Tri-Cities: Washington's Big Bang City!

For many, summer is synonymous with road trips. Somewhat contrarians that we are, fall and spring spell roadtripping for us.  Too often when on a road trip, the tendency is to focus on the destination, instead of the journey.  We like to make a habit of stopping at one or two off-the-highway towns and cities every day when travelling. 

One of the highlights of our 8,907 km, six week, USA Fall 2013 road trip was our stay in Pasco, Kennewick and Richland (PKR) aka Washington’s Tri-Cities.  Though not on our list of specific places to visit, we decided to get off the interstate and explore.  The next thing we knew, three days were spent exploring these cities and their surroundings.  We were very lucky fortunate it happened to be was a Friday, Saturday and Sunday (keep reading to find out why).

Where to stay?

As luck would have it, we found the Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House conveniently located just off the highway and right on the Columbia River.  Check in was quick and we had a great room with view of the river and the park.  It was an easy walk from there to The Parkway (downtown Richland) with its boutiques, restaurants and even a great cinema. The backyard of the hotel was the mighty Columbia River and its walkway.  There is even the Columbia Point golf course just down the road.

Mornings

Check out the farmers’ market - on Fridays, The Parkway street is closed from 9 am to 1 pm when it transforms into a farmers’ market from early June until the end of October. This popular market attracts thousands of locals and tourists; this year’s opening day attracted a record 5,000 visitors alone. So, get there early. 

Richland's downtown farmers' market

We had never seen golden raspberries before. It was weird as they tasted pretty much the same as the red ones.

Pasco’s Farmers’ Market is more traditional. It’s long, open-air pavilion structure allows vendors to sell right out of their trucks. Located in downtown Pasco, a city with a rich Hispanic culture, the market has an authentic farmers’ atmosphere – everything is definitely fresh from the field.  The market also has a carnival feel with lots of fun, kid activities. Markets here are Wednesday (8 am to 1 pm) and Saturdays (8 am to 12 pm) from early May to late October. While at the market, make sure to take some time to explore its downtown - great windows!

Pasco's Farmers Market consists of two open-air structures. 

We loved window licking in downtown Pasco.  The windows were as good as we have seen in Paris, Chicago or New York City. 

You won't find this in Paris or London. 

The windows were like works of art.

Another morning activity would be to check out Country Mercantile on Crestloch Road in Pasco just north of the airport.  In many ways this family-owned and operated food store it is like a market, offering lots of fresh produce, as well a gourmet jellies, sauces, honey and fresh baked goods an amazing selection of handmade fudge and chocolate – even homemade salsa chips, tamales and enchiladas There is also a deli bistro area for lunch if you so choose.  Country Mercantile would be good to combine with Pasco Farmer’s Market, especially for foodies. If you are travelling with kids this is definitely a place to go at they have mazes, rides and other family activities. 

  Country Mercantile store.

Country Mercantile store.

  Candy apples anyone?

Candy apples anyone?

  Hay bale maze

Hay bale maze

Vintage children rides.

One of the things locals love to do in the morning (before it gets too hot) is to hike up Badger Mountain.  Water sports are also popular in the morning as you can beat the crowds. Hiking and biking trails are everywhere, in Chamna National Preserve there is the Amon Basin, Tapteal Bend and Tapteal Trail.  There is also the Sacagawea Heritage Tail - a 23 mile paved waterfront trail system that links all three cities. 

A good website to check for outdoor activities and organized tours is The Reach where you will find things like “Hops to Bottle”, “Farm to Table” and Jet Boat History tours of the Columbia River. 

Sacagawea Heritage Trail just behind the Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House. Note the tourists enjoying the swinging bench that allow you to watch people along the trail and the river. 

While walking along the trail we heard some music so we wandered towards it and found a Saturday afternoon "sock hop" at a fun 50s style diner. Very cool!

Afternoons

An obvious “must do” is the Red Mountain Wine tour. Do your own tour or book an organized tour and let someone else do the driving.  Red Mountain is one of the smallest American Viticultural Areas (AVA) at only 4,040 acres, yet it offers 24 different wineries for touring and tasting.  It has a very distinctive climate with very warm days, but cool evenings (due to the sharp bend in the Yakima River and the shadows of the Red Mountain). It is well known for growing some of the best Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes not only in Washington, but in the entire USA.  More information can be found at www.redmountainava.com

If you are really into wines, we recommend staying on the mountain. There are several options but our recommendation would be one of the two cottages at Tapteil Vineyard Winery.

Entrance to the lovely Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard at Red Mountain. 

Terra Blanca's underground storage. 

Terra Blanca's million dollar view.

This is the patio at the Tapteil Vineyard Winery with one of the cottages below that you can rent.  

If you don’t have time to drive out to Red Mountain, Tulip Lane in Kennewick offers a great alternative with its three lovely wineries –Tagaris, Barnard Griffin and Bookwalter.  Spend a lovely afternoon wandering the vineyards and tasting the wines.  We did and it truly was lovely.

