Vacay.ca occasionally publishes articles on destinations outside of Canada. In this article, Vacay.ca Writer Kate Robertson discovers a few relaxing stops in Arizona.
Story by Kate Robertson
PHOENIX, ARIZONA — Recently I’ve been feeling like I need a bit of a “pick me up”, so I’m visiting the Phoenix area—a place filled with sunshine, healthy food, and cool activities. Just what the doctor ordered.
Creative Activities for the Mind and Body
My first stop was at True REST Float Spa in Gilbert (a suburb of metropolitan Phoenix). Daniel shows me into my private room and gives me instructions on the big white egg-shaped pod that I’ll be floating in, filled with 25 centimetres of water and 545 kilograms of pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salts which is denser than the Dead Sea. Float therapy allows you to access theta brain waves, the therapeutic state that is achieved in REM sleep, and is said to promote wellness, better sleep, relaxation, and pain management.
As I climb into the pod and lay down, even though I float effortlessly in the body-temperature water, it takes me a while to relax into the experience. But the hour passes quickly, and at times my body feels so heavy that it seems like it is sleeping without me.
Afterwards in the dark, quiet lounge, I try the oxygen flavour bar—oxygen stored in colourful, Star Trek-ish looking beakers that I breathe in through a tube hooked up to my nose. I choose orange, for its balance, revitalization, and increased creativity properties. When I leave, I’m so relaxed that I forget I’m wearing the spa flip flops and have to go back to get my shoes.
The next day at the base of the Usery Mountains just minutes outside of the city I meet Mandy Snell, “engagement evangelist” for a group Meaning in Motion hike. Before we start, Mandy instructs us to meditate on a strength we are proud of and we head off single file through the jungle of cacti: prickly pear, agave, yucca, cholla (Mandy has warned us not to get too close to these ones–the barbs are difficult and painful to pull off) and many others that I don’t recognize—coyotes howling in the distance.
Part way up the mountain, we stop and Mandy pulls chalkboards and chalk out of her backpack, and we take turns writing a word that we want to focus on (mine is “carefree”). Against the backdrop of the red mountains, with the stately giant saguaro cacti as witnesses, this ceremony is inspiring and magical, and I descend the trail feeling peaceful and empowered.
Back in nearby Gilbert, a suburb of metropolitan Phoenix, I’m in a field on my hands and knees in cat pose on my yoga mat, when a jauntily-dressed goat jumps on my back (yes, you read that correctly). Yoga teacher Sarah Williams, owner of Arizona Goat Yoga, has partnered with a neighbouring farm to offer these unique classes. These gentle, attention-loving goats combine the benefits of yoga with pet therapy, which enhances feel-good hormones like endorphins and oxytocin. Although there isn’t a lot of yoga content there is a lot of laughter, and we all leave class with a smile.
A Food Scene Mecca
Of course, we are what we eat, and the Phoenix food scene has become an inspirational and innovative mecca, which should not be a surprise as this area was initially settled as an agricultural community due to its proximity to the Salt and Gila Rivers. Despite being one of the year-round sunniest regions in the world located in the Sonoran Desert and classified as a subtropical desert climate, an extensive canal system supports a thriving farming community today.
I’ve worked up a healthy appetite, so my next stop is for lunch at The Farm at South Mountain. The Farm’s vision of sustainability was originally conceived in the 1920’s, and today remains an urban farm that has several garden plots to grow veggies and herbs to supply its restaurants. My roasted carrot and feta sandwich, crammed full of other veggies like peppers, arugula, onions and cilantro, served with spicy roasted sweet potato salad and The Farm garden salad, taste so fresh I can tell the ingredients were just harvested from the field where the gardeners are working, only metres away.
Just down the road is Agritopia, another urban community farm and residential neighbourhood complete with restaurants, declared “the leading agri-hood in the US” by the New York Times. Here I pull up a stool at the brand new Garage-East wine bar and as I sip a chilled house rose, the owner explains their pay-it-forward board, where people pay ahead for friends’ or sometimes just the next lucky tourist’s glass of wine. Community is strong here.
Food for the Soul
The next day as we pull up to the Phoenician Resort at the base of Camelback Mountain, I almost rub my eyes—like a mirage, it’s a lush green oasis in the middle of the desert. I join the group at The Centre for Well-Being for a yoga walk, and Jessica, our teacher, leads us on a journey through the property. As we stop on the expansive lawn for some preparatory stretching, I take off my shoes, wiggle my toes, and luxuriate in the feeling of grass beneath my toes. We move on to downward dogs on bridges, the cactus garden for standing poses, and finish with a sitting meditation by a waterfall where hummingbirds flutter nearby.
It’s also at the Phoenician that I sign-up for an aerial trapeze class, (how could I not, I have flying dreams). I-fly owner, Marco Rosamilia guides me through the acrobatic steps in preparation for our piece de resistance, “the catch”. After numerous climbs up the ladder, I finally execute this maneuver with aerial artist Robin, who deftly grabs me by the wrists as I awkwardly swing upside down in the air towards him. This is exhilarating spirit nourishment, perfect for my “carefree” focus.
Because the soul cannot thrive on strictly veggies alone, on my final night, I dine at Beckett’s Table in Phoenix. Chef Justin Beckett’s cuisine style is American comfort food with a twist (think rich, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and creamy devilled eggs). As I savour a s’more for dessert (yummy housemade marshmallow with peanut butter whipped cream, topped with chocolate-coated bacon), I sit back with a deep, satisfied sigh. I’m feeling replenished and ready to take on the world.
MORE ABOUT PHOENIX AND MESA, ARIZONA
WHERE TO STAY AND HOW TO GET AROUND
The Phoenician Resort: www.thephoenician.com
The Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West: www.sheratonmesa.com
Boss Transportation: http://www.bosstransaz.com/
WONDERFUL WELLNESS SPOTS
True Rest Float Spa: truerest.com/locations/true-rest-gilbert
Mandy Snell, Core Clarity: www.coreclarity.net
Arizona Goat Yoga: azgoatyoga.com
The Farm at South Mountain: www.thefarmatsouthmountain.com
iFly Aerial Trapeze: www.iflytrapeze.com
Beckett’s Table: www.beckettstable.com
Queen Creek Olive Mill: www.queencreekolivemill.com
Southwest Herb, Tea and Tincture: www.swherb.com
Juby True Juices: www.foxrc.com/restaurants/juby-true
Flower Child Restaurant: www.iamaflowerchild.com
Note: The Centre for Well-Being Spa will be going under renovation starting May 3, 2017 and will reopen early 2018. Spa services will be available at “The Spa on 4th” in the Main Hotel starting May 5, 2017. Limited amenities available.