My wife and I have a weird unwritten (but definitely spoken) rule to not travel to the same destination twice, until we cross off a million bajillion places that we have on our “bucket list”. For example… I have been to Spain. She has not. OK, so now we have to wait on Spain. She has been to Thailand. I have not. I have been to Ireland. She has not. She has been to Bora Bora and I have not… wait a minute! I think I got the raw end of the deal here! The bottom line and awesome thing about travel… there are no rules. Other than the whole passport and getting flu vaccinations or visas to get into certain countries; but, I think you get what I’m saying. All I know is this… 2012 has passed us by, which means I get to play my favorite January game of “Where do we go in 2013?”. I’m pitching Norway, Czech Republic, Greek Islands, Bali, or Machu Picchu for 2013. If none of those selections work out, I’m breaking my own stupid rule and going back to either Canada, or Colorado.
In fact, I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to blog about it; but, we took a 5-day trip to Vail, Colorado for my wife’s birthday (September 2012). Two words… AWESOME! Technically, that’s one word. But, if you say it twice… AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! OK, now that’s 3 words. I went to camp just outside Buena Vista, CO when I was a junior in high school. I guess the state left such an impression on me that I went back the very next year, and lived in Colorado for part of the Summer after my senior year in high school, before I went off to college (Texas A&M). I fell in love with Colorado. Yeah… that was 25 years ago. I have NO idea why it took me so long to go back; but, I’m glad we finally did. I actually think I’d move there… if it wasn’t for the fact I wouldn’t know what to do for a living. I’m obviously not that great of a blogger, so there goes that genius idea. I could be a food or travel critic. Probably not. And then there’s that thing called WINTER. Cold weather and I don’t do well for extended periods of time. That’s why I’m still sticking to Cooke’s Law of Meteorology – “Never live somewhere that gets colder than your age on a regular basis”. It’s a GOOD rule to follow. I mean really. Think about it. But, then there’s Vail. I’m tempted to break my rule.
Breakfast @Jack-n-Grill in Denver, CO [Sept 2012]
I’m not going to go through the play by play of when we got to the airport and security and blah blah blah. I’m just going to fast forward to eating one of the best breakfast’s I’ve EVER had at Jack-n-Grill in Denver, CO. It’s not a fancy place. It’s a cool place. And no… I did not try to tackle the 7lb burrito. My philosophy is that you shouldn’t consume anything that weighs the same as a newborn baby. No, I had the breakfast tacos. Beans – excellent. Tortillas – good (I’m from Texas, so biased). The meat – tasty! The green chile – If God made green chile, this is what it would taste like. Unbelievable! It infused the entire meal and made it beyond memorable. I think Anna wanted to bottle it and send some back home. Next stop… VAIL!
Fast forward beyond our breakfast fiesta, and we hitched our wagon to I-70 for the absolutely gorgeous drive through the Colorado Rockies towards Vail. A few years ago, we went up to Vermont and New Hampshire to watch the fall leaves change in mid-September. Call it bad timing, or poor planning on my part; but, we got there too early. Great time, don’t get me wrong; however, if you want to see the fall leaves in New England, plan your trip for the last week of September, early part of October. Colorado was a completely different story. Planning was perfect. Within the 5-days we were there, we saw the Aspens change from green – light green – yellowish green – to full blown bright yellow colors. Magnificent!
I typically don’t say a whole lot in my blog about the hotels we stay at, because if you know anything about the kind of traveler I am, then you know that a hotel is really just a vantage point to explore my destination, safely store my luggage and comfortably sleep at night. But, sometimes it’s more than that, and I can honestly say that The Sebastian Hotel in Vail Village was a true gem. I’m too lazy to write another review of the hotel, so I’ll just cut & paste what I wrote on TripAdvisor. Don’t worry. I gave them 5-Stars.
It was my wife’s birthday, and I needed a cool Fall getaway from the Texas heat. I chose Vail, CO. If you’re anything like me, you do your research, read reviews, then battle with yourself to figure out which hotel to book. I feel like I can pat myself on the back and thank our fellow Trip Advisors for selecting The Sebastian Hotel. Why? They just get it. If you want class, comfort, and style without a pretentious attitude, then The Sebastian is the place for you. From the front door to the lobby, to the restaurants, Frost bar, library, and spa, you immediately know you’ve arrived somewhere cool and worth talking about to your friends. Besides the incredibly friendly and accommodating staff… The location in Vail Village is perfect. Especially since it was during Oktoberfest. The Deluxe rooms are clean, quiet, and comfortable. Sure… we overlooked a back alley; but, even that was nice and gave us a view of the mountains. Next time, i’ll spring for a higher grade room; but, the offseason prices couldn’t be more worth it. Yes, I said “next time” because we’ll definitely be back. Did I mention the abundance of free water? Everyone else did, so thought i would too. Trust me… It’s a nice perk to have in the dry mountain air. HUGE Thanks to Kevin, Lance, Kiki, Daniel and the valet/concierge staff who were standouts in making us feel at home.
Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
Now that I’m reading my own blog about Colorado, I completely forgot it was Vail Oktoberfest in Vail Village. Ahhh… Oktoberfest! I spent the majority of the day eating bratwurst, pretzels, drinking draft German beer, while watching people run around the village dancing and singing in leather breeches (aka lederhosen). Plus, I had a 5 minute conversation with an awesome man named Helmut dressed up in lederhosen who apparently was from New Braunfels, Texas. Just kidding. He was straight out of the Bavarian Alps. In fact, this nice gentlemen happened to be Helmut Fricker, lead singer of the oom-pah music on stage for Vail Oktoberfest with the Rhinelanders. Nice! Yep! Sounds like a pretty authentic Oktoberfest to me! Sure, it’s not the REAL Oktoberfest; but, the Spirit of Bavaria was there with us, and Vail Village did an awesome job putting on the event. The wife has another birthday coming up this year. Ironically, it’s the same time as last year, so Colorado again? Oh Vail yeah!
Another great part of travel is exploring your surrounding areas. We took a day trip from Vail to Aspen over the famous Independence Pass. Here’s the interesting part. I have a friend who is scared to death of being scared; but, somehow always tells me about these horrifying excursions she takes to haunted houses during Halloween. Doesn’t make any sense. Of course, I’m being a hypocrite. I absolutely LOVE the mountains. Are you a beach, city, or mountains person? Hands down… I’m a mountain person. BUT… I’m scared of heights. How does that even make sense? Now fast forward (or actually go back in time) to our trip over Independence Pass. I have NEVER seen switchbacks like that in my entire life. I’ve had a hair raising van ride down to Skipper’s Canyon in Queenstown, New Zealand (favorite place in the world by the way) and thought I would go off the side of the road in Slovenia after taking a wrong turn up a mountain pass from Skofja Loka to Lake Bohinj; but, Independence Pass in Colorado, USA takes the cake. Of course, you forget about all that when you reach the summit and realize you are at 12,000ft above sea level. Best way to describe it is peaceful and majestic.
Aspen was a very beautiful town. Lots of character; however, it just didn’t have the same “aura” as Vail. Maybe if I had a 8,000sq ft log home in the mountains I would appreciate it more; but, I just didn’t feel “welcome”. But, that’s travel! You live and explore. No regrets. I said the same thing about Madrid when I went to Spain in 2003. I prefer and absolutely LOVE Barcelona; however, still happy and proud of my friends and I for at least experiencing Madrid. One really cool thing we did see in Aspen… A rugby tournament. Who knew?! We certainly didn’t. These are the types of surprises you hope to stumble upon during your travels. The tournament was Aspen Ruggerfest 2012 and wonderfully organized by the Aspen Rugby Club, more formally known as the Gentlemen of Aspen. Nothing close to World Rugby Championship in Dublin, Ireland (1999). Nevertheless… a pretty nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And my wife got to see her first ever rugby match! SWEET!
In Texas, we have a saying. If you don’t like the weather… stick around. It’ll change. Unless it’s the Summer. Then we have 2 types of weather. Stupid Hot. Wicked Evil Hot. With all the weather services out there, it is practically impossible to be unprepared for a trip. Even still, I find myself watching the news when I travel, just so I can see what is going on in the local community I’m visiting. Boy howdy did we get a surprise one night watching the weather. I haven’t worn a tie since I got married in May 2006, so trust me when I say that I don’t entirely judge a person’s professionalism by their attire; but, seriously Vail? Seriously? What in THE wide wide world of weather is this dude wearing? You know folks… There’s “Johnny Football” from Texas A&M University who won The 2012 Heisman. And then there’s this guy. We’ll just call him “Joe Weather”. He must have lost a bet with his co-workers, because I’m not sure I’m trusting the forecast from Joe Weather. Shameful. But, definitely funny!
NEWS ANCHOR BILL (chuckling as he speaks): Ok Joe… so you’re predicting we’ll see this season’s 1st snowfall by September 1st?
JOE WEATHER: Yep. The current cross winds over Norway seem to be shifting early this year in a longitudinal vacuum that is sending precipitation across Canada forcing the pressure down to Colorado, so I’m predicting snow by late August, 1st week of snow. (I made this up by the way)
NEWS ANCHOR BILL: Hmmm… OK. Personally, I think you’re nuts; but, if you’re right… this will be good for ski season and the local economy
JOE WEATHER: If I’m wrong, you can pick out the craziest Western shirt you can find and I’ll eat crow and deliver my weather forecast dressed up like Will Rogers on LIVE television
NEWS ANCHOR BILL: (laughing with the whole news crew). Errr… I’ll take that bet
Some people take vacations just for the cuisine. Or as I like to call it – The Culinary Experience. If you’re anything like me… then you’re in luck my friends, because another great attribute of Vail is the food and beverages. Whether it’s a bagel and a skillfully crafted cappuccino at locally owned Loaded Joe’s delicious eats, coffee & drinks, craft beer night at Atwater on the Gore, breakfast at The Little Diner in Lionshead Village, hot chocolate and lamb chops on the patio at Up the Creek Bar & Grill, or an excellent 5*Star birthday dinner with pork chops and peaches at Sweet Basil in Vail Village, your taste buds will be rewarded by the wide range of culinary experiences in Vail. In fact, as we were leaving, they were about to start Vail Restaurant Month. You heard it here! The Culinary Experience.
I’ll part ways by saying this… If you’re looking for a cost effective 3-5 day mountain getaway in the continental United States, it’s really hard for me to not highly recommend the pristine beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Colorado? VAIL yeah!