We spent the longest time trying to find a parking spot. Then we realized something must be going on, because everyone who walks towards the chapel was very nicely dressed. We rushed to the entrance but were stopped by the guard. He told us there will be a graduation here in a few days (sure enough, President Bush came too and gave the commencement speech, it was on the local papers on Wednesday, 5-28-2008) and so today, a parent conference was taking place in the chapel, thus it was full, we could not go in. Not giving up, we tried to go in through the downstairs door for handicaps, but got dirty looks from a woman who was watching us. Failed to steal a peek of the inside of the chapel, I at least needed to have a picture of the side of the building:
(A plane was flying above and so the echo was loud…)
Onto our next destination. We figured we’d head over to Manitou Springs, but there were too many things to see there, including the Ghost Town museum (of things from the 1800’s!!), the Miramont Castle (where the famous Grand Staircase was housed), the ruins of the cliff dwellings off the side of Highway 24, etc. Finally, we cheaped out and decided to go to downtown Manitou Springs, which didn’t cost anything, and was categorized as a historic district with lots of old buildings.
I could only describe the downtown as NEAT:
It felt so good to be here. The weather was nice, people were out strolling with their dogs, sun-tanning, or drinking iced coffee and chit chatting under the sun… What a great life!
These buildings were probably well over 100 years! And many of them were in, on top of, beside, at the foot of, hills!
The tourist brochure mentioned the water of Manitou Springs, calling it having a “distinctive taste.” We tried a handful from this fountain and sure enough, the water was cool, and at first tasted a little salty and smelled a little like fish. But the aftertaste turned sweet and it helped quench our thirst till lunch time.
Later, we stopped at a couple of stores that sold hand-made jewelries and souvenirs. One of them was called the 10 dollar store where everything was $10 or under. I got really excited at first seeing all the vintage styled watches, necklaces, and earrings. But after browsing for a while, I realized the watches were out of battery and the jewelries were not that great of quality – not worth even 10 bucks. So we said thank you and goodbye to the store owner while feeling pretty bad for him. For the 15 minutes we were in his store, lots of people came in as well, we all touched, looked, and compared items, but nobody was seen paying for anything….
On the other side of the street, there was a jewelry store that sold pearls, Gordon’s was the name:
Mr. Gordon was very excited to see us. He started telling us about his hand cast pearl pendant collection and opened every cabinet for us to look. Dad was marveling about his cabinets, which, to our surprise, were all put together by Mr. Gordon himself, about 30 years ago, using logs that looked old, but gave a long-lasting feeling. His pearl pendants were very appealing, even though they were mostly casted in silver. Mom picked one out for me, it looked like a freshly picked cherry. With silver casting of a piece of leaf and stem, and the pearl shaping like a cherry. Mr. Gordon went inside and took out all three color pearls in the same style: white, green, and blue. I thought the blue one looked the prettiest and bought it. It also came with a silver chain so instead of putting it in a bag, I wore it right away!
The whole morning was gone fast, now way past noon, we were all very hungry. But it was hard to decide what to eat since there were so many restaurants, bars, cafes, and delis down the street. Mom suggested a bar close to where we parked, she recalled the sign said “best food in town.” Dad and I both objected, we were too hungry to walk the distance. Finally, we stopped by PJ’s Bistro, for we saw on their open menu, something we’ve never had before: Pierogi
I was happy as soon as I walked inside the little bistro, it was very cute (we sat on that middle table from the left row):
Picture from http://www.babayaga.net/
Curious of what Pierogis were, we had an order. Also on our order were a Turkey Bagel Sandwich and a Club Sandwich. (My parents didn’t want me to act like a fool and take pictures, so….). I highly recommend PJ Bistro’s sandwiches. The portion was pretty good (big), and they grilled their stuff almost to perfection. Also good were their various sauces. The Pierogis were not impressive at all because they were simply dumplings with beef stew stuffing. Nothing in the world can compare to my mom’s hand-made dumplings, so that was out of the question. However, the sauce used for the piergis, sweet and sour, red wine colored, was not bad. (Click on the link above for their address and menu and be sure to try their sandwiches if you happen to be in Manitou Springs!)
Despite being really full and sleepy, I reapplied sun blocks as the sun seemed to sting even more when you had a full belly. We took a shortcut to the Seven Falls instead of what our trip planner said, I felt so good about it! When we got there, the line was very long and moving ridiculously slow. Many people turned their cars around and left. We wondered if there was an accident and whether or not to continue waiting. After the man from the car before us returned and told his wife to keep waiting, we knew it was merely too many tourists. After about half an hour of wait, we finally got to the ticket booth. Guess what? It was taking so long because everybody was trying to purchase tickets with credit cards; therefore, there were a lot of handing over paper to sign, and receipts, etc. An old man that looked like a retired park ranger was going down car by car, keeping the passengers entertained and in line. My parents could not stop shaking their heads. They said if this was in China, there was no way that the matter could be handled like this. Things would need to be done 10 times faster to accommodate the number of people and a lot more staff would be hired to sell tickets….
Finally, we were in. We parked our car at a certain stop and walked a little up the slope. Besides kids, we could hear very clearly the sound of water running. We knew we must be near the waterfall… First thing we came to see was a human-dug tunnel where the elevator was housed that would lead to the overlook deck. Or people could take the stairs to go up. We chose the elevator because we wanted to go inside the tunnel. As I took off my sunglasses, I could feel lots of cool air surrounding me, like in an air conditioned room, it felt so good! Inside and outside the tunnel were like two different worlds! Too bad the elevator was not a see through one. Before we knew it, the doors opened and we walked out of the elevator, and the heat was instantly felt.
Many people were already here, taking pictures. We wondered what they were taking pictures of, where was the waterfall anyway? A kid pointed at a direction and yelled “mom, look, look!”, we looked to that direction, and to our surprise, there it was, the waterfall, the so called “grandest mile of scenery in Colorado.” My mom immediately regretted paying $9 each to come in. There weren’t seven waterfalls, just one that turned seven times, whether natural or man-made. All there was to see was the cascading style of the waterfall that doesn’t even compare to some of China’s little waterfalls, in terms of grandness:
Here’s the looking-down view:
Since we were already here, we decided we should still go up to the source of the waterfall. So we came back down by elevator, and headed towards the bigger staircase.
The staircase was pretty steep, 2 flights and 224 steps of stairs!
At about step 10, a bare-footed little girl started crying, “mommy, I’m scared”. So her mom carried her down and told the rest of the family to keep going. I hate to admit but I got affected by the little girl and my heart started pounding as I climbed each step, and looking down didn’t help at all. It was kind of scary. Especially to your left you must leave room for people to walk down.
I started counting the steps out loud while gasping which seemed to have helped. I am proud to report this was one of the fastest time I continuously climbed so many steps of stair! Here’s my proud look when I reached the destination: