To be honest, there’s not a lot to tell you about my Friday in Denver. It can be summed up as a walk downtown, back to the hotel, then an evening in a couple of bars. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it all, I just don’t know it’s going to make riveting reading?
So let me try….
I decided that this morning was going to be my best opportunity in recent days for a lie-in. Then I contrasted that with the fact that the (complimentary) breakfast finishes at 09:00, so I made sure I didn’t miss out there. I came back tot the room after eating to do some running repairs on my bag (the second time I’ve had to sew-up a rip – I’m just too tight to spring for another bag unless I have to!).
It was around 10:30 that I set off, retracing my steps from last night, into the Downtown area of Denver. It may be doing the city a huge disservice, but I think that Downtown Denver, for all practical purposes, amounts to the 16th Street semi-pedestrianised area. I was going to use its official title of the 16th Street Mall, but I think that would be confusing. Here the word Mall is used in a kind of British sense in that it is a long avenue (albeit lined with shops) not, a shopping mall in the American sense.
It was another very hot day, but I was a little more prepared for it, breaking out my cut-offs and having a bottle of water by my side at all times.In addition, if not in air conditioned shops, there was always the shaded side of the street to go for – except in the sky-scraper canyons where there always seemed to be reflected sun.
I did wander beyond 16th Street, but frankly, didn’t find much to occupy me. Having reached the far end, marked by the State Capitol shrouded in scaffolding, I retraced my steps. A free bus service plies its trade along the street (which is why I described it as “semi-pedestrianised”) but despite my wanting to use it, it never seemed the right moment to hop on the very frequent service. I was too happy wandering, I guess…
A word on contrasts: At one end of 16th Street Mall is Barnes and Noble – everything you’d expect from this ubiquitous national chain. At the other end is The Tattered Cover, a unique (I assume) institution of Denver. It would be perfectly possible to spend hours and hours in either shop, but the latter goes out of its way to encourage browsing with tables and chairs throughout the store. Two somewhat different, but equally impressive bookstores.
I’d punctuated my wandering with a couple of stops for coffee at the inevitable international chain of which I’m so fond. It could be argued I’m following the McDonalds path, but like that chain, SBs has the advantage of being instantly familiar and knowing what you’re going to get. I don’t suppose Caribou Coffee, for example, would be any harder or otherwise challenging to cope with, but…
This took me to early afternoon. I was bugged as I needed to book my van ride to the airport tomorrow, and like a plonker, in sorting my paperwork last night, I’d taken all receipts and such like out of my wallet – including the SuperShuttle voucher I needed. Back to the room and, after a bit of American English/British English frustration, eventually got my ride booked for 07:35. See why I felt like a lie-in this morning?
I celebrated with a dip in the pool. Bliss. Then, even more decadently, a bit of a siesta. Double bliss.
Around 17:00 I lumbered back into life and headed for Target #1 – the Denver Beer Company on Platte Street in the area known as Lower Highlands. (I’d walked through this neighbourhood out-and-back to the hotel and was quite taken by it. To give you an idea of the demographic, there was not one, but two, doggie day care centers, one of which offers a ‘zen pamper package’. Get it?)
Anyway, Denver Beer Company: Yes. Very happy with this place. Session IPA followed by Yin Black IPA. They don’t do food here, and although there was a food truck outside, needed something more substantial, which is why I only stopped for two. I was particularly taken by a poster announcing a weekly event at the bar – “Tuesdays at 8pm: Geeks Who Drink”. When I arrived it was very busy with the pre-game baseball crowd (including a group of San Francisco Giants fans). It thinned out a bit before long, the remainder including the after-work crowd (“knock-offs”, as the Aussies would have it) and, strikingly, several dog walkers!
So, back over the footbridge across I-25. Incidentally, each time I’ve crossed here there’s been a matrix sign on the outbound carriageway relating to use of the “HOV/Toll lane” – in other words, a car with two or more occupants uses it for nowt, but even single occupant vehicles can use it – if they pay. This morning it was closed, when I walked across about 17:00 the toll lane cost $5 to use, but by 18:30 it was just $1.50. Last night, after the baseball finished and I crossed it about 19:30, the toll was .50c. That seems like a pretty good example of getting the most out of the roadway AND Supply & Demand.
My final crossing of the footbridge, back toward the hotel, took me to the Ale House on Central & 16th Streets – just the other side of I-25. This is actually owned by the Breckenridge Brewery (the observant among you may remember I bought a six pack of their beer in Twin Falls, which kept me amused on several evenings during the road trip). I was greeted by a very charming host, who invited me to seat myself at the bar, which I did. I was then greeted by an equally charming (female) bartender. I mention gender as I’ve always found bar tending in the US to be a very male dominated profession for some reason, so it was good to see the (beer) glass ceiling shattered here – albeit the other two bartenders were male. For dinner I had the chicken pot pie, just to get away from beef for a change. It was very good but not quite what I expected in that it was kind of like chicken (& veg) soup with a crust. To wash it down I had Left Hand (Longmont, CO) Nitro Milk Stout – 6%, Telluride (Telluride, CO) Face Down Brown – 5.7% and Breckenridge (Denver, CO) Thunder Stout 5.%.
At one point this exchange took place:
Barmaid: “How’s the Telluride?”
Me: “Yeah, great. I get the complexities in it” (total waffle, of course…)
Off goes barmaid…
To return, totally unexpectedly, with a sample of North Coast (Fort Bragg, CA) Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout – 9%
“You’ll enjoy this…”
It’s easy to think this was just puff to win a bigger tip (it worked) but later, after I’d signed off on the check – so no chance of affecting the tip – she came back over and asked how I’d enjoyed the beers, which was my favourite etc. etc. In other words, perfect customer service and unforced friendliness. Impressive.
As I left the Ale House, it was still daylight but dark clouds circulated all around. There was a very lively display of lightning all around but no thunder to go with it, so I guess the storms were a ways off. Once back at the hotel and having turned on the television, a ticker was running under the picture warning of damaging thunderstorms and a “break-into-programming” weather report showed the extent of the storms – all seemingly well away from Downtown Denver.
I liked what I saw of Denver, very much. I don’t feel like I really interacted with the city in any way though – although probably had more random encounters with people than I have in any other US town or city I’ve visited so far. [By way of example: A couple came in and sat next to me at the (by then quite crowded) bar in the Ale House. The chap asked me if the dark beer I was drinking was Guinness. When I told him it was Breckenridge and it was much better than Guinness he laughed and said “from your accent, I guess you’d know”]. Denver has a similar feel to Portland, (i.e. lots of bikes and zany facial hair! Oh, and a Major League Baseball franchise) but somehow without the over-the-top wackiness Portland seems to revel in.
Right, let’s see what Austin has to offer.