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March 5, 2008

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Where's Lisa?                                 BOULDER, CO



A weekend in Boulder, Colorado
Rest, relaxation and good food await at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa.
By Lisa Tucker McElroy

I get off the plane in Denver to find that the Denver airport is a maze. You have to take one of those pokey trams to get from the gate to the baggage claim -- and I'm just ready to start the spa vacation I've flown here for. Luckily, it doesn't take nearly as long as I expect to make my way through to the ground transportation desk and the ride to Boulder is just the right length ... long enough for me to admire the mountains, but short enough that I'm not incredibly restless.

Pulling up to the St. Julien, it's immediately apparent that my long trip from Philadelphia was worth it. The circular drive at the entrance surrounds a pretty fountain and the façade is made out of Colorado stone. Nice. The lobby doesn't disappoint, either. I love the Craftsman-style wood used throughout, including at the registration desk, where there's a bowl of apples for the taking for hungry travelers. Upon check-in, I'm offered a bottle of water and am reminded about altitude sickness; hydration is key. What's weird is that it's true -- I'm already starting to feel the effects of being at 5,280 feet. I'm tired, thirsty, even a little crabby. The sun pouring in through the floor-to-ceiling windows should make me feel better, but all I want to do is nap.

The idea of a nap becomes even more appealing once I arrive at my room. I imagine spending my whole Colorado weekend right here. For one, the view from the window is not to be believed. It's like the mountains are actually coming right into my room. It's pretty amazing. Even better, there's a cozy robe waiting on the bed for me, notes of alternative jazz music float from the CD player and the linens on the four-poster bed make me want to sink into them and never get up. I head into the bathroom to splash some water on my face and I'm even happier. There's a Jacuzzi tub, a walk-in shower, really nice bath products ... and the towels look softer and fluffier than the ones I have at home. I decide to take to the tub, then kick back in bed for a snooze. Colorado will still be there when I wake up.

When I wake an hour later, I feel better and I'm ready to explore. I wander back downstairs, through the lobby and out to the terrace where there's an arched gazebo that looks like it would be a great place for a wedding. Then I head back into the lobby for one of St. Julien's signature events: afternoon tea. I choose a table by the indoor/outdoor fireplace where I can see out to the courtyard.

They really mean it when they call afternoon tea an event. Seated at the table next to mine are several older women in purple suits and red hats. They look like they're having a blast and they tell me that tea at the St. Julien is a tradition for them. I ask them what I should have and they tell me to have it all! I'm hungry, so I agree. While I listen to live music, the waitress brings me fresh homemade scones (complete with crème fraiche, lemon curd and jam), delicate sandwiches (like cucumber and green chutney with mascarpone on house-made brioche and mustard chicken salad with pine nuts and currants on croissant) and petit fours. I refill my pot of chamomile tisane tea several times. I soak in the afternoon sun, sip my tea and think that this is what a weekend away should be about: rest, relaxation, good food, good music and sunshine.

I've heard about the hotel's on-site spa and I'm psyched to try one of their signature treatments. I opt for a two-hour scrub/massage combo, this one with olive oil. Apparently, olive oil has regenerating power on the skin tissue and has the ability to regulate the natural moisturizing system of the skin. Sounds good to me! The massage therapist uses finely ground olive pits to scrub my skin, then has me rinse off in the in-room shower. Just when I was feeling scratchy but exfoliated, she wraps me in foil-like stuff and olive body butter while she massages my scalp. After an hour of exfoliating and baking, I'm treated to a 50-minute full body massage with extra-virgin Olivina massage oil, which is rich in antioxidants and contains grapeseed and avocado oils. I emerge feeling like a noodle, but clean and oxidized and everything else I'm supposed to feel after a day at the spa. I head upstairs to shower and change for dinner.

After a chocolate martini at the T-Zero Lounge, I head to dinner at Jill's Restaurant, the fine dining spot at the St. Julien. At first glance, Jill's seems like most other nice hotel restaurants, but soon, it's pretty clear that this place is different. For one, it's really spacious. There's a fireplace and the walls are largely made of large glass panels studded with leaves. While I'm there, the restaurant is previewing its Zero Carbon Footprint Wine Dinner, set to launch in March 2008. Executive Chef Jason Rogers, along with the Benzinger Family Winery (leaders in biodynamic farming) will be offsetting the carbon footprint of all the food and wine used in this meal by biking to work, recycling, and engaging in other environmentally friendly activities. I'm not too sure about this concept at first, but the fig dessert and the amazing selection of wines quickly win me over. Because I'm on east coast time and Colorado's two hours behind, the wine pretty much puts me to sleep. I can't wait to crawl back into that four-poster bed. St. Julien Hotel & Spa, 900 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO 80302, Tel: 720-406-9696.

