“Does anyone even know how cool this place is? Is it a secret? Or … do you think people know?”

We were sitting for this whispered moment, on the patio of Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. I’d been stuck in meetings most of the prior day, finally let free to visit something. Naturally, we’d run towards a bar. The Hotel Congress has been open and serving since 1919. The patio’s dreamy, nestled under trees, bathed in the neon glow from the massive Rialto Theater marquee across the street.

Tucson is a lot like Portland. Or Austin. It’s a little like Seattle or even Missoula, Montana.

Until that whispered comment, I’d been contemplating the very same thing. Does anyone know how cool Tucson is? Should we keep it to ourselves?

A man leaning against Hotel Congress’ golden logo took a deep drag off his cigarette. He let his worries go into the night air on a plumb a smoke, and I fell in love with a town I would have never even come to, save the work conference that required it.

I love the history and the protected grittiness. We chatted in broken Spanish with the Mexican ladies who were hand-pressing corn tortillas on the patio of the Borderlands Brewery. Night would close with a very loud band on a stage inside a former funeral home, which turned into a cocktail bar in 2016.

Tucson is a tattoo artist’s town. A place with deep connection to comfort foods and worn-in Levis. It’s more rattlesnake than retail. More steel-toed boot than boutique.

I cannot wait to return. I wasn’t able to see everything I wanted, but I did make it to their famous mission for Mass.

San Xavier del Bac was founded by a priest named Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

I loved watching the faithful walk in for the service. Cracked cowboy boots had been polished. Bolo ties were straightened and dusty shirts tucked in. A palm was licked, a hair forced into obedience. Reverence was at the ready … a feeling that if there is a God, he doesn’t care how you look––only that you try.

I loved joining the women in the small chapel where hundreds of candles were burning, each representing a prayer. If you ever find a sense of peace in religious places, a deeper connection from so much silent energy flowing, you’ll certainly find the very same here. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the beauty, the fragrant incense, the quiet bowed heads underneath the towering frescos––set out in the middle of flat expanse only broken by cactus and crumbling red earth.

If you visit, afterwards grab a $15 Uber from the Mission to San Agustin Mercado. The breakfast at Seis Kitchen and my coffee at Presta Roasters were incredible. It’s always a fine Sunday when you can join contemplations and carbohydrates.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May tomorrow find you with your top button tugging on your jeans, deep happiness in your heart and too many friends to count around you.

Seis Kitchen serves massive plates of Mexican cuisine on an open-air patio

 

The Chorizo Plate with tamale, fried eggs, tomatillo sauce and refried beans

Presta Coffee Roasters is a great option to stay or to go. The lines are worth the wait.

Jenny Adams is a freelance travel writer, author and photographer.
She currently contributes to a number of publications, including National Geographic Traveler, Hemispheres, American Way and Imbibe.

She’s the former Bar Columnist for the Miami Herald, the current Copy Editor at Robb Vices and is also wrestling a half-written novel, set in New Orleans.

Jenny’s got an knack for getting lost, an addiction to full-fat cream cheese, and a deep and abiding love for every Water Buffalo she’s ever seen.
Her bookshelf is mainly Tom Robbins, her favorite word is ‘visceral,’ and you can find out more about her at www.jennyadamsfreelance.com.

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