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I’m honored and humbled to be listed with bloggers I admire for their adventurous spirits, humor, and commitment to inspiring and equipping those planning to travel or live abroad. Just a few mentions from the list…
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If the pandemic has moved you to make a bigger move… U.S. News & World Report ranked Denver the #2 best place to live in the country based on affordability, job prospects and quality of life. Read on and when you’re sold and ready to make the move, check out Hello Landing for Denver apartment options and enjoy your new location with their pro advice: 6 Fun Things to Do in Denver for New Residents.
Prior to 2020, my only experience in Colorado was chaperoning a school trip at Purgatory Resort in Durango. The resort lived up to its name when my first attempt at skiing was a bust (I may be the only person who has ridden a ski lift down the slope after thinking I’d broken my tailbone when I jumped from the chair). I wrote off Colorado thinking it’s all about skiing—one of those things, like eating with chopsticks, I’m just too uncoordinated to do. Until… one weekend last year when my son, Cole, visited Denver and Colorado Springs and decided he’d make the area his new home.
It was a fit for his IT career and healthy lifestyle. And he loved Denver (as he did Marrakesh, Morocco where I’d lived and he’d visited) for its arid climate; majestic, snow-capped mountain range; and sunny skies about 300 days per year. Bonus are flight schools so he can work on a pilot’s license—another goal. So he flew back to Tennessee on a mission. By June 2020 he was hired by a large company in Broomfield, “The Silicon Valley of the Rockies,” and found an apartment there. Last July he packed his belongings into a moving truck and set out on a 1400- mile road trip from his home in Knoxville with his car (and me–a stowaway!) in tow. Seriously, I’m so thankful he allowed me to tag along to document the adventure. Doesn’t every mom want to see her adult child’s dream coming true?
Broomfield is 10 minutes from Boulder, 30 minutes from Denver, and #3 for raising a family in Colorado with great schools and low crime. Like many who have moved to new cities during Covid, he hasn’t met his coworkers in person since everyone works from home. But he likes that getting a driver’s license in his new state meant automatic voter registration and a mail-in ballot; that his electricity is powered by windmills nearby on clean, open spaces; that there are more vegan options than in Knoxville; that his company has a basketball goal and outdoor grilling area, that he has pro hockey, baseball, football, basketball and soccer teams.
Reasons to Plan a Trip (Or Move) to Denver
Disclaimer: This list is not as comprehensive as other guides I’ve written on destinations in the US and abroad. Partly because Covid changes everything daily from what is closed, what is open, the whens and wheres. But mostly my guide is a work in progress because I need to do more research on multiple visits. 🙂
Topping my list of why I love the Denver area so far are all the outdoor areas to explore– hiking and biking trails, lakes and streams…street art and live music… and a multitude of restaurant and brewery patios. Hand sanitizer is as ubiquitous as masks, allowing everyone to chill for awhile and breathe.
I’m a big believer in starting with a guided tour of any city to get the “lay of the land.” I hoped this one would be as fun and informative as the food tour I did in Madrid or the electric bike tour I did through Costa Brava hill towns. Cole was a good sport to go with me (and the two other ladies my age we met on the tour) –especially on a record-high hot July day. He said later that coasting down hills made him feel like a kid again and I loved feeling that way, too. We learned a lot from our guide about these…
Boulder Creek Path–Watch locals tubing down the stream.
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse— A gift from Dushanbe to Boulder, their Sister City, built by more than 40 artisans in several cities of Tajikistan. The hand-carved ceiling and woodwork is stunning.
The Flatirons–Amazing Photo Opp
Chautauqua–I couldn’t wait to see this given my love for the Chautauqua movement that started in the1890s and continues at Monteagle, Tennessee where I began solo travel trips in the 2000s and still love writing retreats in the Assembly today.
Bonus was a stop at The Sink, where Robert Redford was a janitor in 1955 and famous guests include President Obama and Anthony Bourdain.
And add to the list Pearl Street to hang out in a coffee shop or book store, dance to live music, skate, skateboard, shop, eat, or drink.
