31 May 2012

May Top Picks

Can you believe June is upon us?!?!  I cannot.

I am off to Portland and Seattle and Moose Jaw and Kentucky...and everywhere in between.
I will blog when I can...especially about the Vacation:  Part Four.

In the meantime...here are the May Top Picks!


An amazing blog from a young cancer patient.

Je t'aime!  Amazing, beautiful, lovely photos.

These maps are unreal.

I'll go to all of the above...thank you very much!

Lovely, lovely blog.

Gorgeous kitchen space.

Sweet blog about travel and adventure.

I want to eat at the bar here.

Very cool cooking classes around the world.

30 May 2012

Vacation: Part Three - Doc Holliday and Boulder

Building with tiles in Carbondale.
Tile...are you ready for your close up???
Following Leadville and Carbondale we were NOT ready to head out of town...that being said, if we were going to be leaving for another destination...Boulder was the best place we could go.

We started the drive out by immediately making a stop.  
In Glenwood Springs (just north of Carbondale).
To see Doc Holliday's resting place.
I was jazzed.
Not in a creepy way.
More in a...this-is-a-really-cool-part-of-history way.

I mean, c'mon...supposedly his last words were:  "Damn, this is funny."

You can't make that stuff up.

We literally stumbled upon it by accident when we were first driving through town on our way to Carbondale a few days ago.  I needed a bio break and as we cruised up and down some side streets to find a place for me to go, I saw a sign indicating Doc Holliday's grave site.

The memorial to Doc (that's right...we're on a first name basis) sits in the Pioneer Cemetery.  You hike up this little dusty trail to this old, old graveyard.  It was so interesting wandering around, seeing the names and wondering what their lives were like.  The memorial itself is a regular tombstone, but then folks have scattered playing cards, cash and liquor bottles everyone in tribute to the man himself.

Memorial for Doc.
Once Dave had enough of hearing me talk about what a great job Val Kilmer did as Doc Holliday in the movie Tombstone, we headed back down the hill and got on our way to Boulder passing through the amazing scenery once again.

We checked into our hotel and then went out to explore Pearl Street.  We hopped from one pub to the next, sampling local brews and great food along the way.  We stopped in a Aji for a glass of vino and a really interesting vegetable plate.  There were sweet potato chips with guacamole at West End Tavern with some amazing dark, dark beers that looked like liquid night.  Along the way we stopped in at the Ku Cha House of Tea to marvel at the different types and varieties of tea and ogle the delicate pots and cups that lined the shelves.  There were really cool finds in this shop that featured select goods from all over Europe.  It was amazing and lovely and oh-so-perfect for a night out.

Weird Interesting vegetable plate.
It really doesn't get any better. 
We even ended up meeting a couple where the fella was from Canada (Ontario to be more precise) and the gal was from Florida.  They were super-awesome and we ended up hanging out with them for the remainder of the evening.  Needless to say, the night ended with Dave and I downing vegan burritos at Illegal Pete's.  Just the way a great evening should.

The next morning, we lounged in bed for a good portion of the day and then made our way over to the Boulder Farmer's Market.  Oh...my...goodness.  Stalls with fresh breads, the freshest greens you've ever seen, locally roasted coffee, cheese, flowers...you name it, they had it.  The Market is near the Boulder Dushnabe Tea House which is an unbelievable sight.  We walked up to the counter that was crowded and managed to nose our way in to place our orders.The walls and ceiling were ornate, the atmosphere was buzzing and they serve up one of the best soy chai teas I've ever tasted.  

Once we left the Tea House, we were ready to eat.  One of the better parts of the Market is their food carts.  Dave and I settled on some veggie potstickers from Saigon Sisters and we were ready to go.  There was a band churning out reggae tunes, little kids and big kids dancing nearby as we dug into the goodness.  They potstickers were incredible!

We needed to get out for a bit following the Market, so we took a short drive into the mountains that surround Boulder, marveling at some of the homes on their lofty perches above it all.

Heeeeyyyy good looking!
It's what we do...
That evening, we decided a date night was in order and we headed out to Riff's Urban Fare.  Before we could get close, though, I spotted an oil and balsamic vinegar shop, Oliverde.  I went overboard tasting oil after oil.  It was SO GOOD.  I think olive oil tasting is one of my favourite things to do.  We settled on a bottle...something we could savour together at a later time.

Right...on to Riff's!  
Here is what I have to say...
Beets.  Gnocchi.  Shared plates.  Yum.

