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January 31, 2013

We first ventured into Colorado for my husband's in-person interview in late November.  We felt it important that we tested the waters before making any decisions.  Check out my Picasa album to see the photos I took during the trip.

Now, before we went, I did my research.  I did a lot of travel research when I worked at NWF, so I was very familiar with how to get a feel for a place before ever setting foot there.   I had the added bonus of the awesome Street View feature in Google Maps, so I was even able to 'drive' around the streets of Boulder from Virginia!

I have a list for what I want in a new hometown.  I want fabric and craft shops, yarn shops, miniatures shops, thrift shops, a Dollar Tree, and groceries that carry gluten free and specialty peanut free/soy free items are at the top of my ideal list.  While Boulder may not have had them all specifically, they were in the Denver/Boulder area.  I had to remind myself that in VA I drove to different towns to get to certain shops. The problem is that in Northern Virginia all the towns drift together and sometimes it's hard to tell which town you're actually in.  There appears to be a wider gap between towns in Colorado!

If I couldn't find a chain, I could still search for the type of shop I wanted, and was relieved to discover all the same things. (Except for Don Pablo's.  I shall miss Don Pablo's!)

My first impression was a bit of dismay at the lack of vegetation.  WHERE WERE ALL THE TREES?  Followed by OMG IT'S SO FLAT I CAN SEE FOR MILES!  and then I looked the other way, and bam,  mountain!   Different, very different.  

Northern Virginia is gently rolling, with big, tall trees lining many of the streets to block the sun's glare.  Buildings block the rest of your views so it's rare to see anything at a distance unless you're up high.  Green is a prevalent color.   Colorado was more sandy colored, and felt so big and empty.  Empty areas in NVA soon fill up with houses, as though they'd been planted and watered.  Subsequent Google image searches have shown that CO is greener in the summertime.  I had to keep reminding myself that it was winter, because the weather was in the 60's while we there.  (Keep in mind we didn't see the ENTIRE area, so this might just be an anomaly!)

I think this was the largest amount of traffic we saw.
The drive to Boulder was leisurely, and while we did encounter some traffic, it actually moved instead of crawling at 5mph.  There were a lot of bicyclists, and not one was wearing a helmet.  This made me very uncomfortable, but maybe the cyclists in Boulder aren't the entitled asses they are in Fairfax and actually obey traffic laws?

The airport is in the middle of nowhere.  There's NOTHING around it.  You go for miles and miles after passing the airport signs and begin to wonder if maybe you missed it.  And then . . . you see a giant circus tent.  Oh.  That IS the airport!

We stayed at the historic Boulderado Hotel, all decked out for Christmas.  I wrote a review on Yelp. It was pretty, but noisy and oddly designed.   It was also in a great location for exploring downtown Boulder, but not so much for the rest of Boulder.

Downtown Boulder was a bit like Alexandria.  Expensive, trendy, unique shops, lots of people walking about, fancy restaurants, and an historic feel.  There was a bizarre mix of Yoga pantsed moms, activists, and, well, bums.  Actual ones, begging for money and food, playing musical instruments, or just huddling and staring at nothing.  I saw a LOT of beards.  It was disturbing.  I hate beards.  I feel like the guy's trying to hide something.  Obviously his chin, but what if it's more?

I walked all up and down Pearl Street while my husband was at his day-long interview, looking at everything and trying not to get lost, accompanied by a stuffed longhorn cow that jumped out at me at the Tough Luck Cowboy shop and insisted that it had to go live with my mother-in-law.   There were several book stores, some new, some used, and one even had both!  (And then there was the Left Hand.  I had hoped it was something to do with being left handed but it turned out to be so political that they kept the front door locked!)  It was interesting to visit, but too fancy for my tastes.  I did manage to get into one 'requirement,' Gypsy Wools yarn shop.  It was, small, well organized, and alas, mostly wool, but I picked up some non baby colored place markers and some superwash that I hope will work for me.  The fun part was that she also sold unspun wool and lace bobbins.

I wish I had had time to go through the 'regular' parts of town, but only managed to get to a shopping center on Broadway in my search for bagels.
Very eye catching, and M. Gerwing also
specializes in LEED certified buildings
I hate the greasy breakfast food most places serve,  I just want a bagel or toast in the mornings, and there were no bagel or sub places that I could find in the Pearl Street Mall.   Not even in the mini-mart! (P.S.  Be careful when searching for pharmacies in Boulder.  You'll get more than you expect!)  The woman in the cowboy shop told me there was a bagel place up Broadway, so I headed that way, admiring the Victorian houses and the fascinating modern style office of M. Gerwing, Architects along the way. And trees!  Yay for trees!  I soon found Moe's Bagel and got excellent service as they offered to give me my cream cheese on the side so I wouldn't have to buy an entire container for three bagels.

