Sep 18, 2017

Transatlantic Goes West: Boulder, Days Two and Three


For our second day in Colorado, we decided to stick closer to home and explore Boulder. We'd gone out to dinner on the Pearl Street Mall the night before, and Saturday was basically planned around that night's dinner plans: grilling out on my uncle and aunt's deck at the foothills of the mountains.

We started off bright and early with a visit to the Boulder Farmers' Market, where we picked up ingredients for the evening meal, listened to live folk music, and indulged in coffee and breakfast from the food stalls. (Jon got a monster breakfast burrito; I got a ham, cheese, spinach crêpe. Yum!) I wished we were staying in town longer so I'd have had an excuse to buy more of the gorgeous produce - and a bouquet of the glorious sunflowers I saw at every other booth - but practiced admirable restraint!

I'd mentioned on Instagram stories earlier in the day that we hoped to find a river or lake near Boulder where we could spend the afternoon, and Erin suggested we check out Clear Creek Canyon, about a 40-minute drive back towards Denver from where we were staying. Jon and I changed into our swimsuits, packed snacks and books and towels, and set off south.

We'd driven from Denver to Boulder two nights earlier but it was dark and we couldn't see the landscape around us, so the route down to Clear Creek Canyon felt entirely new in the daylight. It was incredible to look out of our windows and see mountains rising up to the west but flat plains as far as the eye could see to the east. And the canyon itself was spectacular! We actually drove along Clear Creek Canyon Road (CO 6) through Windy Saddle Park quite a bit farther than we had to just because the scenery was so otherworldly compared to what we're used to.

Finally, though, we found a good spot to pull over and we picked our way gingerly down a rocky incline to the creek itself to set ourselves up on the bank in the sun for a few hours of blissful leisure.









I'm going to skip ahead to Sunday afternoon for the rest of this post; we went on a six-mile hike in Rocky Mountain National Park that morning, which will get its own post, but we took another suggestion from Instagram friends - thanks, Val and Kate! - and closed out our stay in Boulder with a visit to the Dushanbe Tea House for an early dinner.

The tea house itself was a gift from Tajikistan, and it was crafted entirely by hand by skilled artisans before being shipped to Colorado in pieces to be assembled in Boulder. Jon and I weren't able to be reservations for the proper afternoon tea experience, but the food we ordered was delicious and and our respective teas - Himalayan Golden for Jon and mint iced tea for me - paired perfectly with the meatballs, samosas, and hummus platter.

I want to give a shout-out to three other food experiences we had during our weekend in Boulder because they're definitely all worth a try if you're in the area. On Friday, on our way out to Rocky Mountain National Park, we picked up made-to-order sandwiches at the St Vrain Market and Deli in Lyons. (Full disclosure: Jon and I pronounced "Lyons" as if it were the city in France and my uncle nearly had a heart attack from laughing at our pretension. It's actually just "lions.") They were so good, in large part thanks to the hearty slices of house-made bread, and the staff was super friendly. Also, my aunt left us a care package full of Boulder-based goodies; we especially loved the Bobo's granola bars and Justin's snack packs. (Jon will have to speak to the selection of local beers Joanna selected for him!) And our Sunday got off to the sweetest start when we stopped at the Donut Haus in Estes Park for - you guessed it - shockingly cheap and yummy doughnuts and coffee on our way back into the mountains for our hike.






Find the Transatlantic Goes West intro here and Day One here.

Sep 8, 2017

Transatlantic Goes West: Rocky Mountain National Park, Day One


Part of the reason we started our grand vacation in Colorado was because my uncle and aunt live in Boulder; we wanted to see them anyway, but they also very graciously offered us their house to use as a base while we were in the area! Mark and Joanna are epic adventurers themselves, so they gave us lots of tips (and gear, which was a lifesaver) for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.

Following their suggestion, we started our first full day in Colorado with a big drive along Trail Ridge Road, the northernmost in the park. (To note in case you want to follow in our footsteps: it's closed from mid-October through Memorial Day due to weather and hazardous conditions.) We were still acclimatizing to the altitude - Boulder itself is a mile above sea level and our route took us over 12,000 feet up - so we didn't want to do anything too strenuous, but we did want to see as much as possible! It was absolutely incredible to watch the landscape change from montagne to subalpine to alpine, the lush vegetation giving way to pine trees and then finally revealing bare rock dotted with pockets of snow as we climbed. We also learned the hard way that the temperature drops about 20° when you get into the tundra!

We pulled off along the side of the road a few times to clamber over rocks, admire the views, and take photos. At one stop, we saw a whole herd of elk grazing! When we looked at the map before setting off, we decided that our halfway point would be Milner Pass, at 10,758 feet, where the road intersects the Continental Divide. We parked there next to a small lake to eat the picnic lunch we'd picked up on the way and take a little walk before hopping back in the car and retracing our steps back to the park entrance.

The day really was the most breathtaking introduction to the mountainous American west - with all due respect to our beloved Shenandoah, Blue Ridge, and Appalachian ridges, from our comfortable east coast perspective it felt like we were experiencing a whole new world!











Sep 3, 2017

Transatlantic Goes West


Dear readers, Jon and I took the most epic vacation this summer - and all credit for it goes to Jon, who told me when he moved to this country that he wants to see all of the United States! I used to mock that goal, but we wouldn't have experienced such an amazing week and a half if it weren't for his thirst to explore as much of his adopted home as possible. I will mock no more!

Here was our itinerary:
Day 0: evening flight from DC to Denver and drive from Denver to Boulder
Day 1: Rocky Mountain National Park
Day 2: Boulder/environs
Day 3: Rocky Mountain National Park
Day 4: drive from Boulder back to Denver to take the Amtrak Zephyr sleeper train to San Francisco through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California
Day 5: arrive in San Francisco (36 hours after departing from Denver)
Day 6: San Francisco
Day 7: San Francisco
Day 8: Muir Woods, Muir Beach, Fort Baker, Marin County
Day 9: Napa
Day 10: Sonoma; red-eye flight back to DC

It felt like we took four two- or three-day vacations in those 10 days. I'd been to Boulder before, when my family spent Thanksgiving 2007 at my aunt and uncle's house, and to San Francisco in 2010 when I chaperoned a high school trip there, but I saw all of these places with eyes as fresh as Jon's. This country really is incredible.

I think this was actually the first holiday longer than a weekend we've taken just the two of us since we got married. We timed it to coincide with our fourth wedding anniversary, so we got to celebrate in style! And, despite planning the trip before we knew I was pregnant, it worked out perfectly on that front, too - I was 21 weeks when we flew out and so felt comfortable indulging in some "forbidden" foods and drinks that I hadn't wanted to risk earlier, and my morning sickness and fatigue were finally gone but I wasn't yet physically uncomfortable or even really showing.

As you know if you follow me on Instagram, I took lots of photos and will try to put up a post for each chunk of the vacation over the next couple of weeks. Check back - and let me know if you have any questions about the trip or how we planned it that I can answer in the meantime!