Last weekend Cole took me to the the place he liked most on his visit last year to Colorado. In 1859 after the “Pike’s Peak or Bust” gold rush, men began looking for a site for a town at the mountain’s base. Two Kansas builders of what would become Colorado Springs happened upon red rock formations in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by nothing but trails the American Indians used. One of them, Melancthon Beach, thought it would be an ideal place for a beer garden one day, while his partner, Rufus Cable, disagreed:
“Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble, and we will call it the Garden of the Gods.”
On the way to Colorado Springs, we stopped north of Denver in Sunnyside, a neighborhood that has been revived over the last ten years with a strong sense of community. It reminded me of East Nashville before the Music City boom. I’d read that Bacon had a huge patio and great food, but because the wait was so long, we went to El Jeffe next door and were glad we did. I didn’t order the Breakfast Burrito, a Denver delicacy, because the Pescado Tacos and Huevos Con Chorizo Tacos were too tempting. We couldn’t do the Bottomless Brunch (you can mix and match Blood Marys, Mimosa, and Sangrias), but we did have a sangria before taking off and I’d love to return and try more good stuff on their dinner menu.
I didn’t realize that many consider Denver the #1 US City for Beer. I was there during Denver Beer Week, so when in Rome…
On the way back from Colorado Springs, we had some great pizza and brews– Pikes Peak Little London and Blue Mesa Tropical– outdoors at 16th Street Mall.
Since covering a Street Art Exhibit in Marrakesh, I’ve loved seeing artists’ works in other cities. RiNo is a place to enjoy sunshine, takeout from Central Market, and the skyline.
Cole’s grandfather/my dad was an outdoorsman who loved Colorado. He would have loved visiting Cole, too.
Next time I want to find the best Rocky Mountain Oysters and Green Chile in Denver–any suggestions? I want to buy a University of Colorado sweatshirt and learn to fly fish (know a guide)? I love a mix of exploring new territory and enjoying family traditions, too–like last weekend when we watched Iron Man and SNL while eating takeout from Tsing Tao and Azitra.
Whether you travel or stay home for the holidays, stay safe and celebrate the good times that have happened despite a very difficult year. No matter what 2021 holds… remember…
The third stop on my November beach hop along the Moroccan Atlantic Coast was Paradis Plage Surf and Spa Resort. Owners take pride in being the first hotel in Morocco to combine yoga and surfing—a dynamic duo since yoga prepares and repairs the body after surfing. The property invites guests to ride waves, climb camels, or salute the sun as it rises and sets. Here couples, families, friends, and solo travelers enjoy over 100 suites with terraces or balconies opening to pool or sea. Recreation varies from four area golf courses and an outdoor cinema. Located 30 minutes from Agadir and 50 minutes from an international airport connecting to European capitals via 3-hour flights, the resort is where westerners love to play.
Started by Kabbage Abbes, one of first investors in Agadir hotels, who teamed with Francois Payot, head of Rip Curl Europe, the resort is a work of art run by Abbes’ daughter, Naima, and her husband, Vincent. Furnishings were created by locals and the gorgeous green spaces and gardens are by Spanish landscaper, Sergio Castaneda Beltran.
Excited to learn more about surfing and to practice yoga, I was shown to a gorgeous oceanfront suite. At the Surf House beach bar while sipping my Flag (local beer) and waiting for a Mexican burger (rare in this region), I saw horses and camels waiting patiently on the sand while cats lounged in the sun. Later, everyone returned for the golden orange sunset. See highlights of my stay below.
In partnership with Rip Curl, legendary Australian brand, Tarik Wahbi, surf pro from Tétouan, is ranked one of Morocco’s Top Ten surfers. Manager of the surf program, he leads a team of gregarious guys who hook up guests with equipment, instruction and guides to the best waves.
Paradis Plage nurtures total wellness that fits the unique needs of each guest. Surf and Yoga packages are available for two or five days. Surf School Packages are available for 5 days—2 sessions per day.
