I have to admit that my first impressions of Denver were negative. After a solid 8 hours of driving (around five of which were in Wyoming, i.e. 99.9% snowy hills. Like literally, 350+ miles of just snowy hills) I was road-weary, and ready to roll up to a good first-impression city. Denver …is not so much that city. After exiting off I-80 (so friendly had I-80 and I become that actually said goodbye to it, out loud) I found myself on I-25 South, a highway that takes you into the heart of downtown Denver, via the city’s super generic suburbs. Bounded on either side by shopping complexes, big-box retailers, Starbucks and gas stations, I-25 is nothing to write home about. In fact, it reminded me a great deal of suburban Maryland, where I grew up. Even Denver proper, a low-key city (aesthetically speaking) is just kind of suddenly….there, with little fanfare save the sudden increase in building height.
So I was grumpy, and tired, and out $25 after having to buy a hideous Wyoming sweatshirt because that state was so insanely cold that I couldn’t pump gas without feeling like my hands were going to fall off. I was ready for some charm.
And while Denver itself didn’t exactly deliver on the charm, the Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast, where I’m staying during my visit, did — in spades. Made up of two adorable houses on a quiet street across from a park, the B&B has views of downtown Denver (a walkable distance), free parking, homemade breakfasts, nightly happy hours, Wi-Fi, an outdoor garden, an exceedingly nice staff and literally the cutest room I’ve ever stayed in. At $189 a night, it’s a bit pricier than the generic business-oriented hotels I’d been using on the road, but well worth the premium. A perfect final act in hospitality.
And while the temperature in Denver dropped to a nippy 25 degrees last night, the city had another surprise up its sleeve. After settling in at the inn, I took a cab over to Linger, a funky restaurant in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood, located in an old mortuary. Linger has great views of the city, but honestly I didn’t even notice them, so enamored was I of its quirky menu, delicious cocktails and mostly of Luis, our superb waiter. (Editor’s note: When I say our, I refer to myself and my cousin Brie, who just so happens to live in Denver at the moment, and whose presence here was a welcome reprieve from three days of solo travel.) Sated on food, Brie and I made our way over to Larimer Square, and more specifically Cru Wine Bar, whose genius menu pitches wine in three-glass flights (divided by type). I (naturally) opted for the bubbly, and had a lovely lovely time talking life with a family member who I rarely get to see in person.
In any case, this morning it was back to business. I woke up early to partake in Queen Anne’s delicious breakfast array, which included all locally-sourced foodstuffs (coffee, fruit, and the best yogurt I’ve ever eaten), plus homemade waffles with blueberries, strawberries and bananas. Dining after everyone else (I guess there’s a conference going on? Everyone had already peaced out by 8:30 a.m.) I got to chatting with the chef, who gave me some solid bookstore recommendations after I explained the reason for my visit. (He also commended me on my timing; the B&B won’t get all couple-y/newlywed-y until this weekend.)
My first stop in Denver was at the lovely apartment of Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis, who I interviewed for my Reuters story. (Now that this trip is winding down, I’m becoming painfully aware of how much research/transcribing/fact-checking/writing I have ahead of me on that.) Joyce was just as fabulous as I expected she would be, and to my absolute delight, became sincerely emotional talking about the impact she’s seen books have on her customers. It was a pleasure speaking with her, especially since she hooked me up immediately afterwards with guided tours of two of Tattered Cover’s three locations, one in Lower Downtown (LoDo) and the other in a former theater building on Colfax Avenue. Both stores are gorgeous – with the same green carpet and dark wooden shelves, plus antique and oftentimes beat-up furniture spread throughout. The decor is apparently Joyce’s doing, and I have to say that I wanted to steal pretty much every armchair and put it in my apartment. These are stores that encourage you to stick around awhile.
After a brief respite at the inn to unload my book haul, I headed out again to Capitol Hill Books, a used store in a corner location with a great array of fiction and other mass-market paperbacks. And finally — like finally finally, my last store of the trip — I hit up Kilgore Books & Comics, a run-down store with piles of books littering the floor and jazz music playing in the background. Perhaps suddenly aware that today is it for Bookstore Tour, I went a little overboard on the buying front. Full GABST totals will come tomorrow, when I can bring myself to face the pile.
So Denver was not my favorite city, though I think if I had gotten around to visiting Boulder I might feel differently. Of course, all of that is made up for by the Queen Anne. Shit, I’ll stay in Detroit if you give me some home-cooked waffles.
GABST DAYS 11 AND 12 BY THE NUMBERS:
Books purchased: 9 (I know…)
Sleeping With the Devil, by Robert Baer (TC LoDo)
What Remains, by Carole Radziwill (TC LoDo)
Present Shock, by Douglas Rushkoff (TC LoDo)
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann (TC Colfax)
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, by Walter Mosley (TC Colfax)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (Capitol Hill Books)
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (Kilgore)
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Kilgore)
Hood, by Emma Donoghue (Kilgore)