Princess: The view from the 30th floor

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

You know you’re getting a little too country when the idea of sleeping on the 30th floor of a city building freaks you out.

“It’s like a dorm,” my mom said when she’d arrived in Denver and wanted to give us the full report.

She’d already told me this a few times, because when she doesn’t like something, she will be sure to let everyone know. And when it comes to hotel rooms, movies and restaurants, chances are good she’s not going to like it.

“I get it,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You already told me.”

Our friend Eric had booked the place, a four-bedroom condo in downtown Denver, so my mom hadn’t picked it out. That really wouldn’t have made much of a difference, though. Even though she spends her life on, Airbnb and VRBO and has practically become an armchair travel agent, she is rarely satisfied. She’s not afraid to walk out on a movie, send a dish back at a restaurant or ask the front desk if she can change rooms. In some ways, I admire her ability to get what she wants. More often than not, she ends up in a much better place than where she started, either for free or with a hefty discount. Who cares if the waiter spit in her drink or if she ruined the movie for everyone else who was kind of into it until she pointed out how much it sucked? She is a woman who gets what she deserves.

It’s true that Airbnb has changed the playing field when it comes to travel, opening up a whole new category of lodging that I happen to love. I much prefer staying in a residential area over a commercial zone, and connecting with a host with insider knowledge of the area always leads to good finds that elude tourists. Once Ryan and I rented a studio apartment by the beach in Cardiff, California, that came with two cruiser bikes. Seeing the area by bike helped me show Ryan why I’d loved living there so much. It felt more like a small town than an overcrowded beach city stuck between the ocean and a congested 10-lane freeway.

Another time, we rented a room in someone’s house on the Jersey Shore, where the host hooked us up with beach chairs, towels, blankets and umbrellas. She made us breakfast, offered to lend us her BMW and was not shy at all about plopping a giant bottle of vodka next to the carafe of orange juice in the middle of the table. On a trip to Santa Barbara, California, last fall, we stayed in an $8 million property in King’s Ranch with a beautiful pool and an orchard of avocado, lemon and olive trees overlooking the ocean for less than $200 a night.

So I had hope for the Airbnb rental in downtown Denver.

The first thing we saw was a sign over the front entrance that read, “Auraria Student Lofts,” before piling into the elevator with a gaggle of college students who were heavily buzzed and ready to head out for the night, exchanging banter about some kind of special brand of Chinese cigarettes with swollen, bloodshot eyes. I thought they were adorable, and it was easier for me to imagine myself as one of them than as the middle-aged woman with the baby and way too much luggage, looking tired and paunchy in yoga pants and an oversized shirt.

We learned that the building was indeed student housing with only four suites on the top floor available to people like us who didn’t want to shell out $300 a night to stay in downtown Denver, and the rest was, well, a dorm.

For some reason, I really was distressed about being on the 30th floor. I’m not sure what that was about, but I lay awake all night, thinking way too literally about how much space was between me and the ground. I could imagine my bed just hovering in the air, teetering as if it might fall at any moment despite the fact that there happened to be an entire building beneath it. I don’t know what I thought might happen, exactly. I only know the air in the room felt thick and the night felt long and confining, like a prison sentence, despite the warm bed and surprisingly soft sheets.

I have no idea what my problem was. Had it been too long since we’d traveled? Would I no longer be comfortable sleeping anywhere besides my own bed? Was it the two beers I drank on an empty stomach over a late dinner or the fact that I’d paired it with a kale salad drenched in a dressing that had way too much mayo? All this trying to eat healthy was clearly making me sick. I should’ve had a sandwich or at least a side of fries. Instead, I lay in the dark and looked at Facebook, even though no one was posting anything in the middle of the night.

As is always the case, everything looked different in the light of day. We wandered the city, lingered over a greasy breakfast at an old diner on Colfax and then walked down to LoDo for pints of IPA in the beer garden at Union Station. We ate fresh peaches at the farmers market and shared handmade porchetta served on a homemade croissant. I slept like a rock the second night, already feeling at home in our modest little penthouse.

Maybe it had been too long since we’d traveled. Maybe I am a little bit afraid of heights. Maybe my mom was right — we were literally staying in a college dorm. Maybe despite the fact that I’ve somehow finally managed to become a wife, a mother and a middle-aged woman, that’s still exactly where I belong.

The Princess woke up way too early and is feeling a little disoriented and confused. Email your love to alisonmargo@​


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