One of my favorite things to do is have pretend vacations. During some tough years, we enjoyed creating staycations. It was fun and we realized we could be on a budget, be creative, and have lots of fun.
Many of our visitors may not be as active. Some enjoy being active all day long and we can certainly accommodate that. But others may want a slower day, so we want to make sure there is something for everyone!
One particular day theme is related to everything “French.” No doubt we have a wonderful cafe culture here. As soon as the sun comes out, our wind dies down (our own mistral which is currently blowing at 35 mph) and the temperature gets above 50, everyone is out and about and hopefully at an outdoor patio. On a beautiful, clear day when the lavender is blooming, you can close your eyes and pretend you are somewhere in France. OK, so a few things are missing but we can certainly fill in a few things with places to go and things to do in the Front Range area.
A friend and I started foraging in 2017 and thought it would be fun to have a “French Day” that started with foraging, moved to eating lunch and culminated with a little shopping. It was a terrific day and I have no doubt we will be repeating this again as soon as the mushroom season begins!
Forage for Mushrooms
I was so excited to discover mushroom foraging! Starting in April through September, foragers are out all over Colorado searching for mushrooms. Half the fun is just being out in the beautiful mountains! The other half is exploring and looking down for morels or chanterelles instead of the magnificent views, or keeping an eye for a mountain lion or bear. I’m sure we could do all three when you come for a visit!
Enjoy Some Wineries
Growing grapes is a bit of challenge here on the Front Range but there are some varietals that are doing well. The best Colorado grapes are grown on the Western Slope around Palisades. The area is beautiful and reminiscent of some of the viticulture areas in California and Western Europe. Best known for their peaches, the area has some outstanding wineries and produces a number of red and wine varietals including cab franc, which does very, very well in the climate.
We can certainly enjoy some good wines at the following wineries, and with a few wineries, we also get a beautiful view of the Rockies or massive geological formations that I wish I knew the name of. 🙂
Sweetheart Winery in Loveland, about 15 miles away
Blue Mountain Winery – Berthoud, about 35 miles away
Ten Bears Winery – best tasting for the money
Click here to read more places we can wine about!
When I need a mini-mini vacation, I love to go browse at EsScentuals in downtown Fort Collins. This charming shop has a very French vibe and also hosts one of the few underground shop areas functioning in downtown. The shop is tastefully decorated and the faux murals on the floors and wall are truly works of art. The shop offers a selection of locally-crafted, domestic & imported bath, body & home fragrance lines, perfume & essential oils, wrapping paper & cards, jewelry, and unique vintage & contemporary decor, beautiful linens and soft bath attire.
photos courtesy of EsScentuals Facebook page
Eat and Drink
Who doesn’t love to eat and drink? I have my favorites when I want to feel a little French!
La Creperie – LC has the best gallettes. It’s a bit challenging to eat outside as the cafe faces College Avenue. It can get a bit noisy but I suppose if you close your eyes you can pretend you are on the Champs-Élysées and that’s just a bit of noisy Paris traffic. The restaurant is a cafe and bakery offering baked goods including bread, and macarons. I love to pick up croustades here for appetizers. They are the best in town.
Fox and Crow – If we wanted to really feel French (or just get some exercise), the FC is about a mile from the house. We could walk or bike. You choose.They have a wonderful outside patio that is quiet and a lovely. The presentation of their menu items is lovely down to the crema on the tomato basil soup. In addition, it is a wonderful cheese and charcuterie shop so perhaps we bring some deli items back to the house and have a light dinner on the patio with wine, some cheese and pâté?
Social – The awesome underground bar with a soft industrial with a hint of Belle Epoch offers hand-crafted period cocktails and small bites. We particularly love this bar as it is seating only. No standing thus no crowding. Many times we have started here and ended up at….
Ace Gillett’s for jazz and Belgium beers. Ace has a mid-century dive feel but they have the best live jazz ensembles in the area. The small plates change seasonally but I particularly enjoy duck confit over polenta and Mike, of course, loves the best selection of Belgian beers in the area.
Daytrip to Longmont Cheese Importers – This is a fascinating cheese store and bistro. On the outside it looks like an old brick building – nothing special at all. When you walk inside, you are immediately transported to an intimate cafe and bar in a French arrondissement and multiple levels of quaint shopping areas and more eating spaces. The walk-in cooler cheese shop is the size of a small house with cheeses and accompaniments from all over the world. We have not eaten at bistro yet but there is a patio with a view of the mountains!
There are few places we cannot cycle to! We can enjoy a coffee, wine or handcrafted chocolate at Nuance chocolate!
One of the best things about summer is the farmer’s markets. We can enjoy several market options mid-week and on Saturday. It is so enjoyable to buy produce and come to the house and cook up a super meal with the freshest ingredients. Around August, we can also go to local pick your own farms and pick strawberries and raspberries. There is truly nothing better than a strawberry right off the vine.
Of course, we can hike, cycle, paddleboard, kayak, white water raft, and fish. But for a subtler, slower day, enjoying a bit of the French front range can fit in easily with your days in Northern Colorado.