Taliesin West ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the biggest names in architecture. I had only seen pictures of his marvels, but when I was in Phoenix my Mom and I went to his winter residence (and school) – Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ. Of course he doesn’t live there anymore, Wright died in 1959, but it continues today as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, an accredited school. It was built and maintained entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it the most personal of his creations.

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Taliesin is in Spring Green, WI and was his summer residence. He built it for his lover Mamah Borthwick, in part to shield her from aggressive reporters and the negative public sentiment surrounding their non-married status. Both had left their spouses and children in order to live together and were the subject of relentless public censure. In 1914, while Wright was working in Chicago a male servant hired from Barbados set fire and murdered seven people with an axe. One of those being Mamah and her two children. I could continue on but this post is not about Taliesin, it’s about Taliesin West.

With everything that Frank Lloyd Wright designed, he believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. Not to overtake but to become one with it. I love this idea.

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Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship (his apprentices) began to “trek” to Arizona each winter in 1933. In 1937 Wright purchased the plot of desert land that would soon become Taliesin West. He paid $3.50 an acre on a southern slope of the McDowell Range, believing this to be the perfect spot to build: a residence, a business, and a place to learn.

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Drafting Room at Taliesin West

I am in love with this red door of the drafting room.

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He wanted Taliesin West to connect with the desert, the structure’s walls are made of local desert rocks, stacked within wood forms and filled with concrete. Natural light was used as much as possible with windows but no glass, only an open space for birds to fly through and sunlight to beam its rays throughout the rooms. Light beige canvas was used for the roofing and could be rolled up or down depending on the day.

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For Wright everything he did was intentional. He was fascinated with the petroglyphs found on the Taliesin West property, the clasped hands of the American Indian symbol of friendship. This is often referred to as the running arrow; however, Mr. Wright preferred to call it the whirling arrow. Found in many places around the property but seen here on a rock and near the water fountain at Taliesin West.

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Wright enjoyed entertaining. Almost every Saturday he would invite people over for cocktails, dinner, maybe a movie or a dance production. They would start in the Garden Room, one of the most popular rooms at Taliesin West. Here you have a long bench but also Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous butterfly chairs.

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Every year upon his return to Taliesin West he would walk around with making changes and shouting orders to his apprentices. Taliesin West was a continuing project for Wright, always changing things with new ideas and improving the space with different concepts. Throughout the years he added to the dining room and one brilliant addition was the cabaret theatre with six-sides in an irregular hexagonal shape, it provides its occupants a “95% acoustic perfection”. Someone in the very back can hear even the slightest whisper from the stage.

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Piano space cut into stone in cabaret theatre

And speaking of the stage, his apprentices would learn more than just architecture. The Taliesin Fellowship were taught to learn all aspects of life, integrating not only architecture and construction, but also farming, gardening, and cooking, the study of nature, art, music, and dance. He would have parties almost every Saturday and half of his apprentices would cook and the other half would serve and clean up. Or if he wanted a special dance or music set for his guests, the apprentices would learn the dance or the song and perform.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Taliesin West and would recommend it to anyone, especially if you love architecture. There are many different types of tours, we did the Insight Tour which lasted about an hour and a half. Ticket prices are $34 for advanced purchase but if you are an Arizona resident you get 50% off, so don’t forget to mention that if you are! Enjoy and I would love to hear about your favorites of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Taliesin West. 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ. 480.627.5378

 

 

Ghost Town in Jerome ~AZ

I ain’t scared of no ghosts.

Jerome, AZ is touted as the “Largest Ghost Town in America”, as well as “America’s Most Vertical City”, sitting at more than 5,000 ft above sea level. It started as a copper mining camp and by the 1920s it was home to more than 10,000 people. Jerome’s personality has changed a lot from once a thriving mining camp between the late-1880s and early 1950s, the town is now a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of about 450. But its external appearances have remained much the same for the last 100 years.

