I had no expectations of our visit to Colorado Springs and scarcely time to do any advance reading. It was hardly necessary. The people of Colorado Springs are among the most friendly we have ever met, anywhere.
Barry, the taxi driver who picked us up at the airport and who also is a purveyor of Jerky Meat Snacks (beef, turkey and buffalo jerky, and buffalo steaks), doubles as a guide for his passengers. Among other things, he suggested the most economical place in town to rent a car, U-Save Car Rentals, a great tip which we much appreciated. He also offered to come back and pick us up at 4:30 a.m. on the day of our departure. Good thing, too. We had thought that our hotel was the best in town and getting a taxi at the hotel would not be a problem. Hardly. Our hotel was in the downtown core and has the oldest name, but getting a taxi to come there even in prime times is hard.
The hottest hotel in town is the Broadmoor Hotel on 490 acres in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain southwest of the city, around man-made Cheyenne Lake built in 1889. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Spencer Penrose and his wife had seen opulence and elegance in Europe which did not exist in America. When they acquired the Broadmoor in 1916, they wanted to make it “the most beautiful resort in the world.” Today, it has over 740 rooms, suites and cottages in many buildings arranged around the lake, world-class golf courses, 23 kitchens, nationally acclaimed restaurants, numerous boutiques, a huge convention centre and ballroom, and several back-country experience lodges. The Broadmoor is one of only two five-star hotels in all of Colorado and obviously a busy place. Our style is more the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co, a craft brewery and restaurant in a historic building downtown, or the Ritz Grill on Tejon Street, both with friendly staff serving reasonably priced comfort food.
Exploring downtown’s Tejon Street within hours of our arrival, I got to talking with Janis and Lea, sales people in a design shop called Bellissima. I was fascinated to learn that two of their most popular makes of women’s clothing came from Canada. The largest, a collection from Vancouver called Sympli, is a range of layering garments, with stylish comfortable lines, in soft non-crushable material and rich trans-seasonal colours, ideal investment clothes for travel. They also carry the colourful, upbeat Zoé brand, from Montreal. Apparently, their owner finds these Made-in-Canada clothes at the Las Vegas Fashion Market held three times a year. Janis and Lea were typical of the people we met here: open, welcoming, incredibly hospitable and generous with their time. They gave me the inside dope on what to see, what to avoid, the best restaurants, and the most interesting tours. By the time I left, I had bought nothing but had enough suggestions to fill our entire visit.
Among other things, they recommended Paravicini’s Italian Bistro in Old Colorado City as the best Italian restaurant in town. They said we would definitely need reservations on a weekend, and they were quite right. It was a lively place, crowded with diners, offering an amazingly broad menu, with friendly and efficient service. Their Calamari Fritti Arrabiata, fried and then sautéed with hot peppers, black olives, capers and sun-dried tomatoes, was the best calamari anyone in our party had ever tasted. Ditto for the Scallops alla Pesto with basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, cream and cheese over linguini, not the choice Weight Watchers would have recommended, but absolutely delicious.
The natural beauty of the city is spectacular. Pikes Peak, which inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write the song “America the Beautiful,” looms overhead, and is said to be “the second-most-visited mountain in the world, behind Mount Fuji.” The most easterly of the 54 over-14,000-foot mountains in Colorado, it became the symbol of the 1859 Gold Rush. It is accessible by a cog railway and by the 13-mile Barr Trail, both of which start at Manitou Springs, a short distance to the west of The Springs. We planned to drive up to the summit via the winding road originally built by Penrose, but the weather did not coöperate. It’s always good to leave something for next time.
The Garden of the Gods, a city park since 1909 and a Registered National Natural Landmark since 1979, has eight miles of trails through massive red rock formations formed millions of years ago. The vista of red rock, dry dusty grasslands, evergreens, and the snow on the nearby mountains is breath-taking. I wonder how many of the Canadians who come to Colorado to ski its world-famous resorts like Aspen and Vail ever venture east of the Rockies. If not, the area is worth a visit.
P.S.: Barry as a driver, or as a purveyor of jerky snacks, is available at 719-332-4309. U-Save Auto Rentals is at 800-272-8928, or 719-634-1914. They do not have a car rental kiosk at the airport but, by prior arrangement, will meet your airplane on arrival.