Gavin had a few weeks with no charters booked in so we had decided last minute to take a break from the islands and head over to Colorado to visit my brother in Denver.
It was a fairly long journey to get there, especially with a 9 month old, but after a ferry ride to St. Thomas and a layover in Fort Lauderdale we finally arrived at Denver International airport just before midnight on Friday night.
My brother had come to collect us at the airport. As we squeezed our luggage, a baby stroller, a couple of backpacks and the four of us in the car we were ready to head to the house. Gavin and I always get a little nervous on the roads wherever we go after living in the BVI. However bad the driving is there, the max speed is still only approximately 40mph. When we get on the mainland in any other country people drive so fast, however Colorado is known to be particularly bad at the moment with speed, everybody switching lanes and cutting each other up and several crashes every week on the highways. We finally made it to the house, unloaded the car and went straight to bed after a long, exhausting journey.
The following morning we awoke to beautiful sunshine. We decided to head out for a walk before breakfast and aimed towards Washington Park. Our walk led us onto the pathway around the large lake filled with Canadian Geese. As we took a nice leisurely stroll we passed other families, runners, people exercising in the park and plenty of dog walkers. We wished we had brought Ben with us as Colorado is such a dog friendly state and he would have loved the outdoors here.
We arrived home and made some breakfast. It was so nice out, we decided to have a garden picnic with Parmesan Bagels and Mimosas in the sunshine. After we had eaten we packed up and headed out for a drive into the mountains. The scenery in Colorado is so beautiful, from busy city life to the snow capped mountains to the large lakes and alpine meadows. We drove up to the mountain town of Evergreen which was only 40 minutes away from Denver. We stopped in at a restaurant called Willow Creek which was located right by the lake. The views were breathtaking and the food was pretty good too. After lunch we took a walk around Evergreen lake, watching people fishing for Trout and kayaking on the lake. On the way home we took a drive through the small but bustling main street which was full of bistros, boutiques selling arts and crafts and coffee shops. It was a cute little town and a great drive out.
That evening my brother invited a few of his friends around and we had a BBQ in the late afternoon sun.
The following morning Gavin, Léna and I woke up early and took a walk down to the old shopping district of Gaylord Street full of quaint shops and fine dining restaurants. We decided to pop into a restaurant called Devils food for breakfast. As we sat in the window watching the world go by, we ordered some of the most amazing food we’d had in a while and the service was impeccable. After living on an island for a few years you really start to miss the small things – like good service in a restaurant with a smile instead of the few grunts and groans which you get in the Caribbean. This holiday was also the start of Léna’s healthy appetite. We have realised she loves all food and wants to try everything we order from the menu. We are so happy she is not a fussy eater and is willing to try anything we put in front of her.
After breakfast we headed home and got ourselves ready for the day. My brothers girlfriend then dropped us off in downtown Denver. We started our day in the Whole Foods Market. Oh how we have missed supermarkets with good, reasonably priced items in them. The vast selection of foods on offer made Gavin and I so happy. We walked around the store for ages checking out the fresh fruit and vegetables, the fish and meat counters and the bakery cooking up fresh bread and cakes. We were in heaven. We realised that being in the States, we were just going to eat and drink as much as we wanted and we would worry about the diet when we got home again.
We explored Denver checking out Union Station, strolling down 16th Street Mall, Larimer Square and popped in a couple of clothing stores here and there to buy Léna and myself a few new outfits.
Ever since my first visit to the US I always make an effort to find a Cheesecake Factory and order a slice of their delicious ‘Linda’s chocolate fudge cake’. It is a deep dark chocolate cake filled with layer upon layer of creamy chocolate ganache. It is so scrumptious I can’t leave without having a piece. So that afternoon we found a restaurant and we ordered a slice to share between the three of us and it didn’t disappoint.
After cake we took a walk to the Le Meridian hotel and up to the rooftop bar called 54Thirty. We had tried to go there earlier that day but they didn’t open until 3pm. When we arrived back to the hotel the receptionist ran after us with a free drink voucher for the two of us which was such a nice gesture. We reached the top of the hotel and walked out onto Denver’s highest open air patio. Whilst we ordered cocktails and basked in the sunshine we took in Denver’s best views 5,430 feet above sea level.
The weather took a turn for the worse the following day with dark cloudy skies and a few rain showers, so we decided to have a day in and chill out with the family watching all American TV and ordering take out. I love Greek food so we decided to order a few Gyros and Dolmades. Gavin spent an afternoon ordering things on Amazon Prime so we could take them home with us. He was in his element placing his order and his parcels arriving the following day, unlike the 3 weeks or so we need to wait in the Caribbean. We also had a friend that we used to work with in the BVI who was now living in Denver, so we had him round to visit for a good catch up before he set off on his new ventures elsewhere in the world.
