Time was flying. Mornings would roll easy in endless cups of tea. We cooked together a little bit: the flan, and some mutsch, and drank more tea in between, including a tisane made with wild roses and linden blossoms and bracts foraged and generously shared by her friend. Linden blossoms can also be used in much the same way as calamondins to make a liqueur.
On our second, and last weekend in Colorado, we headed to Winter Park. Medha had picked a test-center near Winter Park and she and D had left a day earlier so that she could take her test and still be able to spend the weekend with us.
All of Boulder was out on their cycles that day for a race and we kept at a safe distance from them all. The scenic Trail Ridge Road took us into the Rocky Mountain National Parks at Estes Park. The entry sign here, also known as Patel Point to some, was our first photo opp. We checked off the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, a National Landmark site, designed by Frank Llyod Wright’s office Taliesin Associated Architects, following his death. The visitor center also plays tribute to conservationist Stephen Mather who led a public campaign that was instrumental in the setting up of the US National Park Service in 1916.
India urgently needs to put in place a similar organisation that can manage our parks and sanctuaries and protect their natural character before it is destroyed by unchecked tourism and development in its name. We need the best talent in the country to work in such areas instead of following the sorry L1 model of awarding public projects to the lowest bidder that creates the shoddy architecture we see all around us today. In a recent presentation for a project of national significance I had the peon and one managerial staff evaluating the ‘technical proposal’ (design), deciding on its merits, and whether it warranted the opening of the financial proposal. The award of projects at 0.4 % fee is so ludicrous that it’s a wonder we still have students wanting to go through the rigorous 5-year architecture programs to become architects! We ought to have the same process for selecting doctors for the bureaucrats who support this rule. That should lead to a quick solution, one way or another. But, I digress.
We continued our climb along the Trail Ridge Road above the snowline into the tundra landscape and arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center which was still partially covered with snow in June. The Alpine Visitor Center and portions of the Trail Ridge Road stay closed from October to June. Even at the peak of winter the temperatures inside the building rarely fall below 20 F because of the thick snow cover that insulates the building! There was wildlife to be spotted along the way – moose, elk, deer, marmots, tame squirrels, and err… species of birds!
We chose the cute Pepe Osaka’s Fishtaco in downtown Winter Park for lunch and met up with Medha and D over Mexican-Asian fish tacos and spicy margaritas. After lunch we arrived at the homestay property – our abode for the weekend. The views to the surrounding mountains from all around the house were spectacular! This is the spot Manisha had chosen for an early birthday party for me! A quick visit to the supermarket to stock up on fresh vegetables and fruits, and the all-important limes, of course, and we were all set. Manisha made quick work of dinner (she really was a blur of action!) with a Thai-style curry and rice and we all sat around to margaritas (yes, she had put simple syrup on the list!) and all kinds of munchies after watching the sun set the sky on fire as it went down. Medha played my favourite music on a music system that the techies jugado-ed by stealing speakers from a computer from the office on the lower floor. We just hope they didn’t have a hidden camera somewhere. It was a wonderful night, one to remember.
After a lazy morning we flipped through some activity brochures and picked out a mountain trail to hike later in the afternoon. But, first, we headed for brunch at Denos Mountain Bistro. There were some hits and some misses after the over-the-top-joyful introduction of the new waitress by the other waiter. We got to watch a convoy of 25 fancy cars come up and park right by us, along both sides of the road, all driven by older people (like me, but older still!). This was something we came across a few times – ‘active adults’ having their vacations, driving in convoys of a specific fancy car-type. Americans, the young and those not so young, know how to have a good time!
On our return we decided to take the shorter, somewhat less-scenic route, the I 25. While navigating rush hour traffic we decided it was best to stop in Boulder for dinner and there was sushi still on the list waiting to be struck off. We three had never had sushi before so we let Manisha order for us at the Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar. The accompanying sake, from Sayuri, Japan, was served in a cute decanter that had a pocket for ice cubes! I need to eat sushi and sashimi a few times before I can give my final verdict on it. For now, I’ll put on record that I don’t dislike it. It does not taste raw, it does not smell fishy, and the pickled ginger and wasabi are great condiments! 🙂
After dinner we strolled down Pearl Street Mall, a popular pedestrian space with flowers and trees, water and sculptures, and also a few street artistes to liven up the weekend scene. We shopped for souvenirs and then Manisha treated us, inline with tonight’s dinner choice, to mochi ice cream – delicious ice cream morsels made more interesting with an outer chewy layer of pounded glutinous rice. I loved it! You’ll be happy to know that it is now available in Delhi as well!
The next morning we managed a walk through Manisha’s beloved open space so that I may see her lake and her tree, and her zigzag, and know them personally. Ani came along and I and Manisha pointed out edible wild plants to him – there was hund (dandelion), obuj (wild sorrel) and sotchal (common mallow) among many others.
All good things come to an end and our first visit with Manisha was drawing to a close. We would be leaving for a two-week road trip the following day. But, not before one last party – another BBQ and lots and lots of classic lime margaritas on the rocks!
Manisha and her family were the most gracious hosts. From little things like the array of toiletries in the bathroom (even a tweezer! 😉 ), to indulging the foodie in me, to ensuring we had cellphone connectivity for our entire stay in the US, there was nothing she hadn’t anticipated or planned for. To prepare us for the road trip ahead, they happily gave the wheels to V for a day so he could familiarise himself with a left-hand drive. But for her, this visit to the US would have been a completely different story. Thank you, M and family, you’re the best!