Yoga and Spa packages range from two days (daily yoga course, a sensory hammam, and a massage) to five days (yoga course, two hammams, one body scrub, and two massages).
The resort shares with clients the secrets of Moroccan women’s beauty. All cosmetics are 100% natural Taroudant Argan oil, essential oils from Marrakech gardens, pebbles from Imi Ouaddar’s beach, facial treatments using Sous Massa prickly pip, Taliouine saffron or roses of Dades Valley.
Traditional Hammams consist of a black soap scrub, Atlas ghassoul wrap, Atlantic Coast seaweed wrap, Imouzzer honey, and spice scrub. Sensory Hammams fuse fragrances of in orange blossom and eucalyptus to relax and rejuvenate. Managing massages and other spa services is Marie France Riera.
Important Tip: Schedule spa services, especially massages, and yoga classes before you arrive or at check in because appointments and classes fill fast.
Yoga group classes, the highlight of my getaway, are offered three times daily:
8-9:15 Sunrise Yoga (for all levels)—breathing, flexibility, strength, muscle toning, body opening
11-12:15 Easy Yoga (all levels but especially great for beginners) Asanas postures and poses; precision of body alignment, rhythm, balance
5:30-7 Sunset Yoga (all levels)– detoxification, relaxing based on Vinyasa flow systems
Also available are classes in Yin Yoga Therapy (gentle practice using blocks, pillows, restorative and relaxing to relieve tension in muscles and joints, relax spine and pelvis), Aerial Yoga (hammock used for suspension), Prenatal, Power Flow (ultimate workout for athletes), and 108 Greetings. Custom sessions can be arranged by Karim Fadali.
Classes are typically held in the Yoga Shala which consists of two beach studios connected by a lotus pond and facing the sea. Groups may rent the space for private retreats as they did during my stay so guests met in an open air space (see below). Sara, our excellent German instructor, lives in Cairo. Like the best teachers, she is creative, kind, soulful, and a learner herself. She was excited about taking her first surf lesson after our yoga class. My classmates were European as well– some there with partners and others solo. We “sent love to the flies”–pests in the Taghazout region at times– but packing insect repellent might also be a good idea. The small community made it possible to meet other guests in classes and connect with them at the poolside buffets or bars later.
I left feeling refreshed and restored by the beauty of nature and yoga. I loved seeing smiles on surfers’ faces when they did what we all must do to navigate and enjoy life– conquer fear, be flexible and strong, and stand tall as we ride the waves.
Thanks to Paradis Plage for a restful retreat. As always, the opinions are my own.
Recently I stayed at 5-star Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa, just named continental winner of “Luxury Wedding Destination in Africa” by the 2015 Luxury Hotel Awards. My time there was perfection. Though I endorse travel for all, I especially encourage single women waiting for a prince to live happily-after-after to find your bliss now at places that will make your dreams come true. At the premier hotel on beautiful Agadir Bay you don’t have to be on a honeymoon to be pampered like a new bride. In fact, any lady here will be given princess treatment.
When I moved to Marrakech to write, teach English, and travel, I began asking students where their families stay when vacationing. The answer was always the same.
In Paris? Sofitel. London? Sofitel. Rome? Sofitel. Morocco? Sofitel.
Such big brand loyalty (120 hotels on five continents in 40 countries) in the age of hip default to indie companies got my attention. But then again, I’ve always appreciated timeless, classic quality.
The French company committed to total well-being first opened its doors in Strasbourg in 1964. Dedicated to superior service infused with the celebration of art de vivre, each hotel provides cultural experiences from not only France but also each host country in which it is located. Showcasing the best artwork, literature, music, fashion, architecture, gardens, fitness, wines and foods, the hotel beckons guests to experience the sweet life layer by delicious layer. Like bees burrowing gently into the rose— velvet petal by velvet petal—drinking nectar that will become honey in the hive, guests enter space after space of palpable beauty in interactions that feed the soul. Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa stimulates every sense—from plush decor to soothing sounds of fountains and sea to a signature scent, Jatamansi, found only in the Himalayas. Jatamansi, also known as “nard” smells of citrus, ylang ylang and mountains and has so many medicinal powers it is considered sacred in some countries. I left filled, relaxed, energized, healed.
