Friday, July 26, 2013

Denver, Colorado

I recently returned from a four day trip to Denver, Colorado. I few out Monday in advance of a two-day conference I was attended for work and returned Thursday night. Since the conference was all day Tuesday and Wednesday, this gave me a little time to see the sights.

Monday I had only one evening conference event to attend. I arrived around lunch time in high altitude city of Denver. The first surprise was how flat everything was. I was expecting the mountains, but Denver, and the area north east of the city where the airport is located was very flat and arid looking. The foothills were barely visible in the distance.

I arrived at my hotel and checked into my room at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel.


I had been sitting for so long between the airplane and the trips to and from the airport, I decided to head down to the fitness center for a run. The fitness center was amazing -- a really full gym. I was extra delighted that they had foam rollers for my exercises for my tendonitis.


I quickly discovered that what they say about it being more difficult to exercise at altitude is 100% true. I had a 4.5 mile run scheduled for Monday. I normally take a run that length at around 9:50 to 10:00 miles. That Monday in Denver I slogged through 10:30 minute miles and felt it. Whew!

I decided to relax by floating around in the pool for a while. The pool, like the fitness center, was very nice. It was situated outside on a roof between two parts of the building, but still seemed to get good sun in the afternoon while I was out there.


After a quick shower, I decided to head out and look around the local area. The hotel was located on the 16th Street Mall, which seems to be the main commercial street in Denver.


I was quite hungry even though it was only 3:30 p.m. Mountain Time because it was 5:30 p.m. to me (as I was still on Eastern Time). I decided to check out a restaurant, Marlowe's.


There I had an amazing salad with local greens and arugula, goat cheese, roasted almonds, dates, grilled pear, and shrimp with a wine vinaigrette. (I followed this up with a bubble tea at a small tea place on the 16th Street Mall. The tea was less than satisfying and didn't compete with LimeRed in Amherst at all.)

I then walked around the LoDo, Denver's lower downtown and most historic district.


I especially loved a really awesome indie bookstore, Tattered Cover.


I headed back to the hotel around 5:00 p.m. for a conference event and then collapsed into bed.

Tuesday was mostly taken up with conference events, however, in the evening, the conference sponsored an event -- a trip to Coors Field to see the Colorado Rockies play the Miami Marlins.






While the game featured some less than stellar baseball, I had a blast. I kept a score card (also badly -- I hadn't done it since I was a kid and kind of forgot). Colorado lost, but it was still great to see a new baseball stadium and enjoy a major league baseball game. I got slightly lost on the walk home, but fortunately was helped by a policeman. After that, I ran into someone from my conference (who also happened to be from Colorado) and was able to successfully get back to the hotel on foot.

Wednesday was the last day of the conference. After spending all day in sessions, I enjoyed a nice dinner with colleagues and then decided to head out for a walk. I wandered over to the Denver Civic Center.

At the heart of the Civic Center, through the Voorhies Memorial gateway, was a lovely park!



On the other side of the park, at the exit, was the also beautiful Greek Theater.


 
Also off the park, was the Denver City and County Building.


Thursday morning I woke up to a lot of free time for exploring. I was finished with my conference responsibilities and had until 2:45 p.m. when I had to go to the airport. I had a quick breakfast at the hotel. My first hotel room had gotten a huge leak in the bathroom (coming from the floor above). They had needed to move me, but only had one very small free room left. As a result, they gave me access to the 22nd floor special club (aka. place for rich guests). I was able to go up there and get a very nice free breakfast before heading out for the day.

On an earlier exploratory walk, I had noticed that Denver offered a free museum at the Federal Reserve called The Money Museum. I decided to check it out.


The museum was very small, but it was pretty cool to get to see $30,000,000 in $100 bills and learn some history of our currency. For example, the government stopped producing $500 and $1,000 bills, so $100 bills are the most you can get. I also got a free bag of shredded money. Apparently they misprint a lot of money and then shred it for souvenirs and compost -- we're talking millions of dollars in misprints a week.

I knew that in the afternoon I wanted to go over to the art museum, but it was still very early, so I walked around the downtown more. I came upon the performing center where the opera, ballet, musical theatre, and symphony all perform.



On the other side of the theatre there was a cool sculpture garden.


I then headed back to the hotel to check out. I had wanted a quick lunch, so I checked out a restaurant that is apparently a chain out west, Noodles & Company. I'm usually not a fan of chains, but I wanted to be quick and cheap, plus they reported all their calories per item on their menu. The meal was less than stellar, but I was in an out.

I headed back through the Civic Center towards the Denver Museum of Art. I passed the public library.


The Denver Art Museum was an amazing modern structure.


They had some neat sculptures outside.


I had come to the museum to check out a special exhibit called, Spun: Adventures in Textiles. Since I'm such a fiber arts fan, this really appealed (even though I'm not usually one for visual art and art museums -- I really should have had more art appreciation education).


The Denver Art Museum turned out to be amazing. They have a modern collection and a traditional collection houses in two different (but connected) buildings.


To my surprise, I very much preferred the modern collection. The Spun exhibit was really integrated throughout all the other exhibits in the museum, so I got to see the entire place. Here are some of the cool things I saw.





My favorite exhibit was part of Spun called, Material World, which was largely pulled together from the museum's collection. I loved how it featured surprising materials as art. A lot of the exhibits were also ones that you experienced.


One of my favorite pieces of all was called, Walking in Venus blue cave. You got to walk inside.

 

The entire cave was very tactile and smoochy as it's made with nylon and styrofoam beads. The light was amazingly soothing. You couldn't take anything in with you, which was fine, since it was just something to experience -- very evocative. The pictures I've posted of Walking in Venus blue cave are from the Denver Art Museum's website.

Another interesting piece of art was from the traditional collection and had nothing to do with the Spun exhibit. It is said to be the most controversial painting in the museum, The Cutting Scene by George Catlin.


Catlin's works, such as The Cutting Scene which shows the Mandan O-Kee-Pa ceremony, are sometimes thought to be explorations of Native Americans and other times thought to be important historical record of lost traditions. The Cutting Scene is one in a series of four paintings Catlin pained detailing the O-Kee-Pa ceremony. The members of this ceremony are willing participants in this ceremony which was held to insure their community's success. Many of Catlin's paintings have an unfinished look as he painted quickly wanting to capture details of these ceremonies as quickly as possible. Whatever your take on the art and Catlin's motivations, it was very interesting to learn about these traditions and Catlin's documentary work through painting.

After spending several hours in the museum, I began to head back to the hotel. I found the Civic Center Park to be very busy. Apparently on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer, they put on an event Civic Center EATS where local food trucks come.


I will be honest, I am a little wary of eating food off a truck, but I felt okay about having a beverage. I checked out the Green Giraffe.


I ended up getting a drink called the Leanergizer which had fresh lemon, baby spinach, kale, wheatgrass, and green apple. It basically just tasted like lemons though.


Finishing up this final adventure, I headed back to the hotel and caught the shuttle to the airport. I am now back in Amherst and happy to be home with Seth and our fuzzy lady cat!

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