Category Archives: Colorado

Things To Do in Denver When You are Not Dead (But at a Scholarly Conference and Restlessly Curious)

Downtown DenverI flew out to Denver for a work conference, assuming the short (just over 50 hour) trip would be too jammed packed to offer enough fodder for a post. I was wrong and found Denver quite enjoyable. After a long cab ride from Denver International Airport (more on that later), I dropped my bags at the hotel and went out in search of food. Denver is amazingly vegan-friendly and had my pick of places. I decided on Watercourse Foods and devoured a plate of homefries, pancakes, scrambled tofu, and tofu bacon. I wandered for a while and eventually found myself at the opulent Brown Palace Hotel and headed into the Ship Tavern. I sipped a pear cocktail, read a zine, and filled out a few postcards. I enjoy these quiet, anonymous moments of solitary travel.

Brown Palace Hotel
Brown Palace Hotel
Sparkling Pear Cocktail: St Germain Elderflower liquor, Grey Goose La Poire, lemon juice, champaign
Sparkling Pear Cocktail: St Germain Elderflower liquor, Grey Goose La Poire, lemon juice, champaign

I returned to the hotel for the reception and dinner and decided I would maturely go back to my room and retire for the night. Thankfully a co-worker convinced me that was not in my best interest and cajoled me to go with her to a conference-related gathering. What had I been thinking?!

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Top of the clock tower (16th Street)
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Staircase to the top
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Clock tower (16th Street)
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View of downtown Denver
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Panorama of Denver after dark (click for larger image)

I’m glad she did, because I was not only treated to a view of Denver at night from the 22nd floor of a clock tower, I got to watch a thunderstorm breaking around the city from that height. One of my travel loves is seeing, hearing, and smelling thunderstorms in different places. We were even allowed to climb the spiral staircase to the very top of the bell tower. Giving people drinks and then sanctioning this activity seemed overly trusting.

City O'City
City O’City

Despite the semi-late night, I was up at 6am and exploring the city before a breakfast meeting with a friend who lives in Denver. We met at City O’ City, where I had scrambled tofu smothered in green chile, queso fresco, cilantro, homefries, corn tortillas, and some warm house-made gluten-free bread. Breakfast foods, especially at conference hotels, tend to be very gluten-y and not very vegan-friendly, so this was a huge treat and kept me going all day. So did such a pleasant meeting and good conversation so early in the day.

There are waffles out there...
There are waffles out there…

I was busy with work stuff the rest of the day, but the next morning awoke once again at the crack of dawn. City O’ City’s menu called to me on the 21st floor of my hotel room and I found myself wandering again, this time pondering the waffles I had seen on the menu. They make savory waffles. Waffles as food-food. This is perhaps the best idea ever. I ordered the “waffle of the week”, a tex-mex waffle topped with black beans, spicy peppers and onions, cilantro, a chipotle aioli, and avocado. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. Seriously.

Mouth paradise
Mouth paradise

I headed back to the hotel and got caught in the beginnings of the Pride festivities. Areas around the hotel were cordoned off with fences, but I made it back in time for the start of the sessions. I had a break and walked to Tattered Cover, a renowned local bookstore. Across the street is Rockmount, famous for their western wear shirts since 1946. They are well-made and very cool looking, but pricy and I ended up leaving empty- handed.

Tattered Cover mystery section
Tattered Cover mystery section
Rockmount Western Wear
Rockmount Western Wear

The airport is fairly far outside of the city, about 25 miles, and by Saturday afternoon we were all conferenced-out. I decided to leave a bit early with my boss and a colleague so I could explore the weird murals in what is a very weird airport. According to conspiracy experts, the airport is everything from a massive underground base providing safety to a new world order to a secret Nazi and/or Freemason site. It would appear there is an entire segment of the internet devoted to the DIA conspiracy (go ahead, Google it!). No matter what tin hat you are wearing, the airport is simply weird. Greeting you as you arrive at DIA is a giant blue horse sculpture with red glowing eyes dubbed Blucifer…that killed the sculptor. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

I've killed a man.
I’ve killed a man.

