Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colorado Springs May 2006

     We left for Colorado Springs Friday May 12th just before 10PM It was a mad dash for the airport despite the late departure. Including hand-feeding John as he closed out a few last minute details on his computer. With the doors and stove locked and off we were on out way.
     We arrived in Colorado Springs to find, National had canceled our car reservation for reasons unknown to us and to the clerk at the airport. She revised the details and we saved a few dollars on the deal. Hooray!

     ColoradoSprings  is a small place so we walked to the car, a Monte Carlo. Nice car but still it was difficult for John to be comfortable as cars are usually not tall enough in the roof to seat distance to accommodate his height from the waist up.

     We did a good job of finding our hotel I’d chosen it for it’s reasonable price and convenience to the airport. The neighborhood seemed fairly industrial but the rooms were clean and the people working there were helpful and friendly. We slept for a few quick hours and
were ready to begin our adventure.

     The breakfast the motel provided was about, as one would expect, coffee resembling and tasting like brown dishwater and semi-stale bagelettes. We passed on that and decided to explore Manitou Springs for breakfast.

     We passed through Old Colorado Springs  on the way and we both thought that we’d like to explore it further someday when we had more time to spend in the area.
Manitou Springs

     Manitou Springs is on the way to Pikes Peak, which we would have loved to visit but,with very little time we decided to add it to our "someday we will" list.

     The main drag is under a mile long and when we first drove through my eyes became wide as saucers. The quaint shops and quirky café’s and Kids in tie-dye transported me to 1967 the summer of love. I was chomping at the bit to devour the shops as well as breakfast, as we were pretty hungry at this point.

     We chose Ned’s café . Ned's on Manitou - A Funky Cafe   His roots were in NOHO in Manhattan and he’d turned on, tuned in and dropped out to Colorado to pursue his
 dream of feeding the eclectic local crowd. We had a wonderful breakfast John had an omelet with olive and Peppers that reminded me of a meatball hero in taste. Extra hot of course! I had Chicken apple sausage Scramble. The height of the meal was the Angel fries, which were zucchini skins, grated like hash browns tossed in oil with a little flour and spices. We plan to try that one at home.

     Fortified we were off to the shops! Bookstores Tee shirts, Glass blowers, Jewelers, and the like we visited a large sampling. John, who is not the biggest fan of the shop crawl, was a model of patience and understanding. He knows I love browsing and he was determined to make this an amazing birthday for me and he did.

     We spent quite a bit of time with a zither and Dulcimer maker and performer who owns a shop on the main street. Dulcimer.Net  I’ve always wanted one and he took lots of time with us, playing tunes and spinning tales of his life as a music man.

     We took the almost two hour ride north to Boulder listening to CD’s and checking out the scenery on HWY 25.   Before we knew it we were arriving  in Boulder and easily located the B & B where I’d reserved our room. John is great with directions and maps, so we are lucky. It was not easy to find a room however, since it was not only Mother’s day weekend but also the graduation of Colorado U.

    The Bradley is a twelve room B & B in the heart of Boulder. The Bradley Boulder Inn, Boulder, Colorado, Bed and Breakfast It is lovely. We settled into our room and hit Pearl Street, a pedestrian mall eight to ten blocks long that is part shopping area, part outdoor café area, and part theater of the absurd.Downtown Boulder Colorado There are all manner of sidewalk performers and quite the mix of tourists, students, yuppies, beggars, puppies and a breed of trust funded rich kids sporting   dreadlocks tie dye and a sense of entitlement. My nephew says they are referred to locally as “Trustafarians”. We enjoyed the people watching very much and for the most part like the people we met.

     At the time my nephew David  worked at The St. Julian as a restaurant manager. Boulder Restaurants, Bars, Lounges at St. Julien Hotel We tracked him down
and invited him to dinner .He is as big a fan of sushi as John and we ate at a popular sushi bar called Hapa.:.: Hapa Sushi ::.:
We had huge amounts of food and Sake infused with raspberry called Purple haze.
We walked off dinner on the way to the Dushanbe Tea House Boulder Dushanbe TeaHouse a gift from Tajikistan which is Boulder’s sister city and I don’t know how that came about.
It is a very colorful tiled tea house that had to be put together a piece at a time. We had tea and desert a cinnamon apple type confection, which we three shared.
Dushanbe Tea House ceiling

     We were exhausted but I was not too exhausted to soak in the big Jacuzzi tub we had. What a treat so much so that when I woke at 5:30 Am I took another soak, before returning to bed. Such a treat.

