Finding Inspiration in Colorado

During my graduate studies on Russia, I learned of an interesting element in Russian folklore: the theme of man’s connection with the land, with nature. We came across it in the mystical children’s stories, in Chekov’s plays and in more modern pieces such as  Nikita Mikhalkov‘s films. I always appreciated this esthetic but found it hard to comprehend; why was it that with all the modernity and attractions of big cities, one would want to return back to his or her origins in the countryside?

As I grew older and accumulated more polluted air in my lungs, I started realizing the special allure of pure nature and simple things that make our lives more real and meaningful. Jericoacoara, a quiet beach town in the northeast of Brazil (of which I wrote some time ago here) was the first place that had a transformative effect on my mental state.  Even today, when I am asked to think of a special place that makes me calm, I imagine myself walking on top of the Sunset dune in Jeri with the sandy wind touching my skin and rippling through my clothes as if it’s trying to lift me up in the air and set me flying.

When I was debating with my boyfriend about our last vacation, we’ve almost settled on yet another sightseeing frenzy but then I remembered the calming effect of nature and how much we all need it in today’s crazy world. So we we decided on the mountains of Colorado instead.

Renting a very little car (as always, I was being cheap), turned out to be a good idea on one hand because it was excellent for all the turns on the mountain highways. On the other hand, merging or accelerating turned out to be a good exercise and in peddle pressing and praying as it huffed and puffed trying to get to a speed of 65 mph. Mitsubishi Mirage is not for the outdoors but great gas milage 😉

We first stopped to visit friends near Boulder and took a trip to Estes Park, which I previously saw in its winter glory. The next day we drove up high in the mountains to visit the breathtaking Brainard Lake, which was surrounded by snowy peaks even in the hot August time.

After Boulder, we headed to Aspen, which is what I would call a yuppie Switzerland (very beautiful but very expensive and full of wealthy people in fancy clothes and fancy cars). We stayed in nearby half-yuppie Snowmass Village and enjoyed several sunny and lazy days of eating, hiking, cycling and people-watching. The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting Maroon Bells, the view of which from the Maroon lake is the most photographed scene in Colorado (google this).  There were several trails around this park so we randomly picked the Maroon Creek trail which turned out to be very versatile (forest, river, open fields, rock formations, etc) hike, that we had all to ourselves. Hooray to random guessing!

On our way back to Austin, we stopped for one day in Denver, which was kind of a nothing city in the middle of all the beauty so to compensate ourselves for its nothingness, we went to visit the Red Rocks Amphitheaterwhich was full of people jogging and doing all sorts of sports that I would never do during a 90F / 30C scorching heat. We were not surprised at all to see this as throughout the trip we learned about all sorts of crazy things that Coloradans do in the name of fitness (think of riding mountain bikes at 45 degrees incline at 8k ft/2.4k meters and smiling while at it).

Snow sports over a frozen lake in Estes Park. We had an amazing time hiking with the snow falling down.
Frozen Lake in Estes Park
Estes Park, Summer in Colorado, Emerald Lake
Same place in Estes Park in the Summer

The real humans of my life – Boulder

The past weekend, I headed up to Boulder area, to visit a long time college friend, chef, and blogger, Shru Troup. Even though she doesn’t think so, she is quite an inspiration to us all. She and her husband left their fancy schmancy jobs and promising careers at a New York investment bank to start a new life in Colorado. They are both very happy, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, biking or skiing in their spare time. Shru did culinary school and one day she will publish her own cookbook for modern vegetarian and vegan cuisine (stay tuned and in the meantime check out her recipes on her blog). She also recently decided to explore the world of food trucks.

Shru driving "Tina"
Shru driving “Tina”

I had an exciting day at her work, operating a Mexican food truck, fondly nicknamed “Tina”. We started early in the Comida restaurant in Longmont, preparing all the ingredients with the very dedicated and funny kitchen stuff. I learned to use the deep frier as I made tortilla chips for the first time in my life.

After three hours of preparation and loading the truck, we headed over to a nearby office park. It was freezing cold but we served those tacos and quesadillas like champs. The brave customers, who came by despite the below freezing temperature, showed real dedication as well.

When we came back, Shru spent 2 more hours scrubbing out the truck because that’s just the clean freak that she is. After this, she “took a break” preparing 2 different desserts (pumpkin Pie and cinnamon ice cream), as she is also the pastry chef of the restaurant.  All the while, I was recovering from all the hard work by sipping margaritas at the bar or chitchatting with her colleagues.

The rest of the weekend was quite busy between celebrating my birthday by skiing (I still remember how to, surprise!) at Keystone, hiking in Estes Park (where I was supposed to spot some Elks but saw none), checking out the Boulder yuppie/hippie scene  and eating some great home cooked food (love having chef friends). I also got to try Nepalese food for the first time at the AMAZING Sherpa’s restaurant in Boulder. It was also very interesting to read all the interesting posters and check out the photographs around the restaurant. I learned for example that Katmandu (Nepal’s capital) is Boulder’s sister city.