Inside the baggage claim area are four wildly colorful murals by Chicano muralist Leo Tanguma that promote world peace and express fears of mass extinction, but first you have to get past a giant, threatening gas mask-wearing, sword wielding figure and a lot of dead and crying kids to get the message. The images show misery and death, a quote from a child who died at Auschwitz, a dead jaguar, and kids toppling the gas mask figure. I just can’t figure out how this got past a public art planning committee. I wonder what weary travelers make of these scenes? Here are the four murals and some close ups:

Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma
Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma
Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma
Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma

Plaque explaining the mural:Children of the World Dream of Peace is a powerful mural expressing the artist’s desire to abolish violence in society. One section of the piece speaks to the tragedy and devastation of war and its impact on humanity. The mural then moves on to images of smiling children, dressed in traditional folk costumes from around the world, celebrating peace prevailing over war.” Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma Detail: Children of the World Dream of Peace, by Leo Tanguma

In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma
In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma
In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma
In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma

Plaque explaining the mural:In Peace and Harmony with Nature references the social realist murals of Mexico while addressing a modern theme: the destruction of the environment. The first half of the mural shows children displaying great sadness over the destruction and extinction of life, as the second half of the artwork depicts humanity coming together to rehabilitate and celebrate nature.” Detail: In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma Detail: In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma Detail: In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma Detail: In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma Detail: In Peace and Harmony with Nature, by Leo Tanguma Further reading: http://diaconspiracyfiles.com/2009/05/12/more-murals-by-leo-tanguma/ And then there is this part of the train system that looks inspired by ancient ruins.

Paging Indiana Jones!
Paging Indiana Jones!

The airport is HUGE. It takes up 53 square miles and you need to take a train to your gate. There are rumors of underground bunkers and speculation about who really built the airport. The runways are said to be in a deliberate swastika shape. I don’t know about any of that, but I do know they have a TCBY that has vegan soft-serve and that really helped the storm-related delays. Denver is a seemingly unassuming place with unexpected (and often peculiar) treasures.

Gap Year Girl, Fellow Traveler

I’ve been in Denver for a day now and have found myself reminiscing several times about the last time I was here. It was 2009 and I had come out for a work trip with my boss and her counterpart. It was the most amazing 72 hours. But this post isn’t about that trip, it is about my boss, who is now simply my friend, Marianne, who helped expand my world of travel.

There are people who travel and then there are true travelers. Marianne is a true traveler. Thanks to our work trips we’ve hiked the Rockies in the snow, flown to Germany, and tipsily watched fireworks from the lawn of our hotel in Anaheim. She taught me about “doing the Frankfurt Book Fair” and I taught her to look for birds, even in urban areas. At one point we auditioned for The Amazing Race together.

So it was with great joy that I watched her shed her possessions, including her home and job, and fulfill a lifelong dream to travel Europe for a year. A gap year, only not a post-collegial trip, but post-career adventure.

Marianne and her husband, Joe, traveled to France and from there spring-boarded across Europe, with a brief sojourn to Morocco. They experience the highs – literally a hike in the Alps – and the lows – dreary, isolated winter days in medieval towns without wifi.  Marianne posted about her trip in a blog and as readers we tasted the wine Italy, felt the sun in Greece, and smelled the fields of flowers in France. We met fellow travelers, helpful innkeepers, and local eccentrics. We got to know Marianne as much as we got to experience new places.

As someone who loves to travel, it was inspiring to see how an actual person I know could explore the world for a full year. I know that careful planning and spreadsheets were involved, but more importantly she made her leap of faith accessible.

gap-year-girl-round-3Why am I telling you all of this? Marianne has written a book about the trip – Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomers Adventure Across 21 Countries. I enjoyed following her adventure and I think you will too: http://mariannecbohr.com/.