Telluride, Monument Valley and the Oscars

In Living Color:  Monument Valley

In Living Color: Monument Valley

How about those Oscars? Wasn’t it a great show? I was thrilled that I had seen most of the films nominated for an award here in our little mountain town of Telluride, Colorado way back in September. Yes, just as in recent years, many of the movies that gained high acclaim from the Academy of Motion Pictures were shown here in T-ride—either as premiers or sneak peeks—during the Telluride Film Festival (TFF) long before they were officially released. Telluride’s selection of films seems to be filled with Oscar contenders more so than the lineups presented at other renowned film festivals in New York, Venice and Toronto.

Much of the Oscar buzz takes place before and after this annual awards show. I was thrilled to tune into CBS Sunday Morning, one of my all-time favorite TV shows, to see Monument Valley:  Mother Nature’s scene stealing movie star, last Sunday. It was a wonderful segment that featured the extraordinary sense of place of this iconic site and the many Oscar-worthy movies filmed there including “The Searchers,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump” and many more. This majestic landscape has appeared in dozens of films as well as countless commercials. Almost a half a million visitors go to Monument Valley every year, largely because of the prominence it has enjoyed in the movies. Thanks to Harry Gouding and his wife, Leone (known as Mike), film director John Ford discovered Monument Valley and its perfect setting for great western movies and feature films. This was highlighted in the CBS piece although Goulding’s Lodge and its terrific Trading Post Museum, which also showcases the history of movie-making in the area, were scarcely mentioned.

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Passport to Paris at the Denver Art Museum

The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet

The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet

THIS JUST IN as of February 5:  The Nature as Muse:  Impressionist Landscapes from the Frederic C. Hamilton Collection of DAM has been extended through March 24.

Allez vite, vite, vite! Go fast! Only about ten days remain for you to see the magnificent Passport to Paris exhibition at the Denver Art Museum (DAM). I went earlier in the month and it felt like I was transported to Paree for an hour and a half of sheer delight. Truly my heart sang as I wended my way through the suite of three exhibitions that make up this show, a smartly-chosen trifecta that focuses on French art from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. From the grand works executed during the reign of Louis XIV through the more well known paintings of Poussin, Boucher, Pissarro, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and other greats, here French culture and society are revealed to the visitor in one of the most effective manners I’ve ever seen. As you saunter through the galleries that make up this show, it’s easy to understand how Paris became the center of culture and the tastemaker for all of Europe.

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Post Telluride Film Festival Reflections

TFF Banner Over Main Street

TFF Banner Over Main Street

Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave in Telluride

Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave in Telluride

When was the last time you saw a double feature at the movies? Well, I went to one three nights in a row this past week and I’m still processing my emotions from what I took in. I watched films that inspired and moved me, entertained and informed, some of which have been billed as big contenders for this year’s Oscars. (See Can Telluride Continue to Steal Venice and Toronto’s Thunder? and In Toronto, the Oscar Smackdown Gets an Early Start) No, I don’t live in New York or L.A. This wonderful opportunity for film viewing was provided yet again here in Telluride, Colorado as part of the after-the-festival doings of the Telluride Film Festival. These three evenings of post festival movie watching have always been one of my favorite parts of this great festival and as time goes on and the festival rises in importance, I realize just how lucky I am to take in these films, some of which were shown as sneak peeks at this year’s 40th anniversary festival, scooping other world renowned festivals such as those of Venice, Toronto and New York. (Read Film Reviews from the Telluride Film Festival:  Alexander Payne and Many More Pleasures and for more of the lowdown.)

