Our Trip to Anguilla

After our three days in St. Martin/Sint Maarten, we journeyed over to Anguilla for a wonderful seven-days on that island. For the first time in many summer trips, we’re talking about returning to our destination.

If you are considering Anguilla, you should know a few things before you book. First, if you are looking for either a massive party spot or a bevy of activity, stay away. This place is for those that want to rest and rest hard. There is one golf course and some tennis courts, but the primary focus of tourists is eating, sleeping, and sunning at the beach/pool. Second, it ain’t cheap. You’ve probably already seen the hotel rates, but restaurants will get you for a minimum of $100 with drink. Our cheapest dinner was at Picante, the local Mexican spot, and that was $78 including tip, but without alcohol. So again, if you want a cheap, party spot, you won’t find it in Anguilla.

Disclaimers aside – we loved Anguilla. It was fabulous. We wanted rest, and we got rest.


We took a ferry operated by GB Express to get from Sint Maarten to Anguilla. This was based on many of the comments over at Trip Advisor. We’re glad we took the recommendation. The public ferry that leaves from Marigot looked very hectic and crowded. GB Express boats seat maybe 12, and it is just a better operation. We made our reservations in advance and had no problems. (I should mention that we left our rental car at the dock in Sint Maarten, and Lesley from Kenny’s went there to pick it up.) I know there is a flight from SXM to AXA. It is about double the cost of the ferry and is all of 10 minutes. Maybe next time we’ll try that.

On Anguilla, we rented a car for four of the days. This was well worth it. We got to explore the island a bit, but it also gave us flexibility. We didn’t have to worry about calling a taxi ahead of time. It was also exciting to drive on the left for the first time in my life. I was disappointed, however, to get a car with left-hand drive. Next time, I’ll ask for a right-hand drive car. We used Island Rentals, solely because the concierge at the hotel arranged it. We got another white Toyota Corolla, but in much better shape than the one on Sint Maarten.

The Hotel

We stayed at the CuisinArt Resort in a Luxury Junior Suite. For those interested, we stayed in room 1007, which is the building farthest to the left, as you stand facing the beach from the lobby. We loved it. The resort is the perfect size for us, the service was generally good, and the amenities were great. It wasn’t perfect, and I’ll note below a few things that could be improved.

The Villas at CuisinArt Resort Shot from the Beach (#10, where we stayed, is farthest to the right)

We took a taxi from the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal to the hotel. It was $18 for that trip. We were met at the entrance by Stephane, the manager. He was somewhat ubiquitous at the resort, as was the #2 man, Fabio. Both were very pleasant and were helpful. As we checked in, we received our vouchers and our welcome drink. We were escorted to our room and the bags arrived shortly afterward.

The video below showcases the room, so I won’t go into massive detail here. It was more than comfortable, and the view was just amazing. I’ve never stayed anywhere before with views like that.


We never had trouble getting a seat at the beach or a seat at the pool. Attendants were omnipresent to “make-up” the chairs with towels and offer free bottles of cold water. There were also free floats for use in both the ocean and the pool. Each set of lounges, both at the beach and at the pool, came with a cooling umbrella. Mrs. Spidey and I commented multiple times about how nice it was not to have to get up at 6am to claim our chair. And to say that the beach was quiet is an understatement. Although all beaches in Anguilla are public, there really wasn’t anyone else on the beach but CuisinArt guests. Well, there was Mike the bracelet guy who came by every morning, but that’s about it. It was just pure, utter relaxation.

For some flavor of the grounds and the lobby, I shot two more videos below.



I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention the Beach Bar and Sam the bartender. I would be further remiss, if I didn’t recommend the frozen mojitos that he makes with fresh, hydroponically grown mint. They are crazy good. I’d be even more remiss, if I didn’t tell everyone that there is happy hour from five to six where all of Sam’s drinks are two-for-one. The beach bar at the CuisinArt from 5pm to 6pm is about as crazy as that place gets.

So, as crazy good as the place is, it could improve in a few areas:

1. Internet Access. I know we were on vacation, but we needed access to check email and see photos of our kids at camp. Internet in the room was wired and didn’t work for the last three days. WiFi was available only in the lobby and part of the pool. They have to get WiFi in the rooms. Stephane says they plan to do this in the next few months, when the hotel closes for hurricane season.

