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sopas ej Feb 15, 2021 1:37 AM

Tucson, AZ
 
My partner and I took this past Thursday and Friday (2/11-2/12/2021) off from work and did a road trip of southern Arizona, and we spent 2 nights in Tucson, a city we've never been to before. We enjoyed ourselves. I've been wanting to go there since 2019, when I found out that Tucson is the first US city to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and only one of 2 cities in the US with that distinction (the other being San Antonio, TX); I thought to myself 'OK I HAVE to go to Tucson now' because I LOVE food. I think Tucson is an underrated city. Actually, to take it a step further, I think Tucson is an unappreciated city. It has a charm and character to it that I feel Phoenix lacks (no offense to people from Phoenix).

So, here are some pics...

A bridge near our hotel.
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This streetcar stop was right on the corner from our hotel.
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Downtown Tucson

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Historic 4th Avenue District

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While in Tucson, we ate at three restaurants that are certified by the City of Tucson as official Tucson UNESCO Restaurants of Gastronomy.

Our first.

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These ladies were GEMS. :sly::uhh::sly:
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For a cocktail, I had the Pineapple Express.
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Here it is. It was pretty good. I actually had two of them...
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Tucson has a big authentic Sonoran cuisine scene, so I thought I'd go that route. This is cesina with a flour tortilla for an appetizer. Flour tortillas are huge in Sonoran culture.
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And of course you can put different salsas on your cesina.
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I got two different kinds of tacos; to be honest with you I don't remember what I got. :P At this point I was already working on my 3rd cocktail.
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This is my 4th cocktail. On the menu it's called Raspado de Mezcal. It was really really good.
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Me in the restroom. I was feeling really good.
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Riding the streetcar to...
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...West University Neigborhood


The West University area is, well, immediately west of the University of Arizona.

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Western Gate of the University of Arizona.
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After walking around, we thought we'd get some tea.
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These guys' outfits made me chuckle. What's with the stretch pants and wallabees combo?
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Back to the hotel...
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Uh, is *he* getting on the streetcar too?
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Breakfast burrito from our 2nd certified Restaurant of Gastronomy. It was pretty yummy.
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Barrio Viejo

This is my favorite area of Tucson.

El Tiradito, or the Wishing Shrine.
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Barrio Viejo was much bigger than it is now, but basically half of the neighborhood was demolished to create the Tucson Convention Center; in fact, like other American cities, much of old Tucson was destroyed for so-called urban renewal projects in the 1960s and 1970s; freeway construction also destroyed old neighborhoods. It's a shame, too; Barrio Viejo's built environment is unique to American cities; it basically looks like it could be in Sonora, Mexico. But of course these adobe structures weren't valued back then; it's kind of like an ethnic cleansing of sorts, architecturally... plus, this neighborhood was full of low-income Mexican-Americans. Visiting it now, it's a mix of deteriorating abandoned adobe structures, and refurbished ones, and ones that are in the process of being refurbished/restored. As result, there's a bit of gentrification going on. Some years ago, actress Diane Keaton bought a 19th Century adobe and fixed it up, using some non-historic features, and last year she was selling it for a couple million dollars or something like that.

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The adobe house that Diane Keaton bought and refurbished. I don't know if she owns it anymore.
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What it looked like in 2008, per Google Street View.
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What it looked like in 2015, per Google Street View. Here you can actually see the adobe bricks.
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Looks like they kept this part of the adobe bricks exposed.
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Can you tell I like Barrio Viejo or what?

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Mission San Xavier del Bac

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Again, you see some funny outfits in this part of the US.
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Saguaro National Park

Saguaros. And ancient petroglyphs, which my partner and I are really into.

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We noticed that we see a lot more American cars in Arizona than we do in LA.
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Our third certified Restaurant of Gastronomy. Lunch time.

I love when Mexican restaurants serve real chips they fried themselves versus the bagged stuff.
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Cocktail.
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I had a chile relleno.
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My partner had the Mexican migas.
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2nd cocktail.
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I totally recommend a visit to Tucson. :)

OhioGuy Feb 15, 2021 3:14 AM

Tucson definitely looks good! :tup:

craigs Feb 15, 2021 3:29 AM

Cool photo tour. I've been to Tucson but I never found the Barrio Viejo--it has a lot of character and promise. And San Xavier del Bac is stunning--your photos are good but photos just don't do it justice. When I first saw it, it seemed like to glow and float above the desert.

