Despite the fact that we spend a lot of time in Europe, my husband and I have started to make an effort to also see more of “America” well. This year we went to Washington, D.C., the San Juan Islands, and small trips to Sonoma, Big Sur, etc.
We still have a proper trip to New York on our radar as well as New England and parts of the southern coast, but there are still some west coast stops we need to hit as well. One of them being the Grand Canyon.
We did get there last September but we hit a thunder and hail storm that prevented us from having a good time or getting good photos. So my husband and I took the entire week off for Thanksgiving to go on a little road trip to photograph the Red Rock Canyons in Las Vegas, the Red Rocks of Sedona, and The Grand Canyon.
As an avid photographer, it was a dream trip for my husband, and I was along for the ride!
We flew to Vegas from San Francisco on the Friday before Thanksgiving. We stayed at our usual haunt, The Westin Casuarina. It is a Starwood (SPG) property that is slightly off the strip – small; quiet and with a Starbucks that is never crowded! We just have to cross the street to Bally’s to hop on the monorail.
After getting settled in we crossed the street to our ultra-secret favorite restaurant. It’s a sushi restaurant hidden in the Bally’s arcade called Ichiban. It is really good sushi, we can always get a table or chair at the sushi bar plus we are usually the only white people there.
I am convinced that the restaurant is a secret travel guide for Japanese visitors coming to Las Vegas because it is full of Japanese people every time we go there! It is our go-to place and we love it. If the buffet lines get too long or you can’t into the latest restaurant hot-spot, go to Ichiban, you won’t be disappointed.
But we weren’t there for the food (okay, I was…) so the next day it was off to about 20 minutes down the road to the Red Road Canyons National Park.
The plan was to drive around, take photos, and have a picnic lunch (after getting properly stocked at Whole Foods, bien sur!).
We did not have the best weather but made the best of it. The problem wasn’t the cold….and it was cold, but rather the clouds. We stopped at another small state park next to Red Rock and had a freezing yet lovely picnic lunch under a gorgeous red-and-orange-leafed tree.
We ended the day with another visit to Ichiban for dinner…the lines were too long at the buffets! And prepared for our bright and early departure to Sedona.
I hate to say this but the drive from Vegas to Sedona is very boring. Really Vegas to Flagstaff, because once you turn off from Flagstaff and head to Sedona it gets interesting again.
But man until then it is not that interesting! We stopped and took a few photos and even got on the historic Route 66 for about five minutes in order to get a coffee. Funny enough Arizona doesn’t do the time change so we kept thinking we were further away from than we actually were which contributed to that “are we there yet” feeling!
It was snowing in Flagstaff so that made our descent down into the valley where Sedona is slow going. Beautiful to see the snow. We realized we had not seen much of it since living near the Jura and Alps.
Once we arrived in Sedona we checked into our hotel L’Auberge de Sedona. The September before we had stayed in the El Portal Sedona Inn and had really liked it, but we decided we should explore around and see other properties. With my parents now living in Phoenix for part of the year, it is likely we will be back to Sedona a couple of times.
L’Auberge is a beautiful property known mostly for being a very popular wedding spot. The room was beautiful, the bed divine and we slept well that night, having got up early to get to our next stop. That evening we ate on the hotel property at their restaurant called Restaurant on Oak Creek. The food was really polished, the service excellent. Breakfast the next day was equally as good and an excellent way to start a day.
We drove around the Sedona area visiting various sites and taking lots and lots of photos. The weather (for photography) was good for most of the day and my husband was pleased. We picnicked again for lunch at another state park as well as for dinner (we’re talking champagne and cheeses etc, not your ordinary picnic!).
After another good night’s sleep on that glorious bed we got up super early and headed for the Grand Canyon. We wanted to make sure to take advantage of the best light conditions for my husband’s photos and that means early. We got up there and at the entrance in good time, about two hours with stops for photos along the way.
My husband declared it perfect weather for the pictures and I declared it “cold!” At freezing temperatures, I was wrapped up like a mummy closing off as much as my body to the cold as I could!
At stops where there wasn’t much wind, I could hang while my hubby got the photos he wanted, at other stops I was a total wimp. I would take a few photos, look around, ooh-and-ahh where appropriate, and then headed back to the warm car!
Also, I was getting bored of canyons and began taking photos of anything else but the canyon!
I don’t recommend staying at the hotels in the park. They are way crowded and way over-priced for the accommodations that you get. So after a wonderful day of photos, we headed back to Vegas.
We drove into Nevada as the sun was setting making another amazing photo opportunity, as the sky was gorgeous! We arrived back to the Westin and headed out to a buffet for dinner.
We spent the following day checking out the hotels and casinos in the new City Center, lunched at the Bellagio, and dined one last time at Ichiban. We got up Thanksgiving morning to fly home, an awesome day to travel, landed, and headed for dim sum for our Thanksgiving meal!
In the end, my husband had over 500 photos and we had “done” the canyons, at least until the spring when we can check out the north rim!