The ceiling of the Barnard Griffin Winery is decorate with this colourful and playful ameba-like clouds.  On Saturday nights you can enjoy the wine and live music. 

The Uptown Plaza, in Richland is a hidden gem; you won’t read about this in any tourist information.  A retro ‘60s outdoor shopping plaza, it has been reborn as an antique/vintage mall. For any “treasure hunter,” this is the place to go for a half-day of browsing heaven. Caution: don’t go in the morning as some of the shops don’t open until later in the day.

Uptown Plaza's vintage signage with the atomic particles on top. Everything is about the atom.

Becky's is just one of several second hand stores that sell everything including the kitchen sink. 

Brenda is going in....

The Uptown Plaza is also home to Desserts by Kelly

The Atomic Bombe Cake is to die for...literally!

A trip to the Tri-Cities wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Hanford Site, a decommissioned nuclear production site just outside Richland.   Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, it is the site of the first, full-scale plutonium production reactor and is where the plutonium was made for the atomic bomb that detonated over Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

This September the B Reactor celebrates it's 70th birthday. Information on celebration programs will be posted at http://www.ourhanfordhistory.org/

Tours of the B Reactor are available on specific days throughout the summer.  Check the website http://manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov/ beforehand. (Note: All tour participants must be 12 years of age to participate and if under 18, a parent/guardian must sign a release form).

The Hanford site is also home to other centres for scientific research including the LIGO Hanford Observatory where they are trying to observe gravitational waves of cosmic origin that were first predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.  If you have a budding Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) in your family, this is a “must do.” We did and my head is still spinning with talk of neutron stars, black holes, cosmic gravitational waves, ultra high vacuum systems and interferometers.  Unfortunately, public tours happen only on the second Saturday and fourth Friday of the month, so you plan your visit carefully – we were just lucky.

I am not even going to try to explain what this is. On the LIGO tour I thought I understood what they were trying to do, but afterwards my understanding just evaporated.  This is stuff for the Big Bang Theory boys!

Inside the LiGO laboratory.

Just a little computer capacity. 

It is like something from a science fiction movie.

Evenings & Eats

We’d suggest that you plan for long leisurely dinners as part of your Tri-City visit.  Our best find for fine dining was at the JBistro at the Bookwalter Winery along Tulip Lane. Offering both indoor and outdoor dining, the atmosphere can be both, casual or romantic (especially by the fire pits) and there is live music Wednesday to Saturday. The signature dish is their Wagyu ribeye, served with the Truffle set (truffle butter, black truffle salt and white truffle oil) for dipping.  If the Copper River salmon is on the menu it will be a mouthwatering choice and the Crème Brulee satisfied even my “sweet tooth.”

Cheese Louise is a great lunch spot along The Parkway in Richland. I loved my grilled Apple & Brie Panini and Brenda couldn’t stop raving about her Cranberry Bleu Salad. This is also a great place to create your own gourmet picnic lunch with a good selection of cheeses, breads, seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as drinks.  The staff (aka cheese mongrels) are happy to help create your custom picnic.

Cheese Louise 

Spudnut (you gotta love the name) is the “must do” place for breakfast or lunch.  This 60-year old donut shop with a difference (donuts are made with potato flower) is located in the Uptown Plaza so go for a donut brunch and then browse the shops in the early afternoon.  Don’t be surprised if you have to share your table with a huge tray of donuts either!

How many donuts would you like sir?

Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery offers a great family ambience, complete with a selection of board games.  We went on a Sunday night and it was great people- watching fun.  The food and brews were great with wood-fired pizzas, an Atomic Giant Soft Pretzel in the symbol of an atom with orbiting electrons, Atomic Ale’D Red Potato soup and B-Reactor Brownie caught our eye and didn’t disappoint.

Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery offers some unique beers.

Even the pretzels reference the atomic age.

Frost Me Sweet is a quaint bistro in Richland best known best for its cupcakes but has a good and varied menu. The people-watching here is spectacular too.

Last Word:

If you love wine, food and are into the Big Bang Theory TV show like we are, Washington’s Tri-Cities is a must place to visit.  For more info go to Visit Tri-Cities.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Window Licking in Paris

Flaneuring The Uptown Plaza

Flaneuring The Fringes: Sunalta & Beltline

Boise Saturday Auction 

 

Kensington: One of North America's Healthiest Urban Villages

Richard White, July 19, 2014

With summer officially here, it is a great time to get out and enjoy the city’s great urban outdoors.  One of Calgary’s summer highlights is Kensington’s “Sun and Salsa” festival, Sunday July 20th from 11 am to 5 pm.  Organized by the Kensington BRZ since 1986 this event attracts up to 100,000 people for the fun, festivities and tastings. However, Kensington Village is a fun place to shop or meet friends for coffee, lunch or dinner anytime of the year.

