Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking pondered the origin of the universe, and the stardust from which we derived. Buddy and Elvis are wondering whether a squid could breathe fire underwater, or how much fun an eagle with a cannon for a beak could be. Go figure…
So you’re an alien from outer space, come down to Earth to enslave the human race and be worshipped as a god. We’ve all been there. But what physical form are you going to take? It’s got to be the most powerful species on Earth. The species that humans adore most, fear most, worship most. The species that humans feed, water, bathe, play with, fuss over, and take for walkies. Would you believe they’ll even clear up your poop? But is that species the Dog? Or the Cat? Make your choice and grab your collar…
The high peaks and passes of the Colorado mountains are studded with gold – not so much the gold that drew prospectors here in the nineteenth century, but a glittering variety of mountain resort towns to be treasured for their historic and contemporary charms, often their restful thermal springs, and always their variety of summer and winter activities.
Here are six of our favorites. All are within easy reach of Denver and other major cities; all boast an excellent range of places to stay, eat and be entertained; and all place you on the threshold of the Great Out There. So step out, get hiking or biking, fishing or boating, jeeping or climbing, skiing or boarding – and unwind at day’s end with the soothing waters, soothing music and scrumptious food and drink of the Rockies’ prettiest and friendliest small towns…
Located in southwest Colorado within the Gunnison National Forest and the Elk Mountain Range, Crested Butte is a place that combines genuine small-town charm with a broad range of summer and winter activities. Originally settled in the 1880s as a mining supply camp, Crested Butte has seen the swing of pick-axe give way to the kick of crampon and twirl of kayak paddle, and can now claim to be one of the most fully-featured vacation destinations in the Rockies.
Come summer there are rich climbing opportunities, guided or non-guided, in Taylor Canyon, Cement Creek and the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. Why not try whitewater rafting or kayaking in the class II-IV rapids? Or bombing down the extensive mountain bike trails? If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, the Mount Crested Butte region has endless choices for hiking in alpine meadows and forests – few places on Earth can match the Rockies for their panoply of summer wildflowers. Or you can fish in crystal clear rivers, streams and lakes.
Voted best steeps, best snow and best groomed corduroy in Colorado, Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers over a thousand acres of ski and board slopes suiting all from beginners to experts. Fourteen chairlifts carry you to the next run as swiftly as possible, and there are half-pipes and terrain runs to please the funkiest freestyler.
In the heart of San Miguel County lies the charming town of Telluride. Nestling in a dramatic box canyon, it offers a blend of nineteenth century charm and world-class cultural events which have earned it the moniker ‘City of Festivals’. Come to the outdoor amphitheater in June to see acts from across the nation perform at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. And pop into the Telluride Historical Museum to learn of the area’s history, from mining to slope-shredding.
World-class skiing is available by road or by gondola to Mountain Village and Telluride Ski & Golf Resort. This is the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000 peaks in America, with slopes for all. Ute Park and The Meadows will get beginners off to a gentle start, See Forever and Prospect Bowl will keep intermediates happy, and The Plunge, Revelation Bowl and Gold Hill offer plenty of challenges for the serious shredder.
Fodor’s ranked Telluride in the nation’s top ten for foodies – 221 South Oak offers top-class New American cuisine with Deep South, Calypso, Californian and Creole flavors; Brown Dog Pizza offers terrific, you guessed it, pizza in a sports bar atmosphere; and Allred’s, at the top of the gondola, combines a marvelously eclectic menu with the best views in Telluride
Set at the head of a valley and surrounded by 13,000 foot peaks, the intimate community of Ouray has managed the transition from the mining boom days to the present because it offers so many opportunities for rest and recreation. Thermal springs feed the town pool, where people come from near and far to soak those aching bones in its healing waters. It is said that the Ute Indian Chief Ouray, after whom the town is named, held religious ceremonies at these sacred waters. The town is also surrounded by spectacular waterfalls, and a popular excursion is to hike up to Box Canyon Falls to view the almost 300 foot cascade.
