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A-Vailing Ourselves of Colorado

While blessed with many, many friends, there is only one Unicorn Squad.

The Squad is the three couples that Vegas together yearly, plus make merry in countless other ways. We have distanced ourselves a lot since spring, but have convened in the great out of doors when we have felt safe (and the rules have allowed it). But we needed more than a few hours around a bonfire — and Vegas was neither in the cards nor on the table.

We had a bunch of timeshare points burning a hole in our pockets, but clearly 2020 has not been a great travel year. I wanted to take us all somewhere we could be outside, and where it wouldn’t be crowded, and where we could stay in separate condos. I wanted to have fun, but wanted to minimize risks — so we went to Vail, the week before the ski slopes opened (it didn’t hurt that one of the Unicorn offspring lives and works there so we got to see her in her element!).

After piling into the not so glamourous but highly functional multi-passenger not quite windowless van (there were many van down by the river jokes that weekend), we headed west from Denver airport through the stunning mountains to Vail. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the highly recommended (and rightly so ) Beau Jo’s for pizza and beer. Before we arrived, the Vail Offspring asked us to pick her up an order of crust with honey. We were baffled. Then we tried it. Oh my…I am a convert!

Back on the road, we hit up a grocery store for provisions. Wisely, We separated by couples to make it quicker. Foolishly, we did not compare carts so there was much overlap (more on that later).

We were staying at the Marriott Streamside. Each of us had cute one bedroom condos with 2 baths, our own kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces and balconies. It was perfect for spreading out so no one felt on top of each other. I think we all felt the need for a change of scenery from our homes. Who hasn’t seen more of their home’s inside in the past several months? Within an hour of checking in, I was out on the balcony, watching a gorgeous fox wander around outside. In case you were wondering, he didn’t say much. But he was stunning, and came to visit often during our stay.

That night we made our first foray to Vail Village, where we enjoyed dinner at The George, another fave of the Vail Offspring and her man. It was super casual and comfy — noshing plum duck on the couch surrounded by friends and cold beer? Yes, please. The place was pretty empty, which we appreciated. All the folks there seemed to work at the resorts, and were enjoying their last few days of calm before the tourist storm hit. I can totally picture this pace busy filled with the après ski set, smelling of damp wool sweaters, ringing with laughter, offering glimpses of the snow outside world through steamed up windows.

The next day we tried to kick off with breakfast at another fave spot, but they were closed. So we found another cool spot known for Bloody Mary’s, the Westside Cafe. It was here I discovered hatch chile chili, which immediately became by Vail food obsession (I ordered it everywhere I could).

After breakfast we headed to Vail village, where I had set up the morning’s activity. We were doing a Scavenger Hunt, from Let’s Roam. When I announced this game, I now my friends’ eyes rolled behind my back, but when we were done even the grumpiest skeptic agreed it was a fun way to see the area. This particular hunt focused on art, so we were always searching for hidden and not so hidden pieces of pubic art. We also had to do fun activities! I love doing these! I highly recommend you find out of there is one in your home town, and in the next place you travel!

Dinner was at The Fall Line, where we were probably a little loud and silly for such a nice place. I think altitude, lack of sleep and adult beverages contributed to our silliness.

We slept in the next morning, and ate in our rooms. Then it was off to the famous hot springs. It was a gorgeous drive, about an hour long, to get to where we were supposed to be going.

But we never made it there — because we (I) put the wrong hot springs place into the GPS. While we did find a hot springs establishment, it was a little more like the swimming pool in Cocoon than the natural, glamorous place we had picked out. In fact, at one point we saw three women gliding about that totally were a glimpse into our future. One blond, one brunette, one with a crazy leopard print hat (guess which one I was?).

We needed a night in, so the couples decided to pool our resources and meet in our condo. Clearly, we had similar tastes, as we each brought meat and cheese platters to the party.

After much laughter, and an 80s trivia gane we all decimated, we crashed so we could enjoy our last full day in Vail.

For breakfast we finally made it to the restaurant we’d been aiming for the first morning, the famous Little Diner. My hunger meter guided me towards a spicy bloody and pork green chili, and I was not disappointed!

Today was our wander and shop day. You could tell the slopes were opening the next day. The energy was different. Shops were stocking up and decorating for the holidays. As the day progressed, more people were in the village. Ordinarily, I would like some hustle and bustle, and I would like to return when it’s “normal.” But we started to feel a little more vulnerable, and were glad that we would be leaving before the crowds arrived.