For Calgary newcomers, and those who haven’t been to Kensington in awhile here’s the lowdown on Kensington Village.  First off the boundaries are 10th Street NW from the Bow River to 5th Avenue and Kensington Road from 10th Street to 14th Avenue and a few commercial blocks adjacent to 10th Street and Kensington Road.

One of the things that makes Kensington unique is that it has its own cinema. The Plaza Theatre was built in 1929 as a garage, but in 1935 it was converted to a movie house (Calgary’s third). In 1947, it began experimenting with foreign and art films, becoming an art house cinema in 1977. It has been the home of Calgary’s film community ever since.

Plaza Theatre is home to Calgary's film community.

Kensington Pub is Calgary’s quintessential neighbourhood pub. Situated on 10A Street just off Kensington Road, it is actually two buildings – a 1911 brick bungalow and a 1912 duplex.  It became a pub in 1982 and has been popular watering hole ever since.

Long before Starbucks or Phil & Sebastian’s, there was Higher Ground and the Roasterie.  I remember when I first came to Calgary back in 1981 the pungent smell of freshly roasted coffee was synonymous with walking along 10th Street.

Today, the Roasterie’s mini-plaza on 10th Street is always (yes, even in the winter as it faces west so gets lots of sun) animated.  It is a great public space that works (because there are several small shops facing onto the plaza) without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on decoration and public art.  Could it be that smaller is better?

Kensington's 10th Street Plaza next to Roasterie is a popular busking spot.

  Higher Ground is just one of the many cafes in Kensington.

Higher Ground is just one of the many cafes in Kensington.

With 270 businesses, Kensington Village has something for everyone’s taste.  Naked Leaf Tea shop offers artisan teas, as well as beautiful teapots and cups. Smitten, Kismet and Purr are just three of several women’s fashion boutiques.  There are also several great furniture shops like Cushy Life, Kilian and Metro Element.

  Kensington is an eclectic collection of independent shops. (photo credit: Neil Zeller)

Kensington is an eclectic collection of independent shops. (photo credit: Neil Zeller)

Every urban village needs a shoe repair store. Alpine Shoe Service has been around for over 30 years.  Their "Thought of the Day" is both fun and thought provoking. 

Kensington BRZ is a leader in innovation. Here street parking has been converted into a sidewalk to allow for a patio next to The Yardhouse.  It is also home to a container bar located in a side alley. 

Kensington's Container Bar located in an alley between two buildings has been an instant hit. 

The 10th Street and 4th Avenue foodie corner has its own ambience with Safeway, Sunnyside Market, Sidewalk Citizen and Second Cup.  There is also what I call the Parisian block (1200 block of Kensington Road) where pedestrians will find the paring of Kensington Wine Market (great Saturday afternoon wine tastings) and Peasant Cheese.

No village would be complete without a good bookstore. Pages is one of Canada’s leading bookseller with over 10,000 titles in stock and one of the best author reading programs - everyone from David Suzuki to Stuart McLean. Pages is located in a 1947 building that was the City of Calgary’s first branch library.

And, no visit to Kensington Village would be complete without a visit to Livingstone & Cavell Extraordinary Toys where reproductions of classic retro toys amuse both young and old. The place is more like an art museum than a store, which is not surprising given one of the owners is the CEO of the Glenbow Museum.

Livingstone & Cavell is fun for everyone.

Kensington’s hidden gem is the Kensington Riverside Inn which is actually on Memorial Drive.  Not only is it a great place for a weekend getaway, but its Chef’s Table restaurant is one of the city’s best restaurants – a great spot for a staycation.

Kensington Riverside Inn

Last word

What makes Kensington Village a fun place to explore is the eclectic mix of students (Alberta College of Art and SAIT), yuppies and empty nesters who all mix and mingle. The sidewalks are like a ballet with pedestrians, bikes and strollers “dancing” their way from place to place. Great urban villages attract people of all ages and backgrounds.

With 16 new developments on the drawing board, creating 1,000+ new homes - Kensington is one of North America’s healthiest urban villages.

St Johns on 10th is just one of several new mid-rise condos recently completed, under construction or planned. 

A 24 hour quickie in Santa Fe

Our six-week Spring Break 2013, 8,907 km road trip itinerary called for 24 hours in Santa Fe. Wanting to make the most of our quickie visit, we were up early to check out of the lovely Parq Central Hotel in Albuquerque and hit the road for the 90-minute drive.  We wanted a full day given Santa Fe is a mecca for culture vultures like us.

Though we knew arriving early meant we’d get there before anything opened, the plan was to do some window licking before the shops opened and get a lay of the land before the hordes of tourists invaded the city centre.

The early bird gets the art!

As luck would have it, we saw a Goodwill sign on the outskirts. It was open so we decided to check it out. I quickly found five large (40” by 30’) unsigned abstract colour field paintings on stretched canvas seemingly all by the same artists. It was tough to narrow it down to two, the maximum that would fit into our already treasure-filled Nissan Altima.  We chose the two deep psychotic blue pieces, one with some illegible ghost writing adding a poetic element to the painting. The second painting has an even richer blue background wash with just a few bright white markings that stimulate the imagination to develop and play with different interpretations. Oh yes, there were just $15 each. 

