By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Tucson is not Phoenix. Ask any long-time Tucsonans about it and they will take a certain amount of pride in that statement. Okay, maybe a lot of pride. Phoenix – they say – has become Los Angeles. If Phoenix and Scottsdale are the city slickers of the state, Tucson is the proud aging hippie. It is a haven for the “anti” anything sort – big business, big box stores, housing developments and most noticeably, freeways. The city planners have consistently voted down any suggestion of bringing expressways or thoroughfares to cope with increased sprawl. Early on (in the 50’s) they were concerned that improved roadways would only encourage more people to live on the outskirts of town. So what happened? People came anyway for the beautiful scenery and warm climate, moving farther and farther from the town center. Now a drive that would take 10 minutes on an expressway takes 30-40 with seemingly hundreds of red lights. The road maps look like they were assembled by Lady Gaga’s costume designer. So with perhaps one of the most frustrating cities in which to drive in the United States, what is the attraction?
Well, for me, in addition to the beautiful scenery, it is home to some of my favorite relatives. My niece and nephew are there and they and their families are worth every second of waiting at stop lights to see them. As a bonus, this past weekend our daughter Wendy and family met us down there for a relaxing family weekend. I say relaxing because we stayed at the fabulous Westin La Paloma resort. In true Tucson style, the grounds and amenities are some of the best representations of desert landscaping and southwestern architecture in the state. When you enter the lobby you feel as if you have “arrived” somewhere. Huge picture windows provide a view of the magnificent Catalina Mountain range. I can’t be certain of this but I’m guessing that the blood pressure of visiting guests goes down significantly as they enter the hotel. But here is the best part about La Paloma – they welcome dogs! More on that in a bit.
After checking in, our entire family decided it was time for a nap. To say that we like to relax would be an understatement – give any one of us a comfortable bed and a good book and we’re happy. Westin, of course, is famous for their “Heavenly Beds” and they do not over-promise. If I’m ever bed-ridden I’ve decided that I’m going to check in to a Westin for the duration. Once we all had our beauty sleep we drove over to niece Shelley’s house for a delicious dinner. Her two daughters are 17 and 15 and our grandsons are 15 and 12 and although they haven’t seen each other in years, we soon heard them laughing and having a great time. All four of them are honor students, polite and have great senses of humor so when I am discouraged after seeing pants-dragging, tattooed teenagers and despair for our future, all I have to do is remember that these four are also our future and my faith is restored.
Sunday night brought family rivalry night to the fore. As it happened, University of Arizona (our daughter’s alma mater) was playing USC, whence our son-in-law graduated, in a rivalry basketball game. Since they have lived in Southern California for many years they have attended lots of USC events, but Wendy was anxious for the boys to see where she went to school. Fortunately they were able to secure tickets to the game but there was still the matter of sides to be taken. You can see from the pictures they were a family divided for the night. Jake, wisely understanding who packs his lunch, chose to wear the garb of his mom while Matt stuck with his favorite team. For the record, UofA beat USC so half of the family was happy!
But back to La Paloma. The grounds are magnificent in part because it is built on a cliff so there are no roadways near the rooms. In order to reach your room you climb on a golf cart that then winds it way around the trails of the property. It’s surprising how relaxing that is – not to hear car doors slamming or horns honking in the middle of the night. On the other hand, if you leave your iPad in the car it’s not necessarily a simple matter to go retrieve it. So, fair warning – if you stay there make sure you have everything out of your car before heading to your room. As mentioned, we especially enjoyed our stay because they allow dogs. Not only do they allow them, they provide a water dish and dog bed. Of course, Dash heard all the chatter about the “Heavenly Bed” so requested his own pillow up with us. As he snuggled into it each night he let out a huge sigh and was out for the night. In the mornings we sat in the lobby with Dash and were approached by people, young and old alike, who asked to pet him. Even members of the hotel staff came out to see him and offered dog treats. I thought about charging them an amusement fee – after all, they were charging me the “resort fee” for Wi-Fi and use of the pool towel. As I walked Dash around the property I was struck by a sign I encountered (right) suggesting that guests stop, take a photo, and then post it to social media. But as you can see, the “scenic view” was of the side of the conference center and its diesel generator. Call me crazy but if I were running La Paloma I think I’d move that sign to where the real view is. But, hey, for all I know people are really excited by large utility boxes.
All in all, we had a great time and would highly recommend a stay in Tucson and at La Paloma. One word of warning – do not let your dog sleep on the Heavenly Bed. There’s been no living with Dash since he’s experienced the pillows at La Paloma.