Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Joining the Mile HIgh City

If ever there were an antidote to the barely survivable heat of San Antonio then the mountainous Denver must surely be it. Breathtaking was the landing into the wide open green spaces surrounding the airport, as were the views of the snow capped mountains in the near distance, visible from many of the streets downtown. Fresh, fresh air. Sunshine. Not the kind to toast you, more of that spring, promise of summer, sun. Absolutely, resolutely what the doctor ordered.

I had mentioned a few posts ago that I had grown up in the gawdy shadow of Dynasty as a child, and I was more than delighted to be visiting the city I watched Blake Carrington work in week in week out. I arrived with a somewhat pre-disposition to falling in love with the place, but I did not anticipate just how at home I would feel. It's a bit what I imagine internet dating is like when it actually works. You match the stats, odds being high on compatibility, and when it actually does click it is quite exhilarating.

Let this not cast a downturn on our last few days in San Antonio, mind. Scott McClure, Cory's school band buddy did indeed stay with us, and the following morning, took our family in his truck (thumbs up from Sam) to a dusty corner near Fort Sam Houston's barracks, home of Johnnie's mexican restaurant. A proper Mexican greasy spoon. Tiled floors. Sombreros on the walls. Small menu. Speedy service. Huevos Rancheros all round por favor. Proper saturday morning. Back it was to the city whilst Dad did a matinee turn and then boy and ma joined the crew for another helping of smashing smashed avocados and margaritas. The latter with a swirl of prickly pear syrup. Lush. And very fuschia.

On our last day we were joined again by Scott who chuckled through the sunday matinee after which we were lead on a tour around the alleys of The Majestic. The house was quirky in its design. It was almost like Dali was commissioned to do a Disney set of Arabia. On each side, rambling "balconies" and box seats, one topped with a very large fake white peacock. Another "starlit" sky and moving clouds number. A hotch potch multicoloured ode to Arabia fantasy. Round the back of the narrow wings - a matter of feet from the stage door road entrance and the stage - was a surprise second auditorium. This one smaller and plainer, and its stage was home to the quick change area. Breeze block wall separated the two stages. Along the corridors by the dressing rooms each visiting company has painted their poster on the walls and casts have left their signatures on them. Cory found his from the Hello Dolly! tour back in the 90s. It hasn't been the first time memories have overlapped like this.

And yet, for all the beauty and heat of San Antonio it is just wonderful to be here in Denver. Admittedly we have only been here a couple of days, and our touristing has been sublimely relaxed to say the least. It has taken me only this long to fall in love with this city. It feels so liberal and driven in equal measures. Perhaps something left over from the prospectors that have made this place so historical. There is something about the sheer ruggedness and enormity of the countryside but a short drive away that lends a kind of outdoorsy abandon to the people I have met. Which, incidentally, have been some of the most handsome set I have seen here so far. The skin, the bright, curious, happy eyes. Full of sunshine and space. A fair share of men with long hair or thick curly locks, tanned happy skins, sense of humour. Women with bright eyes and wide smiles and legs that tell you they spend hours outside on their bikes, with tents on their backs, oftentimes sat around coffee shop tables thinking creatively with like minded folks sipping hibiscus brews. That sort of vibe to the place. It is hip, but on first impressions at least, not self conscious or snobby about it.

After setting down The Cases on arrival, we took a wander in search of food and strolled (the grown ups at least, boy was flipping in the air as usual) and came across a cluster of gorgeous restaurants down on old Larimer Street. We passed by several authentic but very chic Italian joints, most priding themselves on their wood fired oven and home cured meats, a french bistro, a tapas bar and a few Brazilian steak houses. We settled on the one that had the triple height ceilings and the windows open wide onto the sunsetting street. We ordered a "flight" of Malbecs to start us off. To you and me that is three 2oz glasses of different Argentinian reds. Delicious. Then we scoffed a cheese plate, served on a rounded piece of shale, complete with luscious pear slices and juicy grapes. Boyo then tucked into a four cheese pizza (they were right to boast about the oven) and Dad and I shared a petite filet cooked to perfection. The dinner was capped off with a chocolate fondue and an espresso. Mama was jiggling in her seat with sensory delight. Good trip here (met a three year old on the seat behind us on the flight which delighted the boy no end), luscious dinner, night off for Cory, boys in a jolly mood. Perfeck. Next was a stroll past Cory's theatre to take in the refreshing evening air and a chance meeting of another family doing much the same thing. We exchanged a few pleasantries and when their 4 year old Sam started to play with our three year old Sam we settled into a fun couple of hours with them as we picked their brains for local advice and followed the tykes around a neighbourhood playground until the sliver of the moon and a night chill sent us reluctantly back home. On the 16th mall bus. Free my friends, this uber civilised way of transporting the Denverites trawls up and down the pedestrianised main street makes it effortless to get from A to B. Downtown at least. The light rail tinging its bell in the distance, curtains closed, we settled into a deep slumber.