Like O'Keeffe's paintings both of the Goodwill "unknown artist" paintings evoke a sense of the spiritual, sensual and mystery of nature. 

O’Keeffe Museum / Prison

I had been looking forward all trip to seeing the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum collection and comparing her work to Canada’s goddess of art and nature - Emily Carr.  I was surprised at how small the museum was; it seemed just as I was getting into the artist’s work it was over.  I was also not impressed with the number of security guards, it seemed as much a prison as a museum. 

That being said the museum does a good job of telling O’Keeffe’s life story and motivates one to head out and explore the desert.   

The Central Plaza

The central Santa Fe Plaza is not only a National Historic Landmark, but the “heart of Santa Fe.” Many downtown plazas and squares make this claim but in Santa Fe it is most definitely true.  While we were there, a military band was playing played on the bandshell with a block-long row of local artisans selling their art and crafts across the street.  A wonderful array of small restaurants and shops, line the streets around the plaza, as well as museums and the iconic Cathedral making it very pedestrian friendly.

The Plaza block has been Santa Fe’s commercial, social and political center since 1610. Initially a walled fort, over time it has evolved as the city and the economy of the area changed.  Like all good public spaces, it must adapt to changes over time.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

Though the current cathedral was built over a 17 year period from 1869 to 1886, there has been a church on this site since 1626.  Its statuesque Romanesque Revival architecture with rounded arched entrance, Corinthian columns, truncated square towers and large rose window above the entrance stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding low-rise, minimalist Pueblo adobe buildings surrounding it.

The inside the Cathedral has all the grandeur of a great European church with sky-high ceilings, rich stained glass windows and other decorative elements.  As we entered, the beacon of light shone brightly above the altar while the rest of the building was shrouded in shadow yielding a heavenly, resurrection quality that was a little eerie. The church was full of interesting art and artefacts, making it as much a museum as a place of worship.   

These statues have a lot in common with figures in the various exhibitions at the International Folk Art Museum. 

More links between folk art and religious art at the cathedral.

Santa Fe is rich in history and has attracted major artists from around the world to visit and create here.

Kateri Tekakwitha  (1656 to 1680) the first Indian of North America to become a Saint.

Window Licking

One of the most fun things (at least to us) to do in any city is window lick (the French term for window shopping translates literally into “window licking”). Most of Santa Fe’s downtown shops are upscale and to be honest, are out of our price range. We did pop into a few galleries and the two paintings we got earlier in the day at the Goodwill would easily go for $5,000 or more if they were signed and we had some providence.

As a former, public gallery curator, I know our new paintings were done by someone with experience; not the work of some “Sunday afternoon” painter.  The thrill of the hunt is to find great artworks in off the beaten path places.  They will tell you at the upscale galleries “you should buy what you like!” Well the true test of that is buy something at a thrift store and hang it up alongside works of major Canadian artists like Maxwell Bates, Marion Nicol and Bev Tosh or international artists like Miro, Alechinsky or Appel.  It is interesting to integrate “high” and “low” brow art in your home.

window licking 1
  While not technically a window, I found these courtyard sculptures by looking through a glassless opening in a wall next to the sidewalk. 

While not technically a window, I found these courtyard sculptures by looking through a glassless opening in a wall next to the sidewalk. 

Lunch

Based on a hot tip from Calgary friends, we wandered just off the Plaza to The Shed. The fourth generation of the Shed family serves up some of the most creative and authentic Northern New Mexico cuisine.  We opted for the traditional Enchilada Plate and the Pozole and definitely weren’t disappointed.   The Shed is well known for its red and green chilli sauce.  Before we left were had a tutorial on importance of always asking, “Is the red or green chile sauce the hottest today?”  If you want to eat like local, order your “Christmas style” i.e. a little of both.  The Shed was packed with both tourists and locals, making it a fun place for lunch and people watching. 

Lunch

Afternoon on Museum Hill

Located a few kilometers outside of Santa Fe is Museum Hill so named because it is home to four major museums and they sit on a hill with great views.  You could easily spend all day here, but we had only the afternoon.

For us, the museum that held the most interest was the Museum of International Folk Art which houses the largest collection of folk art in the world.  It did not disappoint.

We quickly found the huge Girard Wing (it could be a museum on its own) and the Multiple Visions: A Common Bond, a permanent exhibition with an astounding collection of 1,000s of toys, miniature figurines, complete villages, masks and textiles from 100 different countries.  It is perhaps the most colourful, playful and delightful exhibition I have ever experienced.  It is astounding how much folk art Alexander and Susan Girard collected starting in1939. Brenda had to drag me out!

And it was a good thing she did as there was much, much more to see. The Hispanic Wings Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico (on until Feb 15, 2015) was a much more traditional folk art exhibition with singular, primitively carved animals and people.

