The Waterloo Restaurant in Louisville, Colorado

I’m not sure where I heard of the Waterloo restaurant the first time – maybe my hairdresser, who is full of great ideas. At any rate, my adventure bud Laura and I set out recently on a really chilly, rainy weekday afternoon to check it out.

It’s in Louisville, Colorado, about 20 minutes from my place, just north of Denver. I’d visited this little town before, specifically to photograph the bronze statue of John Breaux, which I posted about last year. I love that little town, with its “typical” American main street, parks and homey feel. The Waterloo added to that feeling.

You can see in the photo above how Louisville has built (or allowed to be built) platforms in the street that cover the parking spaces. I think it’s a great solution to outdoor dining in limited space, but parking suffers, of course. In this case, there was ample parking beside the building.

It’s the most Johnny-Cash-centric place I’ve ever seen! Check out the mural on the side facing the parking lot:

Yes, that’s JC himself, who looks a lot like Bogart to me.

Anyway, the Waterloo, dubbed “The ‘Loo” on the website – wonder what British people think of that? – is actually in an old theater building. The Rex Theater, commemorated on a plaque on the building’s exterior, was erected about 1900. It was a movie and a stage theater until the 1970s. Of course, subsequent businesses made lots of mods to the place, but in 2011 the historic facade was restored.

You can tell it’s something special at first glance. Here’s the ceiling on the porch:

Inside the front door is the bar and the ground floor dining room:

Detail of the back wall:

And the clever hostess stand:

And the air-brushed car panel on the wall opposite the bar:

Told you it was Cash-centric:

We chose to dine upstairs. In the stairwell is this fun art:

Here’s the upstairs dining room:

They also have a patio on the roof for dining. There is an appealing brunch menu for Sundays, complete with live music. I’ll have to try that out in the future.

For this day, I must recommend the smoked tomato bisque, especially with weather like we had!

We also had grilled avocado, which I’d recommend, but I can’t show you a picture of it because we devoured it as soon as it arrived at the table.

There was also lots of music memorabilia, kind of like at the Hard Rock Cafe (any of them), but not as much:

And there was plenty of JC and other classic country playing the entire time. We asked the waitress why JC and music? She said that they “just like him”, which seemed unsatisfactory. Then she added that the founders of the restaurant used to own Waterloo records, and that’s where all the memorabilia came from. Could’ve led with that!

When I asked why Waterloo, especially since it’s decorated outside with a London underground sign for Waterloo station, she said she couldn’t remember exactly, but that, when the founders decided to go into business in a restaurant, they were at Waterloo station in London, or “something like that”. Could’ve led with that, too! None of this info is on their website, oddly. But I’m glad to know it.

I’d seen this bumper sticker around town:

And, indeed, it arrived on the board with our check. Near as I can discover, this logo might have originated at a bar in Texas, but I’m not totally sure. All I know is that they are dyed-in-the-wool JC fans in Louisville. And I also know that I would HIGHLY recommend their joint – the food was great, the service very friendly, and the surroundings are really, really interesting!

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Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, Colorado

Photos for No Apparent Reason (PFNAR) 2016

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I’ve learned not to be too surprised about things that Boulder, Colorado, has to offer. After all, it was/is a major hippie mecca and university town. But this raised one of my eyebrows: the Dushanbe Teahouse.

Dushanbe is the capital city of Tajikistan, and it’s one of Boulder’s seven (seven!) sister cities. The others, for the record, are Jalapa, Nicaragua; Kisumu, Kenya; Lhasa, Tibet; Mante, Mexico; Yamagata, Japan and Yateras, Cuba. I know they have a municipal plaza dedicated to all seven. But this blog is only about Dushanbe.

Dushanbe means “Monday” in the language spoken there. So, we have the Monday Teahouse, which was promised to Boulder in 1987 when Tajikstan was still the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic. The city’s mayor, who was visiting Boulder at the time, made good on his promise to gift a traditional Tajik teahouse to Boulder.

In my excitement about visiting the inside of this place, I neglected to get a good, overall exterior shot. Thus, the above photo is by Laura Annan, my companion that day. Thanks, Laura!

Here are some of my exterior shot details:

Ceramic panels:

Even the eaves have marvelously intricate designs:

And the rose garden bench is super-ornate:

From 1987-1990, over 40 skilled artisans from several cities worked to create the hand-carved and hand-painted tables, stools, ceiling panels and columns, plus the ceramic panels above. The entire assembled teahouse was then dismantled and shipped to Boulder in about 200 crates.

I’ll leave the local politics out of this story, but the teahouse wasn’t assembled and opened until 1998. Of course, there is much more to the story, and if you want to learn all of that, check out the teahouse website or other online sources.

The exterior is very calming and peaceful – I can’t wait to see it during the growing season when the vinery and roses are in full glory.

But the inside is where it’s at! Just look!

Here’s a detail of the carved plaster around the giant painting in the above photo:

Note the lushly planted fountain on the left in the photo below. It’s actually positioned in the center of the dining area and it has several water-nymph-like statues around it:

There is a nice exhibit near the door in glass display cases. This is a velvet ceremonial robe, which was presented by the Tajiks to a local doctor for his “commitment to the advancement of medicine in Dushanbe”, and which his widow donated to the teahouse. It is an item commonly presented to Tajik men on their 70th birthday.