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Telluride Film Festival Celebrates Forty Years

Hot Off the Press:  Bruce Dern and Robert Redford

Hot Off the Press: Bruce Dern and Robert Redford at this Year’s Telluride Film Festival

I’m powering through this post, since I have to head out soon to work at a Telluride Film Festival event for VIPs. No one is especially starstruck in Telluride, including me. But still, Robert Redford is in town (a big first) with other notables such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ralph Fiennes, Joyce Maynard and who knows who else will be a part of this year’s fortieth annual Telluride Film Festival. “Gravity,” a film starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is set to premiere at The Werner Herzog, film fest’s new theater, so those two biggies just might show up as well. No, I’m not starstruck but it is fun to get up close and personal with these film-world forces, particularly when you see them relaxed and happy in our beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado.

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The Lone Ranger Showcases Monument Valley, Southwest Colorado and More


The Lone Ranger and Tonto in Monument Valley

The Lone Ranger and Tonto in Monument Valley

“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!”

Such are the famous words shouted by the Lone Ranger as this masked man gallops off on Silver, his handsome white stallion, the same words shouted by kids throughout the decades as they head off on an adventure. Ever since the original radio show aired in 1933, through the popular TV series of the forties and fifties, across the pages of comic books and then highlighted in films, “Hi-Yo Silver!” has captured the excitement and dashing spirit of the West for the better part of a century.

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French Village Diaries: Books, Cakes, French Life and More

Jacqui Brown

With ski season behind me, I suddenly have a voracious appetite for reading. I always want to read and to me, it’s one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities in the world. But during ski season I’m exhausted in the evenings and tend to just zone out in front of the TV and then head to bed before there’s time for a leisurely read. (Also,  I often stay up late when engrossed in a good book and that certainly doesn’t gel with a ski instructor’s need for a long, fat sleep.)

Being the Francophile that I am, I love reading books set in France. Whether it’s Paris or the provinces, if the writing is rich, I relish being instantly transported to my beloved land. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered Jaqui Brown’s charming website/blog, French Village Diaries. There you may delve into an abundance of book reviews on books relating to France and then shop in her online bookstore which features titles she has reviewed and more. Jacqui, a Brit that moved to France in 2004 with her British husband, scours the internet for the most interesting reads on her adopted country. That’s how she found my book, A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, and then wrote it up at French Village Diaries.

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Denver Holiday Highlights

Denver Zoo Lights

It’s been snowing like crazy here in Colorado for almost twenty-four hours. It looks like the ski resorts will be shaping up nicely  just in time for holiday travelers. I’ll be providing those snow reports soon enough but for now, I want to clue you in on some of Denver’s highlights. Many travelers will be stopping off in Denver on their way to or from the mountains, so here are some of my recommendations for this festive season.

Denver’s performing arts scene ranks as one of the most vibrant in the country. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is actually comprised of many theaters that provide a range of talent and performances second to Broadway. If you act fast, you still might be able to land some tickets to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a classic production based on the renowned film of the same name that’s playing now through Christmas Eve. Dixie’s Tupperware Party serves up a bowlful of fun through December 30 complete with funny tales, free Tupperware giveaways, audience participation and laughs for those sixteen years of age and up. As always, DCPA has announced a stellar lineup of shows for 2013 including War Horse which opens January 8.

Van Gogh Wheat Field

Van Gogh Self Portrait with Straw Hat

Culture, culture, culture—I can’t get enough of it when I’m in Denver and thankfully there’s plenty to take in at all times. I love hitting the Denver Art Museum (DAM) whether it’s to go to one of their spectacular shows or to check out some of their collections. (Their American Indian Art is very rich. Hey, this is the West, isn’t it?) Carve out time for both their temporary and permanent exhibitions and be sure to shop in their Museum Shop, a great resource for creative gift items for you and treasured loved ones and friends. Becoming Van Gogh is the show of the moment, a lovely exhibition I took in in November. I was saddened to learn that this great artist’s career only lasted ten years, but what a decade that was as you’ll find out at this in-depth exploration of his work. The show runs through January 20; be sure to reserve online since many of the time slots are already sold out.