2. Coffee. Seriously. The in-room coffee maker was too upscale for us. It had these very small, individual demitasse coffee cups, and only the first two were free. At breakfast time, the only way to get coffee was by going to breakfast or ordering room service. Give us normal coffee makers and perhaps a few coffee urns in the lobby. That would be great.

3. Service oddities. We asked for several extra pillows upon check-in, which arrived right away. I sleep with two pillows under my knees for my back. I’ve done that for years. However, each morning, like clockwork, the extra pillows were moved to the closet up on top of an armoire. I then pulled them out each night. Turn down service was also nice, but we never used the slippers and never used the bathrobes on the bed. I’m just nitpicking here.

The Food

We purchased the Sea of Love package from CuisinArt. This included three lunches at Mediterraneo, three dinners at Santorini’s, including the Chef’s Table, one-day car rental, a wine tasting, and a spa package. We’re undecided whether to do this again next year. I need to do the math. All-in-all, I can tell you that we ate way too much while in Anguilla. It was great food, but there was just so much.


Mediterraneo is the restaurant where you eat breakfast, and it is then open for lunch. Breakfast was very, very acceptable. It was not spectacular. There is a buffet that includes many varieties of fruit, cereal, pastries, pancakes/waffles/French Toast, and some local salt fish, which I enjoyed. You can also order omelets. Coffee is European strong. That means stronger than Starbucks.

(I should note that guests also have an option to take a continental breakfast in the room. We did this twice and were able to eat on the balcony once. They delivered right on time, exactly as promised.)

Without a voucher, my guess is that lunch will easily set you back $50+ for two. That’s a lot, if you plan to eat lunch every day. We didn’t. We ate our three lunches and went without the other days. We just didn’t need it after a big breakfast and in anticipation of a large dinner.

Lunch there was very good. We recommend several things. Salad is made to order by selecting what vegetables and dressing you want. They have the same for pasta and pizza. Mrs. Spidey had the salad each lunch and said it was very good. I had a pepperoni/sausage pizza one lunch, and it was quite good. We can also recommend the lobster curry, the cheeseburger, and the grilled lobster. With a voucher, you get appetizer, main course, and dessert, and, in reality, that was just too much food.


We ate at Santorini’s three times, including the Chef’s Table. The Chef’s Table was $195 per person, which includes five courses, each paired with wine. We agreed that, had we not bought the package, we would not have paid for it. The food and wine were good but, again, it was too much. Notable was some fried calamari on saffron rice for the second course. I like the foie gras for the first course as well. I will write, however, that we were a bit disappointed by the Chef’s Table, as it really wasn’t a chef’s table. We were the only people who ate the meal that night, and we were not given a seat in the kitchen. In fact, the chef never came out to talk to us. We never asked why or insisted, but we should have.

Our two other dinners at Santorini’s were ok. I’m not going to say they were the best ever. We each had grilled lobster once, which was very good. Again, with the voucher you got appetizer, main course, and dessert, and it was just too much food. I will say that I highly recommend the beef lasagna. It was outstanding. We had a bit of a service goof our last night there. We had an 8:00 reservation, but, when we arrived they did not have a table. We learned that they had seated too many walk-ups. After 20 minutes of waiting, we were given a seat inside (all others were on the veranda) and could see dirty dishes piling up. We were told we’d be moved as soon as a table became available, but then the first available table went to another group. We were eventually moved, and Fabio did wipe all charges for us. Nonetheless it was frustrating.


We ate at three restaurants off-property.

We had a drink and some small plates at Spice, which is at Cap Juluca. We had wanted to see what Cap Juluca looked like. Spice is in a building at the far end of the Cap Juluca resort, to the left as you look at the water. We sat at a table right overlooking the water, right where it lapped on some rocks. The restaurant web site just about shows where we sat.  In the dark, however, there really wasn’t a view. Spice occupies the same building as a wine bar called Flights and the Pimms restaurant. Mrs. Spidey had some fried calamari, and I had something called tuna four-ways, which was outstanding. I also had a flight of red wine that was very good.

