Denver Weekend

I didn’t know why I hadn’t written about the Denver weekend. Two weeks and another weekend went by, and still no report. I thought perhaps the frustration and anxiety and hopelessness brought on by external events were in the way. On further consideration, I struggled to write about that weekend because it was wonderful, in ways that most days and weekends in pandemic time are not. Thinking about that joy exacerbates the loneliness and tenuousness of the “every days.” Once I recognized the block, I could set it aside to tell the story.

We left on Friday evening. I am always overly optimistic about how quickly we can get out of the house. But truth be told, we weren’t in a hurry. Denver isn’t that far, and leaving early only means facing more traffic, especially in Colorado Springs. So we had dinner before we left, and just enjoyed the journey.

We stayed at Residence Inn in Glendale, across from the Cherry Creek Bike Path (by design). We wanted a home base from which to exercise as well as easily travel to the sites and sights we planned to visit. Suite-style hotels are especially useful in COVID times since eating in the room and having some of your own food are even more important than usual. Our only real disappointment with the hotel was again noting how poorly hotels have adapted to providing breakfast in the new era. Maureen called it a “failure of imagination” and I agree. They could do better than boxes of cereal and granola bars, especially in a hotel where every guest room has a microwave. Let’s up the game, mid-range hotels! Luckily we brought our own zucchini bread and fresh fruit (they didn’t even have fruit—packaged or otherwise).

The area near the bike path was quite “lush.”

Saturday morning, after a quick run (me) and ride (Maureen) on the bike path, we were off to the first attraction. We had tickets for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science at 10 and The Art of the Brick at 10:20. During the 20-minute interlude, we explored the dioramas. I love the dioramas. I try not to think about how some of the “specimens” were “collected” and instead focus on the tremendous learning opportunity for kids (and adults) in seeing the animals and learning about them. Photography doesn’t really capture the scenes, but I did want to share images of the exhibit that explains how the dioramas were constructed. It is definitely art as well as science.

I admit it, I love this stuff.

When it was our time for LEGO, we first visited the very clean bathrooms. I learned a long time ago that special exhibits almost never have their own bathrooms, so woe is she who doesn’t plan ahead. Then we got our electronic tickets (on my iPhone, but not importable into Wallet) scanned and entered—without a line or crowds. The exhibit itself was also uncrowded, despite being sold out for the day. There are some upsides to COVID-times; I have a pretty good idea of what this exhibit would have looked like if it were sold out “back in the day.”

The first part of the exhibit explains how the artist, Nathan Sawaya, ended up as a LEGO artist and showcases his LEGO copies of well-known artworks. These were enchanting, and I enjoyed the fact that he provided some commentary for each piece. Here are some examples.

The second part of the exhibit was probably my least favorite. It was composed of Sawaya’s original constructions. Some are well known, some are intriguing, some provoke emotional responses, but there was a certain sameness. I did like the “wandering mind” sculpture.

The third part of the exhibit was very intriguing. Sawaya worked with photographer Dean West to incorporate ordinary items made from LEGO into haunting photographs. The LEGO creations were displayed along with the photographs. For some reason, I have no photographs of the photographs, so check out West’s page, or this blog. As an aside, when I looked at reviews and photographs, it became evident that this exhibit is slightly different in every incarnation (i.e. location). If you have a chance to see it near you, consider giving it a look.

We spent a bit more time wandering the dioramas after seeing the LEGO art, but the museum was steadily getting more crowded. The downside of timed-admission, but not limited time, tickets is that the number of people inside tends to increase as time passes. For this reason, I would recommend early admission. On our way out, we upgraded our one-time admission to a membership. Hopefully we’ll get back to see the Dogs! exhibit later this year.

We had pre-selected two potential restaurants for lunch. As we were leaving, we chose to head to Four Friends Kitchen in the neighborhood formerly known as Stapleton. Unfortunately, when we drove by on the way to find a parking spot, we noted an unacceptably large (to us, not violating any rules) number of people gathered outside waiting for food. We swerved (not literally) and went to Etai’s (the restaurant formerly known as Udi’s) instead. Maureen had a gyro and I went with a tuna melt on gluten-free bread. We sat outside and enjoyed our food, despite the 90+ degree temperature. They did at least have umbrellas. We still had time to kill before our meetup with friends just a couple miles away, so we picked up some Prosecco to accompany dinner and then drove around our old neighborhood. Some things change (more infill) and some things stay the same (widely varying levels of upkeep). We miss it, but we love our home in Pueblo.

Next up was an ice cream break at The Constellation Ice Cream, part of the Little Man ice cream family. We met our friends and thankfully snagged a table in the shade. Maureen is generally not a big Little Man fan, but she actually enjoyed her chocolate ice cream. I have not had good luck with ice cream since Whole 30 😢, so I went with a fruity sorbet and a dairy-free horchata, both of which were tasty and didn’t make me feel like cr&p. We decided to go for a little walk at Bluff Lake Nature Center so that we could visit and stay safe. As I may have mentioned, it was hot, so we did a short walk and then found an outdoor pavilion (read: shade) for the rest of our visit. Hearts filled, we hiked back to our cars and went our separate ways.

The heat and the day had taken their toll, so we went back to the hotel to clean up and relax. We had ordered our dinner for takeout while we ate lunch, so we knew when we needed to be ready to go. We had chosen one of our favorite special occasion restaurants, Barolo Grill, which was also not far from the hotel (again, by design). We had salad, gluten-free mushroom pasta (which we barely touched), salmon, duck, and chocolate cake. And some Prosecco and Laws San Luis Valley Rye (not together). Yum. Residence Inn may not be the most swank or romantic environment, but it worked.

Celebratory Dinner from Barolo Grill.

We topped off the weekend with a visit to my brother and cousin—outside on my brother’s back porch with coffee and Kirkland Irish Cream. We made a “quick” trip to Costco for food and security cameras, as one does, then stopped at Whole Foods for sushi. The rest was just driving. We beat the late Sunday traffic, but there were plenty of folks on the road. Our objective was to get to Country Canine before five, which we achieved, so the weekend was complete. Full, complete, filled. A great contrast to so much of this year. I am grateful.

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