What a difference a few hours of air travel can do… this past week I’ve come out of hibernation above the 49th parallel and travelled to balmy San Diego. My world was transformed from snow-capped rockies to surf’s up ocean… and was rewarded with some spectacular sights.
From the ocean to inland, with my Ohio cousin in Thelma and Louise style, we drove through the Mojave Desert, and arrived at Las Vagas. No, not for the slot machines, but was amused to see the town literally painted red celebrating the Chinese New Year: The Year of the Dragon. Here’s a fascinating masterpiece from Jean Philippe Patisserie: A life-size dragon, about 8 feet long and a cherry blossom tree all made of milk, dark, and white chocolate, lanterns of rolling fondants, pearls and flowers of sugar:
The next day, we took a bus tour into Arizona, a five hour drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon… a sight no dragon can match:
Fred Harvey, a visionary immigrant from London, started the Fred Harvey Company there in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In the late 1800’s to the turn of the century, his company and the Santa Fe Railway changed the scene of hospitality by creating comfortable and reasonably priced tourist facilities and meals. Above all, he had the revolutionary spirit to hire a female architect Mary Colter to design the buildings at a time where the Southwest was dominated by macho inhabitants. Her buildings are all on the National Register of Historic Places today.
Mary Colter was an architectural pioneer. For forty years, she designed for the Fred Harvey Company. Her works blended with the natural environs and the native inhabitants of the Grand Canyon. Her materials were mostly wood and stone, her style rustic. Here’s the Bright Angel Lodge where Harvey offered many women employment opportunities. The waitresses in the dining room were known as Harvey Girls.
Another Colter work: The Lookout Studio, which offers a breathtaking vantage point to the Grand Canyon.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this plaque at the entrance of the Lookout Studio:
The Grand Canyon Railway begins in Williams, Arizona, and for 60 miles, bring its passengers north through beautiful forest and mountain scenery to their destination at the Grand Canyon. The first passenger train arrived at the Canyon in 1901. During the 1960’s, travel was taken over by the automobile. But today, it has resurfaced as a vibrant mode of tourist attraction.
More sights to share… coming up.