A few nights later, we ate at Blanchards. I had read about Blanchards in the book “A Trip to the Beach,” written by Melinda Blanchard. The food there was very good, especially the corn chowder. We also had their famous Cracked Coconut dessert, which was better than anticipated. The Cracked Coconut is a chocolate shell with coconut ice cream and rum on the inside.  It’s unreal.  This time of year, Blanchards has a $49 price fixe meal, which we both took, although we paid extra for the dessert. When we got there, we surprised to see Samaro working there, as works at CuisinArt as well.  Turns out that Blanchards is his primary job.  Who knew?

The Cracked Coconut from Blanchards Restaurant

As noted above, we also ate at the lone Mexican restaurant on the island, Picante. Picante is located down on the end of the Island past Viceroy and past Cap Juluca. It seats perhaps 30 at small tables on a broad veranda. Mrs. Spidey had fish tacos, and I had chicken fajitas. They were both good. If you go, however, watch out for the hot sauce. Fortunately, I tasted a bit on the end of my knife before putting it on a fajita. It is H-O-T, hot.

Our trip also overlapped (not intentionally) with the annual celebration of Anguilla’s emancipation at their Summer Festival. We avoided crowds by heading down to Sandy Ground on the Sunday before the August Monday celebration. On Sunday, we saw the beginnings of what we assume happened on Monday. We saw local sailboats lined up at anchor ready for a race. We saw some larger power boats lined up in a row (literal touching) forming a mini party cove. We also saw many food and drink tents being set up. The pictures of the wall-to-wall crowds expected on Monday kept us away, but it looked like the younger set was ready to have a good time.

As I’ve told friends and co-workers about our trip, I’ve come to say that it’s the best trip we’ve taken since our honeymoon. It’s probably also the most expensive. However, it was worth it and, I think there is a good chance, once we figure out schedules, that we’ll go back again.

I need this view again.

My View from CuisinArt Resort on Anguilla


Our Trip to St. Martin/Sint Maarten

We have just returned from a 10-day vacation, the first three of were spent at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa on the island of Sint Maarten. The other 7 days were spent a 25-minute ferry ride away on Anguilla. More on that in a later post.

(For specificity, I’ll use St. Martin when referring to the French-side of the island and Sint Maarten, when referring to the Dutch side. The airport is on the Dutch side, and so was our hotel.)

We arrived into St. Martin via US Airways through Charlotte. The trip from CLT is just under four hours. Thankfully, we had some frequent flyer tickets in first class. They made all the difference. We arrived in a rain storm, which was the last rain we would see on St. Martin/Sint Maarten, but not the last on our trip overall. We breezed through passport control, but waited over 30 minutes for our bags. As we stood by the carousel, the lost baggage desks were conspicuously over our shoulder. Our bags were nearly the last off the plane, but they made it.

Based on some advice on Trip Advisor, we rented a car through Kenny’s. As promised via email, Lesley was there to meet us. He took us over to our white Toyota Corolla in the parking lot, where we did the paperwork. The Corolla will never be confused with a luxury rental. We came to call it the “golf cart” because pressing the gas got you about the same acceleration as would a regular golf cart. This was particularly challenging around the hills near our hotel. That much said, Lesley was very efficient, and the car ($40/day) worked great.

Our drive to the hotel through Simpson Bay took forever. The road out of the airport through Simpson Bay is one-lane and very crowded. It moved faster once we got out of that general area and headed up into the hills. Our porter at the Westin later told us that it’s faster to go the other direction, all the way through Marigot and Grand Case. We later traveled through there and now believe him.

We got to the Westin fine. If you go (and we do recommend it), beware of the last hill to the hotel. The hotel is at the bottom of the steepest hill down which I’ve ever driven. It’s worse than anything I’ve seen in San Francisco. The roads on the island go up and down as the landscape does, and we were constantly challenged to see over the hill at oncoming traffic.

The Hotel

Check-in went well. We asked about an upgrade to oceanfront and were told it was available for $100 per night. Knowing we were headed to Anguilla with an oceanfront room reserved there, we passed. After checking-in, I parked the car in the free garage, and we headed up. To our dismay (and the porter’s), our room had not yet been cleaned. That was frustrating to say the least. He was really embarrassed. The hotel found us a room relatively quickly, and we got our oceanfront room for free! I’ll give the hotel credit for recovering nicely.

