Sedona, Arizona

Photo by Kris Alcordo

My team at work had been planning our trip to Phoenix, Arizona for some time. We were scheduled to attend two internal conferences that would help us network, share ideas and strengthen morale within the fundraising divisions across the nation.  In the midst of our usual lively banter at lunch hour, one of my colleagues, Tatsu, suggested we (Kris, MJ and I) should visit Sedona if we had time. He described the location as spiritual and majestic, something not to be missed if one should ever find him or herself in Arizona.

Kris, MJ and I quickly looked up photos of Sedona on Instagram and Pinterest. After seeing that it was only a couple of hours away from Phoenix, we looked at flights and managed to cram a day trip into our itinerary.

We had no plan. We Googled lots of things on the way over to Sedona. Sometimes not having a plan presents the best experiences when traveling. Kris and MJ were the perfect adventure buddies, we’re all so laid back and silly, it made the experience even more enjoyable!

Here is a list of what we did and a few helpful suggestions…

Take a tinkle break at Red Rock State Park.

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A bathroom break is necessary if you’re driving for hours, so be sure to stop at Red Rock State Park for a clean experience. You’ll understand why the rocks and mountains are red, how there’s running water below the terrain, and gather some tips on how to access these famous rocks.

Visit the open market in Oak Creek

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I’m a frugal gal who will look for the best deals. Let me tell you how I held back on buying geodes and turquoise by the satchel before realizing the vendors are actually reasonable compared to the extremely marked up goods in Sedona. MJ and I found that the shops in the heart of Sedona were really expensive. Good thing the market was on our way out and open until 5 p.m., I went back and purchased a few more pretty crystals, Native American textiles, and cactus candies.

Walk around the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village

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I’d hate to admit it, but this is a tourist trap worth visiting. Just don’t buy anything there. We walked around peeking into all of the shops, taking silly photos and frolicking around the outdoor wind chime gallery. Then we saw that there were Jeep tours that would take us to the top of the mountains, overlooking Sedona and other mountain ranges. We had researched that most tours cost $100+/person but this Jeep Tour service only charged us $50/person. Our instincts told us to book a tour there. Totally rad find.

Book a two-hour jeep tour and have the ride of your life.

Top of the mountain
Photo by Kris Alcordo

I’m kind of a closeted adrenaline junkie. I was stoked that the tour along Schnebly Hill Road was only $50/person, most places that I researched online were $100+/person. Sedona Jeep Tours really gave us a good deal and were able to accommodate us that day.

We greeted our guide and boarded our dusty, open Jeep. Kris took ownership of the DSLR and started snapping away. The tour was bumpy, entertaining, and amazing. We learned so much about the plants, the history behind some locations that were used for filming various movies, and some deep thoughts about how certain rocks resembled a toilet, shit, and Snoopy.

Photo by Kris Alcordo

The view at the top of the mountain range was majestic. It was chilly, quiet, and overlooked Sedona and other mountains. Being at the top makes you feel empowered…gives you that “Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom,” type of feel. Oh yes I went there.

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There are tons of tours you can book in Sedona, from hot air balloon rides to spiritual vortex type of tours. But save your money, they can get pretty expensive.

When in a hurry, eat at the Secret Garden Café

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Yelp proved to be our best friend in Sedona and Phoenix. We needed a quick bite to eat before we took off on the jeep tour. Seeing that the Secret Garden Café was open and empty, we told them we have 30 minutes before we had to board the jeep. The staff quickly sat us, suggested the three top popular and quick dishes. We all ordered the BLAT, which was mind-blowingly good. I know, how can you mess up a BLAT? Well they took it to another level with sourdough and pine nut bread and jam-packed that avo like it was the main protein. I loved it and I would go back if there weren’t other good places to eat in Sedona.

Save lots of money!

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We realized its best to set some priorities when you go to Sedona. An afterthought was that we should have saved a little more money (I wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride, but it was $220/person).

 

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From Cairns to Sydney

 Processed with MoldivMost of our travel adventures happened before and after the tournament in Sydney. Here we are in Cairns visiting art galleries, the Esplanade pool and walking along Grafton and Abbott.

Brentt and I only had a few days to explore Cairns and Sydney before and after the tournament. Cairns was our first stop from Guam. We stayed at the Holiday Inn (now called Double Tree) and it was in the perfect location. We could walk to the main Cairns Esplanade strip in less than five minutes and to the shopping mall in 15 minutes. The good eateries, ranging from Italian to Japanese, were scattered along Abbott and Grafton streets. Along the Esplanade, you’ll run into tourist traps and shops with crappy souvenirs – something we’re already used to in the islands, so we just kept to Abbott and Grafton, where there were more of the Cairns locals walking around.

Processed with MoldivWe stayed in Kurri Kurri, in the outskirts of Sydney. There were wild kangaroos right outside our rooms and witnessed beautiful sunsets. I even got to sample the local wine.

The “beach” at Cairns isn’t that great. It’s brown. You’d have to ride a boat to the Great Barrier Reef to log in some great snorkeling…or you can just settle for the public pee-pool at the Esplanade. Your best bet to get some sun (other than going to the GBR)? Spend the day at the beach down Captain Cook Highway past the airport. The beaches are still brown, but at least it’s shallow, you can walk on sandbars and bbq like the locals.

After Cairns, we headed to Sydney via Virgin Australia. Most of our time was spent on the golf course (see previous post) and the only food available was fried EVERYTHING. French fries, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips, etc. Not the most comforting way to go with two hungry island kids craving anything with some Asian spice and rice or noodles. On our last day, we had a couple hours to visit the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Our hosts from Hawaii were irritated by the traffic and ready for their flight back to Hawaii so we didn’t have a chance to fully explore the city. But we made the most of it and took lots of photos during our last day in Sydney.

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Our official last day in “Straya” was spent at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm.

We then arrived in Cairns (again), returning from Sydney, we were weary travelers, enduring a rough flight on Virgin Australia and starved after refusing yet another fried meal. After checking into Rydges Esplanade, we took a 20 minute walk to grab some dinner and stumbled upon what looked like a bar from the outside, Rattle & Hum. It happened to have the best pizza in Australia that we had access to at the time.

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This is something we’ll always remember about Australia. Its wildlife, sights, kind people and wonderful weather amazed us everyday.

We also decided to visit Hartley’s Crocodile Farm, which was 45 minutes away from the hotel. We bought a package for two that included the passes to the farm and transportation to and from our hotel for $111 AUD. It was fun! We covered the entire park in about two hours and relaxed with lunch at the restaurant. It was their 80th Anniversary so they had face painting, a free photo booth and complimentary croc sausages. It was the perfect way to see everything we wanted to see in Australia: crocodiles, koalas, cassowaries, wombats, wallabies and kookaburras.

It was a great trip for Brentt and I. We’ve traveled to other places before, but this was our first brother-sister trip to another country. We enjoyed every bit of it. Oh dear Australia, it’s been unreal. It might be a couple years until we return, but until then, we’ll cherish the memories.

Yoga on the water

Once in a while I like to browse through some good photography on Flickr. I absolutely love Lululemon’s Flickr feed because all of their photos are so inspirational and positive. Yes, they are all promotional, but the photographer is damn good. (If you happen to know the photog, please let me know.) I found this photo series of the stand-up paddleboard surfers stunning and adventurous. As you can see, they stop to inhale the beautiful nature of the lake and practice some yoga.

Who wouldn’t want to attend a yoga class out on the water? I know I’m probably not capable of even doing the downward dog on a SUP board (I’d definitely make a splash) but I’d like to try this one day. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

All photos >>> Lululemon Athletica