Friday, October 22nd - Tuesday, October 26, 2021
I needed this vacation so badly! Romy, Natalie, and I met freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over 8 years ago. We live all over the country - one in LA, the other between NYC and Michigan, and me, in the middle, in Wisconsin. We live in 3 different time zones, but our friendships are the perfect kind that are low maintenance, but so supportive, encouraging, and connected. At least once a year, we take a little girl's trip together to catch up.
DAY ONE | Friday, October 22nd
My flight from Madison to Phoenix was very smooth. We all landed in Phoenix within 20 minutes of each other. How is that for planning? Phoenix's airport is giant and not very intuitive, even for me who is decently well-traveled. After 30 minutes of walking and one train ride, I found my friends. We got our car rental and headed to Paradise Valley, a very rich suburb of Phoenix alongside Scottsdale. Romy found a cozy little Spanish Villa for us to call home for 5 days and 4 nights. It was a whole gated property with a main house, 2 guest quarters, a pool, and a meditation garden. It was the most eccentric space, formerly owned by an artist. Our next move was lunch. We decided on Farm & Craft. We got a kale pesto chicken flatbread to share and I got the fried
Farro Bowl with grilled tofu and a delicious cocktail called The Cure. The place was extremely aesthetic, with large open doors and windows. After lunch, we went back to our villa and spent the afternoon poolside. We enjoyed some Spotted Cow beer that I picked up from the Madison Airport, listened to music, had a little photo shoot, and tanned the afternoon away. Dinner was at Blanco Tacos and Tequila. We were starving, so we downed the chips and salsa and enjoyed our jalapeño and pineapple margaritas. Everything on the menu looked phenomenal, so I settled on a caramelized sweet potato bowl that was not visually appealing but was so full of delicious flavors. After dinner, we swung by Target to pick up some things that we forgot: small backpacks for hiking, sunscreen, and snacks for our hikes. We were exhausted by 9pm and fell asleep shortly after. Long days of travel, am I right?
DAY TWO | Saturday, October 23rd
Because of the 2-hour time change, I couldn't sleep past 6am, but I felt so well-rested. The mornings were a nice and cool 60 degrees. Each day I got up, made myself a cup of coffee and sat outside in the meditation garden with my computer listening to the little waterfall and working on some blog and Instagram stuff. It was so inspiring. We planned a hike for this day - Camelback Mountain, which was 5 minutes from our villa. PSA: take an uber to the trailhead. There is minimal parking. Everything we heard about the hike was that it was "difficult" and "not for the faint of heart". I couldn't agree more. I like to think of myself as a fit person, but fit in a different way. This hike was only 1.25 miles one way (2.5 round trip) but it was straight up. There were even a couple parts where there was a railing because the path was so steep and didn’t have solid footholds. Consider this more like bouldering and less of a hike. With that being said, it was still doable and I highly encourage you to do this if you are physically fit. You'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Phoenix and the surrounding area. Take plenty of water breaks and go at your own pace! The way down is much easier and will take half the time it did to get up. Also, wear hiking shoes. I just wore plain sneakers and it wasn't the best decisions as some of the rocks were slippery. We felt extremely accomplished after conquering Camelback Mountain. We decided on brunch at The Herb Box. I ordered a breakfast sandwich, the Market Street BLT with a pineapple mimosa. It hit the spot and reenergized me after such a challenging hike. We swung by a coffee shop called Cartel Coffee Lab in a very cute part of Old Town. We spent most of the remaining daylight dozing off by the pool. We got all dressed up and headed to the Casino. We got drinks and walked around pressing our luck for an hour. To me, casinos are so exciting.
It's an experience. Dinner was planned at Olive & Ivy, a fancy Italian restaurant with beautiful outdoor seating. We ordered wine while lounging on sofas on the patio while we waited for our table to be ready. Of course our appetizer was bread with the most delicious pesto I've ever had. And because we were craving some greens, we all shared a Mediterranean salad. My main course was Sweet Potato Cannelloni with roasted mushroom and toasted almonds. I had a lot of great food, but this ranked #1. Afterwards, we were all too tired to go over to Old Town drinking at the bars. We went home and hung out before calling it a night.
