My wife, Sara, and I managed a quick little getaway to celebrate our 31st anniversary this past week. This was only the second time since the COVID hit the fan that we’ve travelled out of town. For the most part, we’re fine with that. We’re basically homebodies anyway, but it still gets to feeling stifling sometimes.
We were ready to go low-key for this anniversary, just grabbing some great local take-out to eat at home. But then I remembered how we postponed any celebratory travel last anniversary until the fall— by which time, travel was inadvisable. So, I started wondering about a quick getaway somewhere nearby where we could still feel safe from possible exposure. Surely I could find something special that fit the bill, maybe even just a day trip to the Garden of the Gods. Or a overnight stay nearby. We managed it to find a great place to relax at the end of July, staying in a retro-trailer home on a goat ranch outside of Salida.
My lodging search nearby turned up multiple intriguing options but the one that caught my eye was the Cliff House at Pike’s Peak. Particularly when I saw a half-price deal on their “Celebrity Suites.” Nothing to sweeten the deal like a bargain!
First, we headed to the Garden of the Gods. Being outdoors, it was easier to feel safe around people, which was good because there were a lot of people there. We stopped at the Central Garden parking lot and took a brief stroll. Most people were masked and seemed to be at least trying to maintain some proper distancing. Not everyone was, though, and with a constant flow of people in small groups up and down the trail, we still felt a little uneasy about being around so many people from so many places. We also got pretty quickly winded, between the added elevation (Cañon City is about a mile high at 5331 feet, Garden of the Gods is about 6300) and keeping our masks on. We headed back to the car and drove on through the park, wandering around through the park briefly before leaving.
On to the Cliff House — the oldest operating hotel in Colorado — we ventured, checking into our Firestone Suite. That turned out to be in 4th floor of one of the turret towers, directly under a tall conical peak. I wish I could show you how tall it looked inside, but I couldn’t get a picture that really showed that well. I particularly loved spotting the subtly hidden water pipe leading up to the in-room fire protection sprinkler near the top of the cone — nearly 20 feet above us!
It was not exactly a large room but well-appointed, as they say. We had the best hotel bed either of us could remember, two comfortably soft sitting chairs, and a faux fireplace. Given that most hotels only give you one sitting chair (maybe soft & comfy, maybe not), having two was delightful. Mind you, Sara spent more time lying on the bed than in either chair, but it did feel somewhat luxurious just to have two seats.
Gotta tell ya, it was mostly a simple getaway for these old newlyweds. We did walk around the area near the Cliff House briefly to window shop, stopping to buy fudge and Christmas ornaments. As we strolled the mostly empty streets, I could see how it would draw throngs of summer visitors and I felt a little spoiled, seeing it so empty, like we had somehow happened to stumble across a carefully kept local secret, this post-holiday slow season.
We were on a splurge, so we decided to take advantage of the hotel’s fine dining. Still a little leery of crowds though, we opted for room service — and, oh, what a meal! The room service menu does not offer everything available in the dining room, but we did quite well regardless. I went for a brisket sandwich, since barbecue is not something widely available here (still searching for closer options I can try). I did find the differences in terminology from Texas terms amusing. It was listed as a “beef brisket sandwich.” Um..brisket is beef. What else would it be? Chicken brisket? Shrimp brisket? Veggie brisket? No matter — this brisket sandwich was delicious, was what it was.
But the real prize was Sara’s filet mignon, served with sautéed asparagus and baby carrots. She pronounced the meal amazing. Or was it “perfect”? I wish I could remember her exact phrasing. But from the first bite of the steak, she was moaning in pleasure. She also praised the veggies, noting that she rarely praises veggies, liking them a bit more in the abstract generally. But, no, she cleaned the plate this time.
Watching old movies is pretty standard hotel fare for us, especially either finding something new and unavailable at home, or an old favorite you haven’t thought of in a long time. So, we caught two old movies, “Pretty Woman” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Maybe you might consider watching old movies in a hotel room boring, but it was the height of luxury for our getaway.
That’s not exactly true, though.
The true height of luxury would have to be our high-tech toilet. You might even say it was the seat of luxury (kinda like the lap of luxury). It came with one of those softly colored lights in the bowl, casting a gentle blue glow from the bathroom in the night, a nice touch for nocturnal visits.
But the seat warmer function was a new one for me. Sure, I know about seat warmers in cars and how what might seem like a pointless luxury can quickly become a welcome pleasure you truly savor. Heated toilet seats could become just as addictive, I suspect. Our toilet seat had 3 heat settings. Personally, I found the low setting just fine with the middle setting almost a little too warm. High setting would probably give you “hot cross buns.”
We wandered our way home slowly the next day, searching out side streets to avoid the highway as long as possible before rolling home by the early afternoon. A most pleasant respite from our regular life.