ChrisLA Feb 15, 2021 4:18 AM

Very beautiful scenery, Looks like a place I wouldn’t mind visiting one day. I’ve heard good things from many people about Tucson and only once have I heard anything bad and that was from my younger sister which was quite surprising since she loves Southwest architect.

I was actually surprised to see that Tucson has a street car, that’s quite impressive. Thanks for the wonderful tour.

DetroitSky Feb 15, 2021 5:09 AM

Those adobe buildings are awesome

BnaBreaker Feb 15, 2021 7:52 AM

Oh my god... I'm not sure I've ever been so utterly stunned and gobsmacked by an SSP photo thread before... I seriously had no idea how much unique charm Tucson has! Thank you for opening my eyes to Tucson!

plinko Feb 15, 2021 6:54 PM

When in college in Tempe 25 years ago, I used to spend quite a bit of time in Tucson as I had a few friends down there and even dated someone down there for awhile.

All I can say is that it appears to have come a LONG way from what it was in the late 90s.

There was always great food, but the city at that time was UofA (6th St) and not much else except a gritty inner city and suburbia beyond. All the interesting stuff (with the exception of the Barrio) was on the outskirts: San Xavier, the Catalinas, Saguaro NP, Kitt Peak (if you ever get a chance, the solar telescope is so cool), the airplane graveyard, even Biosphere was worth a visit.

Arizona in general is quite stunning, and there are lots of places in southern Arizona that are totally and completely unique, especially once you get out of the city.

Obadno Feb 15, 2021 9:09 PM

Excellent Photos but unfortunately as a resident of the Northern half of Arizona I must protest your support of the Baja Arizona devils and their dastardly activities.

I'm sorry but it must be said, everything south of the Gila River should be laid waste and furthermore Tucson must be destroyed. - Cicero

:tup:

muertecaza Feb 15, 2021 10:34 PM

sopas ej caught the best of Tucson in the excellent photo collection. But I've always felt like Tucson was sort of a missed opportunity. It has a lot going for it--in many ways a more walkable downtown than Phoenix, for many years the more prestigious university (although my impression is that ASU is more or less equal now), only one major highway/freeway in town, generally better weather than Phoenix, and more history, a strong draw with its bike culture, unlike Phoenix on an active Amtrak route, etc. I wish the city leaders had had the foresight to lean into the "Old Pueblo" thing, and try to make Tucson at least visually be sort of a Sonoran/adobe version of what Santa Barbara did with the mission look. More like Santa Fe maybe. Instead, like sopas mentioned, you got huge swaths of Barrio Viejo demoed for a convention center, and most of the city (on the other side of the tracks from downtown) kind of looks like a worse Phoenix.

Pedestrian Feb 15, 2021 11:50 PM

Nice to see Tucson getting some love and you definitely caught the best of it. I guess you can thank the current governor for being able to enjoy the gourmet scene because he has refused to lock everything down.

My second home is about 20 miles south of Tucson and that's where I am now, largely because San Francisco IS locked down and it's too sad there right now.

Unlike what is said just above, Tucson actually has TWO freeways, I-10 and I-19, and it seems since you visited San Javier you discovered I-19. If you'd keep going for 10 more miles of so you'd have been in my 'hood and if you'd kept going maybe 50 you'd have been in Mexico for some REAL Sonoran food in Nogales, Sonora (I recommend La Roca) although what's available in Tucson is a pretty good imitation. Also, maybe 30 miles down I-19 is a little art colony called Tubac which has a very early presidio (fort) and mission (San Jose de Tumacacori) built by explorers coming up the Santa Cruz Valley from New Spain (Mexico). Actually, I have a connection because the expedition which "discovered" San Francisco Bay and began its settlement started out their journey from the Presidio at Tubac. But these days the village is cram packed with stores selling art and artisan wares as well as some very good restaurants including my favorite Mexican place in the area (Elvira's) which used to be in Mexico but when the drug wars began keeping tourists away they managed to move north.

