by the iridescent pink sunset, later waking up to the meditative sound of lapping waves, we felt right at home in the ’70s pink-and-turquoise Casa Loma.

Sunset as we saw it from the highway heading into Florida

The beach-facing Casa Loma in Panama City Beach, FL

Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach, FL

A roadside breakfast

Morning Musings ~ Charleston, SC

Curled wisps of Spanish moss, draped over the branches of statuesque cypress, swaying back and forth; the wind in the willows. Inhaling the heady scent of jasmine mixed with freshly cut grass; stopping to linger for a full embrace.

An abundance of glistening green surrounding me – the leaves of palms, camellia and azalea bushes awake, washed, and polished by the rain’s droplets. A herd of sheep grazing on the manicured lawns of the gardens at Middleton Place; their bleats at a minimum during the breakfast hour, looking up at times to pose for a photograph.

At the backdrop: a plush of green and brown marsh grasses stretching to infinity, meeting with the grey cloud cover at a line of the horizon.

This is the Charleston I was greeted with in the morning, and it is the image I leave with of this charming historic city.

In the Mill, looking over the gardens of Middleton Place

Sheep in the gardens; marsh in the far distance

Camellia flower

Spanish moss over willow oaks

Road Trippin’ via Raleigh, NC

Driving along stretches of highway has given me a distinct feeling of de-ja-vu; I’m reminded of when I was a kid, driving up Australia’s East Coast with the family over the summer holidays. I’d stare out the window at the repetitive landscape – green tree after hill after green tree; a pattern broken either by a bridge crossing or farmland speckled with livestock: grazing sheep, dozing cows, and roaming horses.

Despite a difference in age, taste, and destination, road trips have a distinct feel. Of course, some things do change over time…

The 2Day station that used to play on the FM car radio has been replaced with an organised MP3 playlist; the highway lunch is no longer a McDonalds cheeseburger and sundae, but a Wendy’s salad and large coffee; the GPS has long superseded the UBD street directory, which used to be a staple in the side door pocket of dad’s car. I remember tracing the roads with my finger, tracking our progress towards Queensland’s Gold Coast. Now, I just key the correct address into the smartphone and ensure I keep up with what the navigation system is telling me (not so easy).

Sitting in a 2 seater is not dissimilar to sharing a car with 5 others. I am still crammed with stuff underfoot – at the moment it happens to be by bags filled with technology, and not a backpack jammed with can’t-live-without-them toys and books.

Probably the biggest difference in being an adult on a road trip, versus a kid, is that I have most of the control over the itinerary. Setting aside the amusement park rides for the time being, right now it’s all about arts and culture, dining, a bit of history, and experiencing the beautiful nature of the USA.

Because you just never know when I might be sitting behind the wheel of that family wagon.

The Prayer ~ Auguste Rodin. At the North Carolina Museum of Art

Iris Restaurant at the North Carolina Museum of Art

The Proposal ~ From New York to Los Angeles

Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.  ~Ray Bradbury

Foothills of El Paso’s (TX) Franklin Mountains via spysgrandson (all rights reserved)

Thank you so much readers, for the suggestions of where to visit as part of a cross country road trip from NYC to LA. In my last post, many seasoned travelers highly recommended Utah as a place to see. As much as I’d love to stop here, I know spending 1-2 days wouldn’t do the state justice; it’s worthy of a lengthy trip in the near future.


Moonrise over Washington DC via pentaxforums.com

I am in unison with Bradbury in the sentiment that there’s beauty in venturing, uninhibited, into the unknown. But just as his words read, that’s half the fun. The other half, in my opinion, is influenced by the trip’s framework; there’s comfort in setting (loose) parameters. Wandering about aimlessly under time restrictions – a little over a week across 3,500 miles – promises a whole other set of challenges.


Keeping in mind that visiting New Orleans is a must, I’ve drafted an itinerary that traces a southerly route of the US. The list includes cities that I have never been to before (the Washington DC and Sedona drive-thrus don’t count). If you can advise, I’d love your thoughts on what to see/do, and where to eat/play.

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans ~ via myneworleans.com

I’ve done some preliminary research but am also looking for the not-so-seen, and hungry for local knowledge. I want to know what lies under the skin of place; I want to take in the smells of fresh produce markets, bite into a deep fried beignet, feast my eyes on centuries old architecture and innovative design, be immersed in nature’s stillness. Most importantly, I want to see how people live.

While I’ll certainly be documenting the details, a head start never hurts.


Brooklyn, New York > Washington, DC > Charleston, South Carolina > Savannah, Georgia (brief stop) > Tallahassee, Florida > New Orleans, Louisiana > San Antonio, Texas > El Paso, Texas > Sedona, Arizona (2 days) > Los Angeles, California

*Thinking of adding in Raleigh, NC between DC and Charleston as a stop. Not only will it give us more time, but I am reading wonderful things about this city.

Sedona, Arizona via prx.org



What are your favourite DC monuments? Can you recommend a noteworthy restaurant or bar in this great city?

Any recommendations re: where to feast on good Creole cuisine while in New Orleans? What about jazz clubs?

What are the Charleston essentials – sights, shops, cafes, neighbourhoods?

Know of a part of Savannah where one can linger for a couple of hours?

What do you love about Sedona?

What’s hot in Raleigh? The City of Oaks has me intrigued.

What about El Paso and Tallahassee; have you been to these cities? I’ve read that Tallahassee has an abundance of seafood – know of an oyster shack?

Look forward to tips, thoughts, and suggestions on anything, or all, of the above.

~Thank you!

Avenue of Oaks in Charleston, South Carolina via davidallenphotography.com