Saturday, August 04, 2007

Deja Vu in Colorado

One of the best things about being over 40 is that you start to get invited to weddings again. When I was in my 20s it seemed there was at least one wedding every summer or fall to look forward to: a new dress, maybe even a brides maid gown, dancing, free food, cocktails, and a new location or venue to explore. After the flurry of activity in those years though, the weddings die down, and I think I went about a decade with no weddings in the summer. But alas, now I have nieces and nephews, and neighbors' children, and I find myself having to choose between weddings to attend once again! This year's wedding: my nephew's. This year's destination: Estes Park, CO. Bonus: my 3 siblings and their families!

I've been to Colorado many times before. Mostly for skiing in Summit County, and a few summer or spring visits here and there. If I didn't have salt water in my veins, I'd live there. I'll never forget my first trip to the Rocky Mountains in 1986. Before that, I'd never even been west of the Mississippi River! I couldn't have imagined such grandeur and beauty. Over 20 years later, this place still takes my breath away, and holds surprises at every turn.

After leaving LA in the wee hours of the morning and arriving at that God forsaken airport they call Denver International and being whisked away by my sister, who has a little trouble with directions, I find myself taken in once again as we head north and west - even over the out of tune singing being performed by my kids, sister, and myself (my husband refrained...). Mind you this scenario: my sister, me, my husband is reminiscent of that trip 21 years ago, as it was with this sister that I met my husband here in Colorado...

A few hours later, and "voila", we are in the mountains winding through Estes Park, past the Stanley Hotel (the wedding reception venue)and arrive at a villa rented by my brother that backs on to a gorgeous river that I never learned that name of. Here we do the normal for families: hug, eat, and talk too loudly. I start to feel 12 again, as that's the last time all 4 of us kids lived at home together!

Shortly we find ourselves checked in to The Stanley Hotel (more on that later), and hurtling toward a rehearsal dinner at The Wild Basin Lodge in Allenspark, CO. The drive is breath taking, but the speeding trap is frustrating. Ah...but this is the stuff of family legend: "remember Geoff's wedding and we were late for the rehearsal dinner because Karen got a speeding ticket, and when we finally got there, (brother) Fred had been stopped too!" Since my husband was videographer for this event - we even have it documented for posterity. Can you picture a minivan with 3 kids and 3 adults just try not to laugh at my sister's misfortune?! and get her in more trouble with the police... The Wild Basin Lodge was not only the destination for a delicious and nicely casual rehearsal dinner, but also for the most beautiful wedding location I think I've ever seen. The wedding the next day was in a field with the clear sky of high altitude and the mountains as a backdrop. The only thing more beautiful, was of course the bride!

.The Stanley Hotel, famed as one of the historic hotels in the US, and infamous as the rumored inspiration and writing location of "The Shining" by Stephen King (which he denies) served up a private building for the reception, excellent food, pricey (but good) cocktails, and attentive service for the wedding. My only gripe: air conditioning needed for receptions!

Our rooms at the Stanley were non descript, but the hotel itself cannot be criticized as it is one of those old beauties. My favorite experiences at the Stanley are sitting in the evening on the expansive front porch, having morning coffee in the modern back courtyard with my family, and of course: watching The Shining on the 24/7 showing on the TV. I think, however the Stanley Hotel and staff needs to step up the cleanliness and old school mentality of service

No trip to the area would be complete without a foray into Rocky Mountain National Park, and because ours was a group of mixed ages from 12 to 80 something, we chose the accessible Sprague Lake for our outing. We enjoyed food, hiking, taking photos, and most of all my other brother's antics with his cat and bird, who ended up tragically flying away (I KNOW domestic animals in NPs, why didn't he?...)...more family legend fodder. Funny how it was the same brother (macho as he is) who strapped bells on the laces of every one's sneakers when we hiked at Glacier National Park on one of these reunions several years ago. Some things never change.

.Our trip though draws to an end too soon for me (with a stop at a rock shop and the go karts in Estes Park), and we're back outside of Denver, and on to the next stop for summer vacation: Boston's North End

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