PS: Yes, Tucson has a streetcar. It was very controversial and got built basically because the bond issue for it also had a lot of money for roads and freeways. The intent is to carry folks from downtown to Rio Nuevo on the other side of I-10 but that project remains visionary as far as I can tell (personally, I don't have much reason to go there).

By the way: Just so everyone understands, Arizona has a reputation for being right of center politically but Pima County (Tucson) and adjacent border areas are the heart of left-of-center AZ, mainly because (1) the large hispanic immigrant population and (2) the fact Tucson remains a big college town. The area has been represented by 2 Democrats in Congress including the now well-known former Congressperson, Gabby Giffords, and the head of the Congressional Progressive caucus, Raul Grijalva. Pinal County next door recently had an out gay sheriff and Pima County has blueish law enforcement BUT open cary of handguns is perfectly legal in AZ and you will see it, especially outside of downtown Tucson. I am quite used to seeing sidearms strapped to hips in my area at fast food joints and so forth--don't let that upset you. We probably have a few people doing it just to make a statement but many are still true working cowboys because a lot of cattle still graze the public lands around Tucson (and the freeways have cattle grates to keep them off the roadways).

sopas ej Feb 16, 2021 1:47 AM

Thanks for the comments, guys!



Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 9191640)
Nice to see Tucson getting some love and you definitely caught the best of it. I guess you can thank the current governor for being able to enjoy the gourmet scene because he has refused to lock everything down.

Yes... since the pandemic began, my partner and I hadn't left California until this particular road trip, and we were a little weirded out (and hesitant) to eat indoors at a restaurant; we only did that once, and ate al fresco the rest of the time. We also both wore double-masks when out and about because we weren't sure of the mask situation; we are aware that Arizona tends to be right of center and face masks had become politicized by lots of conservative people and we wanted to be safe. Neither of us have tested positive for COVID and we want to keep it that way.

And, we initially wanted to do a road trip through southern New Mexico (we've already explored the northern part, years ago) but I didn't think to look up their travel restrictions until about 2 weeks ago---and as of last week, NM has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering from outside the state. I don't know how they would enforce it, but we decided to respect that. Many restaurants there as of 2 weeks ago were also doing takeout/delivery only, so we canceled our trip/hotel rooms (and was very disappointed---we really love New Mexico). So I looked up online to see if Arizona had any travel restrictions, and sure enough, it didn't, which is why we decided to road trip it to AZ instead. But like I said, I've been wanting to visit Tucson anyway. We had lots of fun on this trip.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedestrian (Post 9191640)
...it seems since you visited San Javier you discovered I-19.

I knew about i-19; I saw it on the map, and saw the signs for it. But we took Mission Road down to the mission instead. We thought it would be a more interesting drive, and it only takes 5 minutes longer than taking I-19, per Google Maps.

Pedestrian Feb 16, 2021 2:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sopas ej (Post 9191712)
I knew about i-19; I saw it on the map, and saw the signs for it. But we took Mission Road down to the mission instead. We thought it would be a more interesting drive, and it only takes 5 minutes longer than taking I-19, per Google Maps.

As it happens, I almost always use Mission Road rather than the freeway between my house and Tucson but I wanted to make sure everybody knew Tucson is all grown up and has TWO freeways. I have to go to the eastern part of Tucson tomorrow and I think I'll take Old Nogales Highway rather than I-19 for that trip. Going to Mexico or even Tubac is a different story though--it's far enough the higher speeds on the freeway matter.

Did you note that on Mission Road you passed thru a bit of the Tohono O'Odham Reservation? Kind of sad the poverty it looks like the NAs endure but they do have a couple of large casinos in and around Tucson which must rake in the cash when not suppressed by COVID (and the one near me--Desert Diamond--has decent food too).

Omaharocks Feb 16, 2021 2:32 AM

This is a great photo set! Thanks for taking the time, I really like Tucson and it looks like things have progressed since I last visited.

