Colorado Calling

It’s around this time of the year that I miss the snow. Which is a bit bizarre since I grew up in sunny South Africa and this time of year falls smack bang in the middle of summer.

Maybe it’s all that TV I grew up watching, but I’ve always associated Christmas with snow, marshmallows and hot chocolate, and crackling fireplaces. Mind you, up until last year, I’ve never had a Christmas in the snow, so I’m not sure where I get my weird notions from. I finally had the joy of experiencing a true white Christmas when I visited Colorado with my sister in the winter of 2013. What a delight to be bundled up, traipsing in the snow, shopping for Christmas presents, and drinking copious amounts of coffee to keep warm. It was everything I’d dreamed of…and more. This year, I’m celebrating Christmas in Dubai, and while there is a distinct chill in the air, it would be ludicrous to call it anywhere in the region of cold. I have memories of last year to keep me warm (cold) right?

For as long as I remember, I’ve always wanted to visit Colorado (must have been all that Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman watching when I was younger). As an impressionable kid, I was thinking the Wild West, dusty streets and beautiful craggy cliffs). As an older, wiser 30 year old, Colorado did not disappoint. Hands down, one of the most beautiful States I’ve visited. We started out our journey with a 7-hour trip from the Denver Airport to mountainous Telluride. With literally one street boasting the town centre, Telluride is a small-town gem! It is BEAUTIFUL, and with the snowy slopes as backdrop, it is a photographers paradise.

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What came as an even greater surprise, is that there’s even more to Telluride than originally meets the eye. And all you need to do to get there is travel on the gondola (which is free I might add) over the mountain to the aptly-named Mountain Village. I felt like I was in Europe at a decadent 5-star resort (or what I imagine it would feel like to be in Europe at a decadent 5-star resort). Enough talking about it, check out the views for yourself.

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We stayed at The Hotel Telluride. We picked well, if we do say so ourselves. Gorgeous, quaint and cosy. Added bonus: cookie and coffee hour every day at 5. Especially wonderful coming in from a cold day out in the snow, to sit beside a roaring log fire to snack on the delicious, homemade cookies.

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Next up was Aspen. A cute little skiing town, but rather commercialised, and super busy. Also, very pricey! Worth the two day visit, but unless you ski (and Bron and I don’t) there is no need for anything longer. We stuck to the hiking trails…and hot tub 🙂

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We headed to Denver on Christmas Eve, our plan being to take day trips to Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and other places of interest. After much research on ghost towns, I was dying (pun unintended) to get a trip or two to some ghost towns in, in particular Crystal Mill near Marble, but the snow made the trip out there quite treacherous and the roads to Crystal Mill were closed. If this means I need to plan another trip to Colorado, I’m not complaining! Still, there was plenty to do, and many a busy day ensued. Must do’s when visiting Denver, Colorado and the surrounding areas (this list is by no means comprehensive, it simply covers what we were able to squeeze into a 2 week vacation):

Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods: the views here are unparalleled.
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Red Rock Amphitheatre: I swear Coloradans are the fittest people I’ve ever met. Even on the coldest day, you’ll always find groups of people training and working out, or walking up and down the stairs that make up Red Rocks.
Manitou Incline: I didn’t quite make it all the way to the top (I blame it on not being used to the high altitude), but what a great workout. And not to mention the incredible views from the top.
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Boulder: if not to check out this cute little university town, then at least for the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store (did someone mention Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream?). Be sure to visit Oak at Fourteenth at Pearl Street Mall. The cheese and shrimp grits are a must.
Air Force Academy: because it’s the Air Force Academy.
Watch a hockey game at Pepsi Centre: we don’t play ice hockey in South Africa, so this was a first for me. It’s totally thrilling, and even if you aren’t into sports, you’ll totally get caught up in the atmosphere.
Snooze Eatery: believe me when I say this is possibly the best breakfast place you’ll find ANYWHERE. Go super early to avoid queues, but even then, chances are you’ll hit a line. The food really IS that good.
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Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: the hikes here are incredible, and you’ll find a trail for all fitness levels. We celebrated the new year by snowshoeing up to Bear Lake – best New Year’s Day ever! I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold, but what an exhilarating experience.
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Hands down, the best trip I’ve taken! Will I be visiting Colorado again? You betcha. After all, part of my heart is still in Telluride.

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