A week in Colorado

I got back Tuesday morning from 10 days in the US. We’d flown in to Chicago for my brother’s business school graduation and then spent 5 days with the family, hiking and driving through the Colorado Rockies.

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It took us just about four hours to drive over from Denver and we made a brief stop at Independence Pass which, as expected was deathly windy and freezing cold but still worth hopping out for.

Road to Aspen

Aspen is beautiful in the summer.  The town is lively, laid back and disarmingly friendly. We ran into plenty of gregarious Texans, there to escape their sweltering summer heat. We had a fantastic seafood meal at Jimmy’s Bodega and ended the night with ice cream from Paradise Bakery.

The Maroon Bells are fairly quiet in mid-June. I visited nearly 10 years ago and fell in love. The trails were just as beautiful as I remembered and very easy, even in going up to Crater Lake.

Once back in Aspen, Niraj and I embarked upon the Ute trail (or the “Glute trail” as I like to call it, since it will kick your ass).  The climb is steep and unyielding and we were impressed to see quite a few locals using it for their evening run. It’s all worth it when you get to the panoramic views at the top though.  It’s easily amongst the most beautiful summits I’ve seen.

From Aspen, we took the scenic route over to Estes Park, driving 6 hours through winding mountain roads.  Independence Pass was slightly warmer on the way back so we hopped out for a more extended frolic through the snow. Seeing the storm clouds in the distance, breaking over the Rockies, added an other worldly feel to an already spectacular view.

We stopped at several other lookouts and drove through historic mining towns like Leadville. The highlight of the drive though, was indisputably Trail Ridge Road. Winding over 45 miles and climbing to heights of 12,000 feet, Trail Ridge alternately feels like a top of the world moutain tour and a safari in the plains.  We entered Rocky Mountain National Park an hour before dusk, perfect timing to catch grazing herds of elk and even a black bear.

We stayed at River Stone Resort and Bear Paw suites and we were thrilled to wake up each morning to the sounds of the gushing Fall River. RMNP is one of the best US national parks with over 140 miles of hiking trails.  We did a couple of beautiful hikes including the trail up to Mill Lake and the classic Bear Lake.

After more hiking, BBQing and plenty of winter sun, we flew from Denver to Newark and squeezed in a couple more days with family in NJ and of course, Kuku. The trip was wonderful and far too short. As much as I love it here in Sydney, being with my family made me realize how much I miss them and value these trips.

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Best things about Sydney: festival fever

A few months ago I started the first in a series of posts about Sydney, specifically my five favourite things about the city.  Well it’s time to tell you about another one of the city’s highlights — the festivals.

Sydney is a city of festivals.  There’s always something on and there’s always something around the corner.  We’ve kept our ears to the ground and our eyes peeled but really you have to be living under a rock to not take notice. So what counts a festival, anyway? If the word conjures up images of hotdogs, icecream cones and stripy tents, you’re close but probably thinking of a kiddy carnival.  A festival, or at least a Sydney one, usually involves trendy food being eaten, fancy drinks being quaffed and general fun being had by all. Pretty terrible, eh?

Food and wine tents at the annual Pyrmont Festival

Food and wine tents at the Pyrmont Festival in Pirrama Park, Apr ’14

 

 

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Summer sounds in the Domain during Sydney Festival, Jan ’14

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Lanterns at the night noodle markets, Oct ’13

 

Lines for the ramen burger were looong

Long lines for the ramen burger

 

The most recent festival to take the city by storm is Vivid. Spread over two and a half weeks in May and June, the spectacular lightshow has achieved international acclaim, not in small part due to its status as an instagrammer’s paradise. Vivid attracted over 500,000 visitors this year alone, injecting new life into the Sydney winter.

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The festival is best known for large scale projections of colourful, almost psychedelic designs onto historic buildings such as the customs house, the museum of contemporary art and of course the iconic Opera House. But that’s not all that’s on offer.  This year, there were a number of interactive light and sound installations and a series of forums for exchanging creative ideas.

The MLC dome during Vivid

The MLC dome as the urban tree project

Bit.fall, an amazing water exhibit we saw earlier this year at Tasmania’s MONA (quite possibly my new favourite museum) was installed right outside my office in Martin Place while the MLC building was transformed into a 3D tree house, complete with a forest canopy, tropical weather and an appropriate number of bugs.  Vivid is a family affair, attracting hordes of both young and old and swarming the CBD. If you missed it this time around, fret not, for the next festival — Sydney’s film festival — has already begun.

Keep calm and teach on

baby bird kicked out of nest

I just finished teaching my last class of the season.  And I feel a strange mix of relief and sadness.  Relief because these last few months have been really busy.  I’ve been teaching product management at General Assembly: twice a week, two hour sessions, 26 students, 10 weeks.  Add in the prep work, the slide-making and the homework grading and you’re looking at some very long days.  As much as I’m looking forward to getting my Tuesday and Thursday nights back, I’m sad, because I know I’ll miss it.  I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of it all and I’ve learned so much.  It didn’t hurt to have an amazing class of smart, motivated, entertaining individuals.  I’m excited for their final presentations next week and can’t wait to see what they’ll do in their product management careers.