     Saturday we fulfilled a long time wish of mine I’d always wanted to go to the Celestial seasonings tea factory. Celestial Seasonings Teas I’ve always enjoyed both their teas and their tea boxes, which have wonderful sayings on them. We arrived for the first tour and although the machines were off as it was Sunday we got to see them all. John had worked on many robotic machines like the ones we saw. The factory is full of the wonderful smells of all the imported spices from all over the world. We went in a special room full of Peppermint and Spearmint and the smell was overwhelming for some folks who left the room, we liked it and left with clear sinuses.

     Just up the road is the Leaning tree western art museum Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art -- Museum Gift Shop we stopped in briefly and took in the sculptures and paintings wishing we had longer to linger. The whole Area between the two places was literally filled with prairie dogs. Prairie Dogs - DesertUSA They were adorable and fun to watch.

     We hurried back to Pearl St and got a wonderful burger at the West end Café The West End Tavern we were rushing and flew up to the Boulderado hotel Hotel Boulderado we were took a tour of Boulder. This fellow had purchased an old school bus converted it to a hillbilly theme outfitted it with old living room easy chairs and sofas for seats as well as actual saddles. Tour Boulder Colorado with Banjo Billy! He mixes history, ghost stories and crime stories. It’s very silly and funny and a very good time. We also managed to see quite a bit of boulder in the  1 ½ hour tour.

     After the tour we headed back to out B&B for a  wine and cheese get together.
(They bake a brie sprinkled with brown sugar in pastry dough and bake it for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees) 

     We spent the rest of the afternoon  shop hopping on Pearl Street. We chose a few pieces of art from the local craft gallery Boulder Arts & Crafts Cooperative and John was once again tremendously patient with me.

     When the shops closed we drove way up into the mountains that surround Boulder. We were blown away by the majesty and beauty we saw everywhere we looked. The road followed a mountain stream and the mountains rose up almost vertically from the road. It was truly humbling. We stopped briefly at a game restaurant, which was closed for the evening, but it gave us a chance to walk for a moment by the stream. John touched the water; He said it was cold, but not as cold as he would have thought.

    Back in town John grabbed a bite at an Italian place Pasta Jay's - A Restaurant You Can Call Home! we had seen earlier in the day. It had a line in front all day and we saw why. The food was good; according to John I was mostly thirsty and had several glasses of water. Shopping is thirsty work. I of course ended the day with a long soak with no less than two feet of bubbles on top. A great prelude to my 46th birthday.

     My Birthday began when I awoke at 5:30 to get ready for the birthday adventure. John woke up shortly thereafter and we grabbed our luggage, 2 coffees and a couple of scones and made our way to Estes Park.Estes Park, Colorado eWelcome Center I was not at all sure that we’d arrive in time for our 8AM horseback ride through the Rockies.Sombrero Ranches: Colorado Horseback Riding Stables with Trail Riding in the Rocky Mountains I had conflicting accounts of the travel time from Boulder to Estes Park.

     We arrived and everything worked out beautifully. It was just the two of us and the trail guide on an hour ride. It was a clear crisp morning and the smell of the fresh mountain air and the pine along with the view of the Rockies and the Continental divide were the most perfect way we could ever imagine To begin my 46th year. 

     John’s horse had a mind of it’s own and was a bit of a trailblazer. They grew to understand each other and developed a mutual fondness for each other by the end of the adventure. As we rounded the bend back to the corral we came face to face with a coyote that was too busy hunting rabbit to bother much about our intrusion.

     We drove back to Boulder and had lunch at Jill’s where David works and had a delicious breakfast of French toast and silver dollar pancakes. The hit of breakfast the mimosas not withstanding was the chicken Mango sausage. We loved it and would like to try it again soon.

     As we left Boulder to begin our 2-hour trek to the airport we stopped at Redstone Meadery.Redstone Meadery I’ve wanted to try Mead, which is a Honey wine, but it is quite near impossible to find. The owner gave us a brief tour and a tasting and I was able to taste Meade on my birthday.