Our Oceanfront View at the Westin Dawn Beach (looking left)

Our Oceanfront View at the Westin Dawn Beach (looking right)

The room was standard. King size bed and a sitting chair. A desk with wired and wireless Internet. Cable TV. Separate shower and tub. Oddly, our sink was cracked, something Mrs. Spidey thought had to happen upon installation. Internet was $14.95 per day per device. We plugged in Mrs. Spidey’s laptop, but elected not to use wireless for our iPhones and my iPad.

Our Room at the Westin Dawn Beach, Shot with My Back to the Balcony

Our Bathroom Shower and Sink at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort

The pool and beach area was quite nice. The hotel is tucked into a little cove on Dawn Beach near Oyster Pond and is unreachable, except through the hotel. That made it very quiet. We had no trouble finding lounge chairs on the beach. Towels were readily available, and waitresses came by to take drink orders. The water was warm in both pool and ocean, and the ocean wasn’t too rough. Granted, this was low season, but the quiet and serenity was quite nice. We could envision it more noisy at Easter or Christmas, but even then, the beach was long-enough and secluded enough to find a good spot.

Beach Chairs Looking at the Hotel at the Westin Dawn Beach

There is a casino (a very, very small casino) just off the lobby in the hotel. Although it seemed like some tourists went to the hotel just to gamble, it was never crowded. We probably lost $100 on slots between the two of us, in the three days we were there.


We were on the island for three dinners and three breakfasts. We had one breakfast and all dinners outside the hotel. The hotel has a breakfast buffet in its restaurant that was around $25 per person. It had made-to-order omelets, french toast, cereals, sweets, and lox and bagels.

Our View from Breakfast at Mr. Busby's

Our breakfast outside the hotel was at Mr. Busby’s, which was just back over the hill behind the Coral Beach Club. It was about $25 for the two of us for breakfast right on the beach. The breakfast was the quality of any diner I’ve been to back the U.S. – very sufficient. The view, however, was fantastic.

Our first dinner, the night we arrived, was also in Coral Beach Club at Big Fish. It was very elegant and is recommended. We sat outside on a deck, but there is no view, as it is inside a courtyard. We ate well, although the service was a bit slow. We learned over the next 10 days that the speed at restaurants on both islands is much, much slower than at home. We never really got used to it, but we were accepting. Mrs. Spidey had a dish called Oprah’s Favorite, which was a mixture of different types of seafood. I had a Mahi Mahi dish that was stuffed with crabmeat and covered with lobster sauce. Both were served on incredibly large plates, each with four small sides. We would go back, although we’d be a bit hungrier next time. We were stuffed.

Our second dinner was at a café in Marigot. (IMPORTANT NOTE – Marigot basically shuts down on Sundays. We were lucky to find anything open. When I write that it was a ghost town, I mean it.) Unfortunately, neither of us can remember the name of the restaurant in Marigot, but it was right in a strip of four outdoor restaurants to the left of the ferry terminal, as you face it. The food wasn’t to die for, but was enjoyable. I had the curried conch, and Mrs. Spidey had some coconut shrimp.

Our last dinner, before heading to Anguilla, was in Grand Case. If you are in St. Martin, you must got eat in Grand Case. It is a town of perhaps 3/4 mile in length, but much of it is a one-way strip of Grand Case Boulevard, on which there must be 10 or more restaurants. The proprietors/chefs of the restaurants stand outside beckoning you in. Armed with the Trip Advisor rankings, we chose La Villa for dinner. We were not disappointed. The restaurant offers the first drink free and (if you think ahead) will convert 1 Euro for 1 USD, if you pay in cash. I had an escargot appetizer that was as buttery as one could want. I also had a filet that was cooked very nicely, also with four sides, just like The Big Fish. I wish I could tell you the rest of the meal, but I just can never remember what I eat unless I write it down right away.

