Have you ever felt like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” when the tornado sets her down and she opens the door to Lollypop Land and is transported to a Technicolor fantasy landscape? Well, I have. Invited to spend three days in Scottsdale, Arizona at the beautiful FireSky Resort & Spa after one of Chicago’s most brutal winters, I climbed aboard a flight to my land of Oz. Leaving the bleak, grey, cold of “The Windy City” and disembarking into the palm tree cactus green colors and warmth of Scottsdale was a fantasy come true.
Travel from the Phoenix airport to the FireSky Resort & Spa was also a brief tour and history lesson of the area by professorial Henri Paul, owner and operator of AZ Trips. His Towncar transportation became my magic carpet ride. I was regaled with some interesting facts about the indigenous population of American Native tribes and given a few fast facts on the landscape including the oddly shaped and cavern pitted mounds of sandstone called buttes. Mr. Paul’s luxurious ride is, as far as I am concerned, the only way to ride!
The FireSky Resort & Spa is part of the Kimpton Hotel group which operates a collection of boutique lifestyle hotels. They hold properties in Alexandria and Arlington,Virginia, Washington DC, Dallas,Texas, Aspen and Denver, Colorado, Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chicago, New York City, Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Cupertino, California, Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. Each of these hotels, they say, has a unique personality and story to tell.
My story about the FireSky is romance and fantasy. From the moment I arrived to my reluctant departure, I was treated like royalty. The entire staff made me feel as if I were the only guest there and my comfort was the most important thing. Every detail was perfect. My room’s large balcony overlooked the well-manicured landscaping of one of their many waterfalls and pools, cacti, succulent plants, trees and flowering shrubs. The air was perfumed with the scent of wondrous botanicals, wood fire and the desert. My large marble bath had stacks of soft, white towels and the amenities provided could soften even the most crocodilian winter parched skin. The honor bar contained delicious treats including a sugar-free chocolate for those who must resist calorie laden late-night snacks. Luxury linens festooned two queen-sized beds and they beckoned my sun sated body each night. I felt like the fairytale princess without the pea under her mattress.
To my delight, as I am a pet lover, dogs of every size and breed are welcomed to the FireSky. And, if you are not accompanied by your pet, the hotel provides a goldfish so you don’t feel lonely. My fish, Caspian, and I became good friends during my stay.
The resort boasts three pools…one of which is accessed by a sandy beach that gently slopes into the warm water pool and is large enough to build sand castles, should you be so inclined. Each pool is just the right temperature and if one desires, one may relax in the warm swirling waters of a hot tub adjacent to the pool area. Large fluffy orange towels are provided and food and drink may be ordered poolside from their Italian Riviera inspired restaurant, Taggia. One is truly offered the opportunity, while at the FireSky, to experience the fusion of the classical elements: fire, water, air and earth. Majestic fire columns are ablaze when the sun sets but during the warm sun-filled days the sky is an indescribable blue, the sun is the essence of warmth and the air is like the lightest of chiffon caressing your body.
Your sybaritic experience at the resort is also eco-friendly. They take their earth-friendly philosophy seriously. They are recognized and lauded by many environmental organizations as having the highest standards. Everything from the cleaning solutions they use to the recycling of paper products, to energy and water conservation, to organic and fair trade foods and beverages to the use of soy based inks in their collaterals are a conscious effort to sustain the earth and keep our planet pristine.
The FireSky is very close to, and within walking distance to Scottsdale’s Old Town Arts District. The district is chockfull of shops and restaurants. The shops cater to the tourist trade and sales are brisk of Native American crafts. There are quite a few restaurants but take my advice, stay at the FireSky and dine at Taggia. Not only will you delight in fabulous food but you will feel as if you are on the Mediterranean Coast. Kimpton Hotels like to say that their restaurants are “chef driven.”
Taggia is driven by their Chef de Cuisine, James Siao, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and former Sous Chef at a Renaissance Hotel who interned at the well known Hyatt Gainey Ranch. Saio, during a brief meeting, stated that he has a passion for food and for pleasing the guest. He also stated that he “thinks outside the oven.” Indeed he does. My selections from the menu included seared sea scallops on a bed of Anson Mills polenta and porcini mushrooms and perhaps the best risotto I’ve ever consumed. The menu has a selection of fish that is flown in daily and prepared beautifully, meat dishes, pastas and wood-fired pizzas. All the food is organic, prepared to perfection and served by friendly, knowledgeable staff. They have a conventional dining room and an outdoor patio that makes you believe you are dining in Monte Carlo. The restaurant is open seven days a week and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner under the palms and stars.
The spa referred to in the name FireSky Resort & Spa, Jurlique, is adjacent to the hotel and I took advantage of their services. I treated myself to an hour Swedish massage which was a slice of heaven. The environment of the spa is elegant, calming, relaxing and almost hypnotic. All the ingredients used in their treatments are organic and plant based. The plants used are grown in their own herb farms. Jurlique offers body and facial treatments that are hypo-allergenic and pH balanced, are not tested on animals and have no animal content. Private treatment rooms and the relaxation lounge are most inviting, serene and tranquil. My massage, administered by Angela, whose name is appropriate, lulled me into a semi-hypnotic state. Warming towels and warm lotions were applied with delicate touch and her expert massaging of my winter weather limbs relaxed me to such an extent that after returning to my room I stared for nearly a half hour at a humming bird flitting between flowers on a tree just off my balcony. Allow me to reiterate, the experience was a slice of heaven.
Before leaving Scottsdale, I took in a spring training Cubs game at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, stopped and shopped at the Waterfront and ate at what has to be the most authentic outdoor place for cowboy grub, Greasewood Flats. Greasewood Flats was originally a stagecoach stop and for over 30 years has been serving up hearty burgers and wicked libations to cowboys, bikers, tourists and locals. You take a number, find an empty spot at a picnic table, talk to strangers, enjoy live music and if you want, line dance and play horseshoes. As the sun sets, wood fires are lit in fire pits while you wait for your grub.
Unfortunately my trip had to come to an end and I had to say goodbye to Camelback Mountain. I did not look forward to returning to freezing temperatures and dull grey skies. My tan is fading and the Cubs lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks…back to reality. But as the Governor of California said in a blockbuster movie, “I will return.”
Photos: The author and Kimpton Hotels
Firesky Resort & Spa is located at: 4925 north Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, Arizona, 85251, www.FireSkyResort.com
For FireSky Resort & Spa reservations: (P) 800.528.7867 or (P) 480.945.7666
Taggia: www.taggiascottsdale.com (P) 480.424.6095 and for private dining: (P) 480.425-8966
Kimpton Hotels: www.kimptonhotels.com
Jurlique: (P) 480.424.6072 or spa reservations may be made by calling the FireSky Resort & Spa
AZ Trips: (P) 602.434.4001 or www.myaztrips.com