Visit Tucson Arizona

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Tucson Arizona
Postcard perfect

Visit Tucson – a beautiful southern state

Tucson is nestled in the shadow of the beautiful Catelina mountains. Once the site of gold, silver and copper mining in the 1850’s, it is now a protected area. It is also a destination for outdoor activities including hiking and even skiing in the winter time.

The Santa Catelina mountains (named after St Catherine) are on the northern perimeter of Tucson. The highest point is Mount Lemmon at 9,157 feet above sea level. I got to admire them from the lovely Rancho Merlita.

Cary Grant has stepped out for a moment

The Rancho Merlita

The ranch was originally the desert getaway of cosmetic queen Merle Norman. It’s decor from the 1950’s and 60’s hasn’t changed a bit. The huge living room with its leather sofas and cool retro look, has a majestic rock fireplace. It’s made of locally mined rhyolite, which is the volcanic equivalent of granite.

The whole dining room looks just like something from the set of  Hitchcock’s film North by North West. I kept expecting Cary Grant to sweep suavely into the room in an impeccable suit and say something dry and witty. 

The ranch has a pretty, saltwater pool and the grounds are landscaped with sculptural cacti. There are lots of interesting design features and some gorgeous decorative touches.

Tucson Arizona
Choices, choices

Tuscon – next door to Mexico

We are close to the border with Mexico here and much of the artwork and furniture in Tucson’s up market accommodation is influenced by this. I LOVE Mexican art and design, from the furniture to the ceramics to the tin ornaments to the beautiful recycled glass.  

In downtown Tucson there is a block in the warehouse district south of Broadway called the Barrio Historico.  It is a collection of spacious shops selling authentic Southwest/Mexican decor and furnishings. The rustic furniture is beautiful but rather large. The ornaments and ceramics have the advantage of being easier to take home.

The Day of the Dead

It was the Day of the Dead when I was there (November 1st after Halloween) The day of the Dead or ‘Dia de los Muertos’ – is a big deal in these parts.

More than 500 years ago, the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now central Mexico. They encountered natives practising a ritual that seemed to mock death.

A grand skeleton

It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practising for at least 3,000 years. Although the ritual  merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles of the original Aztec version, such as the use of skulls. You will see lots of decorated skulls and jaunty skeletons engaged in social activities. Death as a part of life is central to this ancient celebration.

Tucson – special shopping

Another shopping treat close to the Rancho Merlita is a fabulous wholesaler of marvellous Mexican items called Borderlands and I was also very excited at their not inconsiderable range of Mexican furniture, rustic home furnishing and Mexican pottery.

All gorgeous stuff. You may not need a huge jewel and silver encrusted tin cross or a beautiful Talevera tiled mirror but you really really want one after a visit there. I had to make do with a few bits and pieces I could fit into my rucksack hand luggage.

You can buy things on line, but once you’ve paid carriage and duty it’s not such a cheap option anymore, so if you do go to Tucson from the UK, make sure you have  a lot of space in your case. If you’re from the US you don’t have so much to worry about, as free shipping is common.

Sunny stays and fantastic shopping in Tucson Arizona

Stay at the Rancho

There’s an surprising amount to do in this  laidback sunny part of the southern United States. From cowboys and rodeos, to stargazing, shopping and native American culture. This is a top notch vacation destination.

Quite a few Americans have moved here from chillier and much more northerly states. It does get very hot here in the summer but most residents do not want to return to the cold. Long days of guaranteed sunshine are always a big attraction in themselves. Arizona is the Spanish interpretation of “arizuma.” This is an Aztec Indian word that means “silver-bearing. It’s  great state to explore.

Typical Arizona tiles