Students and visitors find lots of independent shops ― particularly sporty ones ― along the Pearl Street pedestrian mall.
Late-afternoon sunshine slants across the Flatirons edging the town of Boulder, casting long shadows across the downtown pedestrian mall. But no one is in a hurry to leave.
Students linger in the golden light, reading at the bookstore cafe; street performers pick up the tempo of their guitar/bongo combo. The front doors of shops ― hawking outdoor gear and adventure clothing, handcrafted jewelry, organic-cotton kids' overalls, and natural bath products ― remain open to catch the crispness in the early-fall air.
Farther down Pearl Street, the windows of Frasca Food and Wine gleam. The restaurant's narrow side patio is packed with diners swirling wineglasses as they wait for a table.
My husband, Jim, and I have returned to Frasca after a previous best-ever meal here, and we recognize in the proud bearing of the staff a message that says, You're in for a treat tonight. We have no doubt about this as we settle in for fresh tagliatelle, house-cured sausage, seafood risotto, and a huckleberry torte - all of it off-the-scale delicious.
The staff glows with pride, and with something else too: Our waiter just returned from an international alpine-trail competition. The sommelier is a road-bike racer and avid runner. The bartender placed near the top in the Bolder Boulder 10K, the second-largest race of its kind in the country (almost 50,000 competitors).
Like nearly everyone else in town, the employees exude a level of health and musculature that the rest of us might think can only be achieved with Photoshop.
With its fit residents, university-fueled infusion of smarts, dramatic mountain setting, and, now, fine and principled food, Boulder seems to exist on a higher plane. The city's elevation (5,430 feet - one of the main draws for athletes in training) even bests Denver's mile-high stature. But here everything is elevated: beauty, fitness, eco-consciousness, food. It makes for an exceptional place to visit.