The final exhibition, was Tako Kichi: Kite Crazy in Japan (on until July 27, 2014) explored the art of kite making and kite fighting.  The huge floor-to-ceiling (20 foot) kites were impressive works of art with their neon colours and expressionistic designs.  We don’t usually spend a lot of time watching the museum videos, but in this case, it was fascinating learning how the kites are made and the culture of kite-fighting.  Unfortunately, the day we were there, there were no kite-making workshops or kite flying on the plaza; that would have added another dimension to the experience.

The other museums on the hill are: the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (housing 70,000 artefacts from prehistoric to contemporary times), the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (an octagonal building inspired by the Navajos hooghan i.e. their traditional home) and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (3,700 objects from around the world from medieval time to modern world). There is a restaurant and several gift shops, and 

 

Just one of numerous miniature villages in the Girard Wing.

Larger fun folk art pieces.

An entire collection of angels.  There are strong links between folk art and religion. 

Just one of many displays of masks.

Life size folk art from Brasil. 

In the Gallery of Conscience there were a number of hands-on activities that related to home.  One was called "Find your place at the table" where visitors were invited to take a paper plate, draw their favourite meal on it and place it at the dinner table.  Another was for you to take a post-it and write on it as per the above image. The activities were simple to do, fun and thought-provoking.

Some of the I feel at home when...

Several large 20-foot kites were suspended from the ceiling, creating a very colourful and dramatic statement.  

Historic artwork illustrating the kite fighting tradition.

Still image from video that of kite fighting. 

Dinner at Whole Foods

 I am not sure what it is about Whole Foods, but ever since our Lincoln Park, Chicago Whole Foods experience, it seems wherever we go we have to check out the local Whole Foods and often have dinner there.  Perhaps it is because we get tired of restaurants and just want something that resembles a simple home-cooked meal.  Perhaps it is because of their quinoa salad has quickly become our favourite.   For $30, we can enjoy a glass of wine or a craft beer, some interesting entrees, lovely fresh bread/roll and mouth-watering desserts. 

Where to stay

Sure, you could stay downtown and pay hundreds of dollars/night for a room. Or you could check out Hotels.com and get a last minute deal like we did at the Best Western Inn at Santa Fe for $70 including breakfast and parking. 

Sacred Places?

Some places, for some reason(s) have become sacred places for humans - both in the past and the present. Some places have an almost spiritual, transcendental magnetism about them. Santa Fe is often placed in this category, as is Sonoma, Arizona. Later in our road trip, someone said Livingston, Montana is their sacred place. I am not sure that Santa Fe is my sacred place, but perhaps 24 hours wasn’t enough time for Santa Fe to cast its spell on me.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Downtown Salt Lake City: More Than A Temple!

A-mazing University of New Mexico Campus

Window licking in Portlandia

Cowtown: The GABEster Capital of North Amercia

 

 

 

Inglewood: Calgary's most unique community?

By Richard White, May 29, 2014 (an edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours section, May 29, 2014, titled "Cool Inglewood perfect for life, work and play).

Inglewood has the distinction of not only being Calgary’s oldest community (established in 1875), but also one of the most desirable urban communities in the City. And, while there are many fine historical buildings and relics from the past -including two old barns and an old brewery - still in the community, what makes its future particularly exciting are the many new private investments.

Two of the biggest additions to the community are George Brookman’s West Canadian Digital Imaging headquarter building at the east end of 9th (Atlantic) Avenue and Jim Hill’s Atlantic Art Block at the west end (the very modern 4-storey red brick building with the wavy roof).  These commercial anchors, combined with the existing shops, restaurants, cafes, clubs and pubs are critical to making Inglewood a perfect “live, work, play” community.

Live

Inglewood offers a diversity of housing options - from early 20th century cottages and Bow River mansions, to new infill homes  and low-rise condos.  At the far east end of Inglewood along 17th Avenue, almost at Deerfoot Trail, lies the 15-acre SoBow (south of downtown) condo development by Calgary’s M2i Development.   While Bridgeland, Beltline and East Village tend to get all the attention SoBow offers arguably the best amenities and accessibility of any new urban village Calgary. 

In minutes, you can be on the Deerfoot, Blackfoot or Barlow Trails, or an easy cycle or walk into downtown if you live in SoBow.  From an amenities perspective, the Zoo, Pearce Estate Park, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and the shops on 9th Avenue are basically in your backyard.

This large development has six phases and when complete, will consist of approximately 700 units, effectively creating a new “village” of 2,000+ people. (Click here for aerial views).

Heritage apartment blocks like this one make for great artists' live work spaces. 

Work

The Atlantic Art Block not only offers office space, but at street level there are retail shops, a restaurant and the uber cool 15,000 square foot Esker Foundation Art Gallery in the penthouse. At street level, the building is home to the popular Gravity Café and Bite Groceteria - both have been an instant hit with foodies. It is a great example of a mixed-use building. 