That's a repercussion of living so high up I'm supposing. We are now officially in the mile high club. I mean to say, we are living a mile above sea level, on dry dry land. Hence, the chapped lips and sawdusty throat, and occasional effort for breath. They even have oxygen either side of the stage, should any of the performers struggle during the more strenuous moments. As I practiced my Insanity the other night I attributed my lagging cardio expertise on this fact. I suspect it may have something more to do with being barked at to do myriad of push ups after 1,000 ski "jumps". Hey ho. The sleeping like a log, like you do after a day out in the mountains, for the whole night counteracts any of these minor qualms.

We have already nested on a grand scale. We have a small kitchen with a very Large fridge which I have stuffed with every kind of green thing you can imagine in an effort to counteract the marvellous acts of over eating I have been experimenting with during our hot city stay. Boy and I found the grocery store, thanks to a kindly Somali taxi driver who drilled Sammy with 20 questions. He told us that he had family in England, near O'Hare airport. "In Chicago you mean?" I asked gently. He answered with a laugh that he always gets the two muddle up, "Everytime I go to say Heathrow it comes out O'Hare." Made Cory laugh when I told him this morning. The taxi driver who brought us home, on the other hand, after having argued with me that I was indeed staying at the Mariott when I had told him in all which ways that we were at the Residence Inn, helped me with our bags and then looked at me:
"You live here?"
I nodded, trying not to crush the eggs.
"All time?"
I smiled.
"Why not you live in a house?" he huffed.
"Only two weeks here." I proffered.
He returned to his cab shaking his head unsatisfactorily.

The following day, we rode the free shuttle down past Wazzee stop. Off we hopped and as the boys went on to burn off some energy and find new friends at the playground (Brandon, 8 Grace, 6 and Brennan 2 from Tennessee to be precise) mum popped into The Tattered Cover. Our friends from the first evening had pointed the bookshop out to us but they did wax lyrical about how gorgeous it was inside as I am about to. On entry you are first greeted with the luscious smell of fresh coffee and, turning the counter you are greeted by a high celilinged three floored wooden warehouse of a book store. Wide, stripped floor boards. Antique sofas and chaise longues dotted around the space interspersed amongst the oversized wooden book shelves bursting with literary goodies many with hand written reviews poking out on coloured cards beneath them. The signs for different sections are written in health food shop Italics and people were cosying up with pages everywhere I looked. One upon an old school desk, another with her feet up on a powder pink armchair. What bookshops should be. Not a starbucks in sight. Just a good old fashioned, Colorado sized ma & daughter business. Only the knowledge that Cory and boy desperately needed the snacks and water that I had in the bag on my back tore me away from there. Back down I went across the river, past the cluster of old factories turned into uber trendy lofts, that over the past decade that have changed the face of Denver, and into the playground. Boy and pop red faced and wilting.

Taking overheating as a cue for our exit we retraced our steps back to our home. Barely making it to the reception when Pazano's table at the window had our name on it. It was Happy Hour and for $4 a plate we gorged on various deliciousnesses including papardelle in a meat sauce - cooked with the freshest ingredients I have tasted in a while and a mouth watering tray of deli goodies for ma and pa. Including fresh Buffalo mozzarella, Bresaola, proper Pecorino and 30 mini roasted garlic cloves of which I ate about 29. I did kind of regret it a little later on for reasons I shan't go into here. Lets just say I was glad for Cory that he was at work....

We stopped in again today with the troupe after wiling away most of the mid morning and early afternoon by the Sheraton's pool. It is a square of turquiose wateriness flanked by their piece de resistance - full size four poster sunbeds. What better way to literally lie around with your mates soaking up the somewhat cloudy but warm day. The polka dots were out, boy was splashed about by our friends and then mum and dad and the rest of us sprawled around one another on the beds, the red canvas curtains flapping on the rooftops winds. All we needed were a few servants to hand out the grapes and you would have been down Pompei way. I'm having a nice day.

Yes, the place has captured my attention in a big way, and its not just because a very handsome soldier in camos caught my sunglassed eye and wished me a "hello miss". Perhaps its because our first morning was spent at The Market sipping perfect lattes and home made baked goodies with classical music overhead flanked by mouth watering grocery delights and creative types in light hearted breakfast meetings. Or maybe because every time you cross the streets you catch a view of the snow capped mountains. Or that TJ Maxx is just around the corner. Or perhaps that there are psychadelically painted pianos down on 16th street dotted about under the shade of trees for any to play, whilst folk sit back on the yellow metal chairs and talk the day away or partake in a game of chess on the stone tables. Probably all of these, and more to come over the next few weeks in which I am delighted to call Denver our home.

Boy asked me for the first time the other day why we didn't live anywhere, why we were travelling? I tell him we are lucky because we can call so many places our home even if but for a short while. Especially when they start with a "D" for Denver.....

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