But the best part are the ceiling panels! Each is completely different with intricately painted and carved patterns. I got kinda dizzy taking so many pictures of them overhead!

Laura and I had lunch there, although we had to wait an interminable amount of time to be seated. There was an event there which had reserved half the dining room, plus I didn’t know we should have made reservations. And we were caught in the transition between lunch and afternoon tea, so I think we didn’t get their best that day. I would be willing to give them another chance, this time with reservations and a proper dining hour. The staff were very cordial and apologetic that we had to wait, but the end result wasn’t that stellar, unfortunately

I did like the egg-timer that came with the tea so you could time your own teapot:

The teahouse is situated next to a stream, which is traditional for teahouses in Tajikistan, so I’ve learned. It’s open daily from 8a to 9p, with breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and brunch at selected times. You can check that out, along with their menu, on their website, too.

They also have special parties, such as the upcoming Navruz, or Persian New Year (Spring Equinox), focused mainly on the plaza (giant patio) next to the teahouse. I’ll keep an eye on this one!

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Celestial Seasonings Tea Company Prairie Dog Preserve

Last week I showed you photos from my Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory tour, like these:

This week is kind of a supplement to the last post. But first, I want you to remember the cutest Colorado animal, the prairie dog, which I’ve also blogged about. The reason I bring up P-dogs is because there is a huge prairie dog preserve surrounding Celestial Seasonings!

Here’s a shot of the field next to the tea factory. You can see the prairie dog mounds and a couple of the little fatties if you look closely:

One might wonder why Celestial Seasoning has such a preserve just outside their door. Well, you must first understand that, in Colorado, builders, farmers and ranchers don’t like them very much. They create huge networks of burrows that annoy builders and undermine crops, and their mounds are dangerous for cows’ and horses’ ankles.

All the same, it’s illegal to kill them just because you want to build, farm or ranch where they live. I believe the regs state that you must make every effort to move the entire colony if you plan anything for the land they live on. Imagine the logistics of that!

Anyway, way back in 1999, Celestial Seasonings was caught red-handed poisoning prairie dogs as a matter of course in their landscape management program. When the word got out, a massive boycott was planned. CS subsequently admitted their wrongdoing, and, as part of their restitution, they set aside all their unoccupied land for a prairie dog preserve. I believe there was a sign about it on site for many years, but I didn’t see any such sign when I visited.

I have to hand it to the tea people – they stepped up, admitted their mistake, apologized, and tried to make things right. Even now, the descendants of those last-century rodents surround the tea factory. Here’s a picture I took around back next to the loading docks:

So if you want a close look at fat little p-dogs, visit Celestial Seasonings in Boulder!

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Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory Tour, Boulder, CO

I hope you’re enjoying the new Throwback Tuesday Posts (TBTP) every week! This week I revisited a Bavarian town named Kronach for their annual “Light Up” celebration (Kronach Leuchtet) in 2012!

Once upon a time in the late ’70s, I entered college. Among the millions of things my college buddies taught me about, knowingly or unknowingly (thanks, ladies!), was herbal tea. Namely, Celestial Seasonings. Now, at the time I was diligently building up my coffee-and-cigarettes-for-breakfast habit, so I didn’t partake of the herbals much. However, I was impressed by my friends’ worldliness in knowing about herbal teas and their otherworldliness in consuming something with ‘celestial’ in the name.

Although I never developed the tea habit the way some of my friends did, I was delighted to learn that the Celestial Seasonings factory is in Boulder, just a short drive from where I now live. AND they give FREE factory tours! So, of course, I headed there as part of my mission to bring you interesting places on this blog. And, for those of you who are wondering, I did eventually drop the cigarette part of my coffee habit.

The Celestial Seasonings factory is outside Boulder city on several acres in the Gunbarrel area. If you’ll recall, it’s the same neighborhood as Avery Brewing Co., which I wrote about in a previous post.

I parked in a lot that was much more crowded than I expected. In fact, the place was pretty busy for an early Friday afternoon. But I easily found my way to the Tea Shop (read, gift shop) where the tours begin.

I checked in at a podium and was given my ticket: a package of Sleepytime tea, their flagship. It’s the biggest-selling herbal tea of all time – and if you learn nothing else from this tour, you will learn that fact!

When I turned around from the podium, I was confronted by the Sleepytime bear himself! I said hello, but he seemed to be dozing.

This bear was sitting inside a giant teapot. On the other side of the teapot was a doorway to a small room inside, a replica of the one on the Sleepytime package. The best photo I never got that day was a young man standing in that doorway yawning!

This area was a cafe, and you could try as many of the teas as you wanted from these urns while you waited for the tour to start:

I was also interested in the teapot and teacup collection on display:

They had the company history on display boards – here’s the first one:

No one could tell me exactly what herbs the founders initially picked in the mountains, though. Bet I know which ones they’d pick today…

Presently, a friendly tour guide showed up and led us into a small room with a video screen and this dress made of tea wrappers:

We watched a video that reiterated what the history boards in the lobby had told us. Then, we had to put on hair nets (some of the men had to wear beard nets) and we trooped down the side of the building to the factory tour entrance.

