When I was in Durango a couple of weeks ago, I stayed at a fancy-ish, boutique hotel on the downtown strip. This place has a really good government rate in the fall, so I tend to stay there when I’m in the area. It’s the kind of hotel that has a bar with waitresses and bartenders dressed in period costume (generic 19th century saloon-type outfits, complete with ostrich feather in the girls’ hair), the kind of hotel that has all antique furniture and “haunted” rooms and stories of Louis L’Amour and the room he always stayed in (the one above the saloon). Each room has a journal where people who stay in the room can leave a record of their stay, and reading through you get an idea for the kinds of occasions for which people feel a night at this place is warranted. I really like the place, but I gotta tell you, some of the rooms make me feel like a whore.
Let me explain. The hotel is generally patronized by people on honeymoons, people taking a night or two to get away from it all. It’s generally expensive and the beds are large and cozy and the rooms are kind of small. Some of the fixtures are 70 years old, and you can tell that a lot of stuff is original. They don’t put fancy TVs or coffeemakers in the room, but they do have nice fluffy towels. The rooms are designed for people who are planning to spend a lot of time focused on each other, in the bed, and I think some of them are also designed for, shall we say, atmosphere?
The room I was in had an old TV and a big fancy bed. There was a haunting picture of a farmer girl whose eyes would follow you around the room. A super cool old armoire was in one corner and a comfortable overstuffed chair in another. But the best part was the heavy red velvet curtains and red velvet flocked wallpaper. It was not at all difficult to imagine myself a girl for hire in a late 19th century old west brothel, dressed like one of the girls in the saloon downstairs. In a way, it was even kind of difficult to sleep, what with the spooky girl staring at me and the red velvet surrounding me.
Other than my brothel room, Durango was lovely. It’s probably my favorite smaller town in Colorado that I’ve ever visited. Some of my yearly haunts include a fantastic brewpub that serves amazing breakfast and also roasts their own coffee (Carver’s), Honeyville (selling honey products and jams and jellies, with a working beehive enclosed in glass actually in the store), two yarn stores, and a kick-ass used bookstore. There’s an authentic French bakery/restaurant (selling the best chocolate croissants I’ve had outside of France), a number of good coffee shops, and a store that sells everything from Lord of the Rings sword replicas to leather goods to sex toys. It’s a vibrant town with a lot going on, and becoming a more desireable area to live.
Unfortunately, as with all places that become the new in place to live, housing prices are skyrocketing and people who have lived there for years are having a hard time paying their property taxes, since their neighbors’ houses are selling for so much money. But for now, the population is quite invested in improving their community. It’s not a tourist destination, though there’s plenty to do – an hour’s drive from Mesa Verde and the four corners area, a mountain train that runs between Durango and Silverton, and plenty of camping and hiking. And there’s a state college in town. You can tell that real people actually live there. Durango isn’t Disneyland or Venice. But it is a fun town to spend a couple of days, even if your room does make you feel like a call girl from 1887.