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Friday, November 9, 2007

Traveling across the U.S. (continued)

The weather was gorgeous, as October should be in Phoenix. The city streets are torn up everywhere as the Light Rail system takes shape and new shops and restaurants are popping up all over. What used to be Tera's Garden, a garden shop/plant nursery on 4th Avenue and Fillmore is now a restaurant called Palette with lovely outdoor seating areas. Cibo, a new Italian restaurant now occupies the property next door. The Phoenix Art Museum completed its expansion and the Heard Museum renovation (a Holly Street Studios architecture project) shines. Arizona State University is creating a Phoenix campus. The entire area is undergoing a transformation and I imagine we will hardly recognize it next time we visit. Cranes and scaffolding are part of the skyline as new office buildings and townhouse/condo developments fill many vacant or previously otherwise occupied corners of the city. It was exciting to see but we are also glad we don't have to deal with the traffic congestion created by all this new growth.

We went to all our favorite places. I spent a morning at the Desert Botanical Garden sketching and another with George, Bitsy and Michael at the DBG plant sale and stopped to say hello to Lynn and Amy from Southwest Gardener. I took a walk part way up Squaw Peak with Ann and another in South Mountain Park with Marie. I lunched with Julie and shared pizza at Pino's (Pino's Pizza Al Centro, 139 W. Thomas Road) with Lucia and Randi and their respective husbands named Steve, with the opportunity to speak Italian with Pino whose hometown of Ripacandida we visited in Basilicata. Art and Chris introduced us to one of their favorite restaurants on Elliot Road in Tempe, VinciTorio's - authentic Italian food - these guys are from Puglia and we had fun speaking with them in Italian too. Check it out at www.vincitoriorestaurant.com.

Bob and I also got to show off some of the work we did in Italy. He put a slide show together and I brought some of my watercolors and sketchbooks. It felt so good to be able to show our friends first hand what we did and talk about our experiences with people who seemed genuinely interested and eager to see and hear what we had to say. We welcomed their input and advice. Several of our friends bought paintings and photos from the collections we brought, which was immensely rewarding and very encouraging, hoping that there might also be an interest in the greater population for what we have done.

On the way home, taking a southern route, we stopped to visit the nine-mile, historic El Paso Mission Trail that once extended from Mexico City to Santa Fe and linked missions, agricultural communities, estates and forts to distant trade and supply routes. This is the oldest and was once the longest road in North America. We toured the three glistening white missions, Ysleta, Socorro and Elizario. Floods and fires destroyed earlier structures, which were subsequently rebuilt, restored and renovated through the course of the years, but the parishes continue. Ysleta Mission is the oldest continuously active parish in the state of Texas and the community of Ysleta is the oldest town. Indigenous peoples lived along the Rio Grande for thousands of years before the Spanish explorers arrived around 1598 and shared what is known in this area as "the first Thanksgiving" - a celebration between the Spaniards and the local Manso Indians twenty three years before the Pilgrims' feast at Plymouth!

We lunched at a local restaurant "Meson de OƱate" where the chips and the tortillas were homemade and the salsa just the right mix of flavors. Bob had the enchiladas and I enjoyed the chicken with Spanish rice. The service was warm and friendly. We love finding small out of the way local restaurants and this place was exactly what we were hoping for!

(to be continued: more travel stories)

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