Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Exploring Tucson!

On our several trips through Arizona, we've never had the opportunity to visit Tucson, until now.  Not knowing when we would pass this way again, we decided to take a little time and see what this "second largest Arizona city" had to offer.  I had heard & read a little about it and was intrigued, so wanted to check it out.

We were so glad we did!  What a charming city!  I loved the beautiful blend of the old and the new; how Spanish & Native American cultures are still evident in color, design and heritage throughout the city.  They make everything here beautiful - whether it's their  decorative highway bridges including the on & off ramps, the sides of buildings, the murals, bright colors everywhere you look, art and fountains abundant, all alongside lots of plants & trees!  It's a city that's proud of who they are and their history and actively invests in it.  It was fun just to drive down some of the various neighborhoods, seeing some of the old (from the 1800s) houses being revitalized, churches, synagogues, all being saved, used, enjoyed.   Then going into the new downtown area with it's modern buildings, but still with their great colors, architecture and designs that blended with their history, rather than clash with it - or as bad, just boring gray boxes (like so much of Phoenix is).

Checking the guidebook, there was a couple of "must sees" on my list, so Jack put a route together that would make it the most expedient way we could get it all in, in the one full day we had planned.  First up,  The Mission San Xavier Del Bac (c1783).  You would think that after several "mission visits" in our travels, we would expect to be surprised by now, but, alas, it always seems to catch us off guard!  (Let me step back a tiny bit and explain why...having grown up in Southern California, I'm used to simple, plain missions with little decoration.  Jack, being from Philadelphia, didn't have missions at all to compare...so pardon our naivete')  So, of course, I was expecting perhaps a small, simple, but beautiful mission (clear out in the middle of nowhere), but non the less, one with great history.

It's on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation (yes, clear out in the middle of nowhere - so I was right about that!)  Just before we got to the mission itself, we came to the Tohono O'odham Cemetery...way cool.  Large, simple and colorful, I loved it!  I'm sure lots of history (and stories) there, but no time, and no one to tell us, so we moved on. oh my goodness..."  So much bigger, and already "fancier" than expected...and this was just the outside!  Walking around the outside with our mouths dropped open, snapping pictures, in no way prepared us for what we found inside.  It's hard to find the words...we've seen beautiful churches, missions, full of wondrous art, unexpected art, but this was something you would expect to find in someplace like a Mexico City Cathedral!  As with most (Catholic Churches) missions, it was built in the shape of the cross - each section was filled with statues - over 50 in total, in various sizes.  Mary, then Jesus were the most prominent, but Saints of all kinds were there, on every wall, every niche, angels flying out of corners, overhead, plus in between were the paintings.  Everything was covered in art, it was overwhelming!  I had to just sit down and gaze at it all.  A small tour was being given near me and I heard the guide explain that because they were so far away from anywhere (no kidding, this was even in the 1700s, remember?) they couldn't get good artists to come out there, so they had the statues made in Mexico City and sent there.  The paintings were done locally, and you could tell, not done as well.

As we 'rounded the bend and the Mission came in to view, all one can do is whisper "

The Mission went under (and still is a work in progress) a major renovation for 6 years repairing decades of neglect, rain & sand damage.  They have done an incredible job.  We watched a video of that story and it was most impressive.

Having our fill, we left there to check out a couple of other historical buildings, not to the depth of this one (nothing could compete, so why try?).  The first was the Pima County Courthouse.  It is a Mission Revival & Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture c1928 with a beautiful tiled dome.  Very unique.

Next up was the baroque St Augustine Cathedral.  It was originally constructed in 1776, but has had several reincarnations, the last being in 1928 when the brick structure was transformed into its present Mexican baroque form, including the cast stone façade, which was inspired by the Cathedral of Querétaro, Mexico.  Further down the street was another beautiful, historical building, the first Synagogue in Arizona, The 1910 Temple Emanu-El, now turned into a museum, preserved for everyone to enjoy!

The rest of the afternoon was just spent trapezing through those wonderful historic homes of the El Presidio district (Old Town) and just enjoying this lovely city in general!

 This city reminded me of lovely Spanish dancers with their bright skirts, blouses & ribbons swirling about them as they proudly tap to their own lively music!  Ole' Tucson!

...on the road in Arizona,  Marie
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

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