Cafe Life: Duluth, MN

If you spend some time driving up and down the [very steep] streets of Duluth, MN to find free parking, you will no doubt then spend some time walking up and down those same [steep] streets in order to find a cup of coffee. I did that, and I ended up sitting here at Duluth Coffee Company.  There is a sunny bench when you walk in, but to get to the coffee you venture into a dim and delicious-smelling back part of the shop where there is a counter to order at, a wall of guitars made out of what looks like drift wood, and Duluth-themed gear to bring back home.  The menu is straightforward and to the point: actual coffee drinks that promise a caffeine rush and plenty of flavor without making your teeth ache from a bunch of unnecessary sugary syrup.  Excellent.  I have ordered my usual, a cappuccino, and it’s excellent.  I also enjoyed not paying an arm and a leg for it (lookin’ at you, Colorado).  

There are a few locals chatting with the barista, and a mix of what I assume are other visitors.  I can tell that they are visitors because, like me, they pause to peruse all the Duluth-themed gifts for sale.  My friends back home would like that stuff, right?  It’s pretty quiet overall, with just a bit of conversation and some music.  It is a Sunday morning, and unlike some cities, this one seems to actually sleep in on Sundays.  The street outside- which is a main drag of the downtown area- has minimal traffic.  The temperature outside is somewhere around 68 degrees, and with the sun shining it’s a perfect morning to lounge around outside with coffee.  

Between the guitars made out of driftwood (and I see one made out of an old aluminum tin!), the collection of old coffee pots on the wall, and the handful of attractive people in here, I am definitely happy to set up camp and enjoy my drink.   This place could easily fall into the trope of tourist trap if it weren’t for the good coffee, interesting people, and comfortable feel that attracts regulars as well as visitors.  I don’t recognize any of the bands that are playing softly in the background, but I know that I like them.  My cappuccino is almost gone and it’s time for me to pack up and continue on my journey, so I will hurry up and post this now.  Cheers!

City Places: Cheeseman Park

I want to write about city places, by which I mean particular places of interest within the city. I don’t mean tourist traps, and I don’t mean entire neighborhoods. Right now I am sitting in Cheeseman Park in Denver, Co, with a thermos of cold beer, a book, this tablet, and a Turkish towel to sit on. The light is fading and somewhere nearby someone is lighting off intermittent fireworks. I can hear a fountain some ways behind me, but more immediately I hear dogs, people having picnics, and laughter from from friends sunning themselves on their towels as they trade stories. There are plenty of people in Cheeseman Park tonight, which isn’t surprising as this sprawling green space in the middle of the city is a popular escape for those in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  Cheeseman Park used to be a cemetery. That fact is interesting enough on it’s own, but coupled with the fact that when the city officially moved it’s cemetery somewhere else around 2,000 bodies were left unclaimed is even more interesting. This park is beautiful, but I think part of the draw is also all the ghost stories. Plenty of locals who have lived in the area for years will talk about “the regulars”, or ghosts that everybody talks about. Other people report feeling negative [read: bitchy] for no reason. I can’t speak for any of that, although my friends and I did detect a funny smell when we visited one afternoon…
This park seems to be a hub for twenty-somethings to play frisbee or have a cookout, or for people to let their dogs run free for some sunny exercise. The people/dog watching opportunities are excellent. Bordering this park is the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and it’s hard not to walk along the streets with your mouth hanging open over all of the big brick mansions. A city hotspot, Voodoo Doughnuts, is less than a ten minute walk away. In my book that’s a major bonus.
If you find yourself in Denver, or in Colorado for that matter, this park deserves some attention. Sure it’s not a mountain to climb, or a canyon to raft through, but there’s more to Colorado than just geology!

Louisville Adventure

No, not Loo-UH-vol, Lew-is-vill.  I found myself in small-town Colorado today, and it was just dripping with charm.  Louisville is near Boulder, so the backdrop is a fantastic mountain view.  The main road through town kicks off his the historical museum and segues into restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and boutiques.  I visited not one but two book shops within one block.  I had a cappuccino (my usual) and an egg bagel at a small cafe named Bittersweet.  BIttersweet it was not!  