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My parents and I decided to make a day of it. Jerome is about 100 miles north of Phoenix on state route 89A between Sedona and Prescott. Mom gave me the job of finding a cute place to stop on the way up for brunch. And I think I succeeded supremely. If you are looking for a super good place for breakfast or lunch food then try out Nora Jean’s coffee kitchen in Black Canyon City, AZ. I was extremely jealous of Mom’s patty melt with grilled veggies, Dad had a Reuben with homemade potato salad and I had a breakfast sandwich of egg and bacon on an English muffin. They had fresh, iced, green and peach tea, my newest favorite discovery of cold brew coffee and the lemon bars looked amazeballs.

Alright, bellies are full, we are decently caffeinated and ready for our adventure in Jerome. Did I mention it was a ghost town? I have a bit of an obsession with ghosts. I am believer, and a belieber. Hahaha. Ok, seriously. Let’s find some ghosts.

First stop was the Jerome State Historic Park. The Historic Park is located in the Douglas Mansion and boasts tons of artifacts and history of the town. Don’t miss the 20 minute video, which takes you through the history and development of Jerome – funny ghost narrator dude too.

Speaking of ghosts, when I checked my phone later I had 144 blast photos while I was in the Mansion. This blast photo thing happened on a ghost tour in New Orleans too. Kinda weird, right?

The outside of the mansion is gorgeous with lots of mining parts scattered around the area.

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I thought this model of the town with the mining shafts, faults, etc was pretty cool.

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Next to the Historic Park is the Audrey Mine Shaft. It is inoperable now but you can go check it out and even stand over the void of the 1,900 ft shaft!! No worries guys, there is a thick plate of glass and a metal crate to keep you from falling in. Thank goodness!

The Audrey was the center unit of the main United Verde Extension mine shaft. It was concrete-lined for fire prevention and was state-of-art for its day. The Audrey (I love how they call their mines THE Audrey, THE Edith … can there be THE Kim?) was the main ore hauling shaft. During the prime of its time, it would haul one up to the 1,100 ft level, the ore would then be dumped into a chute cut into the rock where the ore was loaded at the 1,300 ft level into carts which were pulled through a tunnel by an electronically driven engine for transport to the Clemenceau smelter in Cottonwood, AZ.

It’s truly fascinating what they did back in the day. Here is the Audrey.

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And just to give you an idea just how deep 1900 ft is!

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Isn’t she a beaut??

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After the Historic Park where a ghost took over my phone for a bit, and I stood over a 1,900 ft shaft, we moved onto the main drag of Jerome. It isn’t too hard to find, just keep heading up and when you hit all the art galleries, a few restaurants and a few hotels; you are there. Now it’s REALLY time to find some ghosts.

First stop is the Jerome Grand Hotel. This hotel on Cleopatra Hill used to be the United Verde Hospital opened in 1927 where sick and injured miners were treated. The hospital closed in 1950 and sat vacant for 46 years. The building had a reputation for being haunted with ghostly sounds of moaning and coughing. Plus a man named Claude Harvey was killed when he was caught under the elevator in 1935. Super scary.

At the Jerome Grand Hotel keep a lookout for a bearded man who wanders the halls, a young boy who likes to run around on the third floor, sounds and lights around the elevator thanks to Harvey and supposedly the hotel lobby is a place the spirits like to hang around and play tricks. Alas, we had a drink in the upstairs bar but did not see any strange people or occurrences. Great views from up there though!

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Next, we parked by all the shops and wandered around. It was Saturday evening and it was Art Night! Sweet, they had free drinks and snacks at every art gallery. And there are plenty of them: lots of great paintings, jewelry and a few oddities.

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You can stop by Mile High Inn which became home of one of the most famous ladies of the night during the 1900s. She was Madam Jennie Banters (reportedly one of the richest women in northern Arizona) and the inn became her popular bordello; Jennie and her ladies entertained many men during the mining boom in Jerome. She can be seen upstairs usually in the “Lariat and Lace” room. But there is also the phantom cat where guests stoop to pet the cat but then it suddenly vanishes. We stopped by the Mile High Grill (the restaurant below the inn) where I inquired about the cat. I was looked at like I had three heads and then I explained, “you know, the ghost cat”. “Ahhh, haven’t seen it in awhile but if you did it would be upstairs and not here,” she answered. Boo hoo and one isn’t allowed at the inn unless you have a hotel reservation.

