November 10, 2011
Despite the stories about our hotel being haunted, we both got a decent night of sleep and both woke without too much sign of a hangover. We had quite a long drive today, almost the entire length of Colorado to Denver where we were going to spend the next couple of nights. We weren’t in a great rush to head out as the hotel was so nice and after enjoying a really good, fresh breakfast we decided we should gather up our stuff and get going. We hadn’t taken all of our bags out of the car as we were only here for one night and so it didn’t take long for us to get on the road.
Although the drive was quite long, we decided to break it up along the way with a slight detour. We took turns driving as I felt quite tired after the first couple of hours and thanks to the good weather and light traffic we were making good time. The drive was really scenic with lots of rolling hills, without being quite as dramatic as the mountains we were heading to up north. I wondered if we would come across any snow as we drove towards Denver but in fact it was quite pleasant all the way.
The stop we made was at the Giant Sand Dunes National Park. It wasn’t a long stop but it was long enough for us to have lunch and have a look around the national park. We started by watching a video at the visitor centre which explained how the sand dunes came about. It was certainly a little surreal for there to be sand dunes in a mountainous area with so many trees and greenery around. In fact, the area is quite a wind trap and a lot of the sand is blown around and then “held” in place by the rivers that flow down the mountain sides. It was really cool to see the area through the different seasons but it was even better when we drove around and walked out onto the sand to see the dunes. The dunes were unbelievably large and way bigger than we’d expected and it was funny to think we were walking on sand in central Colorado!
After the sand dunes, Elizabeth drove most of the way into Denver and other than going through Pueblo and Colorado Springs, the drive was mostly highway and we were able to make decent progress. It was dark by the time we got into Denver and the traffic was a bit heavier so we were glad when we got to the hotel and got checked in. We were staying at a Marriott which was really nice. We were soon hungry and we’d spotted a couple of nearby options as we drove in. We were staying a bit outside the city and we didn’t fancy driving into the centre so we headed to a restaurant called Maggianos. It is a chain here in the US but we hadn’t seen them around much and it did pasta, which was a change from the burgers and such like it seemed like we were eating all the time! We shared a salad to start with and then both had pasta for our main courses. Amazingly, the restaurant offered a 2 for 1 on some of their pasta dishes and once we had eaten our pastas, a second dish was given to us for us to take away! We had chicken rigatoni and baked ziti for our meals tonight and then were presented with more which we decided to have for lunch tomorrow! They even let us order a different type of dish so we didn’t even have to have the same thing tomorrow! It was a great deal as for just over $20 we got four meals! We certainly weren’t going to be eating the seconds tonight as the portions were massive and we were both really stuffed by the time we collapsed in bed!
November 11, 2011
Our day in Denver was quite relaxing although we made sure we didn’t just laze around all day. Elizabeth was up quite early but I laid in a bit longer. When I got up we both went to the pool and got some much needed exercise! We didn’t spend too long in there but it was good to get the heart racing! After a shower we went out for breakfast. As we had driven in last night we’d seen an old style diner called Gunther Toody’s and decided to try their breakfast. The had a breakfast special called the Big Bopper Breakfast which was only $3 and we both decided to tuck into a big, fat cooked breakfast, the perfect antidote to our early morning exercise. The food was decent enough but not something we could eat too often. The diner was really cool inside though and had lots of 1950s. 60s memorabilia and we were even served by Betty Boop!
I had been having trouble with my new camera – the memory card and camera didn’t seem compatible as the camera kept saying there was no memory card inserted – so we had to find a local Best Buy to get the camera sorted. We had a bit of trouble finding the nearest Best Buy and even the address on the website didn’t seem to be right as we ended up on an empty street. There was a large shopping centre nearby though and we drove around that and found the store. The guy there was really helpful and after trying some different memory cards and a different camera we found out that it was a compatibility problem with the make of memory card so we got a different brand memory card and went on our way. I was hoping that would be all the problems we had with the camera especially as we didn’t want problems with it once we were in Switzerland and unable to pop into a Best Buy!
We had decided to spend our afternoon in Denver going to the cinema and as we had finished in Best Buy fairly quickly we had time to spare before the film started. The strip mall opposite the cinema had a liquor store and we decided to go and have a look around. It turned out that this store had a wide variety of beers from all around the US and we decided to get a mixed 6-pack each to drink as we were driving around (not literally as we were driving, of course!). At the cinema we saw Immortals which was pretty bloody and gory and I think Elizabeth didn’t appreciate what she perceived as quite a difference from the original story. Of course, I just saw it as a decent action film, without worrying about the story. She wasn’t impressed by the gratuitous violence and it was a bit over the top at times but it was still watchable.
When we got back to the hotel we had our leftover pasta dishes. We used the microwave in reception to warm them up and we managed to make the whole reception smell of great Italian food! Elizabeth had lasagna and I had spaghetti with meatballs and although they weren’t completely fresh they were still really good.
The afternoon was somewhat ruined by an annoying email I received from work about a request for a couple of days off. I’d tried to plan a surprise weekend for Elizabeth early next year and was contacting work asking for an extended weekend but I instead received a quite rude and abrupt email from our group CEO, not even the person I emailed, which rejected the request and questioned why we should even be asking for time off. I mean, giving three months’ notice of wanting three days off is out of order, right? I had to discuss this with Elizabeth which meant telling her about her surprise which meant I was doubly pissed off!
Still annoyed, we drove to city and parked near to the main shopping/bar area. We parked in a company parking lot which offered cheap parking after 5pm once its employees had left; a very smart idea. It was Friday night and the main street was really busy and as we walked along to Hard Rock there was lots of kids hanging out as well as lots of wannabe gangstas and skanky looking women. Even in a “nicer” part of town, it was hard to tell where the inner city slums ended. It was quite a walk to Hard Rock to get our magnet and an even longer walk all the way back to the Tattered Cover Bookstore. We didn’t want any books really but we’d been in here before and they have an amazing range of books and magazines and we thought it was a good place to stop until we were ready to try some beer!
Earlier this year we’d met a guy in Athens and he is currently living in Denver. He wasn’t around this weekend but had recommended the Wynkoop Brewing Co for us to try. We found out that it is the oldest brewery in the city and is owned by the mayor. We tried the Rail Yard Ale and Belgarado and both of these beers were really good. Unfortunately, much of the conversation was about the email we’d received and we probably would have stayed longer if we weren’t so pissed off with the situation as well as having to drive back to the hotel. When we got back, we cracked open some of the amber ales we’d got from Mammoth Brewing and I watched some CSI while Elizabeth watched a film called Molokai which told the story of Father Damien and the island we’d recently visited.