Pearl Street is also very active at night, as we discovered one night in particular.  We were barely able to get in and out of our hotel due to a parade!  We wandered through the crowds and checked out a Tahona, a fancy tex-mex restaurant (too fancy, we had to pay for the chips!)  and the Absinthe House, which had a HUGE dance floor and house music every weekend.  And also varieties of Absinthe served  authentically.  We somehow made friends with the bartender, who kept chucking free stuff our way.  I left with a candy necklace and a glow stick bracelet, Brian got a water dripper!

On Saturday, a beautiful sunny day, we took a long drive down 119 to see the sights.  Those are most of the photos in my album!  We went through Black Hawk, a town that suddenly pops up in the middle of nowhere with a brand new casino, and also Nederland, which we had been considering as a place to live.  We also stopped by Eldora which was a pretty sorry looking ski resort, mostly due to the lack of snow.  They had piled/made as much as they could on the bunny slope, but they just hadn't gotten that first storm of the season yet.

We ate at The Red Lion restaurant, German themed and the fancy place to go to for special events.  They had a wild game menu, and while Brian tried every sampler he could, I tested out the rabbit.  So very good!  The place is just outside of Boulder, and terrifying to try to find in the dark due to the mountainy rocks being right against the road.  Luckily it was well lit, as we had to drive across a teeny little bridge to get there.  (I just saw a news article, they've replaced the bridge!)

This neighborhood, north of Boulder on 36, was crazy.
McMansions on the outer edges, and increasingly
smaller houses inside til you got duplexes and
townhouses.  Probably apartments, too.  All
stacked on top of each other as if there
weren't miles of nothing in that field over there.
On our way back to the airport on Sunday we made detours through several neighborhoods to see what they were like.  It's quite a mix!  Some new and craftsman style, some 1980's Colonial, some 1950's brick ramblers, some neighborhoods had all of these!  We went through a model home for Boulder Creek Builders in Louisville, advertising patio homes for those who don't care about having yards and want 'low maintenance' housing.  It's essentially senior living style homes without the age requirement.  I loved it, but not sure if it was the house or the earth tones they used to decorate it.  Such vivid colors!  And so much sunshine streaming in the windows!  I had always wondered why people would want to paint their walls in rich primary colors, and it was in Colorado that I figured out why.  Paint your walls white out there and you could blind yourself unless you put up heavy curtains!

So, I feel I learned quite a bit about the area.

One, the area is not too fond of bread, and all the bread I had there was pretty mediocre.
Two, I love earth tones and have 'plans' now for whenever we find a new house.
Three, my shopping habits can stay the same, and might improve because I don't have Tyson's Corner to deal with for the shops I really want to visit (Like the Container Store!)
Four, traffic isn't so bad,
Five, the weather is pretty much the same as it is in Northern Virginia.
six, permanent water restrictions means no fancy gardening, so yards are pretty small or sometimes grassless, which means not so much yardwork, which I'm fine with although I still want my vegetable garden.
January 29, 2013

I grew up in Northern Virginia.  So did my parents.  And most of my grandparents. Some of my great grandparents moved here all the way from the Shenandoah Valley during the Great Depression.  I can trace relatives in Virginia back to the 1620's, so my Virginia roots are rather deep.

In my lifetime alone I've seen a ton of changes to this transient area.  It's gotten more crowded and less friendly.  Traffic is an absolute nightmare, and the cost of living painful.  So when my husband was contacted by Google this past fall, with me finished with college and looking for work, I thought "Since I can't make everyone else leave, I guess I should!"

Once I accepted the possibility of my living elsewhere, it was easy.  I couldn't even get an interview, let alone a job here.  Most of my friends have vanished or moved out of the area.  My family was busy and distracted with their own projects.  The thought of moving someplace with less traffic and potentially nicer people gave me hope.  Getting out of this bizarre townhouse and neighborhood with no parking and loud neighbors was delightful.  Perhaps I could fit in better, something I've never managed to do here.  Perhaps I'd make friends.  Perhaps the anxiety I struggled against daily would ease.   Maybe my allergies would go away.  Hope gave me courage.

I haven't traveled much.  I've only been in different time zones twice, and I've never crossed the Mississippi River.  Yet Boulder, CO is our new destination.  I have the feeling I'm in for a bit of culture shock!

I plan to use this blog to record my explorations of my new home, and perhaps the craziness of moving.  I have specific needs for both myself and my husband, and I hope to meet all of them!