We're all settled in after our vacation to Arizona. I've been cleaning like a maniac all weekend and the house is spotless (well, almost). We put away the Christmas tree and decorations and took down the outdoor lights. We've de-cluttered and tidied everything. It feels good. I love this part of the winter we're in now; I enjoy cold weather and I like the feeling of a fresh start. I often feel that winter is the most domestic time of year for me; I'm indoors more so I feel more motivated to keep the house neat and to enjoy indoor pursuits like crochet and sewing. I also feel more inspired to cook and I bake more often too. I have some new decorating to share soon. And I couldn't be more excited for tonight's Downton Abbey premiere, along with The Great British Baking Show, the first episode of which I watched last week. I'm not usually into the reality/competition shows but this one seems nice so far, plus cake.
I'm still catching up in Blogland. I've been sorting photos from our trip and thinking about everything we did. I've decided to blog about our trip in a few installments, highlighting the main events. We didn't do all that much; we spent lots of time driving, and traveling with children always requires lots of stops and plenty of downtime and early nights, but we did some fun things. One was a trip to the Phoenix Zoo, which was about 30 minutes' drive away from the house where we stayed, in Glendale.
I found the house on Airbnb, and it was a perfect fit for us, bigger than our own house, even: four large bedrooms, two bathrooms and two huge living areas, all for less money per night than most motels. It was clean and comfortable. And we had a fully-equipped kitchen, which helped us save money on dining, and laundry facilities in the house. There was a pool, but it was too cold to swim. I don't love cooking and doing laundry on vacation, and I'd really love to take a real resort vacation someday, where I don't have to do a darn thing. But for now, with young kids, this is a good way to go. If you've never tried Airbnb, I recommend it. This was our second Airbnb rental experience; our first was in Denver in 2013. We've had very good stays in Airbnb rentals. So, the zoo visit...
We try to visit the local zoo when we travel. We all love zoos and they can be so different, it's a great attraction to visit in any new place. I've been to several of the major city zoos in the US and they've all been unique and interesting. The Phoenix Zoo is beautiful and so well-maintained. I'm really glad we made time for a visit. We ended up spending most of the day there, packing a lunch of sandwiches and fruit. The weather was perfect, sunny and crisp. The crowds weren't bad, even though we were there during a school break. I didn't take all that many photos there; I felt preoccupied just keeping track of both kids while trying to enjoy the exhibits.
I really loved the way that the zoo included a wild desert area, meant to showcase the flora and fauna found in that climate in a natural way. There were lots of cactus species, including the saguaro cactus. This is a type not found in New Mexico, where we live. A lot of people think of it when they imagine the landscape in the Southwest, but it doesn't grow everywhere. It's too cold here but the saguaro is prolific in Arizona and you see it everywhere.
Our tactile-learning family members couldn't resist touching the saguaro spines when they could reach them without leaving the trail. They were pretty safe as long as you touched them carefully.
The same could not be said for the "jumping cactus," which I think may be a type of cholla cactus. We have those where we live, and the LB should have known better, but he ended up with numerous spines in his hand; Daddy and his Leatherman pliers to the rescue. There were tears, and a little blood, but I think he'll leave those alone now.
For a change, these telescopes did not require money to use them. Zoo admission was expensive enough, I think. You could use them to see deer up on a hill, but there were also wild birds to watch, and later, a zookeeper in an all-terrain vehicle came along to feed the deer and they walked right up to her like dogs and ate from her hands.
Soon, we were through the wild area and into the regular zoo exhibits. We all loved the baboons. I was so taken with the way this one female came right up to the glass and sat catching ants in her hands. She concentrated on her task and paid no attention to the people watching. Sometimes I feel bad for the animals in a zoo. I feel like they must learn to behave differently because people are always peering at them, being noisy, smelling strange. I think this zoo does a good job. The animals were fairly far from the viewing area, which was one reason I didn't get lots of photos. But I'd rather see happy, healthy animals in person any day.
The Galapagos tortoises were fascinating. They moved a lot faster than I might have imagined they would. But when they were resting, they looked exactly like giant stones.
We all loved the cheetah. I was impressed with how calm she was, and how agile. She walked so gracefully and could balance on the slenderest branches. I had hoped to see tigers and lions but all were sleeping when we passed their enclosures. One of the lions was waving its tail in its sleep, though, just like a house cat.
We wended our way through the whole zoo, including an area designed to be like the Central American jungle, full of parrots, toucans and other exotic birds. I wish I'd gotten better photos of them, but the jungle trees made it very dark and my photos are awful. It was beautiful, though. I loved the macaw parrot, especially. My mother has a pet macaw, Murphy, and I grew up playing with him when he was owned by my grandparents. I have a weakness for noisy, colorful birds. We eventually ended up in the children's zoo portion of the main zoo. One attraction there was a learning farm, with several big tractors for kids to climb on. This was a very big hit with my two.
They also liked another part of the children's zoo which had interactive exhibits, like this one containing replicas of animals they could touch and climb on. They climbed inside this giant clam replica and both could sit comfortably inside. There was also a playground with a slide made to look like a saguaro you have to climb through, and a big climbing net made of rope. I liked that they put the children's zoo at the end of the long circuit around the zoo. You could probably get to it easily from the entrance if you wanted to visit it first, and it was a good way to let them get out some energy after a long day of walking and before the drive home.
One of my favorite things about the zoo was the vegetation. I mentioned the saguaros already, but I also loved that there were citrus trees growing all over the zoo. I saw oranges as well as what I think were probably Meyer lemons. I saw lots of orange trees all over Phoenix. I wish I could grow oranges here. Phoenix's climate is surprisingly different from Albuquerque's. Not only are we farther north, we're also at much higher elevation. Phoenix reminds me a lot of Florida, actually, between the citrus fruits and the abundant bougainvillea, which I also loved seeing. All in all, this was a beautiful, interesting zoo and we all enjoyed our visit. And slept like logs that night; the Bear wears a pedometer and he clocked over 10,000 steps just during the zoo visit!
Back soon with another highlight from our trip.