Princess: Doing Denver, Princess-style |

Princess: Doing Denver, Princess-style

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

So here I am in Denver again to do this, that and the other thing and have discovered a few spots I thought you guys might be interested in.

A few weeks ago, Ryan and I came down here with this big idea to do the city thing, and we kind of got it all wrong. We went to the theater, ate an expensive meal and stayed at Aloft, a downtown hotel, which we thought would be all fun and cool and romantic. said the rate was normally $409 a night marked down to $129, so we thought it was going to be something special. Suckers! Like most hotels, it was just a bed and a bathroom and towels you don’t have to wash and sheets you don’t have to change. The lobby reeked with some kind of cleaning product, or maybe it was one of those deodorizer things that was tinged with citrus and loaded with enough chemicals to burn the insides of my nostrils.

There was a strip club next door on one side and a 24-hour breakfast place on the other. When we exited the hotel in the morning to go to Starbucks, there was a man face-down on the sidewalk, passed out on a piece of cardboard.

Things weren’t much better on the 16th Street Mall. We witnessed a very unpleasant altercation between a few cops and a group of young men that looked like a scene out of Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN. I was just waiting for a gun to go off, scurrying past with my pug and the bag of chocolate-covered raisins I’d just overpaid for at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

This time around, I turned to Airbnb, which has changed the nature of travel as we know it by creating a venue for private homes in residential areas with rates that are better than hotels for private apartments with a full kitchen and other homey amenities. Hosts are also a great resource for suggestions on places to go, eat and things to do.

I found an awesome pad in LoDo in an apartment complex right on the Platte River. There is a huge courtyard with outdoor pool and hot tub, trails along the river and a big park for Gertie, who is like a joy-spreading machine because she makes people so happy wherever we go. She’s like antidepressants on the end of a leash, only minus the side effects.

Anyway, the location is unbelievable, with some of the best shopping and dining in Denver within a few blocks. Last night we went to Sushi Sa Sa and were reminded of what can happen when fresh fish meets a creative variety of quality ingredients. We loved the Pink Lady roll, which took spicy scallop and paired it with white asparagus tempura and avocado. On the cooked side, the duck lettuce wraps were a bite of rich, decadent meat hidden in a light lettuce taco shell, like a chubby girl in a really flattering dress. And you know when the edamame is good (in this case, doused in a delectable spicy garlic sauce) that you’re in for a good meal. My mom and I talked about it for at least an hour afterward.

This morning began with a yoga class at Prana Vidya, a beautiful, open space with old, exposed brick wall, wood floors and a wall of tall windows that reminded me of the East Village in New York, only cleaner and without the noise. My teacher Amber gave me a hug after class, just because she felt like it, she said. I liked the vibe so much I headed back for a tantric vinyasa class in the evening taught by the owner, Brad Hay. He gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. That sounds cryptic, I know, but I’m finally at a point in my yoga practice where I’m opening up to new things and also finding a new depth of joy in it, which is really cool and unexpected.

The building where I’m staying also is right next door to Vitamin Cottage, so if I get a craving for gluten-free rice chips, organic dark chocolate or kombucha, it’s literally right there.

If corned-beef hash is more your calling, hop across the street to Mona’s, a Denver breakfast staple known for it. Mom and I both went for the veggie Benedict, though it really doesn’t matter what you put the orange chipotle hollandaise on — it’s gonna be good. Mom even failed at her “exactly half” rule and ate almost everything on her plate (though she did leave half an English muffin for good measure).

But it’s not all pretty and perfect. In the afternoon rain, we took Miss Gertrude for a stroll across the bridge over the Platte and saw a sizable gathering of people in West Commons Park who appeared to be homeless, carrying sleeping mats and dogs and other belongings with them. They looked young and not particularly destitute, and I had to wonder if they were just a bunch of rebellious kids, living on the streets to spite their parents. When I was going through my Grateful Dead phase in high school, we dressed like that, too. Or are there that many homeless people in Denver, and are they that young? I think I’ve been living in the Roaring Fork Valley bubble for too long to tell.

Speaking of the Roaring Fork Valley bubble, it’s good to come out once in a while to remember what the real world is. I know most of you came down to Denver just to fly out to your exotic tropical destinations, and I’m just here because this is where I happen to be today. But it’s still good to know there’s more to life than Aspen — and maybe even Cherry Creek.

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