Golf. Beautiful deserts. Spas. Cactus. Pretty good Mexican food.
Those are some of the standard cliches you hear about Arizona. And with good reason. The golf is excellent, the desert landscape haunting and lovely, the spas to-notch, the cactus ever-present and the Mexican food to die for.
But there's so much more to the Grand Canyon State than that. Such as olive oils. Fresh citrus and tons of other produce, including organic honey. Great shopping in cities such as Scottsdale. And very good wine.
We here in Canada may think of low-lying cities like Phoenix and wonder how they make wine, but there are many parts of the state at much higher elevations with good soil for wine. (Actually, many folks are under the illusion that great soil makes great wine. In fact, vines often do better when they're under a certain amount of stress, and many of the world's best wines grow in rocky soil that's not much good for other things. And that's my wine lesson for today. No charge!)
I had some pretty good red wine from Arizona at a tourism event in Toronto on Tuesday night; a bit tart on the edges but full of deep flavour and likely something that will improve with age. I didn't try it but I was told the Chardonnay was pretty good, too.
As I was saying, they have some pretty serious elevation changes in Arizona. Some towns are high in the mountains, where snow can be found most of the year. Flagstaff is home to the University of Northern Arizona and is a nice college town near the Grand Canyon in the north part of the state. And there are stunning canyons and wild rock formations in places such as Sedona. Not to mention wild rivers and beautiful lakes that might surprise some Canadians.
All in all, a state with plenty of surprises. So thanks to the tourism folks for coming to town and giving us a timely reminder.
CANADIAN CITIES ROCK IN CONDE NAST LIST
Conde Nast Traveler receently compiled its readers choice list of the world's 25 top cities. And I'm happy to report Canada did well.
Lovely Victoria finished tied for 17th, while Vancouver came in at number 13 and perennial favourite Quebec City cracked the top 10 with a 10th place finish. That's pretty good for a country our size, I'd have to say. There were only two American cities in the top 25; Santa Fe New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina.
The top spot was grabbed by San Miguel de Allende, a pretty colonial city in Mexico that I've heard good things about but have never visited. An interesting choice, and it's nice to see something different than Paris or Prague at the top.
Yet it's a very strange list. If you look below, you'll find a grouping that's shockingly Euro-centric and North American based. There's nothing from South America and nothing from Asia, which is hugely surprising given the millions of folks flocking to Bangkok and Hong Kong and Singapore each year.
Anyway, for the record, here's the top 25 in full with some of my thoughts
1. San Miguel de Allende (beautiful architecture and apparently no billboards!)
2. Florence (stunning art and design and some guy named David)
2. Budapest (stately buildings, the Danube River, and cheap)
4. Salzburg (achingly beautiful still, and some guy named Wolfgang)
5. Charleston (visited a couple years ago and loved the southern charm)
5. San Sebastian, Spain (hear good things about the cuisine in northwest Spain; never been)
7. Vienna (regal architecture, great coffee and music)
8. Rome (not much, just great food, the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain. And I met my wife there)
9. Siena (only had a brief visit but was impressed by the city centre)
10. Quebec (most romantic city in North America, hands down)
11. Bruges (the Quebec of Europe? Beautiful and charming)
11. Cape Town (never been, but an iconic location and great food and wine)
13. Vancouver (great neighbourhoods, the ocean, the mountains, fabulous food; what's not to like)
14. Kyoto (stunning temples of every kind, awesome food)
15. Prague (stately architecture and reasonably inexpensive)
15. Krakow (never been but hear it's pretty, and quite cheap)
17. Victoria (great outdoors city and wonderful harbour, plus the venerable Fairmont Empress hotel)
17. Sydney (one of my favourites; an awesome bay and iconic architecture like the Opera House)
17. Santa Fe (also never been but told it's quite charming and artsy)
20. Beirut (a surprise given MidEast issues, but sometimes likened to Paris)
20. Seville (stunning fountains, red roofs, beautiful tile work and great weather)
22. Paris (hoo boy, they won't like that. Actually, they probably don't give a rat's you know what)
22. Melbourne (wasn't crazy about it the only time I went but many folks swear it's better than Sydney)
24. Venice (didn't like it the first time I went but I'll be there tomorrow as part of a cruise with Silversea)
24. Barcelona (I haven't been for years but loved it. Surprised it's this low in the poll; maybe over-exposure?)
I'd put Bangkok and Hong Kong in there, for sure. Not sure about Beirut as I've never been. Ditto for Krakow and Buadpest and Cape Town and San Sebastian. I'm sure I'd put Buenos Aires in there if I'd been.