We had heard good things about Denver and, though it took us a little while to warm to the city, by the end of our time there we were hooked.
We arrived late afternoon on a Monday, which probably wasn’t the best time to visit, as the town was dead. From our (rather long) walk into the downtown area (Larimer/LoDo) Denver also seemed very badly planned with most blocks given over to parking lots. When we got to Larimer square, which had been recommended to us, it seemed rather generic, expensive and, as I mentioned, a bit quiet. We found a cheap-ish looking bar and settled in to watch the Packers. By the end of the game we were the last two customers in there.
However, we did not write off Denver, despite this experience. We started the second day right with a Denver omelette at a great place called Dozens – it must be the best place in town because this is where the cops were eating – and a trip to the art gallery.
This was amazing, and well-worth the entry fee. Apart from having a really great – and manageably-sized – collection, the architecture of the gallery buildings adds another dimension to the experience. The outside is somewhat forbidding: concrete and metal grilles, and random-seeming windows. Inside though, these windows make sense. In rooms where it’s not a distraction (for example, by the elevators), large, differently shaped windows bring aspects of the city architecture into the gallery. I would hazard a guess that it might be the best place in the city for views:
On the floor dedicated to art of the American West a long, narrow window perfectly framed a sudden view of the Rockies – just what we had been longing to see (sadly I couldn’t get a picture).
Each floor had what they termed a ‘discovery area’. On the American West floor, this consisted of early maps in drawers, artefacts of the time, and glossy books of prints.
The gallery also has an excellent collection of American Indian art from across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, introduced with commentary from contemporary American Indian artists. Some of the art was really arresting – for example, David P Bradley’s Land O’Bucks, Land O’Fakes, Land O’Lakes: a huge reproduction of a Land O’Lakes, perfect down to the last detail except that on the sides the product name was altered to: ‘Land O’Bucks’, and ‘Land O’Fakes’. There was also a piece that superimposed on an image of John Wayne his justification for the stealing of Indian land:
I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.
The commentary within the collection reflected on how Indian art had been appropriated, and how American Indian artists faced a problem of being over-defined. There were a number of stories of how American Indian artists had been told that their art wasn’t ‘Indian’ enough(!)
After the museum, we did the obligatory visit to the Capitol building to stand on the step which is exactly a ‘mile high’ (above sea level), before heading to the craft brewing district of town.
We had chosen to visit Great Divide Brewing Company, after looking at reviews on Yahoo. Some of these reviews were rather amusing. One customer gave them a low rating because his wife didn’t drink beer. He was critical of the fact that they only had beer – in a craft brewery. Another customer who had been enjoying Great Divide beer for a while was horrified to find, on visiting the brewery, that the beer was being brewed by ‘bearded hipsters’. Apparently he thought craft beer was being brewed by good ol’ boys like him…
A rather long rain shower meant that we got stuck at Great Divide Brewery, which we decided was hardly a bad thing. The beer was great, we had snacked on parmesan fries from a food truck out the front before it started raining, and we bumped into a couple of fellow enthusiasts who recognised us from Fort Collins. It was a good time, and we weren’t driving that evening.
Finally, we finished the evening at Illegal Pete’s, back in LoDo, for the best burrito I’ve had in the States. On this slightly busier evening, this area, especially the district around the old train station, was far more attractive. By the end of the night we were sad that we had to leave the next morning, especially as we were heading back East and nearing the end of our road trip. However, there were still over 1000 miles to drive back to Chicago, and three more states to experience on our way there.