West Canadian Digital Imaging 60,000 square foot building is a more tradition office only space. It employs not only his  250 workers, but another 90 Travel Alberta employees.  

Creating a “live, work, play” community is more than just about densification by building more condos and adding grocery stores, restaurants and shops.  It is just as critical that business owners like Brookman and Hill decide to locate their businesses in Calgary's established communities and not just downtown or suburban office parks.  Workers are critical to the survival of the shops, cafes and restaurants as they provide weekday customers, while the residential spaces fill the “customer” role evenings and weekends.

The Atlantic Art Block combines both contemporary architectural design (wave roof and glass walls at the corner) with more traditional brick three storey warehouse massing mid-block to create an exciting architectural statement as you enter Inglewood from the west. 

West Canadian Digital Building is a  more traditional modern interpretation of early 20th century warehouse architecture. 

Play

Inglewood could be branded as Calgary’s music district as it is not only home to Recordland, Festival Hall, Ironwood and Blues Can, but also many of its old cottage houses and walk-up apartments are home to local musicians. 

If you haven’t been to Recordland, you should go. It is one of the largest privately owned record stores in Canada with over two million records.  The Festival Hall is the new year round home of the Calgary Folk Festival, as well as concert space for local and touring musicians. Ironwood and Blues Can offer live music seven days a week.  

Tim Williams at the Blues Can jamming with friends from around the world.

Recordland is just one of many local shops in Inglewood that makes it a fun place to flaneur.

Inglewood is a great place for window licking with lots of unique window installations. 

Rouge combines history and contemporary dining for a unique experience. 

  Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Nerd is just one of many hipster hangouts in Inglewood. 

Did You Know?

In 2004, EnRoute Magazine identified Inglewood as one of the Canada’s top 10 “coolest neighbourhoods.”  Over the past 10 years, it has gotten even cooler. 

The Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club (established in 1936) has become a tony place for Calgary hipsters.  The Club is so popular they have just completed a shiny new clubhouse.

In 2006, Inglewood’s Rouge restaurant placed 60th on the S. Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. Rouge, is located in the A.E.Cross house, built in 1891.  (Back Story: Cross was one of the “Big Four” investors in the Calgary Stampede).  The restaurant boasts its own vegetable garden that covers six city lots. How cool is that?

Every Saturday afternoon, Calgary’s own “cool cat” Tim Williams hosts a Blues Jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood.  Williams is the winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition in two categories: best solo and duo artist and best guitarist. 

Inglewood’s boundaries are the Bow River (north) to the CPR Yard (south) and the Bow River (east) to Elbow River (west).

Last Word

With everything from lawn bowling to Saturday jams; from the sounds of the Zoo animals to the sounds of trains and planes; from one of the world's best restaurants, to Canada's best used record store; Inglewood is definitely, Calgary’s most unique community. 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Ramsay: Calgary's FFQ Industrial District

Montgomery: Calgary's newest urban village

Don't be too quick to judge

Yes, Inglewood does still have two barns. I believe the red barn serves as storage for Calgary's own Canadian Pickers.

This is the historic Stewart Livery constructed in 1909 at 806 14th St. SE. Livery stables were integral to the daily life of frontier cities. They served many functions - hire of horse and vehicles, sale of horses and vehicles as storage of hay, coal and wood.  

Fun, Funky, Quirky Colorado Springs

Richard White, April 27, 2014

When visiting a new city we always look for things that aren't in the tourist brochures or on the first page of Google.  We call it FFQing (fun, funky and quirky)!

Most often they are not planned; they just happen as we explore the streets and alleys of urban neighbourhoods on foot with our eyes and ears wide open. Sometimes the FFQ experiences do happen at the tourist hot spots, but even if they do happen there, we try to find an offbeat twist.

Here are a few of our favourite FFQ moments from a recent walkabout in 'Colorado Springs, Colorado.  

This is the boys' washroom of the Ivywild School which was an elementary school until a few years ago. The art adds a whole new dimension to learning your ABCs.  

Ivywild is a huge yellow brick 1912 school that was sold to two local young cultural pioneers who have converted it into a multi-use community hub. It now is home to a Bristol Brewery, a bike shop, bakery, charcuterie, cocktail/coffee lounge and an art school. It also hosts many events, including a farmers' market. We will be writing more about this exciting urban revitalization project in the future.

We were impressed by how they retained the fun elementary school character of the space by retaining the wall murals throughout the building. 

We loved walking around downtown Colorado Springs as there were lots of interesting shops, restaurants and cafes.  This storefront dance studio had three painted blue pads on the sidewalk, each showing the foot work of a different type of dance. We loved the "freestyle" dance the most. The black lines are the shadow of a patio fence, which add a quirky sense of perspective.

We love "window licking" (the literal English translation of the French phrase for window shopping is "window licking"). The crazy quilt collage-like imagery is a wonderful reflection of the city's street culture. The Colorado Running Room had one of the best FFQ windows in Colorado Springs.

