6 Tools for Integrating Walking into Your Travels

It’s here! My article 6 Tools for Integrating Walking into Your Travels has been published on Traveling Chicha’s blog!

Be sure to check it out, but don’t forget to return to her blog–follow it even–for lots of helpful tips and ideas for those of us who like to call the road (and sea and air) home.


This is a guest post by Sherry Dryja. Sherry blogs at Jet Planes and Coffee  and is most at home when traveling the globe, meeting new people, and exploring their communities. She and her husband spend half the year visiting places near and far. Each location is experienced to the fullest by taking tours, eating where the locals eat, and soaking in as much culture as can be found in museums, theater offerings, markets, and festivals. Jet Planes and Coffee documents her travels while sharing what she learns along the way. I have truly enjoyed reading her articles and have gained both knowledge and inspiration from reading them! 

Forget about renting a car. Book your stay in the heart of a city and get walking! Walking is one of the best ways to learn about a place and get fit at the same time. Below are six tools to make…

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Hotel Valley Ho stays fresh while paying homage to the hippest parts of its history

In the scurry that is Sunday morning at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona, Hubby and I, along with a group of eight or so other people, met with Ace Bailey of Ultimate Art & Cultural Tours to learn all there is to know about this Mid-Century Modern hotel with a Southwest twist.

The Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona. The concrete panels mentioned below can be seen lining the roofline of the porte-cochere along the entrance.

Built in 1956, the hotel was the first year-round resort in Scottsdale. It was lined all around with 350-pound concrete panels that have an “arrowhead” design set in them. The design marked the hotel as “Southwest” while keeping to the slick minimalism of Modern design. The hotel drew Hollywood’s elite to the Arizona desert with the lure of luxury and anonymity. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood celebrated their wedding reception there. Jimmy Durante was a favorite guest who could often be found tickling the ivories at the purple piano in the lounge.

A column in the lobby has the arrowhead design in it. I don't know about you, but I see "V's" in it, for "Valley Ho," maybe?

Through the years, the hotel went through different phases of facelifts. Ramada acquired the hotel in the 1970s and tinkered with cosmetic changes. By the early 2000s, though, the hotel had seen better years and was up for demolition. In 2004, though, Westroc Hotels & Resorts took on the task of bringing the hotel back to life with a full restoration and update, inspired by the building’s cool history. It now embraces its hip past while setting trends for today. It boasts that it is “posh but never stuffy. Relaxed but far from dull.”

Below are pictures from our tour. I think you’ll agree that the hotel definitely clicks along to a familiar, fun-loving groove, inspired by its mid-century roots.

Old pictures of the original design can be found beside the concierge stand. Here is one of the original restaurant.
The lobby has a great expansiveness to it with the stone-clad wall extending outside, beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. The fireplace is fantastic.

When the hotel underwent its most recent facelift, the developers went out of their way to reuse and recycle as much as they could. In fact, they managed to save 20,000 tons of waste from ever reaching the landfill by restoring the hotel instead of tearing it down. The fireplace in the lobby is one example as to how they did that. Instead of throwing out glass doors that had broken, they used them as a decorative feature in the fireplace. Today, the hotel has been classified as a “Green Hotel“, thanks to its environmentally friendly policies.

The environmentally friendly fireplace.
Seen here, the massive concrete "arrowhead" panels lining the hotel, and a Saucer Pendant Light first designed in 1952 by George Nelson, which is translucent plastic spray-coated onto a steel skeleton.
This is the bar/lounge area as it is today. I think they've done a great job of mixing the best of yesterday with what's cool today. I particularly love those "bubble" mirrors and those white lamps.
This curved wall leads from the lobby of the hotel to the lounge area. It is clad in shiny glass tiles. Layered on top of those is a hard-to-miss, funky design made of felt or some other soft fabric in blues and chartreuse.
A toast to cool: 1950s Fenders hang in the lobby area, behind the concierge desk.

Back in the day, connecting rooms didn’t exist, so the architect came up with the idea of using rotating screens on the patios and balconies so friends and families could visit one another in their PJs. The screens are still in use today, but perhaps as more of a novelty since there seems to be less concern about being seen in one’s pajamas these days.

Look closely to see the bars which hang from the ceiling and allow the screens to rotate.
From the roof of the hotel, circles of tables perfectly aligned for, what looks like a celebratory dinner.
A view of the pool from the rooftop. Notice the shape--a circle within another circle. It is meant to be the view one might see when looking down upon a martini glass with an olive sticking out of the side. The pool shape is not original to the hotel. It had to be completely redone when Westroc took it over because it was in disrepair.
The view of a pleasant balcony for one of the rooms which, I believe, is an executive suite.

Rates for a signature king started at $229 a night when I did a search on their website for a weekend stay. The hotel also has several packages available.

The hotel also offers several rooms to those traveling with pets, providing some special amenities for your furry loved one.

If the price of a night’s stay is too rich for your blood, perhaps visiting Cafe Zuzu for dinner would be more to your liking. While the service can sometimes be a little off, I can personally vouch for Chef Wiley’s American cuisine. They offer new twists on old favorites.

There is a spa on site, as well as a fitness centerMyTown365, another blogger based in the area, recently posted a picture and information of one of the yoga classes provided on the rooftop of the hotel. From the looks of it, it is a very popular class among guests and the community at large.

