We were in Tucson last year but our visit was interrupted by THE shooting (what I call the Safeway massacre) that left me just wanting to get out of there. This was our chance to come back and explore all the places we didn’t get to as well as those we wanted to revisit.
Tucson and the surrounding areas are exceptionally diverse and the inhabitants share and celebrate that diversity. It is a city built in and surrounded by volcanic mountains and desert. Even the name Tucson is derived from a Spanish adaptation of the O’odham word for at the base of the black hill - Cuk Ṣon.
Our first stop was at the Visitor Information Center downtown. Downtown is an array of colour and lines - the plazas, the buildings, the streets – and history.
They offer a special Passport that offers special attractions discounts so we stopped to pick one up.
Jewish Historic Museum
One of the places in the passport was the Jewish Historic Museum so I thought it might be interesting to see. I was quite surprised first that there are so many Jewish people in Tucson and then that the first synagogue was reform built in 1902.
Mission San Xavier
Archaeologists claim that the area was visited by Paleo-Indian people as long ago as 12,000 years and there is evidence of irrigated farming and the red and black ceramics of the Hohokam Peoples.
The first Catholic mission of San Xavier founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692 still stands and is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. It’s been named a National Historic Landmark.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
There is no question that the Museum is our favourite attraction in Tucson. We spent most of the day there (we were there last year) and this time took part in the Raptor Free Flights demonstration.
The museum is spectacular . . . it sits on 98 acres with 3.2 kms (2 miles) of walking paths covering 21 acres. Much of the property is covered with natural growth and cacti. All sorts of plants line the walkways many are named and labelled for identification. There are snake and reptile exhibits; hummingbird and other bird enclosures; and large animal like Cougars and Bears that are housed in very natural settings. What with my camera and Fred’s new camera, we took over 150 photos. (So - I’m going to do a separate posting on the Desert Museum once I get the photos sorted out!)
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
It’s difficult to describe the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun experience. The gallery is a complex of buildings scattered over 10 acres in the hills in north Tucson. The buildings and the setting exemplifies the spirit and backdrop surrounding the entire city – natural desert with an array of plants and cacti. Impressionistic sculptures and settings are sprinkled throughout and that is even before you go into the sanctuary or gallery.
A Visiting Artist’s Studio sits to the side of the entrance. Geri Bringman was there when we visited. I love her work – she works in acrylics on canvas - her figures are colourful and delightful.
We traded our creative endeavours – Jacob’s Tails yielded a wonderful print that will find its way onto a wall somewhere in my life.
DeGrazia’s Gallery itself is room after room filled with his impressionistic sketches, paintings, sculptures of the South Arizona he loved and lived in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. In addition to his physical environment, DeGrazia was enthralled with the Mexican Indian lifestyle and children. He was incredibly prolific and the entire complex is filled with his work. I remember the picture chosen by UNICEF for one of their Christmas Cards a few years back. But I did find a Chanukah Card there.
On our way to explore the Saguaro National Park – the RAINS started OMG did it rain!
We never made it up to Saguaro – instead we have come back to Casa Grande to spend our month retreat.
I never realized how much we actually did while we were in Tucson – our plan is to either do day trips while we are here or go back later!