The next day the shopping malls were calling. We decided to go down to Cherry Creek shopping centre and buy a few new items for our wardrobe. I hadn’t seen a clothes store in 6 months so I was very excited to see the new fashions and buy some new outfits. We took a long walk back to the house stopping for a bite to eat on our way home. That evening we decided to go for the famous Taco Tuesday. I’m not the biggest fan of Taco’s but we thought we’d give them a go whilst we were here. Unfortunately I think we chose the wrong restaurant to change my mind on this popular cuisine as they were very disappointing, but we enjoyed our evening out nevertheless.
My brother and his girlfriend had taken the next few days off work and decided to show us some more of the sights around Colorado. We drove up to a small town in the mountains called Georgetown. We wanted to take Léna on her first train ride so we hopped on the historic railroad loop. The 6 mile round trip goes from Georgetown to the small community of Silver Plume winding through the pine and fir trees on the mountainside and over the 95 foot high Devil’s Gate Bridge. It’s wasn’t the most thrilling of rides, but the scenery was stunning and it was a great story of the old railroad days.
After the train ride we drove up to the mountain town of Breckenridge. We had just missed the ski season so the town was relatively quiet but we had a nice walk down the main street and stopped in a wonderful little Italian restaurant to warm us up from the snow that was still falling outside. This was the first time Gavin had ever been anywhere where he had seen it snowing and looked completely out of his element wearing his shorts and flip flops in the freezing cold. It was very easy to spot the South African wandering down the street…
On the way back we had a quick drive up to the Red Rock Amphitheater. We checked out the open air venue and the wonderful scenery surrounding it. The weather was still pretty miserable so we ran out for a quick look and jumped straight back in the car and headed home.
A couple of years ago I spoke to my brother and he told me how he had done a hike up the Manitou Incline and told me to check it out online. Ever since I researched it to see what it was I told myself that I would give it a shot next time I visited Colorado. The next morning we packed a bag to go hiking and got our walking gear on. We drove down to Colorado Springs and into the city of Manitou Springs. We parked down the main street and walked up the hill to get to the start point of the incline. We had parked so far from the visitor center most of us were already exhausted by the time we got to the beginning of the trail. By the time we arrived the sun was already blazing and we decided to that Gavin and Léna would stay behind because she would’ve burnt in the heat.
Myself, Paul and Misha set off up the incline. The Manitou Incline was originally built as a cable car to carry materials up to Pikes Peak and later turned into a tourist attraction to take people up to see the spectacular views of Colorado Springs. After a rock slide damaged the tracks, the railway closed down but the tracks remained in the form of a massive staircase. The incline gains 2000 feet in elevation in just under one mile in length. There are 2,744 steps in total and it took us approximately an hour to reach the summit.
I like to think I am relatively fit after walking the hills on Tortola and have a pretty good stamina, however this hike was a killer. With the high altitude in Colorado it makes it slightly more difficult to breathe as it is, but this was a real challenge. We all ended up doing the walk at our own pace and meeting each other at the top. On the way up you would find people trying to catch their breath in the cool shade of the trees on the side of the path. A large bottle of water was definitely necessary to keep hydrated on the hike. The hike is an extreme trail and aimed at the advanced hikers. There are no roads to the trail and if there were to be a medical emergency it would take first aiders up to 3-4 hours to reach you. Two thirds of the way up many people drop out at the Barr Trail Bailout as it can become too much for some. At the bailout point there is a false summit which I found extremely upsetting. I think my exact words when I saw the final incline was Oh F**k! I couldn’t believe I wasn’t at the top, it seemed never ending. Many of the steps were so high people were on their hands and knees scrambling to get up them. When I finally reached the top I was ecstatic. Groups of people already at the top were cheering others on for the last few steps and congratulating each other at the top. Everyone felt a great sense of achievement. The views from the summit were incredible and I couldn’t believe how far we’d just climbed. Once you reached the top the only way down other than walking back down the steps, which isn’t advised, was to go on a four mile hike down Barr Trail. This was the most challenging hike I have ever done but it was so worth it when you reached the top and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a good work out! After the hike we had a 10 minute rest and a well deserved ice cream and headed back to the car.
On the way home we stopped at the Garden of the Gods. We drove through the National Park as we gazed at the towering sandstone rock formations. It was a beautiful park with some really dramatic views.
The last couple of days were spent around the house with friends enjoying the sunshine and having a BBQ. We also took a drive into town to check out the Cinco de Mayo festival which was on at the Civic Center Park. There was live music, food vendors, old American cars and lots of art and craft stalls. It was a great family festival and a wonderful atmosphere to finish the trip off with. One final stop before our flight home was the Little Man Ice Cream shop in the Highlands. This shop has the most delicious ice cream I have tasted, hence the queues that were winding halfway around the block. They have several different flavours each time you visit each as good as the other with a great little courtyard to sit and enjoy your sweet treats. Definitely another must if you are in the area!
We had lots of fun enjoying family time and exploring the Rocky Mountains. A much needed break back into civilisation and a great way to recoup before heading back to our little island paradise.
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