It’s not often you get handed an all-expenses paid trip to your favourite country in the world, so when I was offered a chance to present my work at a pharmaceutical conference in Denver last week, I jumped at the chance!
For those of you who are not aware of my day job, I’m studying for a PhD in Pharmaceutical manufacturing, and we are allowed to attend one international conference over the course of our 3/4 years of study. With this being my final year, and having not been overseas yet, the most suitable one to attend was the 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists in Denver, Colorado. Having not amassed enough results to give a full length talk on my research, I presented a poster on the progress I’ve made with medicinal 3D printing!
The whole conference was housed in the Colorado Convention Centre, which is a huge building right smack in the middle of Downtown Denver. We were lucky enough to get a hotel which was only a five minute walk from the venue, and would have been great for long lies, if we could have adjusted to the time zone change – I was up at 4am most mornings!
Given that I don’t want to bore you all with a post about the ins and outs of work, I thought I’d give you a brief account of what we got up to while away:
This may not seem like a big thing - we weren’t treated to first class or anything - but when you are used to EasyJet and Flybe, British Airways is a huge step up! Complimentary food and drink is always a bonus, but Francesca was particularly excited about the selection of newspapers they had on offer!
I’m quite a nervous flyer, and always take medication to calm me down, but the staff were wonderful and made me feel almost perfectly at ease – except with the rather wobbly take-off from Denver, it was only Tariq who could calm me at that point! Despite my fears, I’d never see anything new if I stayed at home all the time, so being brave for a short time is worth it in the long run. I even snuck a peek out of the window, while Francesca was in the loo, and managed to capture the magnificent view as we flew over Greenland!
Trying Not To Eat ALL The Food
I’ve already raved about my love for Hard Rock Café, and even gave it a separate post, so I thought I’d give you a brief account of the other places we visited - first on the list was The Cheesecake Factory! Being a fan of The Big Bang Theory, I’ve always wanted to try out this restaurant. Having being warned that potion sizes are different in the States, I only chose a starter because I knew I couldn’t leave without a cheesecake! Luckily, I made the right decision when my Loaded Baked Potato Tots arrived, along with everyone else’s main. In the end, I was the only one who could even imagine dessert, but, despite my best efforts, my wonderful Key Lime Pie Cheesecake defeated me!
Francesca absolutely loves steaks, so it was pretty much guaranteed that we would visit a traditional steak house while we were away. The Saltgrass Steak House on 16th Street was easy enough to get to and, to my surprise, served more than just steaks. Again, wary of the portion size, I ordered the Chuck Wagon Cheese Fries from the starter menu and was not disappointed – ranch dressing is definitely one of my new favourite things!
On a recommendation from a local blogger (Amy Stratton), we decided to venture out for lunch at SliceWorks on Naomi’s final day. It’s a cosy little pizzeria, situated close to Union Station, serving a huge selection of gourmet pizzas by the slice. Again, with American slices being so much bigger than our regular UK ones, a single slice would be enough to fill us, and also gave us the chance to try something a bit different. I opted for a ‘Spinach Wheel’, which is a combination of spinach, pepperoni, seasoned ricotta, and mozzarella, all rolled up in pizza dough to create a glorious concoction - absolutely delicious!
A Wander Round Looking At Arty Things
Denver isn’t just a fantastic place for food, it also has a wonderful collection of arty things dotted about. Just a short walk from our hotel, is the Denver Art Museum, with a Star Wars costume exhibition which opened on the day we arrived! Unfortunately, it was completely sold out when we tried to get tickets, but there were plenty of other things to see in the local area. I’m not normally a huge art fan, so I begrudged spending the admission prices – instead, we wandered around the local Civic Park (the centre of an anti-Trump demonstration) and enjoyed taking in the local sights and scenery.
Shopping and Gifts
I didn’t have a huge amount of money to spend while I was out there, but I did get the chance to purchase a few Christmas gifts from the conveniently located Denver Pavillions. Also the site of the local Hard Rock Café, the Denver Pavillions boasts a huge array of shops and restaurants. It even has a cinema and a Coyote Ugly Saloon, although we probably visited the bar at its quietest and didn’t get the full experience – I was offered a body shot from one of the bartenders, but politely declined!
There was a wonderful sweet shop called ‘It’s Sugar’, where I managed to pick up boxes of the marshmallow bits from lucky charms – the kids now love me more than ever! There was also another store called ‘Hot Topic’, which is like a better version of Forbidden Planet with less comics and more clothing – I can’t wait to take Paul into the Seattle one on our honeymoon!
Just before heading for our return flight, I managed to pick up another fantastic souvenir for the kids – Denver Broncos Ty Beanie Babies! When I was little, I loved collecting these cuddly toys, so I couldn’t resist picking some up for my children – I even got one for myself, for old times’ sake of course!
Denver is a fantastic city and I wish I’d had more time there! I also wish I could have taken Paul along with me, so he could get the chance to enjoy everything I did. If I’d had the money, I’d have loved to visit the City Zoo, or even head up to the Red Rocks to take in the views.
Have you ever visited Denver? What was your favourite part?