It was such good food and even better service.

We ate light because we wanted to enjoy some dessert at Crepes a la Carts.  I had one with dark chocolate and raspberries and Dave's was chock-a-block full of fresh strawberries and bananas.  

We cozied up in a corner, watching folks as the mingled and lingered over their sweets and wished our vacation wasn't going to end...

The end, however...was coming soon.  Next time:  Part Four - Denver, Quick and Dirty!

ps.  I kind of stopped taking pictures toward the end of the trip...I just wanted to enjoy my time...

28 May 2012

Vacation: Part Two - Independence Pass and Leadville

Hands off, ladies and gents...he is mine!
Driving up a steep, steep climb.  Gaining altitude oh-so-slowly.  Watching those on their bicycles strain against the incline and gravity, muscles pulsing as they make their way up the Pass.  Watching the clouds gather, and then dissipate, and then gather again.

That was Independence Pass.  This was our trip to and from the Continental Divide and the Roof of the Nation, Leadville.

A local in Aspen told us about the Pass.  Promised us cuts in the snow so deep we wouldn't believe it.  For us, there was no snow (scary, no?), but the scenery, the drive, the being amidst the mountains was enough for us.  

Independence Pass is the straightest, fastest way to get from Aspen to Leadville in Colorado.  It is closed for the majority of the year due to ice and snow.  Lucky for us (and not for mother nature and our planet), it opened early enough that we could take advantage of it.  We set out mid-afternoon from Carbondale, making our way past Snowmass Village and Aspen in order to begin the climb.  

It starts out calm enough with gorgeous views down a mountain valley.  You can almost feel the air thinning as you climb, sense the sun becoming more intense.  I don't think our little rental was built for this kind of thing!  As we climbed, the drop-offs on my side of the car became steeper and the heights kept building and building.  It's enough to take your breath away!

At 10,830 feet, you come across the ghost town of Independence.  An old mining camp where they used to pan for gold.  We stopped the car to walk among the ruins of old cabins, marveling at their small size, wondering how strong these people must have been to take up residence in such a remote space.  While we were there, the wind was whipping around the old nails holding the remnants together, threatening to tear remains down the mountainside into the creek below.  After taking some time to see and reflect, we decided to continue moving up the Pass.

At 12,095 feet, we found ourselves at the Continental Divide.  By now, the weather had turned crummy.  We watched dark clouds roll in as a biker adjusted his helmet and shoes to make his way back down the mountain using nothing but breaks, courage and his legs.  We stepped out onto this ledge they built - supposedly to afford amazing views, but ours was blocked by a wall of grey cloud.  

We wandered through the little bit of snow for a while and then decided it was time to 
continue on to Leadville.

Cool rock formations at the Divide.

Driving into Leadville is an experience.  You are coming out of these mountains, coasting down, down, down and then you find yourself making the trek across open land to get to the town itself.

Down from the Divide...that is REALLY, REALLY far down the valley!

Leadville considers itself to be the "cradle of Colorado history."  At 10,430 feet, it is the highest incorporated city in the United States.  The town itself is made up of a main street with shops, bakeries and bars and is surrounded by, what most of small-town America is looking like these days, smaller and run-down homes and buildings.  Dave and I wandered up and down Main Street and took in the gorgeous views from every angle.  We sampled some absolutely amazing cookies from Cookies with Altitude (if you are ever there, you HAVE to get their cookies.  I'm not kidding...these things are addictive!).

Leadville's Main Street
Art gallery in town

For those that don't know, Leadville is home to the Leadville Race Series.  In essence, this was a sort of mecca for me.  I greatly admire those that take on the challenges of this terrain on bike or by foot and to actually be in the town where it starts and ends was pretty amazing!  We visited a shop (a converted old  saloon) that was home to the Leadville Race Series shop.  They had maps, running and biking gear and plaques that featured the names of those that had completed each race of the series.  I was in heaven!

It was time leave Leadville.  We had two choices for how to get back - follow the main road back to the highway or brave Independence Pass again.  Guess which one we chose?  Along the way, we stopped along the Pass to grab lunch by the creek.  It was a great spot with the roaring water and some goodies to tide us over until dinner.

One of my favourite pics of Dave from the trip.

Our lunch spot.  Yeah.  Seriously.
We closed out the night by taking in a couple glasses of vino on the patio of Hestia, a cute little spot on Carbondale's Main Street.  The perfect ending to our time in this part of Colorado.

