Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer of Travel 2012: Seattle, Denver (Part 2)


Check out Part 1 here.

After spending the first part of the week in Seattle for work, I was off to Denver to celebrate a good friend's wedding. Back to back weekends with the much of the same crew from Princeton Reunions - no complaints here!

A number of us arrived around the same time, and so decided to share a couple rental cars (Chevy Impala "or similar" baby!). We took the shuttle over to Hertz, and while I usually go directly to my car, I wasn't the one with the reservation this time. As a result, we were able to experience the latest innovation in rental car service technology:

Hertz pick-up at DEN
Yep, that's my friend video-chatting with a Hertz agent in order to get the car. That was a new one for me. It definitely took longer to procure a car than a "normal" agent would have taken - but it was well worth it for the novelty of the experience.


After finally getting our wheels, we made our way into town and to our home for the weekend, the Warwick Denver. It was a nice hotel, I'd say comparable to an upscale Sheraton or perhaps a Westin, but with less of a cookie-cutter vibe to it. It always pains me a little to miss out on a points-earning opportunity, but I'm pretty much always going to go with the group when there's a clear consensus / a block of rooms reserved for something like a wedding. Come on though Warwick, you've got dozens of hotels around the world - why no "Warwick World Traveler" points or anything like that? :)

I'd never really spent any time in Denver before, and thankfully by getting in Thursday night, I had time to do a little exploring. Before heading out though, we needed to get some food, and so grabbed lunch at Las Delicias, a Mexican place that had come recommended, and was around the corner from the hotel. While the name didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence, I thought the food was actually pretty solid. That said, I'm easy to please when it comes to Mexican food - how can you go wrong with meat, beans and guacamole?

Carne Asada from Las Delicias - all around pretty solid
After lunch, we hit the road and trekked out to Red Rocks Park, a short drive outside of Denver. The park is aptly-named for the natural red rock formations that you can find throughout it, and was quite striking. I'd never heard of it before the trip, but I'm glad some of my friends had! We did a little light hiking around the park, and started to feel the altitude almost right away - near-constant thirst, and surprisingly quick shortness of breath being the two most noticeable effects. It was humbling to say the least - but still a lot of fun.

Driving into Red Rocks Park
Red Rocks
Red Rocks panorama (click to expand)
Great view for a parking lot!
What better way to cool off after traipsing around in the sun than a couple cold ones from a local microbrewery? Denver loves its microbrews, so sampling the local fare was a must.

First stop: Great Divide Brewing Co. We had hoped to get there in time for the 3pm tour, but having just missed it we decided to create our own little "tour" of their taps!

Great Divide: Too many great beers to pick just one!
Choose your own adventure samplers are 3 beers for $3, so we shared 3 of them (9 beers for those of you keeping track at home). Great Divide makes a wide range of beers, and we tried several IPAs, stouts, and even a rice ale. They were all great, but my personal favorites were the Rumble IPA, Titan IPA, and Yeti Imperial Stout.

Next stop: Breckenridge Brewery (or more accurately, their ballpark pub next to Coors Field). Several hoppy, high-alcohol-content beers in, I figured why stop now? I went with a 471 small-batch double-IPA and it was just perfect. The best part is that after checking out their website since I've been home, there look to be a LOT of bars and restaurants back in NY that carry Breckenridge beers! Can't wait to have another one soon.

Breckenridge Brewery 471 small-batch double-IPA = delicious
After some brief pre-wedding festivities at the hotel, we hit the town in search of food. On another recommendation, we ended up at Steuben's for dinner. The menu had a lot of really mouth-watering comfort food favorites (fried chicken, meat loaf, ribs, etc.). I went with a green chili cheeseburger, and it was great! I don't think I'd ever had one before, but I've made a mental note that smokey + meaty + spicy + gooey is a winning combination! Other table favorites were the mac n cheese, and the crispy brussel sprouts.

Green chili cheeseburger at Steuben's in Denver
The day of the wedding, we decided to spend a little more quality time with nature, and so hit the road toward Boulder.

We started off by just pulling off to the side of the road, and taking a little trail that followed the road and the river.

Photo taken 30 feet from the highway. Colorado rocks.
Only the strongest survive
It was great, but we really wanted to get away from the road a bit more. Fortunately, we came across a local who knew his way around the area, and he gave us directions to Boulder Mountain Park. We made our way over there, and took in the amazing views while getting a bit more exercise before the evening's festivities.

Making our way up the trail
Heading back down the trail
Last but not least, we decided to grab a quick bite at Cafe Colore before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. I had a the American pizza, which was satisfying after spending the morning hiking, but wasn't exactly the best pizza I've ever had. The toppings were tasty and seemed fresh, but the cheese and the dough just tasted a little cheap. Some of the paninis and other items ordered around the table seemed to be crowd pleasers though.

American Pizza at Cafe Colore
The wedding itself was in Denver, at a venue called Mile High Station. I was a big fan - it's a really unique space, but I'm probably biased somewhat due to the awesome party :)

Mile High Station in Denver
View from the inside - great venue for a wedding!
Overall, Denver was unquestionably the highlight of this two-part trip. I had a fantastic time celebrating the wedding of a great friend with many of my other great friends, ate some great food, drank some great beer, and spent some time in the great outdoors!

To top it off, I had an international-configuration 757 on my flight home, which meant free video-on-demand even though my upgrade didn't clear (would've been sweet to grab a BusinessFirst flatbed seat too!). I watched a couple movies, and next thing I knew, it was time to land. Tallying things up at the end of the week, I crossed 50K EQMs on United - putting me halfway to Premier 1K status, and I'm now at 14 stays / 29 nights at Starwood - more than halfway to re-qualifying for platinum status and the 10 confirmable suite nights I'll get at 50 nights for the year.

How's your summer been so far? It's been quite a whirlwind for me, and we're not even halfway through June yet!

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