Final Thoughts

Here are a few summary points for those of you thinking about going to St. Martin/Sint Maarten:

1. Definitely rent a car. The island is not that big, and renting a car gives you the flexibility you want. Kenny’s worked well for us.
2. Get out of your hotel for meals. Mrs. Spidey told me that Grand Case is considered the culinary center of the Caribbean. I now believe her.  We didn’t even stop at any of the outdoor barbecues. Enjoy it.
3. If you want to shop, synchronize your shopping in Marigot or Phillipsburg with the cruise ships. We did neither and didn’t enter a single store. Plus, the stores close at 6:00pm. You need to leave the beach early.
4. Although we didn’t see rain for our three days, rain is prevalent in the low season. However, it never seems to last very long.

I think we would go back to Sint Maarten or St. Martin, but, if you read my next post, you’ll see that we’re more likely to return to Anguilla.

Flying to Manila – The Atlanta to Tokyo Leg

Yesterday (or I guess, technically, the day before yesterday), I left 45 degree St. Louis and made my way to 85 degree Manila. I woke up at 5:30am CDT in St. Louis Monday and went to bed in my hotel in Manila at about 1:30am Wednesday. By my calculations that’s 31 hours.

I’ll try to give some thoughts on Manila itself after I’ve been here a few days. For now, I’d like post some photos of the trip itself. I flew Delta from St. Louis to Atlanta, Tokyo and Manila. Althoug my flights weren’t spot on time, I made my connections with ease.

From Atlanta to Tokyo, I was on a Delta 777 in Business Elite, which feature its herringbone layout.


My seat (or “suite”) had a seat and a footrest. The gap between was closed when the bed went flat. It was comfortable, but it lacked in real storage space for anything other than a magazine or book. I ended up putting things behind the chair. You’ll note from the pictures that my 5’6″ frame barely got my feet to the footrest. Taller folks you’re in good shape.



Here are a few more shots from this leg: the seat controls, not as confusing as they look, with a convenient USB port beneath, the large tray that pulls out and the TV screen, the ridiculously large piece of salmon for dinner, and the vanilla ice cream sundae for dessert.





All-in-all, this was an above average experience if only for the flat beds that, when combined with an Ambien, led to at least six hours sleep. The primary negative was the malfunctioning AV system, on which shows would appear randomly. I selected Black Swan, and I got Man vs. Food. I love Adam Richman, but I wanted Natalie Portman.

Next post on my Tokyo to Manila leg. Spoiler: the AV system worked!

Spidey in Beijing; Singapore Recap

This morning, I boarded SQ802 non-stop from Singapore to Beijing.    While I can’t say I minded leaving the heat behind, I carry with me a very positive feeling about Singapore and look forward to going back.

(If I can fly again on Singapore Air, I’ll go every time.  Six hours today in a massive business class seat.)

Singapore, not surprisingly, had a European feel to it.  After so much time in Beijing (I’m on my sixth trip since September) I wasn’t prepared for that.  Yesterday, I was in a shopping mall that included a glamorous Starbucks, a massive grocery store, plenty of food and, for you health nuts, a GNC.  Plenty of high fashion here and clearly people who want to have fun.  There was fantastic seafood – love those tiger prawns!  I’ll also give in to stereotypes and admit that it was a very, very clean city.  You can’t really walk along the streets and smoke.  There are designated smoking areas.

So now I’m in Beijing for 8 days.  It’s 50 degrees cooler and, as usual, no real sun to speak of.  I guess that means it’s time to get work done?

Spidey in Singapore Day 2

Did I mention yet that it’s hot here?  The Weather Channel app on my iPhone says 75% humidity.  That turns a livable 86 degree day into a 96 degree day.  It’s just past 10:30am on Sunday here, and I’m firmly entrenched in my hotel room waiting to meet a colleague for lunch at 12:30.  Curried fish heads, I’m told.

I had pepper crab yesterday for lunch.  Think Maryland Crabs – but instead of Old Bay spice, imagine lots of pepper.  I mean lot’s  of pepper.  The crabs are slightly bigger as well.  Thank goodness for the lobster bib.  From there, we trekked over to the island of Sentosa.  Sentosa is where Singapore’s first casino is located.  They are building an amusement park there and a few hotels.  There is a beach and a few other attractions.  Unfortunately, the view from the beach is port of Singapore, complete with tankers and cranes, etc.  Not very appealing.