Stay tuned for Part Three!
Patio and mood lighting at Hestia.
And, in remembrance of Memorial Day...

Today we remember those who served and died in the Armed Forces of our country.
Having grown up in the military community, this day means more than just a day off work.
Take a moment to reflect and remember...

27 May 2012

Vacation: Part One - Carbondale, Colorado

We're not in the prairies anymore, Toto!

It's not a surprise that when Dave and I travel, we often find ourselves amidst great pieces of earth jutting into the sky.  Between Chicago and Moose Jaw, the terrain isn't exactly what you would call...rugged, rolling or anything in between.

To celebrate our second anniversary, we decided to try out someplace new - a place neither of us had been before.  While we have both traveled to Colorado a number of times, we never found ourselves to the West of Denver.  I've spent my time in Estes Park and Denver and Dave has traveled around Boulder (more on that to come in Part Two).

So, Carbondale it was.  Nestled below Glenwood Springs and Aspen, but without the pomp and circumstance that comes with it being a mega-draw for tourists.  Carbondale is the perfect blend of small town and outdoor haven with Mount Sopris rising just the south, a great main street to peruse and the Rio Grande Trail cutting right through the center of town.

We met in Denver following our respective flights.  It's one of my favourite things about seeing Dave after being apart - that anticipation as the plane is landing...the tears well up, my heart starts beating a little faster and I just can't wait to be in his arms again (a little shmoopy?  You betcha!)

From there we jumped into our rental car and began the drive over to Carbondale.  We passed through amazing red rock, watched the landscape change and talked about what we would do on our trip.

We knew we wanted to take it easy.
We knew we didn't want packed out days.
We knew we wanted to be outside enjoying the sun as much as possible.

We rented a great space through VRBO and immediately took a nap.  Did I mention our flights were super-early?  They were.  We took a walk down Main Street right after and stopped in a great liquor store to see what local brews they had available.  We walked out stocked up for the week!

The next day, we found ourselves driving toward Snowmass Village to take advantage of the Maroon Bells area.  We followed a trail along a creek, made our way through some snowy banks and then landed upon Maroon Lake.  It was an absolutely gorgeous way to spend the day!

Our anniversary was spent - where else?! - outside!  We rented bikes from AJAX Bike and Sport and headed out along the great Rio Grande Trail (part of the rails-to-trails network).  We stopped in at Bonfire Coffee to take a break before returning the bikes.  The maintenance on the trail was superb, the scenery was breathtaking and the biking was easy.  What was not so easy was the sun.  While Dave and I were good about sunscreening-up our necks and faces we neglected our arms.  Big oops!  That afternoon was spent comparing the varying shades of red and pink on our arms, cursing ourselves for not remembering to protect them, carefully applying aloe and hoping beyond all hope that the burning would soon end (needless to say, it is now almost two weeks later and I am still peeling - yeeeaaah....not so smart!).

Biking along the trail.
View from the Rio Grande Trail.
So burned!

For dinner to celebrate two years, we headed over to Aspen for some Japanese deliciousness at Matsuhisa and then to the original Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for dessert.

The next morning we had to try one of the local favourites, the Village Smithy for breakfast.  Everyone we met was raving about this place and their brunch so we decided to check it out ourselves before heading out on the trails for some hiking.  Smithy did not disappoint!  The patio was lovely, the food was great and the service was top-notch.  We sat for quite a while just enjoying the cool breezes on our burnt out arms!

Best sign ever in the Smithy!
The previous day, we asked about good hikes in the area and were told that the hike up to Thomas Lakes was spectacular.  We were sold!  We drove toward Mount Sopris and up some dirt paths, passing much more fit and brave souls on bikes winding their way up the steep terrain.  Because time was short, we were only able to do half the hike, but the views were incredible enough that we decided to come back and do the whole hike the next day!  And so we did, making it all the way up through sun, rain, wind and a little bit of snow as well!  The hike was so worth it!

To celebrate the trek, we decided to enjoy some of the local flavour and ate our way through veggie burgers at Fatbelly Burgers.  From there, we made our way over to Carbondale Beer Works where we played several games of chess while enjoying the darkest of the local brews.  The space was great, I learned a few new moves on the game board and the service - as we found everywhere in Carbondale - was again top-notch.  

The Lake!
Sealing the deal with a kiss!
I'll save some more for Parts Two and Three...

If you get a chance to visit Carbondale, do it.  Just go.  Trust me.  You'll love it!