We’re spending this January weekend in one of our favorite places…Durango, Colorado. Arriving in time for a quick breakfast, we grab fragrant coffee and buttermilk bars at Durango Coffee (www.cooksandcoffee.com), and then pick up our tickets for our Cascade Canyon trip on the Durango-Silverton Railroad. (www.durangotrain.com) We find our seats among the cheerful crowd of families and couples ready for a winter adventure.
Leaving the Durango train station.
“All aboard!” We leave the station amid the steam and chugging of the old locomotive, enjoying the sights as we pass through town along the Animas River, watching ducks and kayakers brave the ice covering most of the water. The scenery is beautiful as we climb into the snow-covered forest and along the cliff face where the Animas far below us has cut the deep canyon.
The Durango & Silverton Railroad–along the Highline section.
In the open car, we feel the near zero temperatures and smell the whiffs of coal smoke from the engine. After a couple of hours we arrive at the turn-around point, Cascade Canyon Wye. Here we get off the train for lunch. We could have lunch in the pavilion by the fire, but the sun is shining and feels surprisingly warm, so we choose the river side picnic tables as our dining spot. We have brought turkey wraps, but the concession car offers a variety of lunch items. Afterwards, we have time to walk through the snow to the foot bridge which crosses the Animas River. Then it is time to board the train for the ride back to Durango.
Beautiful brick historic hotel.
We check into the historic Strater Hotel, opened in 1888 by Henry Strater, a young pharmacist who believed in the promise of this mining town. (www.strater.com)
Entrance to the Straler Hotel.
Four stories high and built of native red brick, it is indeed a landmark of the town. Inside, the lobby is welcoming with charming seating areas which bring to mind thoughts of Victorian days.
Fireplace in the seating area.
One area features a fireplace where the burning fire draws us to its warmth. The rooms vary in size, all unique and furnished with walnut antiques. Though there is an elevator, it is more interesting to climb the stairs exploring the maze of hallways. The stairs provide a workout in place of an exercise room. There is a private Jacuzzi on a lower level which can be reserved. Overlooking Main Street, Room 222 was a favorite of Louis L’Amour. While writing the Sackett family stories, he appreciated the lively piano music coming from the saloon below to keep his thoughts moving along. We’ll stay in “his” room next time.
Victorian room with American Walnut antiques
Before dinner, we have time to browse along Main Street, stopping in at Claude Steelman’s photography gallery and at Maria’s Bookshop, one of our favorite independent book stores. (www.mariasbookshop.com)
The Mahogany Grille is our choice this time for a celebratory dinner. (www.mahoganygrille.com)
Mirrored buffet in the Mahogany Grille.
We are seated in a booth for two with brick walls, stained glass and artwork surrounding us.
Charming stained glass in the restaurant.
As Nate pours a sample glass of Durango Mango Martini, he tells us of the Chateaubriand special served on Saturdays during the winter. We can’t resist. After our salads featuring prosciutto wrapped figs served with a selection of breads (and an amazing Kalamata Olive Tapenade), Chef Blake wheels a cart to our table to finish our entrée. He gives us a mini-cooking class as he details each addition to the sauce–clarified butter, mushrooms, shallots, then flamed with wine. Cold butter is whisked in, melding the sauce, then a bunch of bright spinach is tossed in for a quick finish. He carves our meat which is perfectly done to our order of “between medium and medium rare.” Plated with Yukon Gold potatoes, the dish looks and tastes perfect. For dessert, Nate brings us their Chocolate Avalanche…brownies topped with chocolate ice cream, mascarpone cheese with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. What a way to celebrate!
We’re saving the charming bar, The Office Spiritorium, and the Diamond Belle Saloon for another time.
Coffee is available on each floor in the morning to allow guest convenient access for a wake up drink. We indulge in the continental breakfast buffet set up in a hallway between the hotel and the restaurant. There is a nice selection of pastries, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, waffles—and posole, one of our favorite treats. Seating is in the restaurant where orange juice, tea and very good coffee is available. As I scoop up the red chile soup, the waiter asks if I would like the recipe….yes, please! What a great memory to take home from our celebration in Durango.
Delightful breakfast-eggs, pastries and posole!