We braved the heat to go down the Sentosa Luge.  We went three times.  Think less about a luge in the winter olympics and more about a sled on wheels going down a hill.  The best part of the ride was how it cut the heat of the day.

After a well-earned nap (and relaxation in my private massage chair in my hotel room!), we went out to Newton Circus Hawker Centre.  Here think a big, outdoor, over-priced, tourist-attraction eatery with local Singapore seafood cuisine.  We had large tiger prawns, calamari and sting ray.  Then I got to experience the Singapore MRT, the very clean subway to get back to the hotel.  It’s SGD2, per ride, which is about USD1.40.  However, you get 1 Singapore dollar back, if you turn in your fare card at the end.

Day 3 promises to be a bit calm, with work taking over.  After all, work is the reason I came here.

Spidey in Singapore

Arrived in Singapore yesterday morning.  I have one word to describe Singapore — f*ing hot!  Ok – so that’s two words, and, as “they” say, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.  My hotel is about three blocks from our office here, but I was sweating like a pig by the time I got there.  I have my room set on 10 degrees Celsius – about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, just to keep it at a reasonable temperature.  I’m drinking a lot of cold Diet Coke but, like many places outside the U.S., ice water itself is tough to come by.

Nonetheless, I’m very excited to be here.  I’m on to Beijing on Tuesday, but I have plans to come back here for a longer trip in early April.  That means that, among other things, my plans while I’m back home including buying some summer weight dress pants!

To get here, I took Singapore Air 21 direct from Newark to Singapore – that’s over 18 hours in the air direct.  It’s a great flight.  I slept for about 10 hours and arrived refreshed at 6:30am local time.  I was able to work an entire day and head out for a few drinks at night.  Our first stop was the New Asia bar on the 70th floor of the Swissotel.  (Those you who follow me on Twitter already know this! http://www.twitter.com/LifewithSpidey)  Our next stop was a restaurant called Indochine.   It was a large place, but we sat out near the water.  It was still hot, and two Tiger beers did the trick.

Today (already Saturday), I’m going to try to get out a bit to see the town, after the Caps-Lightning game finishes on Slingbox.  It’s 1-1 in the second period as I write.  I’ll settle down to work tomorrow and Monday.  The trip is also giving me some good face time with my new boss.  She’s been a friend for a long time, but I think we’re making a good transition.

Check the Twitter feed for more updates.

Even Spidey Can Be Delayed When Traveling to Newark

I’m writing this morning from the President’s Club Lounge in Terminal C at Newark Airport.  I first tried to get to Newark on Sunday night, gave up, and returned last night (Thursday), only to encounter more delays.  My 10:40 arrival quickly became 12:10am over the course of the day.  Thank goodness, however, that I left St. Louis last night, because the flight in from St. Louis this morning is also delayed, and I almost certainly would have missed my flight to Shanghai.

All of this occurred after my adventures on Sunday, when I tried to leave St. Louis for Singapore, connecting through Newark.  In the end, I gave up trying to get to Newark.  Flights were delayed beyond my connection and, since I didn’t want to fly to Newark late on Sunday and wait for an 11pm departure Monday  night, I went back home and reconfigured my trip to go directly to Shanghai today.

As I talked to colleagues, I heard things like “Newark is always a mess.  I never fly through there.”  This was followed by similar sentiments regarding Chicago and Dallas, Atlanta and Houston.  Is there really a place where you don’t encounter delays from time to time?  Snow in Chicago – wind in Dallas — rain in Newark.  Pick your poison and relax.  Nothing you can do.

So I started thinking, given my fascination (obsession?) with Spider Man, whether having Spidey’s superpowers would have made a difference this past week.  I thought for a while and couldn’t come up with a single one of Spiderman’s powers that would have helped.  Spidey doesn’t fly.  He can stick to an airplane as it flies, but he primarily moves by swinging on his web down the Manhattan streets.  I thought about all the comic books I’ve read and I have only some fleeting memories of Spidey outside the U.S.A. (not including space, of course).  To test this, I Googled “Spider Man Airplane” and “Spider Man Travel” and a few others.  I got nothing.

