My two sisters came to visit me this weekend. They live in Kansas City, and I almost always go there to see them (and the rest of my family), so it was fun to entertain them on my own turf.
We met at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday morning. This is definitely not the best first impression of Des Moines, because between the traffic and the construction and the closed and one-way streets, it’s not easy to GET THERE and even more difficult to park. They were impressed by the sheer volume of the event because, as they pointed out, it seems like an annual thing — not a weekly thing. We couldn’t buy much because we had no way to keep it cool, so we bought pastries and ate them for breakfast.
From the market, we headed to the East Village, which made a very positive impression on my sisters and my niece, who came along for the ride. We went to Found Things, the awesome vintage store on Grand; Porchlight Antiques, which recently moved from its former location in Valley Junction; and Sticks. Sticks wowed them with its wonderful, functional artwork and home decor. Too bad none of us can afford anything in the store.
Both of my sisters love Valley Junction, so that was the next destination on the list. We got our pictures taken in front of the Sisters store (that’s me on the left, Donna in the center, and Judy on the right) and started browsing. Sisters is actually one of my favorite stores there. We also went into several antiques shops, a couple of art galleries, Wicker and the Works, Paris Flea Market, the theatrical shop, and the Atomic Garage. We were hot, tired, and ravenously hungry by this time. And, unfortunately, it was after 2 p.m. so many of the places I would have suggested for lunch were closed.
My car was still in the parking garage at Third and Court, so we went back to Court Avenue and lucky for us Court Avenue Brewing Company was partially open. (At that time of day, the restaurant is closed, but the bar and sidewalk seating are open.) We enjoyed the air conditioning as well as the food, starting out with the pretzel appetizer (I can eat those dips with a spoon). I had a spinach salad with almonds, strawberries, and poppyseed dressing — so nice on a hot day. The others ordered, respectively, a burger, a reuben, and chicken pesto pasta. We ate so much for our late lunch that we never did eat dinner.
All the shopping and the heat wore us out, so we headed to our hotel to get settled in…and we never really left. I had made a reservation at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. I had never stayed there before, but I chose that hotel based on location (close to Raccoon River, Centro, Django, and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park) and for its reasonable $89 per night room rate.
Our room was comfortable, if not terribly spacious nor luxurious. It was surprisingly quiet (surprisingly, that is, given that there was at least one wedding party staying there, and wedding parties are notorious late-night partiers). The four of us gossiped and laughed and caught up on the latest, and it wasn’t until about 8 p.m. that I suddenly felt the need to get out of there and see the outside world. We talked about going to Centro but ultimately decided on Django, the French bistro that’s part of the hotel. I had a glass of pinot noir and a cheese plate; the others opted for dessert. It’s a little bit fancy and a little bit pricey, so I felt somewhat underdressed. But that food and wine really hit the spot.
This morning, we wandered down to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, and while we all agree that modern art can be confounding, we liked Nomad and a few of the other pieces. My oldest sister, Judy, was disappointed that she couldn’t climb on them.