Ouray dubs itself the Jeeping Capital of the World, and it seems as if every inhabitant owns a four-wheel drive, as the rugged surrounding heights offer unlimited mountain roads to traverse. Bring along your own 4×4 or rent locally, and head out into the vast network of trails, graded from 1 (easiest) to 5 (use extreme caution); but whatever the difficulty, all the trails offer a spectacular variety of views, from ghost towns and abandoned mines to alpine woods and tundra studded with beautiful wildflowers.
After a rugged day’s driving, and a soak in the pool, it’s time to refuel. The Outlaw Restaurant cooks up great rib-eye steaks; the Bon Ton offers a range of quality Italian and modern Continental dishes; and Mouses Chocolates and Coffee does exactly what is says on the sign.
Salida sits squarely in the heart of Colorado, about 3 hours from Denver and 2 hours from Colorado Springs. As with so many CO mountain towns it was gold that first brought settlers here, but farming and ranching made Salida a lasting community. The Arkansas River flows through the downtown, which hosts the annual FibArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) Festival each summer. The river is a great place to try rafting and kayaking; and the town’s watery diversions extend to the local geothermal springs, which are now housed in a public pool.
The mountains around Salida boast over a dozen 14,000 foot peaks, and the area provides as wide a range of outdoor activities as you could find anywhere. Go hiking and camping amid beautiful alpine meadows with stunning mountain views. Get chalked up for a range of rock climbing routes suitable for beginners to experts. Try archery, golf, mountain biking, or take the kids to the brand new Captain Zipline Aerial Adventure Park, with its endless combinations of catwalks, ropes, ladders and flying elements – there are even several Via Ferrata routes, ‘iron highways’ hammered into otherwise unscalable faces.
For food, Ploughboy inc. is a blend of daily farmer’s market and deli, with a delicious range of local produce, and the ever-popular Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop offers a tempting range of hot and cold sandwiches, and salads.
In 1874 six gold prospectors became trapped in a blizzard in the appropriately bleak-sounding Slumgullion Pass, and Alfred Packer, Lake City’s most infamous resident, was subsequently jailed for killing and eating his five companions. After his release from jail he allegedly became a vegetarian. Thankfully the eating opportunities have improved since, and now Lake City boasts such excellent eateries as the Restless Spirits Saloon, the Lake City Bakery and the San Juan Soda Company.
Lake City is your gateway to the San Juans, and here you can enjoy hiking, camping, boating, mountain biking, horseback riding and fishing. There are also historic and mine tours, hunting, rafting and mini-golf. When the white stuff arrives, check out the Lake City Ski Hill: opened in 1966, it’s a friendly boutique resort, with four runs served by one life, and prides itself on value (at time of writing it quotes that a family of four can ski here for as little as $44 a day).
The surrounding Hindsdale County offers up a glorious array of natural wonders, from the blue waters of Lake San Cristobal, with fishing, rafting and kayaking; to spectacular cascades at North Clear Creek Falls, Whitmore Falls and Nellie Creek Falls; and the four public wilderness areas Uncompaghre, La Garita, Weminuche and Powderhorn.
As with so many of Colorado’s most appealing mountain towns, Steamboat Springs has wonderful geothermal waters. Fur trappers visiting the area in the late nineteenth century thought that the churning sound made by the springs resembled a steamboat coming down the Yampa River.
Summer delights include a scenic hike to Fish Creek Falls, or a variety of hiking and mountain biking routes through the surrounding forests and parks. And don’t be surprised to find the sky filled with giants – for Steamboat Springs is a famous hot-air ballooning hub, hosting the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo each summer – book a basket for the best Colorado mountain views money can buy. In the summer evenings stroll down to the Strings Music Festival, or to the hundred year old rodeo.