With cocktail breaks at El Segundo and the Red Lion, we finished up our shopping. My fave purchases were some super splurgy leather mittens for myself, an some antique dice cufflinks for HWSNBN to wear on our next Vegas trip. Then it was time to chill before dinner. When planning for the trip, I had struggled finding places that were open for more than just takeout. Again, most weren’t opening until we left. I chose a place called The Fitz. It was a bit too casual for our last night, so that was disappointing, but the food was good!

This definitely seems like a great place to eat outside and enjoy the view, so on a return trip we might try that out.

We made the Vail Offspring and beau come back to the condos with us so we could load them up with all the food and alcohol we wouldn’t be finishing. Sa you can see, they were set for awhile.

Leaving Vail was sad, but, as I said, it was started to get busy so timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have felt okay about the trip if it had been crowded. Being able to spread out inside and be outside in the sunshine was just perfect. Batteries recharged, we headed back to Minnesota. Not sure when the Squad will get to travel together again, but we are planning it — and we know it will be fun.

Oh: and helpful hint — oxygen canisters for the win in high altitudes (and maybe a good Vegas pick me up, too, lol!)

Third Day’s a Charming

So no sleeping in today: we had ground to cover.

First up was sustenance, and I needed a bloody Mary.  HWSNBN insisted I would never find one.  Seriously: he has no faith in my investigative prowess!

Camera in hand, we set off to the tram station (no directional errors this time) and headed to a neighborhood known as the Jordaan.  It’s very cute, full of shops and restaurants and kitsch.  I had found a restaurant called Gs, and we feasted. we got there just in time, as the tiny place filled up fast and a line formed.  We almost felt guilty, sitting in our little window seat, feasting and sipping.  I got the Dirty South: cheddar waffles, fried chicken and bacon with hot sauce, and a Hete Ketel bloody (served with spicy Ketel One vodka).  Actually, I didn’t feel guilty at all.  I felt content.  Fat and happy.  Ready to roam!

Next we searched for a cool shop I’d heard of, hoping to find a souvenir for the girl.  Rock Archive (http://rockarchive.nl/) specializes in knock out concert photographs of iconic performers. I really wanted to buy a Led Zeppelin one, but they started at $600.  Seeing as my souvenir was a mug, I left the photos in the shop (but truly: check the place out if you are in town).

Now it was just time to explore and enjoy this beautiful city, from it’s quirky shop windows to it’s stunning architecture.

One cool thing about Amsterdam are the gevelstenen, or house plaques.  These were put on buildings before addresses were invented, and are ways for folks to find homes.  Some indicate the business of the building’s occupants, many are religious, and some convey philosophies or morals of the home owners.  Here are two I saw:

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This gevelstenen could be from a banker — or an alchemist, turning silver into gold?

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The gevelstenen in this picture is almost overshadowed by the fantastic paintings on the building.  The translation for the stone is “the green forest.”

 

We made our way to the oldest part of Amsterdam, and visited the Oude Kirk, or “old church.” It’s a huge space — and the oldest building in Amsterdam (built in 1213).  The irony of course is that t is now in Der Wallen, the red light district.  While touring, I had to nudge HWSNBN who was intently listening to his audio guide, and point out the view from the window — of a lovely lady proffering her wares from a window in the next door building!

Other snapshots of the city as we strolled around:

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That night we decided to wing it.  We started out by wandering towards the Rijksmuseum, to see the famous outdoor ice skating rink (and get a drink, of course).

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As for dinner, we decided to grab food from street vendors and shops as we craved it.  Asian food is big there, so steaming hot noodles on the go in the chilly rain seemed perfect to start!IMG_4092

We wandered the Red Light District, admiring the views (the women were so much prettier than I expected!), catching a drink here and there, and noshing some more.  The Dutch are famous for waffles, and we had one dripping in molten milk chocolate that was to die for (we ate it so fast I forgot to get a picture!).

After the crazy weirdness of Der Wallen, I searched Trip Advisor for a nice bar near by, and we found an oasis: Bar the Tailor, inside the Hotel Krasnapolsky (https://www.barthetailor.com/).  We had fancy cocktails, and a charcuterie plate, and sank into the plush cushions. IMG_4096  We had planned to head back to the hubbub, but we just kind of realized we were happy where we were.  We finished our drinks in happy silence, then headed back for our last sleep before heading home the next day.

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