After my refreshment (read: second breakfast) I hit the sidewalk in search of see what was to see.  Picture a quiet mountain town, sidewalks full of passerby, but very little actual noise.  There were few vehicles on the road also.  The streets off-shooting the main drag were mostly residential and full of cute houses.  It also happened to be Small Business Saturday, and since this area seemed to be 90% small businesses, there was quite a bit going on.  My treasures for the day included a small animality pig from a fair trade shop, and an intriguing mystery novel set in New Orleans from a used book shop.  And the coffee of course!

In high school I had a similar pig animalito that I carried in my coat pocket for years. It was finally stolen (on my birthday) my freshman year of college. This little guy reminded me of my stolen friend!

I had been feeling pretty down lately about working so much that I didn’t have time to have any new Colorado adventures.  What a delightful surprise to have a little adventure practically fall into my lap!

Cafe Life: Denver, CO


I think that this post will be the first in a series about different cafes.  [“Way to play into a stereotype, you crazy millennial kid you,” is what you must be thinking]

I love visiting cafes when I am in new cities.  Or cities that I visit, love, but don’t live in.  This past summer I wrote a little bit about some great coffee shops I checked out in Duluth, MN, and San Francisco, CA.  Hopefully this January I can visit Seattle, WA and experience that famed Seattle coffee culture.  Not only is coffee delicious (there is a distinctive cappuccino happy dance that happens in my head when I see that tiny mug with the fern patterned foam coming at me.  Yeah, I look normal on the outside, but…), but I feel like setting up camp in a cafe lets you get to know the neighborhood and city at a leisurely pace.  Plus, it is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for some kind of guided tour.  Not to sound terrible but…when you flock with other tourists, you tend to get only a very skewed glimpse of a place.

Back to coffee: I’m sitting in Little Owl Coffee on Blake St in downtown Denver.  Even though I’ve spent the past three weeks working in Denver I haven’t had a chance to explore it properly yet.  I left my car near the Park N Ride (parking near it instead of in it= freeeeeee), took the train, then the free mall ride bus for about two blocks and then BAM! Coffee time.  I did some research last night looking at some of the best- or highest rated- cafes in Denver.  There were a lot to choose from, and all looked pretty tempting, but Little Owl had the highest praise, so I thought I’d start here.  It’s exterior is pretty unassuming: a sleek black exterior with glass door printed with the the name + an owl.  Of course!  Inside it’s very modern looking with the back wall made entirely of a white marble.  The counter tops at the bar are also marble, but the few tables in here are made of some kind of beautiful wood.  The stools are also wooden, with slim wire legs or just glass.  Behind the coffee bar is a shelf full of interesting-looking glass cups, decanters, and goblets.  Those little glass globes with living succulents in them are peppered around the cafe.  There is a door that leads to what looks like an art gallery.  I’m still savoring my cappuccino (served up in less than 5 minutes, so yay for quick service) so I haven’t gone over there yet.  There are a few people sitting outside and in.  Two business-y looking men are having an animated discussion at the long wooden table in the middle of the cafe, another business guy is sitting next to me on his laptop, and a very chic looking woman is keeping to herself across the cafe.  I am very much in love with her boots.

The cappuccino is delicious.  I must learn some coffee jargon so that I can accurately describe what I am tasting.  All I can say right now is that I am happily engaged with this tiny mug and it’s foamy contents.

Fast forward a couple of hours.  I fell in love with Tattered Cover book store.  I visited City Stacks also, and was very impressed with the selection.  It seems like a bookstore just for young women, but maybe I just happen to like every book they had on display.  Now I am grabbing a bite to eat before I catch the train home.  I am at another cafe that was very highly rated: Amante Coffee.  It’s on 17th St, right across from Union Station if you care to visit.  I got a cup of black coffee and added a little cream, cocoa, and cinnamon.  I got pain au chocolat to compliment.  The coffee is delicious (and not just because of the stuff I added).  I had a Lorelai Gilmore moment when I took my first sip- this must be what Luke’s coffee tastes like.  Too bad there is no Luke behind the counter.  The vibe here is a little more relaxed and a little more touristy.  The inside looks chic, and alternative music is playing at a soothing volume, but there is also a flatscreen with whatever football game is on mixing with the coffee shop vibes.  This cafe shares the bottom floor with what looks like a salon and hotel, so there is a small amount of confused foot traffic.  Next to me two women who look about my age are discussing efficient ways to manage small business.  A couple of tourists look lost at a table across from me.  The barista is friendly, attentive, and capable.  There is a fair variety of beer and wine available also.  I have my eye on the sweet Amante coffee stickers near the register.