     We made our way back to Dallas anxious to see our Puppy and prepare for next weeks trip to Florida. We loved seeing Colorado and spending time together and we know we will visit again. No birthday could have been more special. We feel lucky.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Magical visit to Cassis


     Funny isn’t it, that a place I’d never heard of became one of the highlights of my recent European adventure. A friendly hotel clerk in Aix en Provence shared with us a place she holds dear, a town on the French Rivera called Cassis. 

     Dating to ancient times and rebuilt in the 16th century Cassis is famous for the Calanques, deep fijordlike inlets at the base of beautiful white limestone cliffs. 

      Since many of our most cherished adventures turn out to be the result of recommendations offered by locals, we happily set our course for the cote de azure. Arriving after dark we worried that all the hotels would be full. The first two places we stopped to inquire about lodging were indeed full but the desk clerk at the latter happily directed us to a little place up the road that might have a room. 

    The third place was indeed the charm and did in fact have a small beautifully appointed room just for us. We quickly settled in feeling lucky to have arrived in time to take advantage the double bonus of pre season pricing and availability.


     As the sun rose I stirred and slowly woke up cozy as a kitten in a beam of sunlight. Seeing the sun streaming in through the blinds I knew it would be a beautiful day. I opened the window and to my delight the Mediterranean Sea appeared like an unexpected gift before me and caused me to gasp out loud. I woke John up eager to share this experience with him. As we gazed out of our window arm in arm captivated by our first views of the water I felt the muscles on my face tighten and I realized it was due to my Cheshire cat-like grin.



      We dressed quickly and made our way on foot to the port. The ten-minute walk stretched to thirty as we stopped to photograph scenic views along the way. We snapped photos as if to somehow devour all we saw and preserve that delicious feeling of contentment, pure joy of discovery and the perfection of this new day. As we descended the stairs to the port we felt as if we were stepping in to a postcard.


     The shops and cafes were preparing for their day, placing chairs and tables in neat rows to face the water. Small boats bobbed against the dock as the fishermen returned to sell their catch, their fish still wet and flopping on the fish tables.


     As we began to explore the town we immediately discovered a store dedicated to local cookies. I stood in the middle of the cobblestone street torn by the gravitational pull of the cookie store on one side of the street and the bakery on the other side of the street.


      After a visit to both we wandered into the Cassis open-air market, several blocks lined with stalls, their  tables laden with all manner of delicious treats. I spun around like a character in some dream sequence and landed in front of a stand covered with bowls full of olives, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.


     To my right I noticed bolts of cloth that reflected the reds yellows and blues that are so popular in the Provence region. Table after table revealed cheeses, charcuterie, breads, vegetables and all manner of kitchen toys and even clothing. I reacted much like a pinball that released from its spring darted joyfully stall to stall unable to take it in fast enough.DSC_0708


     John followed me smiling at my enthusiasm patiently waiting for something to eat . Still buzzing and chirping about the market we headed to an outdoor café for breakfast and people watching .Enjoying breakfast at the port of Cassis we had the feeling that our daydreams had somehow become real. We sat at the café taking in the city perched vertically on the cliffs, listening to the sounds of the marina, savoring strong coffee and flaky croissant, being in love and feeling lucky for all of itDSC_0684

      I will forever be grateful to that hotel clerk in Aix en Provence who gave us a memory we treasure. We sometimes receive amazing gifts from total strangers if we are willing to open our hearts and our minds and extend a hand of friendship.DSC_0565

Getting to know me

Getting to know me…
Getting to know all about me…

      The girl with no technical background now has her own blogs. Just because I am somewhat technically challenged does not mean I don’t have lots to say.
       That statement will not surprise those who know me well. Thankfully with a little help from my friends I too have now joined what they call the blogosphere. Perhaps we will be learning the ins and outs of this medium together and I will learn more each day, I’m sure.
      Learning something new is at the heart of this new venture of adventure. It’s a good feeling to challenge myself in new ways and stretch muscles that I did not know I had. 
      This has been a year of new experiences for me, most notably my recent marriage to the love of my life, but that is a story for another day.
     I’m a person who loves cooking, traveling, TV, music, reading, talking, yoga, learning new things, meeting new people and writing about it all. I’m a modern day explorer and I can’t wait to see what I (we) discover through this forum. 

     I hope others will find this blog a home away from home. It will be a place you will enjoy revisiting time and time again. Maybe we can find more similarities than differences. Maybe we will have fun exploring the differences.