Tucson… Why going to Tucson?
If you want to go to the US, go to New-York! Go to LA, Miami, San Francisco! Why Tucson? well, I would say: why not… ! Of course I could go to Phoenix, the biggest city in Arizona, where everything look huge; I could go to Las Vegas, at some hours driving from Flagstaff, spending my money out there to see big buildings, skyscrapers and hotels in the middle of the desert of Nevada. But no, I want my American experience to be different than the other tourists, I am looking for something special, something for allowing me to live my holidays like a real American, living among the local culture and people.
After one week it’s already time for me and Lily to leave Flagstaff for the south of Arizona and join her family for Christmas. We are heading to Tucson, four hours driving, through the mountains and a desert of cactus, crossing Phoenix during more than 40 minutes.
Tucson is the second largest city of Arizona after Phoenix, where are living 1 million inhabitants in the south of Arizona at some miles of Mexico. My first impression is that Tucson is not a big, dense and crowed city. But the area is pretty vast and give the feeling to never end. Except that it’s surrounded by mountains, among which are located The Santa Catalina Peaks which make the limit of the city.
Hanging out in the Desert museum
I have never seen a place with so many cactus like that before. Like in the Desert Museum, the main place to visit if you go to Tucson. And it’s apparently normal, especially when you know that the temperatures during summer can reach 50 degrees. And that the water level coming from the rain is right enough for this kind of tree to grow up. And they are even more impressive when you know that one cactus’ s arm need at least 100 years to appears.
When we told me that we were going to a museum, honestly I was a bit septic. And imagine, a museum about a desert… (which by the way could be defined by « nothing » or « empty » ). The idea was not giving me any excitement or incentive to get motivated to go. And in general it is not my favorite hobby either.
BUT, every day in the US definitely surprises me. Firstly because this place is not really a « Museum », most of the attractions are outdoors, and because it is also an unforgettable fusion zoo, botanical garden, natural history spot, aquarium and art gallery in the middle of… a DESERT of cactus ! And I don’t think we can find the same place, in this environment anywhere else in the world.
A French Wildcat on campus
Like Flagstaff, Tucson has a University, with a huge campus down-town, the home of 40 000 students we call the « Wildcats ». The « U of A » is the first big American campus I visited. And unless the Christmas break makes the place empty, I can feel and imagine it full of students, crossing the streets and the big center place, or going to this incredibly high and spectacular American football stadium of 60 000 seats… (yes, just for the college team!)
This campus is just awesome and offer the best conditions for their students (even if they pay a bunch of money for it…). I have the impression to be in a different world and I even don’t know if I would be able to study there as this place is incredible…
Next adventure: The Ventana trail!
Tucson is not a normal city, you can see it after some miles driving through the suburbs. The mountains give the feeling to be in a big natural park. Cactus, golfs and resorts are everywhere around and inside the city. And it’s difficult to imagine we are in an area of 1 million people.
Then we decided to enjoy this environment and go on a 12-miles hike around Tucson, to reach the « Ventana », a trail which crosses the highest mountains in the south of Arizona, and goes to the top of them, to a natural arch at more than 7000 ft. of elevation.
Here we are… under this wonderful natural architecture at the edge of scary cliffs, seating down on the rocks , taking a big breath, and just enjoying…
Discovering a new place, a new country is not always by visiting the cities and the touristy spots. It’s also taking your time to seat somewhere, and enjoy it from another view, another perspective.