Steamboat Springs has produced more Winter Olympians than any other US town (88 and counting), so head out to Steamboat Ski Resort and Howelsen Hill to discover why. Champagne snow is one reason – the Pacific rain fronts are partially stripped of their moisture over the Mojave Desert, before climbing into the Rockies, cooling, and dumping the most perfectly dry, flaky snow. Off-piste heaven. With nearly 3000 acres of skiable terrain for all levels, Steamboat Ski Resort will get you wondering if you might just be able to qualify for the next Olympics…
Estes Park is the eastern entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Estes offers blissful boating opportunities, and the surrounding peaks are prime targets for rock and ice climbers. Early morning is a gorgeous time to explore the Park’s crystal-clear lakes, rolling alpine meadows and forests, and to sample the summer wildflowers and wildlife. There is also a good range of horse-riding and mountain-biking trails.
Estes Park itself is a bustling retail centre, with over 200 outlets, and a restaurant scene and event calendar rivalling those of much larger cities. The century-old Stanley Hotel overlooks the town, and its white pillared, old-world grandeur is not to be missed – if you are staying elsewhere, be sure to pop in to its fine restaurant and whiskey bar. Elkhorn Avenue is the town’s thriving main thoroughfare, but take a scenic riverside walk along the Big Thompston if you fancy a breather from the bargain-hunting crowds.
For food, the unassuming-looking Baba’s Burgers and Gyros serves excellent burgers and Greek fries; The Egg and I serves one of the best breakfast menus in the Rockies; and Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Tap House is the place to go if you like your beef and pork slow-cooked, juicy and dressed with a range of homemade sauces to your own personal taste.
Dream of holiday cottage perfection in combination with silver sands and azure waters, and most minds are drawn eastwards to the Riviera and the Mediterranean coast. But follow the stepping stones of the Pyrenees west, to the Atlantic, and you will discover another, lesser known France. Aquitaine, a France draped with the longest sandy shore in Europe, not to mention the continent’s greatest sand dune. Aquitaine, a France carpeted with Europe’s largest pine forest. Aquitaine, a France delved with the Lascaux Caves, the Sistine Chapels of our Neolithic ancestors. Aquitaine, whose verdant valleys boast some of France’s grandest chateaux and some of the world’s greatest wines. So why not book a holiday cottage in Aquitaine, a world away from the Mediterranean masses? Shh, it’ll be our little secret…
With over 200 kilometres of fine golden sands, Aquitaine’s Atlantic coast is Europe’s longest beach, and one of the least crowded. Miles of undeveloped shoreline stretch from Bayonne to the Gironde, taking in such modestly-sized and family-friendly resorts as Contis-Plage, Biscarosse-Plage and Mimizan-Plage. Don’t miss the spectacular Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe, which guards the entrance to Arcachon Bay in the Landes of Gascony. Slip on the sunglasses, slap on the sunscreen, and stretch out on your own slice of sandy heaven – it’s yours, all yours…
The Lascaux Caves
The Dordogne region is one of the oldest centres of human habitation in Europe, and the world-renowned Lascaux Caves, stumbled upon by a group of children only some seventy years ago, are a cathedral to the spiritual aspirations of our Neolithic ancestors. The Caves themselves are closed to the public, but a perfect facsimile has been created, so step inside and let the paintings speak to you with an artistic spirit so distant and yet so eerily close to our own.
Europe’s Largest Pine Forest
Aquitaine’s natural superlatives are not confined to its coastline. Les Landes is the most heavily-forested area in Europe, a pine-scented playground some 150km wide and 200km long, latticed with well-marked trails that offer a wealth of opportunities for hiking, biking and horse-riding. Les Landes is sparsely-populated even by Aquitaine’s spacious standards, so why not set your best foot, wheel or hoof forward to enjoy its verdant wonders?
They make wine here, apparently…
If the mere mention of ‘Bordeaux’ sets your nostrils a-quivering and your taste buds a-salivating, then you’ve come to the right place. To the north of Bordeaux itself, west of the Gironde estuary, lies Médoc, the most prestigious wine-producing area in south-western France. But Médoc is merely first among equals, as the land around Bordeaux is an embarrassment of vinicultural riches. Visit pretty old St. Emilion, not just for its vineyards but for its narrow streets and unique underground church, and pop in to Saint Estèphe or the Côtes de Bourg for the grand chateaux winery experience.
