Just As It Is

The Memorial Day weekend is lovely in Ouray, and as busy as the hot springs were, I was glad to have chosen it for my visit to the town. This was the warm-up for the summer tourist season, and all the businesses—including The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgingshad put their best faces forward. The site smelled of freshly-cut grass, the big pool sparkled, and the great room off the lobby glowed with springtime sunshine.

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I roamed the hallways, peaking into rooms and lingering in the vapor cave, a rare treat on my tour of the Colorado hot springs. Proprietor Linda Wright-Minter soon joined me and gave me a formal tour of the facility, pausing to straighten a picture, tighten a bed linen, and skim an apple blossom from the soaking pool. Guests greeted her warmly as we walked the grounds, treated her like an old friend. Linda stopped to chat with each one, and inquire into their satisfaction. They were all pleased today, happy to be vacationing at the Wiesbaden again.

“I wish,” she confided, “I could remember all the names. Over the years there are just so many.”

The words slid smoothly off her tongue in an accent I couldn’t quite place, distinctly southern, maybe Texas with a slight Virginia twang. It made talking to her a pleasure, no matter what the conversation, and she’d owned and operated the facility for many years and had some interesting tales to tell. We settled into the great room, where Linda took a seat on the big couch, tucked her legs under her long denim skirt, and smoothed the flowing white mane of hair away from her face, exposing stately, Sarah Jessica Parker-esque cheekbones. Hot springs take on the personalities of their owners, and sometimes it works the other way, but somehow they always seem to reflect each other. In any case, the casual elegance of the Wiesbaden was echoed in Linda, and she in it.

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I asked her about the televisions and telephones, which, although discreet, seemed slightly out of place in such an historic rooming lodge. She explained that she had put off adding them for a long time, but that, before cell phones became so popular, some of the high-brow and high-profile patrons—particularly the senators and other government officials—continuously received phone calls to the front desk, at all hours. And while the guests always told her to keep the place “just the way it is,” Linda believed they appreciated the amenities, so they could call home on the phones, and keep up on the news on the TV sets. I asked Linda about the senators and other well-known guests, and she told me the story of a young actor from New York City who spent some time at the Wiesbaden.

“I asked him what he was doing on Broadway, but he said he was just a TV actor, and working on a show called Law & Order. Well, I hadn’t heard of it, of course, I don’t have much time for TV. He seemed surprised, maybe even a little disappointed, but he came back later and asked me if I’d heard of another show called Sex in the City. I hadn’t heard of that one either. I told my friends about him; they said he’s a big celebrity.”

I told Linda he was a big celebrity, and that perhaps the only person who might enjoy telling that story more than her was Mr. Big himself, actor Chris Noth. She clapped her hands together, smiled brightly, and said, “That was his name!”

The Wiesbaden is a step back in time, but a welcome step, a lovely step, a casual, elegant step. I left in agreement with the guests who say, “Keep it just as it is, Linda, just as it is.”

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The Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings Ouray, Colorado. Photos by Susan Joy Paul.

Touring Colorado Hot Springs

(April 2012, FalconGuides) introduces you to 32 Colorado hot springs, with directions, maps, and the details you need to plan your hot springs vacation.

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