I say make it a whole day at DAM and plan to have lunch or brunch at Palettes, the contemporary-styled museum restaurant right across from the Hamilton Building, owned and operated by the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group. For over a decade and a half, Palettes has been presenting fine food to discriminating foodies in this bright and airy decor. Best of all, the staff here knows how to reply to the demands of hurried museum goers—they also gladly accommodate diners that choose to swill wine at their table for hours. I love the French flair of the whole menu, something Palettes has taken to more delightful bon vivant heights in honor of the Van Gogh show. They have, in fact, created a Becoming Van Gogh menu, a three-course prix fixe extravaganza—including French specialties such as coq au vin—that will leave you feeling like you just stepped away from a wonderful bistrot in Paris, or even better, Arles. If you want to take the Van Gogh theme even further, choose from one of the restaurant’s featured Van Gogh cocktails, enticing concoctions prepared with Van Gogh Vodka. Mais bien sur.

Palettes at DAM

Fine Food at Palettes for Discerning Museum Goers

Reserve your evening dining for the Larimer Square area, the most happening part of Denver in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown). This place goes off from happy hour until the wee hours of the morning. I recently experienced Rioja, a busy, noisy, vibrant restaurant that’s clearly one of the most popular spots on the block. With a crowd as sophisticated as Rioja’s innovative cuisine, come here to take in Denver’s cosmopolitan scene. (Made up of young movers and shakers, many of whom are affiliated with green industries and Internet technology, it’s no wonder the mile-high city is fun for visitors and residents alike.) From the gorgeous selection of bread presented at the beginning to the poached pears I savored at the end, every part of my meal here tantalized my senses. Largely known for her handmade pastas, Chef Jen also wields a strong hand with regional specialties such as Colorado lamb and pan roasted venison. A nice, robust glass of Rioja at Rioja is a must and here they know how to recommend the best. Make that two.

Rioja on Lovely Larimer Square

Rioja Before the Crowd Arrives

My Handsome Dinner Date in Front of His Rioja Picnic: a trio of artisan meats, warm pine nut crusted goat cheese, Italian Mountain gorgonzola, olives, truffle fennel salad, orange confit and almonds

For a more subdued ambiance, perhaps by the fire, go to Randolph’s, one of my favorite addresses housed within the Denver Warwick Hotel. Chef Jean Claude Cavalera consistently woos diners with his own smoked salmon—a major component of holiday feasts in France—served on house made country bread with its traditional accompaniments all year round. His filet mignon is one of the most tender and flavorful you’ll ever taste. The crowd varies from quiet and calm during most times to large and celebratory on holidays. With special Christmas Day brunch and New Year’s Eve menus at a prix fixe that represent excellent price/quality relationships, it’s no wonder Randolph’s receives such high marks. Thankfully the smoked salmon is on both menus along with an array of other fresh and delectable offerings.

Randolph’s Romantic Interior Replete with a Red Rose on Every Table

Randolph’s Melt-in-Your-Mouth Smoked Salmon

By now, you’re perhaps wondering about shopping. Aside from a handful of lovely boutiques in the Larimer Square area, I think Cherry Creek offers the best shopping scene in Denver. Read Cherry Creek:  One of America’s Top Spots for Chic Shopping, Lodging and Dining to find out more. Sadly, I’ve become less and less of a fan of the 16th Street Mall scene, however, you might have fun poking around there.

Elephant Lights at the Denver Zoo

And how about something special for the kids? Take in Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo, every night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. through January 2. With more than 150 animated animal sculptures illuminated throughout this spectacular zoo, you’ll be oohing and ahhhing, too. Plus, it’s fun to share our love and celebrate this exciting time of the year with the animals, too.

Happy holidays to all!

Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the DCPA

Thank you DAM, DCPA, Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, Rioja, Randolph’s, the Denver Zoological Foundation and my iPhone for the above images.

Halloween and the Telluride Horror Show

Game of Werewolves

What are you doing this Halloween? Are you going to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve? Will you toast the dead? Get spooked? Go out and get scary?

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