Three more to visit:
Bayonne – indulge your sweet tooth in the self-styled French Capital of Chocolate, not to mention the Capital of the French Basque Country. Every chocolatier has its own scrumptious speciality…
Biarritz – once popular with the great and good of the Belle Epoque, Biarritz combines old world elegance with the gnarly vibe of being the surf capital of Europe. But getting tubular isn’t compulsory – stroll instead along the promenade, visit the attractive aquarium, or tuck into the morning’s catch beside the pretty fishing harbour.
Les Eyzies – there’s more to Aquitanian prehistory than Lascaux: for it was in the Cro Magnon site of Les Eyzies that the earliest remains of homo sapiens were uncovered in 1868.
Andrew Murray 2015
Content marketing is war with nicer paninis. Your agency is like a faction in a war zone – just one of a thousand atomised forces, each seeking to deliver their payloads to their targets while denying you the ability to deliver yours to your own.
You need to maintain a situational awareness of your rivals. Who are their commanders? What are their operational methods? What are their targets, and do these targets encroach on your own? And while keeping your rivals in your peripheral view, you must now focus on your mission.
Welcome to the war zone, General.
The marketplace is a battle zone where the complexity of manoeuvres and the smoke of battle can confuse the rookie commander. But the smart general knows that clarity comes through looking at the right scale:
The strategic scale – this is your long-term commitment to your client, year on year. You want to win the war for them, and that means seeing the smaller scale successes and set-backs clearly within the context of the long campaign.
The operational scale – this is an individual campaign for your client, and often the most effective scale at which to view the battle zone. This scale allows you to brief and delegate your junior commanders to manage the operation, the campaign, so that they clearly understand the objectives and the time frame, and can then proceed to tactical detail…
The tactical scale – this is where we fight each skirmish – each Tweet, each Tumblr post, each FB status update. But everyone in the team is able to see each skirmish in the context of the operation – and you, General, are able to see the operation in the context of your strategic goals.
2 Target acquisition – context is God
Know your target. Understand the purpose of delivering your payload where it will have the most devastating effect. Focus your maximum content punch to the point of maximum weakness.
And understand that your target is not passively sitting there. Countermeasures lie in wait, seeking to deny a successful strike. The target site is cloaked in defensive shields of ad-blockers, junk filters and social media privacy settings. Understanding how your payload will get through these defences, and what effect it will have on impact – is the context for which you must design the payload itself…
3 Payload – and content is king
Your content creatives are bomb-builders, and the best are Barnes Wallis – geniuses at designing, improvising, innovating to ensure the bombs breach even the most obdurate defences. This is why you pay them a lot, and get someone to bring them nice paninis (I like goat’s cheese and caramelised onion).
The bombs have to pass all defences – and when they hit, they have to nuke. They have to make a planned, considered, coordinated and real difference to winning the operation and, in turn, the war.
4 Stealth bombing – a bomb that doesn’t look like a bomb, and an ad that doesn’t look like an ad, have a better chance of getting through
Commanders of defence facilities don’t like bombs, and are ever on the lookout to stop them getting through. People don’t like ads, and are ever on the lookout to avoid having to look at them.
The best bomb could resemble a goat’s cheese and caramelised onion panini, delivered straight to the commander’s bunker. And the best ad doesn’t look like an ad – at least not at first, which gives it time to slip through the outer defences.
5 (Smart) area bombing – social media
A successful campaign integrates targeted strikes with intelligent larger scale area bombing – these areas being skilfully identified interest groups across the social media.
How can you know if your campaign is working unless you get your commanders together afterwards for the autopsy? Chew it over, and allow everyone to spit out any unpleasant truths.
