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Trip Report Denver Trip Report - Mem Day weekend

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Arrived in Denver on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It’s been a while since I traveled on a holiday, and I can’t recommend it. Had to have 2 air plane connections to get from my home town to Denver and all 3 airports were crowded, full of people in a hurry without any manners, and just plain rude behavior. The good news my planes were all on time. Landed in the new Denver airport, which is huge, and had to find the Blue Van Super shuttle. This took a little navigating, as it was unclear which outside lane the van was located. Made it to DD’s house, found her spare key, and let myself in. DD rents part of a bungalow house near Washington Park in the city. Very cute, very 1930’s, The neighborhood is very urban, but lots of greenspace for walking, running and exercising dogs.

We had pre-arranged a dinner menu and she had bought groceries. Instead of a chicken as planned, I found a fully rock-solid frozen turkey breast, which I managed to defrost in a kitchen I was unfamiliar with and made a nice meal for her and her roommates. She was happy to come home at 5:30 p.m. after a long day of teaching to delicious smells emanating from the kitchen.

Saturday morning we ventured to Lucille’s on Logan St. for Creole breakfast food. DD had Eggs Sardou, boyfriend had a Muffaletta, and I had shrimp & grits. Lucille’s is a cute place that is very much in demand. We had to wait 30 minutes for a table. The menu is large, comprised of New Orleans favorites. The biscuits were yummy and they come with homemade marmalde and jam. The coffee was very good as well, with a hint of chicory perhaps? The shrimp & grits had a topping of crisp andouille sausage, just a tad spciy, but a nice way to start the day. Armed with our doggie bags, we dropped leftovers off before venturing out for the day.

The weather was perfect in Denver on that Saturday – mid to high 70’s with bright, abundant sunshine and no humidity. Coming from Ohio, where we were beginning to wonder if we sould build an ark, it was terrific not to see rain. Must have lots of good hair days in Denver! We went on a brief downtown car trip to orient the sights. DD presented lots of ideas – we could do the art musuem, the science & history musuem, travel to Boulder for the day, or venture into the Rockies. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and not sequester ourselves inside on such a glorious day. We chose to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens, in the heart of the city. The admissions folks informed us that it is one of the most widely visited Botanic Gardens in the country and it is easy to see why. There is a separate Children’s Garden, with lots of underground covered parking. The gardens themselves are well planned and developed, along with an enclosed conservatory and orangery for tropical plants. We could see several wedding parties being set up and it’s easy to see why this would be a gorgeous setting. We spent several hours walking around and taking in all the sights.

Coming from the Midwest, the foilage and plants were very different from what we have at home. There was a lovely display of all different types of iris plants, a rock garden, lots of desert type plants. The gardens are well laid out with plenty of opportunity for sitting and relaxing as well. The gift shop was well stocked with interesting items and I stopped to buy a souvenir for the elementary school child I mentor back home. She will enjoy the book of local plants and flowers including instructions how to cut and color replicas.

After the Botanic Gardens, we visited the Cherry Creek shopping district, which is located in urban Denver, and contains both a mall complete with every common chain store as well as free-standing boutiques, outdoor bistros and small shops. When Mom is in town, it’s an opportunity to stock up on needed clothing items and we didn’t have any trouble finding all the things necessary to supplement a teacher’s upcoming summer wardrobe.

By now, my feet were beginning to ache pretty badly. We had thought about going to Boulder for dinner, but decided we would find something closer. Using www.yelp.com, we found Pagliacci’s restaurant in the Highlands section of Denver, http://www.pagliaccidenver.com/. It has been in business since 1946 and that sounded like a good recommendation. Definitely a “red sauce” Italian restaurant, where Denver’s version of Tony Soprano could get some good veal parm. We made a reservation. A teachable moment for my daughter – we were given a table in the bar as opposed to the dining room, which I didn’t appreciate. Looking around, not every table was full, and I politely insisted on sitting in the main room. The price/menu was the same. That was the only glitch we had with dinner.

We started out with a large bowl of mussels in a white wine sauce with tomatoes, an Italian verison of moules marniere. We had ordered their homemade garlic bread, also a very good choice. Rather than individual entrees, we chose to split a variety platter, which came with soup. The homemade minestrone soup had 15 vegetables in it, according to our waiter. I didn’t count the vegetables, but the soup was very good, with a beef stock base. It was served in a large tureen, and we could have chosen seconds, but where would we have put our dinner? The variety plate consisted of cheese manicotti, eggplant parmesan and a chicken parmesan breast, all covered in a good marinara sauce, coated with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Good thing we chose to share. I had thought about sampling the tiramisu dessert, but by the time we finished, we had to be rolled out of the place. A good meal, fairly priced. More to come – we venture out to the mountains!