I’ve decided that, despite all his powers, Spider Man would have been delayed along side the rest of us getting to Newark.  However, he probably would have called Iron Man or the Fantastic Four to give him a lift.  Maybe Silver Surfer or Human Torch could have moved the storm fronts or pushed the airplanes a little faster to make up for those delays.  Great to have friends like that.

I did find the picture here of Spider Man climbing the Great Wall of China.  I wonder how he got there?

Spidey in Arizona

We just returned from a four-day, three-night visit to the Phoenix area, the primary purpose of which was to watch our son with his high school marching band in the Fiesta Bowl Parade. In addition to the roughly 120 seconds or so of watching our son, my wife and I saw some of the area, but were obviously limited by the short time there. We left St. Louis on Thursday afternoon (12/31), arriving into Phoenix around 5:00pm, and we left Sunday afternoon (1/2) getting back into St. Louis around 5:00pm. As I said, short visit.

I have read and heard a lot about how bad US Airways is. The plane interiors (and A319 out and an A320 back) were old and the seats were barely padded. I also don’t understand how, on a flight over 3 hours, the flight attendants don’t bring the cart out a second time to offer drink refills and don’t offer the entire can. All that said, both flights left on time and arrived on time — on a holiday weekend. That works for us. We stayed at Marriott’s Buttes Resort. It’s so close to the airport that you can see the planes take off and land. However, it’s on a hill and doesn’t seem to be in the flight paths. From the pool, you have no idea you are near a highway or the airport. The location makes it very convenient for people not staying at the hotel, but getting out and about. The room were standard, although I do think it’s time to upgrade the 25″ tube TV’s.

Our first night, we met up with our son and the rest of the band at a place called Rawhide, located in the Wild Horse Pass area. It’s a group-event type place that recreates a Western town. The foot was fine (we had a ticket for a group dinner), but there wasn’t much to do after that. It was cold by Phoenix standards, so we didn’t stay long. We left there and went over to the Wild Horse Pass Casino, which couldn’t have been more crowded. We tend to play slots, and were fortunate to find even one machine open. No luck there. We did have luck, however, when we found Roy’s Restaurant over in Chandler for some dessert and a cocktail. They have a Hawaiian Martini — made from vodka, vanilla vodka and coconut rum, infused with pineapple — which is perhaps the best drink I have ever had. It is comparable, if not better than the Stoli Dolis at the Capital Grille.

On Friday, New Year’s Day, we took the nearly two hour drive up to Sedona. On the way, we noticed Mayer, Arizona on our map, about 10 miles off the beaten trail. Of course, we had to go. We took plenty of gratuitous shots. Most notably, I thought it somewhat ironic that the placard showcasing the “Historic Mayer Building” somehow ended up on the side of an outhouse (see picture at below). Sedona itself was a bit touristy in town, which is why you must slow down on your drive in to take in the sites and take a jeep tour. We used Pink Jeep Tours, which I highly recommend. We went out for 2 hours on the Broken Arrow tour and four-wheeled it seeing the landscape. The driver was a bit too much like an encyclopedia, but he knew his stuff.

On the way back, we stopped for a bite and to do some additional gambling at the Cliff Castle Casino. Four hours later we left, after a great dinner and up $100, thanks to a Royal Flush hit by my better half on a poker machine.

Saturday was the parade. Now that I’ve watched a parade, I don’t know that I’m running back anytime soon. We spent Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale, mostly visiting Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Candidly, we were both starving and our guide droned on and on, so we may not have gotten the most positive perspective. I think the best part was learning of the history and how the site came to be before electricity, roads, etc. If you are an architecture aficionado, you’ll probably go regardless of what I say. Saturday evening we went over to downtown Tempe to see A Serious Man. We could see from the four blocks of downtown Tempe how Arizona State gets its reputation as a party school. It was very active, despite being January 2. A Serious Man was a good move, but two requirements before viewing. First – if you aren’t Jewish, go see it with someone who is. I’ve not been to a movie with more inside jokes about the Jewish Community. Second — plan a drink afterwards. This is a dark, dark comedy.

We’re back now into the cold of St. Louis getting ready to go back to work and school. My next trip is likely the week of the 18th overseas. I’ll have more on the blog between now and then.

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