DAY THREE | Sunday, October 24th
We road tripped to Sedona for a day of hiking! We left our villa nice and early, only taking a pitstop at Amped Coffee for a small breakfast and coffee. Our first hike for the day was the West Oak Creek Trail. The trail ran alongside Oak Creek, in a forest between the giant rock formations. It's advertised as a 7-mile hike that turned into a 10-mile hike. The parking situation isn't great for this particular trail. We had to find a place to park on the side of the road, which involved parallel parking with a string of cars waiting behind us. Parking added 1 mile to our hike. Besides the length being quite long, it was a pretty easy hike. The trail was mostly flat and well-paved. Wear hiking shoes because you will be crossing the river about a dozen times, using rocks and logs as stepping stones. The views were incredible especially during this time because of the colorful leaves. It was a busy trail, to be expected on a weekend morning. We took our time getting to the end, and yes, there is a clear end to the trail (we were constantly wondering if it was marked or not). It ends at a point on the river where if you want to continue on, you have to wade through freezing cold water, which we did not do. We booked it back out so we could go get some lunch. We drove back to the city of Sedona and ordered bar food from a place called Outlaw Grille. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries, which I thoroughly enjoyed and needed to refuel. We wanted to go on a scenic hike in more of the desert terrain next so we went to Sedona Airport Scenic Outlook. We did the Sedona View Trail
(0.6 miles) and the Airport Mesa Loop (3.2 miles). We parked by the airport and hiked to the Airport Vortex, which was the most breathtaking view of the entire trip. The Airport Loop was supposed to be 3.2 miles, but it ended up being more and that was us trying to take a shortcut which involved us scrambling up steep gravel to get to the road and ultimately to our car. We didn't plan on hiking another 5 miles, but we did and we are happy it worked out the way it did. We got back to the car just in time for sunset. The weather this whole day was incredible; it started and ended a bit cooler and only got hot in direct sunlight. Our bodies (mainly our feet and knees) were exhausted. There was an accident along the highway we took home, which added another hour to the 2-hour drive. Once back, we swung by a place called Bei Sushi to get some takeout. When we got home, we enjoyed our sushi in bed and past out.
DAY FOUR | Monday, October 25th
I slept like a rock after such a physically demanding day. Once we were up and all ready, we went for breakfast at JoJo's Coffeehouse. This is a must-see! We each enjoyed tasty coffee flights and delicious eggs, bacon, and pancakes with chocolate chips, whipped cream, and fruit. We walked around the area, coming across a heavily-influenced Native American neighborhood where there were all kinds of souvenir shops. We shopped around for an hour or two before we headed back to target for a few more things and then back home to escape the heat. We lounged by the pool all afternoon, enjoying a relaxing day and getting our tans on. We ordered in Wildflower, where I got a pretty standard salad. We were all tired and dozed on an off before getting ready for Top Golf. I wasn't expecting to have as much fun at Top Golf as I did. We shared chips and queso and I enjoyed a Sangria and Moscow Mule. I certainly wasn't the best at hitting the ball, but I got the hang of it over our 90-minute game! It was so fun to just smack the ball as hard as possible and hoped it landed somewhere useful. We decided to go to Culinary Dropout for a late dinner. I had the Chicken Falafel, which I'm not certain I'd recommend, but the house salad it came with was really great.
Next, we drove to the bar district. The whole street isn't open to traffic. All the bars had flashing lights, loud music, and large patios. For a Monday, there were actually a lot of people out. I can see how it would get real wild on the weekends. I had a very gingery raspberry mule and enjoyed conversation with my girls. We headed back home like the tired women we are, and failed at finding dessert because everything closed to early on Monday nights.
DAY FIVE | Tuesday, October 26th
I finally slept in a little bit, getting used to the new time zone on the last day. We had a slow morning, just
driving to a coffee shop called Press Coffee in Phoenix. I got a drip coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. The shop was also a roastery. It was so cool, but there wasn't enough space for us to sit and enjoy our breakfast. We took the goods back to the villa. We laid out in the sun soaking up the last bit of sunshine. Once we were all packed up, we headed to the airport. I got there 4.5 hours before my flight because Natalie and Romy had earlier flights than me. My flight then got delayed, so I didn't get home until nearly midnight.
What a dream of a vacation. It's one of the only vacations I've taken where I was itching to get home and back to routine. I am so thankful to have these experiences and these friendships. This is what life is about.