Travelling as a Canadian during the pandemic has not been easy. Even as the world opened up, flights to and from my hometown Vancouver are not as easy as they used to be. This was especially true for my trip down South a few months back. When I was trying to book my flight home from Nashville, I looked at all the options but nothing was going to (reasonably) get me home in a day. But I believe the fun is in the adventure, so I started looking at options for where I could land for a day on an extended layover en route home.
It was difficult to find a route that worked, while still giving me enough time in a destination to make a day out of it. In the end Denver was the best/only option, but an added bonus was gaining an hour in the time change. My itinerary had me landing in Denver, a city I’ve never been to, in the early afternoon which gave me half a day in the Mile High City to explore. (Bad) luck would have it, on the morning of my flight, I did not receive back the results to the Covid test I took in Nashville that I needed to return home to Canada. I had no choice and was forced to rebook my flight, get tested again and spend an extra day in Denver. While it was stressful and took most of the day to rebook and get another Covid test, it meant I gained a whole day in Denver to explore.
When I planned my layover in Denver, I knew I’d be short on time and commuting from the airport. I chose the very cool Maven Hotel at the Dairy Block because of its proximity to Union Station, which is directly accessible by train from the airport. Also very convenient was the Denver Milk Market, a food hall with many local options for a bite to eat attached to the hotel. This came in handy because I needed sustenance to get me through the stress of the many hours I knew I’d be spending rebooking my travel plans.
After 3+ hours on the phone, I rushed out of my hotel and grabbed an Uber through rush hour traffic to get another Covid PCR test.
2 hours later and I finally had the opportunity to be back at the hotel and enjoy my complimentary Happy Hour drink served from a cutout Airstream in the lobby at The Maven. The day wasn’t what I’d planned, but I understand that the challenges I faced are just a part of travelling during these times.***
In my research of Denver, I couldn’t find much that I HAD TO try, but I lucked out that one of my first choices was located a few blocks from my hotel and open on a Monday. While I wasn’t able to score a reservation at Tavernetta, I was thankful that there were seats at the bar so I could be comforted by a great meal. To be honest, being on the more casual bar-side of the restaurant was the perfect choice for the evening.
Dinner at Tavernetta was my ideal comfort meal. I relaxed into the dinner with a well-made cocktail and a bright and crunchy Insalata Mista. I had carbs on my mind and chose both of Tavernetta’s musts, the Lamb Ragu Rigatoni and Maine Lobster Tagliatelle. I wasn’t thinking about dessert, but when the guest next to me couldn’t stop swooning over his Torta di Cioccolato with pistachio, cherry and black pepper, I knew I had to have it and it lived up to the hype and more.
My amazing meal at Tavernetta was just what I needed to get past the stress from the day. Sitting casually at the bar, eating a wonderful meal, I was finally able to enjoy being in the city. I couldn’t wait to have a whole day in Denver to explore.
I woke up the next morning to sunshine and the stress from the day before had lifted. The weather was forecasting a scorcher so I decided to make my way out early to try to beat the heat. Top on my list of things to do in Denver was a mural walk in the RiNo (River North) district, a artsy-industrial (hipster) neighbourhood with tons of cool street art.
I needed a coffee and a bite to eat and noticed that I had pinned 2 Crema locations on my map in the area. The first Crema I found was located inside the Denver Central Market, another place I wanted to visit. I grabbed my coffee and a pastry from Izzio Bakery and did some great people watching as I enjoyed my treats.
With a satisfied tummy and a mind fully caffeinated, I was ready to head back out to wander the streets to check out the murals. I appreciated that the RiNo Art District has a great map with the murals tagged with information on each artist. It made it easy to find the pieces I was most interested in checking out and learn more about them.
After a few hours exploring the RiNo, the heat completely drained me and I needed a break. It was too hot to eat, but I knew I needed sustenance before a much-needed siesta. I was craving vegetables and had eyed sweetgreen for a salad but noticed a sleek looking cafe next door which looked like it could be worth a try. Kaffe Landskap is a Swedish-inspired coffee shop/eatery located next to Union Station serving breakfast and lunches. Their menu was super clean (healthy), which was exactly what I was craving in the heat. I ordered the Swedish trout salad with roasted beets, arugula and potatoes and the flavours were fresh and satisfying.
When I asked my friends about the Denver cocktail scene, I got a short list of places to try, but a friend who’s a highly regarded source said there was only one I needed to try. I’ve been to Death & Co. in New York before and it was amazing, so while I love to find small local gems, I knew this had to be my choice.
The Denver Death & Co is located in the hip Ramble Hotel in RiNo and walking in, I was immediately stuck by the natural lighting, grand high ceilings and magnificent bar. I loved it immediately. It was still hot out, so I chose from the “fresh and lively” section of the menu for my first drink and went with a bartenders choice for the second. I had plans for the evening, so there was only time for a couple drinks, which made me wistful, but the 2 finely crafted cocktails I imbibed were enough to satisfy me for the evening with thoughts that if I’m ever back in Denver I will definitely return.
I have to admit that during the stress of rebooking my travel, I discovered that being delayed a day opened up the opportunity to watch a baseball game while I was in Denver. I was so excited! It wasn’t just that I was going to see my first MLB game in over 3 years, or have the opportunity to check out a new ballpark, but as luck would have it, my Seattle M’s were in town playing the Rockies.
Entering Coors Field was a surreal moment. It felt so foreign to be surrounded by so many people and taking my seat with tens of thousands of fans to watch a ball game in person. Unfortunately the selection of stadium food was some of the worst I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t matter. I had a cold beer in hand and I was able to cheer my M’s on to a win. It was the perfect way to end my extended Denver layover.
Places I visited on my trip to Denver:
*** I tell everyone that’s interested in travelling during this pandemic to understand that things have changed and there are 3 new rules:
- You must understand that there are extra costs of travel, above and beyond the now inflated hotel/airfare and those come in the form of testing fees. I paid $400CDN in Covid testing for this trip (not including the extra test that I had to take).
- Your schedule must be flexible & you must have the resources to cover any hiccups. You may be delayed a day in coming home like me, you might test positive and have to spend an extra 14+ days wherever you are. You need to be able to afford that. Even if you have travel insurance that covers some of these expenses, there will be extra out of pocket expenses.
- You must be patient. Everything takes longer than it did before March, 2020. Just as things shifted in airline travel after 9/11, we are in a new age of requirements for verification during travel that just takes time. And be prepared to be surrounded by unhappy travellers and have the ability to not let that affect you. This is probably the most important of all in this new age of travel.