Pedestrian Feb 16, 2021 2:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omaharocks (Post 9191739)
I don't think you'll find anyone in New Mexico (other than tourists or vacation home owners) that think Tucson should have gone the route of Santa Fe (or Santa Barbara).

Tucson remains affordable and has kept a fun, funky, low key vibe, while Santa Fe is small, exclusive, and rather pretentious. In very poor New Mexico, Santa Fe stands out, and not in a good way to local residents.

In other words, I don't think we need another Santa Barbara at this point. We do need more Tucsons;)

For folks outside the southwest, I always say that Tucson is the closest approximation this country has to 90s slacker-era Austin. It's very special in its own way.

For the record, Tucson (city) has a population of 541,000 whereas Santa Fe is "only" 83,000. It's hard to scale up "cutesiness", especially when you are a border community (Santa Fe is in NORTHERN New Mexico) with lots of immigrant families in poverty.

Couple more things I wanted to mention for those interested: In November Arizona legalized recreational marijuana and I'm told even my small community now has a legal pot shop (5 oz maximum purchase). I imagine this helps the "90s slacker-era Austin" vibe.

Finally, soaps ej covered a lot of territory and photographed it brilliantly but he missed a few things other visitors might want to see: (1) The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (this is more like an outdoor zoo with local animals than a museum but it's very well done); (2) One of the several local mountain canyons such as Sabino in Tucson or Madera down my way (great for hikers willing to climb higher into the mountains especially); (3) Tucson's own ski resort (yes indeed!) known as Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley atop the mountain overlooking downtown (Austin doesn't have that except maybe right now when the whole town is a ski resort); (4) several cavern systems including Kartchner Cavern where you can go deep underground in awe, (5) for Cold War fans, down my way there's the Titan Missile Museum, a former launch silo for this awesome weapon.

Oh, and if you are hiking and are especially lucky (or unlucky as you see it), you might encounter El Tigre (a jaguar). They sometimes wander up from Mexico into the local mountains and over the years several have been captured on camera traps set along game trails.

xzmattzx Feb 16, 2021 3:00 AM

Nice pictures! I was not aware that Tucson had nice little neighborhoods in the core like Barrio Viejo. I knew of some midcentury modernism along some main roads, and figured there was some type of historic core, but

Barrio Viejo looks similar to Old Town Albuquerque to me.

You ate at three Gastronomy places and didn't mention what they were?!?

homebucket Feb 16, 2021 5:56 AM

Nice tour! Aside from the cultural differences, Tuscon kinda reminds me of a Southwest version of Portland.

Obadno Feb 16, 2021 5:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by xzmattzx (Post 9191757)
Nice pictures! I was not aware that Tucson had nice little neighborhoods in the core like Barrio Viejo. I knew of some midcentury modernism along some main roads, and figured there was some type of historic core, but

Barrio Viejo looks similar to Old Town Albuquerque to me.

You ate at three Gastronomy places and didn't mention what they were?!?

Tucson kept its southwest vibe, Phoenix went the southern California route.

But Tucson was also much older (in a modern sense, there have been farming communities in the Phoenix area for thousands of years) with it being developed via Spanish colonials and then being the winter/southern route to California during westward expansion.

Phoenix was never more than a collection of agricultural villages/towns until roughly 1940 when suburbia and air conditioning combined to create it.

Obadno Feb 16, 2021 5:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by homebucket (Post 9191858)
Nice tour! Aside from the cultural differences, Tuscon kinda reminds me of a Southwest version of Portland.

Its not nearly a Portland lol

Chef Feb 16, 2021 6:59 PM

I really enjoyed these photos. I've never been to Arizona but from afar Tucson has always seemed more interesting than Phoenix.

Pedestrian Feb 16, 2021 7:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Obadno (Post 9192174)
Its not nearly a Portland lol

Sadly or gladly you are right. We are never going to have BLM riots or liberated zones in Tucson but our streetcar has only a single route. We also don't have "Portlandiers" are a definable demographic. Tucson is a very Hispanic city, intentionally and proudly so. As part of the Gadsden Purchase, it was among the last bits of land added to the continental US and was well settled by Mexican citizens already. That is its culture and "vibe" with a gloss of middle American commercialism.


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