We were not allowed to take pictures in there, so there won’t be any here. But I will tell you that the walking tour lasted about 30 minutes and it was very loud in there! I couldn’t hear what the tour guide was saying most of the time, but I loved seeing the conveyor belts and robots dutifully churning out boxes and boxes of tea. The factory signage was ornate, too, and I SO wanted a picture of the scrollwork sign that read, ‘Tea Bagging’. But they were watching me so I didn’t even try.

The factory was mostly open, but there was a separate room for actual tea – black, green, white, red – that must be kept separate from the herbs or it absorbs flavors from them. And most remarkable on the tour was the Mint Room. The mint must be kept in a separate room because everything in the factory would taste and smell like mint. We stood in there for about five minutes, and my eyes were burning by the end. We were cautioned not to rub our eyes while in there, too. Wow!

After filing through the factory, we exited through the gift shop (apologies to Banksy). There I bought a tea saucer – notice many of these have the images from Celestial Seasonings boxes:

You could buy magnets and cards about your survival of the Mint Room:

They even had lip balm with tea flavors!
Need a Sleepytime Bear teapot?
Of course I bought some tea on my way out, too. And I asked about what kind of cinnamon is in their tea: it’s from Vietnam. FYI, Ceylon cinnamon is what you really want – it’s healthy and has immune-boosting properties. The other stuff is just tree bark and may even be harmful. So read your labels!

Anyway, it was a very nice, comfy tour, kind of like the teas you can get there. I would recommend this for a nice way to spend an afternoon. It’s free and family-friendly. They conduct tours every day: Mon-Sat 10-4 and Sun 11-3. Cafe and giftshop are open longer hours. Take a selfie with the Sleepytime Bear and take in some very cool teapots while you wait. And brace yourself for the Mint Room!

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Biking at McIntosh Lake in Longmont, Colorado

To my subscribers: Did you see the new blog feature earlier this week? It’s called the Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP). Every Tuesday, I’ll be re-posting a past blog which is, I hope, relevant and that I think you might like. For example, this week, for the first TBTP, I re-posted a blog from 2011 that brings you along on my first trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. 

Subscribers receive an email notification about it each Tuesday, as well as the regular Thursday new post announcement.

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For this brand new post, I’ll take you along on a wonderful, peaceful, end-of-summer bike ride at a special place near where I live. It’s called McIntosh Lake in Longmont, Colorado, in Boulder County.

Recently, my husband and I acquired a new Subaru Outback – I think it’s a requirement for living in Colorado, along with a Broncos jersey. Last week we had a hitch installed on the car to accommodate our new Thule bike rack. We needed all this hardware on which to hang our German city bikes so we could take them farther afield on weekends.

Our German bikes are quite a bit different from the mountain and sport bikes most people have around here. Ours are city bikes – you could call them grocery-getters. Sportier models come later, I think.

A co-worker of my husband suggested we go to McIntosh Lake, which supposedly had a nice path and beautiful scenery. Boy, was that an understatement!

After a half-hour drive, we arrived very early, about 7am. Since the high temp that day was forecast in the upper 80s, we wanted to get there before the needling Colorado sun burned through our hats into our brains. It’s a good thing we did, too. We got to enjoy the beautiful golden light from the rising sun and also got to leave just as it was becoming uncomfortable to be out there.

We started out with the sun at our backs and rode through a couple of blocks of really beautiful housing. Once we left the built-up area, it was all magnificent scenery. How can I even stand a view like this???

Beyond the paved path next to the houses, it was all gravel, though well maintained. The tallest mountain in these photos is Long’s Peak.

There is a spur path off the lake path leading to Boulder County Agricultural Heritage Center. That’s on my list for a visit.

Some stats about McIntosh Lake:

  • It’s a reservoir with 265 surface acres
  • You’re allowed to fish; the lake is stocked with walleye, bass and (my fave) crappie.

  • Kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, canoeing and multi-chamber inflatable rafting are allowed; motorized watercraft are not. Neither are one-chamber inflatables like pool floats or inner tubes.

  • At the west end is a lake preserve area with a couple of picnic tables but no water access. Prairie dogs live there and we saw waterbirds on the lake, too.

  • The surrounding plain is mostly stunning ranch land.

Here’s a map that gives you an idea of the lake’s layout:

It was an absolutely fantastic excursion, even taking into account the fact I left my phone on a bench at the far end of the lake. My husband gallantly retrieved it from a man who’d found it and called my husband to let him know. If he hadn’t been able to find it, you wouldn’t have seen these pictures, for they were all taken on my phone. For that rescue effort, my husband scored a new pair of Nikes later in the day – and well deserved!

Since our cycling outing, the weather has turned decidedly chillier, with highs in the 60s this week and lows in the 40s, and the accompanying leaf color changes. So I’m glad we got to experience that lovely, lovely day. And now I’m very excited for fall!

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