The Holidays are here yet again!! A rather eventful year ended us taking to Arizona. It is always great to start off on a great note for a vacation when you get an upgrade with fully reclining bench seats – there were just awesome! That topped off with some wonderful crackers-cream ice cream and I was sure to put on some weight from this trip.

Our first stop was Phoenix, AZ. It was nearly 10 PM local time when we picked up the rental and headed to our resort in Scottsdale. It is so much different to stay at a home-like space than a hotel room. There is so much more space to move and stretch within the 16147449931_9f8e31b93c_zhome away from home. This would be the only reason to stick with time shares I would say – you get some really great accommodation in a family-friendly setting. The 18-course golf course behind was off-limits for an early morning walk, but Scottsdale has no dearth of wide streets lined with upscale homes for that purpose. The  charming southern architecture adds a lot of beauty to a home’s facade – the stucco, the arched doors, the red tiles, the spread-out layout. The only dearth you can discover is the lack of variety in vegetation, but the perfectly manicured lawns and shrubs are hard to beat and you will not notice you are in the midst of a desert.

15532883753_d2dfb1a900_zThe Desert Botanical garden can be a mesmerizing place if you love dry vegetation and you will be surprised the sheer variety of vegetation that an arid climate can host. I was thinking cactus and shrubs is all, but boy was I taken aback. The cacti can themselves grow to nearly 12-18 feet!! A good 2 1//2 hours at the garden was enough to finish browsing the park. After educating ourselves that there is more to plant life than just cacti, we headed off to lunch at a Udupi restaurant on Scottsdale road in Tempe – 5-6 miles from the resort.  Food was above average, but I got put off by some customers carrying their plates to the buffet. The restaurants owner refused to request the customer, whatever his reason. I took the initiative to tell the family and they were indeed thankful for the tip. Somebody has to teach, right and there is no wrong in pointing out a shortcoming as long as it is done in a good way.

The Mesa temple, Arizona

The Mesa temple, Arizona on Christmas eve

It was Christmas eve and the roads were deserted. That didn’t keep us from visiting the temple in Mesa. The magnificent marble building is the seventh operating temple for the Mormons. The temple and its surroundings were decked with colored lights – easily a Million lights on its vast grounds. There were a lot of people surprisingly given there were almost none on the roads, but given it was Christmas eve there was quite some activity going on around the place. Parking was full and had flooded the side streets, but where there is a will, there is a parking space as I had experienced sometime in the past. Just don’t give up looking easily – that is the key.

It is so much difficult to get good photographs at night. Unknowingly you get shake and eventually blurred images. The trick is to have a good camera with a fairly large and sensitive sensor. Don’t be afraid to turn up your ISO to 800 or so. Also make sure you reduce shake in the camera – either a very steady hand, or a stable surface or even a remote trigger will help. Now-a-days, the mirrorless cameras will do well in these situations. When I cane back and looked at the photos, I was pleasantly surprised to see some sharp pictures of the colorfully lit temple. We walked the insides a bit, and on the grounds got some photos amidst a ever flowing sea of people. Away from the temple, there were food stalls selling Indian bread, but we had decided to skip Indian food. We headed out to Bink’s – one of the top rated vegetarian-friendly place in Scottsdale. The choices were rather limited, but the food was good and creative. Once in a while, such venturing works well for me – you get to taste food that borders on the creative outside of home that isn’t the normal-fare.

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