We moved on.

In between more art galleries – more glasses of champagne and crackers with slices of cheese and pretzels and sometimes a little sandwich and one time shrimp with cocktail sauce; we walked around the tiny downtown and then ran into another of Jerome’s haunted places, the Connor Hotel. Rumor has it, the spirits come and go here.

But the rooms are haunted. Room 1 is said to be haunted by a lady in red and her friends. You may hear women whispering and laughing or she possibly comes to see you in your dreams. Scary! In room 5 people say they feel cold spots and the appliances like to go off by themselves. Reminds me of my freshmen year dorm room, my clock could “talk” and one time just went off and told us the time without us pushing the button. THAT dorm was defo haunted!

That’s it y’all. Jerome was so much fun even if I never experienced a ghost encounter. I’ll leave you with my pic of the Connor Hotel. Do you see anything strange in the windows??  OOOoooooooooOOOOOO

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Night Lights

I may or may not be over my jet lag.

What a whirlwind of fun from my recent travels to New Orleans and Arizona. Mostly it was to check in on my mom, who is recovering from a double mastectomy and starting radiation but also quite a lot of fun was had with Jeannie and my parents. Naturally.

Coming soon lots more information than you probably want on the exciting times of NOLA and AZ. Til then, enjoying this cool pic of coming into Phoenix, AZ at night. I really love this picture.

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W Hotel Scottsdale

 It’s hot in Surprise, AZ. Like, blazing hot. 115F to be exact.

A few trips to the community pool with my family was nice. But after kids splashing me, an older lady complaining to me that they closed half of the pool to swim camp and teenagers making out that looked 13 it was nice to make a change. Time for the pool at the W Hotel in Scottsdale.

Lemme tell you. It was nice. No, wait, more than that. It was NICE. Kids and splashes were replaced with lounge chairs and pool side service. And did I mention that we weren’t even staying at the hotel? Well, not that night at least. The first day was a Friday, we had no problem getting into the pool area and immediately ordering shrimp ceviche and Dos Equis. Here is what the pool looked like on Friday.

Aannnnnnddd here is what it looked like on Saturday.

A completely different world! We were hotel guests for that evening, otherwise we would have never made it to this scene. The weekends at the W are happening. Drinks were flowing, the DJ was spinnin’ and the people were crazy, yo! The girlies had an outift for walking to their cabana, then another outfit for lounging in the cabana, and then a bikini for the pool. The hair was piled, the makeup was layered and the game was on. I was none of that and I do believe I heard a collective gasp when I actually went under the water to cool off.

What more could two hot girls want? And I meant hot, in both senses.

I do love the W Hotels. They are always modern with a comfortable feel. A flat screen tv, bath products from Bliss and an excellent Sushi restaurant is what we encountered at this one.  We loved it so much we came back to the pool on Monday and enjoyed it one more time. Great time to beat the heat and relax in a hip (but sometimes loud) atmosphere. Go try it out for yourself!

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Final Stop: Arches and Powell

Final stop – Arches National Park and Lake Powell. We didn’t do both in one day, but they go hand in hand. Lots of rocks and arches and fun!

Arches National Park in located in Moab, Utah. It contains the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches. This National Park is a red, arid desert, punctuated with oddly eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. The 73,000-acre region has over 2,000 of these “miracles of nature.”

We pretty much stayed in the car and drove the loop, it took about 2.5 hours. But there are trails to hike, a campground to stay at, you can easily stay a full day or more. My two favorites were balanced rock and the three gossips.

I heard she went out with Jacob last night. I knew she would cheat on Edward.

Careful now, concentrate, balance. Ooooommmmmm….

Lake Powell is next! Lake Powell is a reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona (most of it, along with Rainbow Bridge, is in Utah). It is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States.