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    Glad to hear about Pagliacci's. I love the Highlands area--there is the most wonderful cheese shop in the country there also--St. Killian's. Incredible choices.
    There are lots of cute restaurants up there also. Denver's a fun town.

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    Next installment - Sunday I had promised a 1/2 day of beauty to my DD in exchange for staying at her house. We had investigated spas in the Denver/Boulder/foothills area and came up with Tallgrass spa in Evergreen, based on the recommendations of a couple of Fodorites. I looked at the list of their services online and chose the Tango massage, a couples aromatherpay, hot stone process and a salt scrub/paraffin manicure. We left Denver about 8:30 a.m. armed with fresh muffins and coffee from Whole Foods. There was fog in the air, which disappointed me, but it burned off in about an hour. The ride to Tallgrass was due west on I-70, then about 15 miles on some country roads, through some very scenic foothills of the Rockies. We were awed by the beautiful country homes we passed, one larger than another. We wondered whether folks who lived here commuted to Denver or whether these were summer/winter homes for the very affluent?

    It took us about an hour to reach the spa, where we were greeted with thick, fluffy robes and sent to a changing area. Once changed, we assembled in the Great Room, where we were served cucumber water and seated in front of the huge fireplace. The room had windows on 3 sides and beautiful views of the foothills. We were introduced to our massage therapists, Shana and Laura, and led into a room equipped with 2 massage beds. DD and I met with our individual therapist and chose the scent we wanted for the aromatherapy portion of the massage. Amazingly, we both chose lavender, probably because that's what my mother and grandmother used to scent our lingerie drawers when I was a child and I did the same for DD. Both therapists did their magic and I really appreciated it, as I had injured my lower back a few days earlier.

    After the massage, we were escorted to the steam shower, essentially like a sauna with steam. We "shvitzed" for a while and sloughed off toxins, then turned on the cold water and it felt very refreshing. After dressing, we were escorted to the manicure salon, where we received a salt scrub and paraffin application to our hands, prior to cuticle dermabrasion and nail polish application. Newly resplendent with exfoliated skin all over, we received complimentary makeup application and instruction as well.

    The spa was under the guidance of Aveda products, but they were very discreet and not at all pushy about selling us products, which we appreciated. It was in a lovely setting and the premises were tastefully decorated in earth tones reminiscent of the Southwest influence. The facilities were immaculately clean and yet not sterile. All in all, a wonderful experience and one we both agreed we would like to do again.

    By the time we finished, it was about 1:15 p.m. and we were ready for lunch. We asked for some recommendations in the town of Evergreen, a short 10 minute drive away. We settled on Creekside Winery, located on a small stream with a picturesque setting. Unfortunately, a table outside near the creek would have been an hour wait and we were hungry. The interior of the winery is furnished in natural woods, very complimentary to the area with a large wine tasting bar on one side. Each table on either side of us had large wooden trays covered in meat/cheese/olive and we decided to share the Italian appetizer platter for lunch as well. It reminded me of a picnic in Paris, a combination of 5-6 types of meat, cheeses, olives, pickled vegetables and a choice of ciabatta or focaccia bread. The bread came with an herbed olive oil dip as well. Amazingly, we almost managed to polish it off, along with a couple of glasses of wine.

    After lunch, we felt a little too tipsy from the wine to merely jump in the car and drive home. We wondered around the town, bought some souvenirs, a little candy, and finally felt confident to be able to drive. Again, about an hour back to Denver. Upon arrival in Denver, we both said the same thing - nap time!

    We were both very relaxed and enjoying the buzz from our 1/2 day of beauty. We decided on a very light dinner - splitting a 1/2 rotisserie chicken dinner at the Pearl St. Grill. We sat outside on their patio, very lovely and decorated with paper lanterns and tea lights. The artichoke side dish was a nice surprise, as I LOVE artichokes and the mac & cheese fit the bill, as well.

    We spent the evening at DD's house, playing board games with the roommates. The next morning, we went to City O'City in downtown Denver, a vegetarian restaurant for brunch. It was Memorial Day and we attempted to go to several other places before settling on this one. I wish we had found something else open. I wasn't that hungry, the kids each order a personal pizza and all I wanted was a biscuit and an egg. The biscuit was OK, not terrific, certainly not as good as Lucille's. The kicker was the price. They charged me $5.95 for the biscuit alone, the egg (1) was another $2.00. Now, I am not cheap, but $7.95 for one common biscuit and one fried egg is outrageous. When DD complained, the waitress explained that there is no order for "just a biscuit". She had to charge us for the biscuits & gravy and add the egg. Long story short, she reduced the price some, but not enough in my book.

    All in all, a fun trip, always too short. Traveling on a holiday weekend is no fun, and I think I won't do that next time. Looking forward to returning to Denver soon.

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