But beyond all these offerings, what makes the Sofitel the Sofitel is the people who work here. From the moment I walked through the doors everyone–from doorman to gardener to manager — greeted me by name. I arrived feeling ill–a situation that could have been a nightmare when traveling alone–but I quickly learned I couldn’t have been in better hands. The staff offered to get me medicine and kindly brought me treats to feel better–Chamomile tea, sweets and fruit, two dozen roses. I am forever grateful for their professional, superior service. Rightfully called, the So Staff is the best in the business.
Photo by Sofitel
I was welcomed at the door of La Maison Arabe, the reception area in a traditional riad with contemporary black and white design, and served mint tea and Moroccan cookies while the staff checked me in.
In the gallery on display were thirty works by Younes Fizazi in a collection called “Moroccans Landscapes, Richness and Diversity.” Shots of the Atlas Mountains and Merzouga desert allowed me to relive great trips taken last fall and spring, but having just arrived from the surf town of Taghazout , I especially loved this photograph.
I was excited to see the pool and beach areas next. So Gorgeous.
The spacious suite was sumptuous, and I was especially thrilled with my three favorite elements — the terrace, bed, and bathtub (something I miss most in my Marrakech apartment). This one offered the best of both worlds–a soak with a view–so first on my agenda was a bubble bath followed by a massage.
My only complaint was the Sofitel MyBed which abducted me –a custom made mattress, featherbed, down duvet, and sleek, soft sheets. After my massage, I took a nap and slept for hours. 🙂
After breakfast I went to play in the next door neighbor’s backyard–Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay, recipient of “Luxury Beach Resort in Morocco” by the 2015 Luxury Hotel Awards. Of its many distinctions, Sofitel Morocco was selected to host the first Kids’ Villa offering educational programs, pastry classes, belly dance, gardening workshops, swimming, aerobics, and a library for children. The honor was bestowed because The Little Prince was born in the imagination of Antoine de Saint Exupery in Morocco.
A winter holiday destination that offers sun- by- day and fire- by- night, Sofitel invites reflecting on the past year and dreaming of the one to come. Photo by Sofitel
Agadir, “Pearl of the South,” is a three-hour flight from major European cities. It’s where Europe migrates in winter to enjoy 300 days of sunshine each year and the Sofitel experience– timeless as Coco Chanel, delicious as Crème brûlée, and exotic as only Morocco.
Special thanks to Sofitel and Soukaina Ghallab for an unforgettable experience. As always, the opinions are my own.
When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. —Rainer Maria Rilke
When drowned by stress, I go to one of my Happy Places which is often the ocean.
In my 2015 travels one of my happiest solo travel stays was at Hotel Santa Marta –a beauty break amidst botanical gardens winding down, down, down to the shore. Sheer. Bliss.
The near 15-acre (6-hectare) estate is located on its own private bay, Santa Cristina, and was chosen for the opening night party of this year’s European Travel Bloggers Exchange. I had already booked a stay there for a restful retreat after the networking/workshops of the conference ended, but by the time the ship reached sand I was in love with a wonderland lit by sunset.
The Spanish Mediterranean coast is as beautiful as beaches in Southern Italy and France. I was there in spring when, like late fall/winter low season, a single sea view room can be as low as 115 Euro per night. I love boutique hotels for their privacy, but plan ahead because this paradise stays booked, particularly by Europeans who vacation along Costa Brava in high season.
The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.— Kate Chopin
The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.–Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I loved swimming in the pool and sea, writing on the balcony, and sleeping to the sound of waves in the ultimate room with a view. It’s the perfect solo, group, or romantic retreat in Lloret de Mar.
I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.–-Anna Quindlen
For more on the beauty of Girona and the Costa Brava Coast, see my 5-Part Series (links below) and go here for more information.