Conclusion: Content war – you’re in it for the long haul, General
No bomb, no battle, wins the war. So survey the battlefield with the perspective of an eagle and the patience of Job, and in time, General, you will win the war. That is all.
Andrew Murray 2015
Twitter: Nuke it: Content marketing is war with nicer paninis, so here are 6 ways to make your payload hit #nukeit #goatscheese
Tweet 2: Nuke it: How to Barnes Wallis your marketing bomb, so it breaches the dam and doesn’t just bounce #nukeit #goatscheese
Tweet 3: Nuke it: Drop a marketing bomb that doesn’t look like a bomb (and smells like goat’s cheese) #nukeit #goatscheese
Facebook headline: Nuke it: Does Bashar al-Assad like goat’s cheese paninis? - and other questions for the modern marketing general
Google +: Nuke it: Does Bashar al-Assad like goat’s cheese paninis? How to drop a marketing bomb that smells like goat’s cheese. How to Barnes Wallis your marketing bomb, so it doesn’t just bounce. And 4 more rules of engagement for the modern marketing general #nukeit #goatscheese
LinkedIn headline: Nuke it: Does Bashar al-Assad like goat’s cheese paninis? How to Barnes Wallis your marketing bomb, so it doesn’t just bounce. And 4 more rules of engagement for the modern marketing general #nukeit #goatscheese
For the second year running, Mayfair’s Grosvenor Film Festival dares to go al fresco in partnership with pop-up movie masters Nomad and property specialists Chestertons. So grab your pac a mac, and a camping chair high enough to annoy everyone behind you, and prepare to experience some celluloid classics just as nature intended…
For their first screening, Nomad have bravely plucked an avant-garde Bulgarian animation from 1958. Not really, it’s The Sound of Music: yes, the von Trapps and their favourite things are etched into your heart, your soul, your very DNA – but have you sung The Hills are Alive in a living outdoor setting before? You will now. Costumes cut from your living room curtains are optional, as is, most likely, a drop of golden sun…
And if that isn’t enough to have you digging out your thermal undercrackers, Nomad are following Maria with Mikey-boy in that red white and blue summation of swinging post-1966 Brit-pride, and quote-along Bible for the modern mockney geezer, The Italian Job – accept no pointlessly remade substitutes. All together now, We are the Self-Preservation Society…
Andrew Murray 2015
The task of picking the four best literary destinations in Paris, a city whose cobblestones echo with the declamations of the Left Bank and the leftfield, the home truths of Paris’ native scribes and the outsider observations of Anglophone exiles, is gloriously futile. So shall we agree to disagree, mon ami? Here’s my pick of the city’s top literary divertissements to get you arguing over your aperitifs…
The oldest restaurant in Paris, Café Procope was the watering hole of the Comédie française across the street, and a nexus of the Parisian, and American, Enlightenment. Rousseau drowned his theatrical sorrows here, Voltaire risked caffeine poisoning, and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson convened to debate the uplift of the modern mind and the downfall of the damned British redcoats…
Shakespeare & Company
Founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and famously alluded to in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Shakespeare & Company is Paris’ premier English-language bookshop. This may not be the place to confess you couldn’t get past page 10 of Ulysses – Sylvia played patron not only to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, but also to James Joyce, whose impenetrable masterwork she tirelessly championed.
The Bust of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Aristocrat, aviator, and author of the children’s classic The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has an asteroid and an Andean mountain peak named after him, but his commemorative sculpture in the Invalides Park at the Square Santiago du Chili grants him posterity on a human scale. Buy a copy of The Little Prince for your little prince or princess to enjoy on the flight home (which might not be the best time to tell them the author died in a plane crash…)
20 Rue Jacob
American expat Natalie Clifford Barney hosted a who’s who of twentieth century letters at 20 Rue Jacob – Marcel Proust, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Somerset Maugham and Truman Capote are just a few of the greats who graced her literary symposium. Hemingway was notable by his absence, but grants Barney an acerbic mention in A Moveable Feast.
Andrew Murray 2015