Finally, if you do nothing else at the hotel, I highly recommend taking the tour with Ace Bailey. The price is $19.56 (in honor of the year the hotel first opened) and the 90-minute tour not only provides access to places within the hotel not usually available to the general public, you also receive discounts to the VH Spa and Cafe Zuzu. For more information about how to sign up for the tour, click here.

Hotel Valley Ho is located within walking distance to Old Town Scottsdale at 6850 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. To make reservations or for more information, go to their website or call 480-248-2000.

In search of the perfect traveling shoes

The summer is approaching and, for me, that means an extended period of travel to different places with different climates. In all the places, Hubby and I will walk at least 5 miles a day. Sometimes we walk to dinner and back. Sometimes we walk to the theater. Other times, we’re just strolling through town, window shopping or cafe hopping. No matter what we’re up to, I have to have comfortable shoes that can see me through all those miles and different situations.

It’s easier in winter to find comfy shoes that look grand in a variety of situations. These boots from Aquatalia by Marvin K saw me through the hills of San Francisco, a downpour in Toronto, dinner and Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario, and countless other places where I had to walk outside for miles in occasional inclement weather.

Knee-high flat boots from Aquatalia by Marvin K are comfy and weather-proof. They also fit will in a variety of situations.

When attire isn’t as much of a concern, or casual wear is the norm, the Nikes below are my go-tos. They’ve seen me through some of those same San Francisco hills, an architectural tour in Palm Springs, a Segway tour in La Jolla and another one in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wore them to dinners at local jive joints with black pants and a top with a jacket for a sporty urban look that was incredibly comfortable. (I actually got compliments from that outfit!)

Nike Air Pegasus sneakers. I think the black color and shine of the fabric help them fit into a few other situations where white sneakers would stick out. Still, I only wear them for casual dinners and events.

With just two pairs of shoes needed for pretty much any situation, it was easy to pack and fairly light to carry. The boots come off quickly for airport security and go back on just as quickly. The sneakers were actually slightly more trouble since they have laces, but they were lighter and easier to pack in an overnight bag.

So, now we approach the summer and, as I pour through my closet, I feel woefully unprepared for the summer’s upcoming trips and events. The Nikes can probably transition to summer in the same capacity as before. And I have one pair of sandals that are the most comfortable I have ever owned:

Sandals by Naot. They seem to fit into several different situations and I have walked more than five miles in them in one day without blisters or pain.

These are great for probably 70% of the things I do in a given day and, unlike the Nikes, they look good with long skirts. Still, my problem with relying solely on sandals is that, they’re not as comfortable during those summer rain bursts. And, when I walk long distances through dusty or gravelly areas, I always end up having to stop in order to free the little pebbles that try to hitch a ride under my heel.

Shoes such as those I seek do exist. Last summer, I wore these shoes through visits to St. Paul, Minnesota, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Mackinaw Island, not to mention return visits to Phoenix and its hot, hot summer:

Suede penny loafers with Nike Air technology by Cole Haan. They looked great with jeans, capris, and certain skirts.

They were far more comfortable than I would have imagined them to be at first. They’re built to look like loafers but they bond to the foot more like flats, thanks to the moldable suede. The difference, though, is that with loafers, the leather is usually stiff and, in flats, the support is usually minimal. Walking miles in either kind of shoe often ends up in blisters and/or incredibly sore feet. These, however, rocked like Elvis’s shoes of the same variety (blue suede), fitting into a variety of situations and going with a lot of different outfits. But, as you can see, they have seen better days, and I’m afraid their support is starting to break down after so much wear.

This brings me to the contenders of new shoes that can be supportive, sporty, dressy, and closed-toed to fit a variety of summertime situations. At 41 years old, my trotting around all day in high heels are over. Still, I can’t help but salivate over these (and I may get them later for those times when I’m going out but not walking far):

Not exactly sporty or closed-toed, but...drool. Karma heel by Aquatalia by Marvin K.

As of yet, I have not found the one that fits all of my requirements. The shoes I have tried either rubbed horrible blisters, made my feet sweat, or they were just downright uncomfortable.

These Merrells had promise, but when I wore them to walk a mile to coffee and back, they drew blood from the blisters they rubbed! Ouch!
These adorable little shoes from Privo by Clark's are spunky, sporty, and incredibly comfy, but they make my feet sweat. Ewew!
I tried these as a dressier shoe that could fit into dress-up/dress-down situations. I thought since they are by Cole Haan with Nike Air Technology that they might actually work. And they are fairly comfortable. The problem is that they pinch my toes and do not provide the stability I need when walking along uneven sidewalks.

The comfort lines out there, like Ecco, Mephisto, and Clark’s make fine shoes, but a lot of them are either too wide for my dainty feet or they look like a shoe my grandmother would wear. (In fact, I bought my grandmother some Ecco’s for Christmas because she loved them so much.) These lines have started putting out some really great looking shoes lately and I have bought pairs in hopes of finding the one. But, alas, I am still looking for that summer staple.

So now, ladies and gentlemen, I put the question to you: Have you found stylish, comfortable, lightweight, summer shoes that are urban casual AND closed-toed?

If you have great traveling shoes you would like to share, drop me a note! Phoenix, as well as many other parts of the world, it seems, are starting Spring/Summer early. That has me antsy to find what I need to get on the road with style and comfort.