I love going to the Telluride Film Festival. The peace and beauty of the setting, snuggled serenely in the San Juan Mountains, the cute little town, dotted with colorful (and very expensive) houses, Main Street (aka Colorado Ave), where you'll find lots of shops to poke around in, restaurants to fill your rumbly tummy, and a nice little coffeehouse at which those of us with caffeine addictions can get our much-needed fix. But first, you gotta get here.

Like last year, I had to fly into Gunnison, almost three hours away, because flights to Telluride were booked (just as well, I've seen the scary Telluride landing strip up on the plateau from a distance, and I don't need to get any closer than that, really). I was shooting for Montrose, just an hour out, but they were out of rental cars -- and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because for some reason the Montrose flights were delayed on Thursday, so I would have been twiddling my thumbs for hours at the Denver airport, growing increasingly cranky in proportion to the number of hours since I'd last slept (I can never sleep before an early flight, so I'd been up all night).

Since my flight was so early, I got into Gunnison bright and early at about 9:30AM. The pic above was taken on Main Street in Gunnison. That's about as close as I want to get to a moose first thing in the morning.


Like Telluride, Gunnison is another cute little town, and since I'd driven from there last year I already knew where to find the coffee shop. On my way to score a quad Americano, though, something caught my eye: a cafe that hadn't been there last year. Laureli Cafe was bright, it was colorful, it served breakfast, and it smelled fantastic, plus I could see a bakery counter inside, so I moseyed on in for a closer look and decided to stay and have some nourishment before my long drive. I was greeted by a lovely, friendly waitress who showed me to a table by the window. I asked if I could take pics of the cafe, and after assuring her that I was not a local scoping the place out in order to steal the owner's ideas, permission was kindly granted.



The owner, it seems, in addition to being the mastermind behind the cafe's yummy menu, is also an interior decorator, and it shows in the cafe's eclectic design. Each of the tables, for instance, has different salt-and-pepper shakers. Mine had the cows, above, but there were also other barnyard animals, and even lighthouses, on the other tables. The chairs were painted mint green, and the chair coverings ranged from old quilts to leopard-print. It kind of reminded me of eating in someone's grandma's kitchen.



I placed my order (spinach-carrot quiche and coffee) and was quite surprised when "coffee" turned out to mean my very own french press accompanied by a nice, big mug. The waitress proved to be quite knowledgable about the ins and outs of french press coffee, giving the couple at a nearby table a rundown of why it has to brew for four minutes, and what kind of grind to use. The couple raved about their coffee, and a few minutes later I was raving too -- who would have thought I'd get perfectly made french press coffee for a buck and some change? It was fantastic -- and for my $1.50, when I left, the waitress poured the rest in a to-go cup, which she filled with freshly made french press coffee at the counter for me, no extra charge. My quiche arrived shortly after the coffee, and here's a bit of food porn for you to show you how good it was.



I know, this isn't a food blog, but Telluride, more than just about any other fest, is as much about the local scene and color as it is about the movies, and if you're gonna come to this fest, you've gotta know where the good eats are, too. If you're ever flying in for Telluride, fly into Gunnison and make the drive, which is really nice, and be sure to pop into Laureli for breakfast or lunch ... it was one of the highlights of this trip, and I'll be stopping off on my way back to score some cookies from that bakery counter for the kids.



Once I'd fueled myself with that breakfast, I hit the road for the longish drive to Telluride. About the two-hour mark, I was getting pretty tired, but once I made the final turn onto the road leading to Telluride, I starting getting jazzed. So jazzed, I forgot to stop in at the Sawpit Mercantile for a pit stop. Big mistake, because as it turned out, the road construction that was clogging up traffic this time last year is even worse. Why they need to do this during one of the biggest events in Telluride is beyond me -- must be someone's idea of a joke, I guess -- but I sat not moving for almost 40 minutes. About the 20 minute mark, I was thinking of making an illegal three-point turn and heading back to the Merchantile, but I kept thinking, "it can't be THAT much longer." Hah. I did get a little entertainment out of watching the rich-looking fellow in the luxury SUV ahead of me pop out of his car to go yell at the flagger. Because those road construction guys love having some rich schmuck tell them how stupid they are. I bet they kept us there an extra 10 minutes just for that.



Thankfully, traffic did finally move again, and I made it to my hotel, the lovely Mountain Lodge at Telluride up in Mountain Village. I like staying here because they have great views, it's away from the noise and bustle of Main Street, and, best of all, you have an excuse to ride the gondolas more, so you get to enjoy spectacular views of Telluride. I haven't yet seen any bears, in spite of all the "bear warning" signs, but I did see a mama and baby elk grazing on Thursday while I was on the gondola, and tonight we were treated to a truly spectacular view of the night sky. You don't see stars like that in the big cities. Here's a shot of my first trip on the gondola this year -- that first ride I have to reacquaint myself with the incredibly steep dive down to Telluride from the San Sophia stop and remind myself that to date, no one has gone careening down the cables to the bottom.



More on Telluride to come with a dispatch from Opening Day, a write-up of the Daniel-Day Lewis tribute, reviews of some spectacular films, and some surprise interviews as well, so keep tuned for more updates.