We opted for the Rainbow Bridge Tour. Enjoy cruising past 50 miles of Lake Powell to Rainbow Bridge National Monument.  At the monument, the tour boat docks and you will set off a fairly easy mile-plus trail to Rainbow Bridge.  The bridge itself extends 290′ into the sky and 275′ across Bridge Canyon.  Witness first hand the power of wind and water in their role of sculpting this remarkable landscape.

To catch the boat tours you must go to the Wahweap Marina, near Page, AZ. The cruise lasted about five hours total, you get a headset to hear about Lake Powell plus free lemonade and water! The boat has a seating area upstairs, or if you want some shelter from the sun (or the rain) there is also seating below. My parents and I had a nice time cruising the lake, checking out the sandstone and watching all the houseboats and waverunners pass us by. Here are some of my favs from the tour.

Rainbow Bridge was truly spectacular. Even better, I got to enjoy it with Mom and Dad.

Trippin with the Rents.

My parents have finally settled down in Phoenix, AZ. Finally! They were nomads for a couple of years and it seriously drove me batty. I guess in my old age I am just concerned about them in their old age (kidding mom, you’re not old, only dad). I know Mom was enjoying the nomad life, but not so sure about Dad. But now, with their son, daughter-in-law, grandson in the very same town, everyone can be happy. I think. Every time I am back in the states I seem to end up on a road trip with my parents. Like here or the European one here! And I seriously love trippin’ with Dot and Chuck. Maybe when my nephew and nephew-to-arrive-in-DECEMBER (!!!) are a bit older we can add my brother’s family along. That would require a little larger method of transportation, like the Winnebago my grandparents owned. It was the coolest ride ever.

At first, we were going to head down to Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Even with all the problems between Arizona and Mexico we were still going to go, after all it is only a mere three-hour drive! But then, a few days before we were going to leave a murder occurred in Puerto Penasco and we decided that maybe now is not the best time to go. Change of direction, lets head north-ish. And we were off with no real plans.

From Phoenix we headed up to Flagstaff and then over on 40E to New Mexico. Once we hit Gallup we went north on 491 up to Shiprock, because my dad likes to read the Tony Hillerman books and they are based around Shiprock. After we left Gallup and until a the day we drove back to Phoenix, my cell phone (the cool GO PHONE, everyone should get one. yes, i am being sarcastic) was never too reliable.

We drove up to Colorado and stopped at Durango for the night. Cute town! It was very touristy with lots of stores with souvenirs, jewelry and art. Plus the train is there to take you up to Silverton. In the morning we headed over to Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.

We bought tickets to see the Cliff Palace but we had a few hours before it was time for our tour so we drove around and stopped at many of the archeological sites to see. First one was the Pithouse.

 

That’s my cute mom walking around the Pithouse in her favorite Skechers Shape Ups.

The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the North American Continent. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.

Check out some of these cliff dwellings that the Ancestral Puebloans would climb down to with specially marked footholds. Truly amazing.

How in the world did they climb DOWN to that?

Here is a lovely pic of my Dad eating an apple….

Hehe. Okay, seriously. It was time for the Cliff Palace tour! There are three tours you can go on; The Cliff Palace, The Balcony House and The Long House. The latter two are the most strenuous with tall ladders to climb and small holes to crawl through. As I mentioned earlier, my apple eating Dad is old (love you dad! now go take your medication) so the Cliff Palace was the only one he could really do.

But he wasn’t tooooo terribly old to do this one. Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in the park. A Cliff Palace tour descends approximately 100 feet into the canyon on a steep trail that includes 120 uneven stone steps. During the tour, visitors climb five, eight-foot ladders.

Recent studies reveal that Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people. Out of the nearly 600 cliff dwellings concentrated within the boundaries of the park, 75% contain only 1-5 rooms each, and many are single room storage units. If you visit Cliff Palace you will enter an exceptionally large dwelling which may have had special significance to the original occupants. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage. Here it is …..

Pretty cool my friends. But come back soon, this is just the first part of trippin’ with the rents. So much more to come. See you soon!

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