The good thing about being two hours behind is that waking up early is a piece of cake. I catch the sunrise out my window as I sit and drink my coffee and think about how to spend the day. I decide to start by taking a walk a couple of blocks to Pearl Street, Boulder's most popular street for shops, restaurants and bars. It's a pedestrian walkway, so I don't even have to worry about traffic and I'm pretty much the only one out here except for joggers and dog walkers. Does everyone in Boulder have a dog? It sure seems like it. I peek into a bunch of windows; I'm especially drawn by an independent bookstore that looks full of not-so-mainstream reads and a chocolate shop that makes a million different kinds and shapes of chocolate. Maybe I'll stop back later when they're open. Right now, I'm getting breakfast.

Ask pretty much anyone in Boulder where to get the best breakfast and they'll send you straight to Lucile's. The Cajun-style restaurant is in an old house just off Pearl Street, so you have to look hard for it. I would be more lost if it weren't for the people lined up outside before the place opened at 8am. As soon as the hostess unlocks the doors, everyone in line stampedes, leaving me standing on the doorstep, unsure where to go. The hostess guides me to a table for three but warns me that Lucile's offers community seating, so others might be joining me. I'm not too excited by that prospect, but I am jazzed by the offer of hot beignets with powdered sugar, chicory coffee, porridge, bacon, and the fluffiest biscuits I've ever seen in my life. This from a girl who grew up in the south. I like the homemade hot sauces and jams so much that I end up buying some to take home for gifts. Lucile's, 2124 14th Street, Boulder, CO, 80302, Tel: 303-442-4743.

It's time to work off some of the good food I've been eating. I came out here in part to play golf, so I ask the concierge for a recommendation. Although it's a bit far out, he recommends Vista Ridge, about 20 minutes north of Denver. Playing at 7,676 yards from the tips with a course slope of 141 and a course rating of 75.4, this par 72 layout on a mixture of rye and bent grass is one of Colorado's best golf clubs. Its backdrops include snow-capped mountains, rolling terrain and breathtaking views from the course and clubhouse. It's playable, too. It has five sets of tee boxes, so even I, a beginning golfer, can manage to get a distance down the fairway before everyone else catches up. They do catch up, it's true, and soon I'm so far over par that it's hardly worth it to keep score. It's a good time, though and I feel like I've learned a few things about my stance and my swing from the super-nice pros. Vista Ridge, 2700 Vista Parkway, Erie, CO, 80516, Tel: 303-926-1723.

It's almost time to go back to the airport, but before I do, I take one last walk over to Boulder's Creek Walk, beginning about two blocks from the hotel. Even though the Creek Walk is in the middle of the city, you'd never know it. The creek and the accompanying path wind through the park and trees and it's incredibly quiet ... so much so that it's a little startling when bikers call, "On your left!" I'm so involved in listening to my iPod and looking at the creek that I don't even realize that I've walked a fairly long way. I'm going to have to hustle back to the St. Julien to get my stuff and get ready for my journey home.

One thing I've learned from this weekend: it takes more than 36 hours to relax properly. Next time I visit Boulder and the St. Julien Hotel & Spa, I'm staying a week.

Lisa Tucker McElroy is an attorney, writer, law professor, and mom. She is Associate Professor of Law at Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Law. Lisa is the author of nine children's books and she regularly publishes articles and essays about travel, marriage, parenting and family in national magazines such as Parenting, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, FamilyFun, Cooking with Paula Deen, Golf Vacations, and Family Travel Network. She is also the Satellite Sisters, Esq. for the Satellite Sisters, a nationally-syndicated radio show.

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Note: This trip was sponsored by St. Julien Hotel & Spa & Wagstaff Worldwide.

Pictures From

The Trip


St. Julien lobby


Guest room


Huge shower


View from my window


Courtyard with gazebo


Ladies enjoying tea


Tea table


Spa entrance




Jill’s restaurant


Pearl Street




Lucile’s beignets and chicory coffee


Lisa playing golf at Vista Ridge


The Boulder Creek Walk


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