I’d had enough-work headaches, boy dramas-done with all of it. I needed to get outta Dodge in the worst way and get some change o’ scenery. I called up my friend Miss Bliss from Ol’ Miss, a lively Southern pistol who felt the same way; so, we packed our bags for a girls’ weekend in Denver. I’m a sucker for travel promotions that sound like they can pass for B-movie titles, so when I’d heard about a “Pretty in Pink Getaway Weekend” at the historic Hotel Teatro, downtown no less, we headed up, up, and away toward the Mile-High City.
Denver is perched at the exact spot where the Great Plains end and the West begins. Look one way and it is a Kansas wheat field as far as the eye can see. Turn your head 180 degrees and the topography goes the opposite extreme as the Rockies present an impenetrable force of granite and, often, snow. But that would be for another trip; this one was about simple escape. The only mandatory gear I wanted to worry about was a credit card, lipstick, camera, and cell phone.
We pulled up to the Hotel Teatro’s ornate gray brick building, entered the small marble-floored lobby, and immediately fell in love with the elaborate theater gowns and costumes encased in glass on the wall, costumes used by the nearby Denver Opera. (Hotel Teatro occupies a building originally built in 1911, as the Denver Tramway Building, but the site was the first location of the Evans Mansion, home of John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor.)
We were given the best greeting two thirsty girls could ask for-generous cosmopolitans. Ah, just the ticket. We were also given a thick packet of information about the Cherry Creek Mall, including a “passport” with various discounts on stores in the mall with a shuttle provided, of course.
Though we packed light, we let a handsome young man take our bags and escort us to our room (sticking to our resolve of remaining open to all perks). Our corner room greeted us with two hot-pink feather boas, chocolate truffles, a warm welcome note, and a pink fur-framed itinerary. Each room has a stone Buddha-an actual purchase made overseas by the owner.
I heard a Southern-tinged squeal in the bathroom. “Girl!” Bliss squeaked, “come look at this bathtub! My ass is totally soaking in that later. Srrrrriously.” Splendiferous, the tub was indeed. But once I got a gander at the shower : now that was love at first sight. With multiple shower heads coming out at different points in the wall, I knew this would be no ordinary relationship. Much as we adored the bathroom, we had one important criticism: To ensure a successful girls’ weekend-take out the weight scale!
We took up the delicious concierge, Andrew, on his offer and called down for restaurant recommendations. Andrew gave us several suggestions and we picked a Cuban place nearby, the Samba Room, which best fit our festive mood. (Notably, he did not suggest the hotel’s own high-end restaurants, Kevin Taylor and Prima. Perhaps there is some sort of business agreement or else management thought we didn’t have the right duds or might embarrass them-both highly likely.) The concierge got us a reservation for 8 p.m., and in the meantime we enjoyed our cocktails, the truffles, and a sparkling view of the city. We also called people we knew, just to rub it in.
And so, Bliss, I, and the two pink boas headed out into the night. Folks loved ’em, especially the fellas; we took compliments and smiles all evening. After window shopping along Larimer Street, a city block beautifully crisscrossed with hanging lights, we came upon our destination.
The Samba Room is a lively scene, bustling like one big colorful hive. The room sported a good-lookin’ crowd with a fairly high noise level, which is what we wanted. After a short wait, we were shown a quiet corner table upstairs. Immediately, we ordered mojitos-mine a regular and Bliss’s a cranberry. They were way too strong and neither of us could finish them. Different story on the food. It was incredible. We started with tempura coconut shrimp. Man, that hit the spot. I had the Chilean sea bass and Bliss loved the crispy Florida red snapper. We sampled one another’s dishes and she declared, “Mine’s better than yours.” I disagreed.
Our waiter gave us a wine recommendation that did us right. Toasted Head Chardonnay, California 2005, unbelievably crisp. I was so impressed, I have since bought other varieties from this same winery. Several dishes and drinks later, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy our sumptuous room. As Bliss soaked in bubbles, I watched TV.
In the morning, I awoke to a mountain view and the welcome knock of room service. Bliss had been up for hours but I am one of those mole-like creatures who wears ear plugs and eye pillows and must have 90 percent of all senses blocked off before the brain will allow me rest. Morning is not a gentle time for me, it is harsh. Fortunately, as expected, my morning shower was a joyous occasion. Just trust me on that.
Our breakfast kicked off with mimosas and my favorite breakfast decadence, eggs benedict. Soon, the phone rang-our toes had appointments that must be kept. A car and driver, we were told, would collect us in 15 minutes. At this point, I realized I had only packed my cowboy boots, no open-toed nothing to protect my new varnished tootsies. D’oh!
As was the theme, a handsome man (a new one) introduced himself as our driver. We headed for Spa and were greeted by a friendly spa hostess. She gave us a quick tour of the place, each of the themed massage rooms, and introduced us to our manicurists, Jack and Diane, for the day. Wisely, they took us upstairs, where Bliss and I could chatter at peak volume. I then caused a minor pedicure scandal by choosing two colors for alternating toes. “I like to maximize my options,” I always say. Why this practice is not more common beyond 14-year-old girls is beyond me.
Coming back to the bosom of Hotel Teatro with our new fancy feet was bittersweet-our stay was nearly over. Before leaving, we inquired about a tour of the penthouse, the place where Bono stays when he comes through town. The manager, David Craig, was happy to oblige. With a large living/meeting space area twice the size of my apartment, I can tell you that the view from the top is breathtaking, suitable for rock stars and mere mortals alike.
The Teatro also provided us with complimentary tickets to the nearby Denver Art Museum; we were excited to check out the funky new Frederick C. Hamilton Building designed by Daniel Libeskind. With its sharp steel angles (word is there’s not a curve to be found), the new building is an artwork unto its own-it invokes the imagery of grand steel ships in mid collision. Outside, the courtyard offers an oversized sculpture of a spider, a cow, and a broom-dustpan combo. Inside, the museum presented everything from pop art to Western-themed landscapes, copper sculptures to vintage photography. We dug it. Bliss, a talented artist in her own right, offered a succinct art review while looking over one loud canvas. “Damn!” she said, in her thick Southern accent. “Gives me a feelin’.” Which pretty much sums up our spontaneous Mile-High weekend.
Hotel Teatro: 1100 14th St.; (303) 228-1100; hotelteatro.com
Samba Room: 1460 Larimer St.; (720) 956-1701; sambaroom.net
Denver Art Museum: 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.; (720) 865-5000; denverartmuseum.org
Spa Universaire: 475 W. 12th Ave., #D; (303) 629-9070; spauniversaire.com.
Santa Barbara Airport: flysba.com