Downtown Colorado Springs is very pedestrian-oriented with its wide sidewalks, clean streets/alleys and mix of historic and new architecture. It is definitely worth a couple of hours of flaneuring.  

Brenda loved the Blueberry Lemon Streusel pancakes at the Over Easy diner - the best she has ever tasted. The combination of favours was fun and the presentation was funky.  

A short walk out of the downtown through the mansion district lies the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre - definitely a FFQ place to visit. Not only is the 1936 art deco building with its 2008 modern addition a fun space to explore, but many of the exhibitions and artworks had FFQ elements.

This is world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly's "Orange Hornet Chandelier" - or as most people call it the red pepper sculpture. It consists of 300+ glass vessels linked together to create it. It will be the centerpiece for the blockbuster exhibition of his work running from May 3 to September 28, 2014. 

This was one of many fun folk art pieces in the gallery. Some were very large like this one while others were more small scale. There was even art made from chicken bones.  

One the edge of the city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods.  It is truly a sacred place with it surreal, orange rock formations.  I was intrigued when a young boy asked me "have I had seen the Indian Head?"  When I answered "No" he quickly took me to see it.  I couldn't believe I missed it given how obvious and huge it was.   

The "Balancing Rock" is the signature rock formation in the Garden of the Gods. It is a fun place to walk around and under (if you dare). It is amazing how accessible the formations are to the public and just a 15-minute drive from downtown. You could have spent all day there walking the trails, having a picnic and watching the movie at the Visitor Center. 

Perhaps the quirkiest experience I've had in a long time was feeding the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Barely get in the gate, visitors are welcomed by several hungry giraffes with their long tongues sticking out waiting to be fed. Two dollars gets you a handful of lettuce. 

One of our most fun experiences wandering around downtown was to happen upon a house that had been converted into a funky, landscape architecture office.  Brenda needed a stamp so we went in to ask about the design of the house, as well as where we might purchase a stamp.  We left not only with information on the home-to-office conversion but also with a free stamp (the woman insisted on giving Brenda the postage for her postcard).  Yes, we still send postcards!  

However, the stamp didn't stick very well so then we needed some scotch tape. As we were passing another intriguing street office space with the words "ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD" on the window, Brenda decided to head in and see if they might have some tape.  Inside were four young people with their laptops, two on couch and two at desks.  After the shock of unexpected visitors, they quickly asked how they could help us.  After first bringing some "duct" tape (she should have been more specific), they quickly found the scotch tape she needed.

In the meantime, I was busy taking photos of their street front window, being as intrigued by the words and their juxtaposition with the cathedral across the road.  Once I had finished taking my photos, we started chatting about things to see and do in Colorado Springs and what they did.  Ironically, they develop apps and one is for enhanced photography - VSCOcam.  We quickly downloaded it and they gave me a quick tutorial (more info at VSCO.CO)

Now that was a fun, flaneuring experience! 

Just in case you weren't yet convinced that downtown Colorado Springs is an FFQ mecca, I'll end this blog with an ice cream cone window cartoon character inviting you to a sidewalk peanut butter tasting (Pad Thai, Pumpkin Spice, S'mores etc.) - that was a first for us! 

Nordstrom Last Chance: A feeding frenzy.

By Richard White, April 2, 2014

I love to use Google maps to check out what is close by to wherever we are staying.  A few nights ago when searching, I am sure I saw a Nordstrom Rack near Fashion Square in Scottsdale.  So when we found ourselves near the Square, we thought we'd check it out. 

We found the Nordstrom department store first, so went in to ask if there was a Nordstrom Rack nearby.  You'd think we had slapped them in the face based on the dirty look we got. In a huff, the staff person dialed a number, asked someone to give us directions and abruptly and curtly handed the phone to Brenda.  We found we were way off base and that it was 50 blocks to the east. Given it was 7 pm, we decided that destination would have to wait for another day.

Once home, I Googled Nordstrom Rack and up came Nordstrom's Last Chance page.  Though we had never heard of this concept, the same address as we had been told earlier so we thought this must be it.  The Last Chance concept is contrary to Nordstrom high-end full-service image in that all sales are final and "as is."  The product is out-of-season or returns that they would not resell in Nordstrom Rack or their department stores.  The concept intrigued us. 

After a hearty Red Lion (Tempe) breakfast, we decided to check out Nordstrom Last Chance and see what we could find along the way i.e. car flaneuring.  As we drove along Camelback Road, we continued to be amazed at the endless small office buildings that seem to populate all of the major roads in metro Phoenix.  

As we got close to where we thought Last Chance would be, we spotted a Nordstrom Rack so quickly parked and headed in.  As the store different look any different than other Nordstrom Racks and there were big signs telling you that you can return any purchases we knew we didn't have the right place.  Turns out the Nordstrom Last Chance was on the next block in another mall. We quickly hightailed over there.   

