red, red rocks

IMG_1750Red Rocks, the famous concert venue outside of Denver, was the reason behind my Colorado excursion and the capstone to this trip. (Click the bottom image for greater, groovy, detail.) The natural sandstone amphitheater has long been on my bucket list of places I need to see – and to hear a concert, of course. As a sensory experience and a spectacle it more than lived up to expectations. Firstly, you don’t just show up at the theater to hear some music: you park in a dirt field and then you hike. You hike up. And up and up and up. Red Rocks is set within the confines of a state park – the better to preserve its mystical aloofness. But what makes it so special is also what happens to make it rather inconvenient. An afternoon of steady showers did not help matters. Yet the rain let up just as I laid out ten bucks for a bin liner poncho, and the overcast sky cracked open with beams of sunlight. While the opening band played, the sun began to set and the sheer walls of rock on either side of the seating bowl radiated its flare. Once the stage lights outweighed the ambient light, the sandstone, lit from below, glowed orange, red, and purple. The atmosphere ripened into something otherworldly, like a concert on Mars: the lights of downtown Denver visible on the horizon, a deep blue sky lit up by stars, and the jarring and perfect summer sound of Vampire Weekend pulsing through space.IMG_1737

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the road to vail is paved with snow intentions

IMG_1681Apparently even at the unofficial start of summer you’re never very far from a white out. Late spring in Colorado has been a veritable four-season Alpine adventure: sunny and hot in Denver one day, a blizzard on the road to Vail the next. Um, I’d settle for just a touch of spring, please.

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driving through the continental divide

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the brown palace

IMG_1617Completed in 1892, The Brown Palace Hotel is a remarkable piece of Victorian architecture built in the Italian Renaissance style. It’s the Mile High City’s sandstone grande dame, and harkens back to a time when Denver found itself at the center of a social and economic boom brought on by the gold (and silver) found in them thar hills. In the lobby, your eyes sweep upwards past six tiers of cast iron balconies to a stained glass skylight. The elegant atrium – clad in Mexican onyx – provides the perfect respite for a spot of afternoon tea. Or if that’s not your style, a pair of ornate silver drinking fountains draw their water from the hotel’s own artesian well. It seems that even in the once wild west a good hotel considered practical comforts of paramount importance.

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practical colorado road signs

practical road sign

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sweeping up at the denver art museum

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finding the reclusive clyfford still

20130520-074951.jpgThere are unknown artists and there are legendary masters. Rarely could one man be described as both. Abstract expressionist Clyfford Still, however, was one and the same. After a retreat from the art world in the 1940’s, he controlled who got to see his canvases – and how. But his influence on Pollack, Newman, and Rothko was profound. An eponymous museum in Denver maintains some 2,500 of his works – everything in Still’s possession at the time of his death. Seen collectively they give rise to the idea that Still was not merely a painter of individual artworks but the architect of a grand symphonic vision.

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delectable egg: home of the denver omelette

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the new green economy

marijuana_investmentLawmakers in Washington and Colorado have until December of this year to lay down the rules for the legalization and sale of pot. And one question, ahem, high on the agenda: how does all of this relate to tourists? If Amsterdam is a good example, pot tourism literally brings in the green in more ways than one. Although the Netherlands had tried to enforce a ban on the selling of pot to tourists, the Amsterdam City Council refused to comply, because they are fully aware of how well their coffers are being lined by pot-smoking tourists. In fact, pot sales are doing so well, the Amsterdam City Council wants to be allowed to grow its own weed. It does not seem, however, that either Washington or Colorado are much concerned about waiting around for the lawmakers to set the limits for buying and selling marijuana. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the interpretation of simply enjoying any grass on offer. One of the largest annual events and a big tourist draw in the Pacific Northwest is an event called Hempfest. In Seattle, a marijuana dinner cruise will set sail this summer, while in Colorado, Snoop Lion (the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg) didn’t get into a whiff of trouble for throwing joints out into the crowd at a Denver Center Park event last month. Heck, you can even take a cannabis cooking class in Denver. Who knows, maybe they’re onto something. Maybe pot tourism is the new green economy.

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