Feeding Frenzy

We quickly found the Last Chance and what could only be described as a shopping feeding frenzy.  In a space about the size of the Women's and Men's clothing and shoe sections of a TJ Maxx or a Winners, bargain hunters were grabbing at everything in sight. There were line ups at the fitting rooms and the cash registers. It was chaos, diametrically opposed to the Nordstrom department store the night before where you could hear a pin drop. 

There were no neat and tidy displays; shoes and clothing were toss all over the place like a sterotypical teenager's bedroom. People were trying clothes on in the aisle and sitting on the floor to try on shoes.  

As all sales are final, check carefully as there are stains and/or rips are common. Some items have evidence of wear thanks to Nordstrom's liberal return policy. However, for the savvy, shopper good deals are to be had.  I came away with a pair of ECCO golf shoes, slightly worn, for $20 that retail for $200.  Brenda snagged a pair of  Paul Green (German luxury footwear brand) leather shoes for $20, well below their $300 retail price.  She also got a BP(Nordstrom Store Brand) navy blue cardigan for $10.

Chatting with another shopper, Brenda learned she regularly travel all the way from New York as this is Nordstrom's ONLY Last Chance store (which I confirmed via twitter).  

When was the last time you were in a store and they closed an area for restocking in the middle of the day?  We were in the store for about an hour and during that time they closed the women's shoe area and later the men's clothing area. At first confused and frustrated, we soon realize that if you wait around for a bit you have first dibs on the new product; that's how Brenda got her shoes. 

The entrance to Last Chance seems innocent enough.  Note: there is no reference to being affiliated with Nordstrom.

However, once inside you are immediately confronted with a frenzy of shoppers like those sifting through a huge bin of colourful women's underwear.

It is gridlock in the store as everyone has a cart and the aisles are narrow. 

In another corner, the yoga women can't wait for the dressing room so they are trying on clothes over their own clothes.  

Red trash barrels are strategically placed in the shoe department so staff can just throw in shoes for sorting and restocking later. 

What did we find along the way?

Given the Marshall's department store was next to Nordstrom Clearance we stopped in. And not only was it calm and quiet, but it had much better product and prices than we expected.  I was tempted to buy a pair of Merrell shoes for $30.

Then we checked out "My Sister's Closet" behind the Nordstrom Rack store and the Well Suited Men's Resale store where I found a pair of Puma golf shoes for $25. 

Across Camelback Road, there is a Half Price Books, Records and Magazine store that is worth a visit. 

Needing to be energized we stopped at Snooze, next to Nordstrom Rack. A very pleasant surprise - food, decor and ambience.  The 3-egg omelette with goat cheese, wild mushrooms and bacon was very tasty as was the apricot jelly-topped toast.  We also loved the mid-century, atomic-inspired design.   

Snooze restaurant offer funky booths, outdoor patio and bar seating. 

Last Word

If looking for a unique shopping adventure when in the Phoenix, we'd recommend forgetting the major malls and head to Camelback Road and 20th Avenue east.  There is almost something primordial in the the "thrill of the hunt" at Nordstrom Last Chance store. 

Though the Nordstrom Rack window promotes treasure hunting the real treasures lie a block away. 

Here are our treasures from Nordstrom Last Chance and Well Suited. Leo from Red Lion Hotel was impressed.

Saks: Art Gallery or Department Store

Richard White, April 1, 2014

I rarely purchase anything at an upscale fashion store but I do love to wander them as they are more like art galleries than stores for me.  I love the way items are placed with the precision of a curated exhibition. Like an art installation, each vignette is carefully organized to exploit synergies of colour and composition, of line and shape and of passion and sensuality.   

In fact, I often find visiting a high end retailer more interesting than many contemporary art exhibitions. Too often the latter are more cerebral and than visual for my tastes. 

The images below are from a recent visit to Saks Fifth Avenue in the Fashion Show shopping centre on the Vegas strip.  I will let the images speak for themselves.  

Saks shoes 2.jpg

UMCA images

I thought it would be interesting to compare the images from Saks with some that I took just a week ago at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) in Salt Lake City.  

A close up of a mixed media collage.

A still image from a video.

A photo taken of a large drawing on the wall, taken from the side. 

A close up of a didactic display of books and artwork.  

Window Art Exhibitions

Over the years, I have also amassed an interesting collection of retail storefront windows that I also find competitive with public galleries in their visual statements.  All of these images are from a single trip to Europe where the importance of storefront windows as a visual art form is much more advanced than in North America.

Shoe store front window

Eyewear store

Bridal Shop

Last Word

As an everyday tourist, I don't have to go to a museum or an art gallery to get my daily visual art fix. I can find it almost anywhere - from a storefront window or back alley graffiti. Love to hear your thoughts.  Send me a photo your favourite non-gallery artwork and I will post it.  

If you like this blog, you might like:

Window Licking In Paris

Rise of public art Decline of public galleries

Window Licking In Chicago