Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Salt Lake Experience

In short, we had a really good time in Salt Lake. Some of it had little to do with Salt Lake, like...

1. Seeing our niece, Lily, for the first time. Michelle brought this cutie pie from California and we ate her up.

2. Spending time with Stella without the distraction of her little sis. As Stella liked to tell people, "Meg is staying with my mother-in-law." (Marian's mother-in-law, that is!)

3. Macaroni Grill. I'll mention all the unique places we ate later, but we happened across my mom's favorite chain at the end of a long afternoon of walking and it was just what the doctor ordered. Chains are successful usually because they get something right. Of course, because we had already ordered food, we were allowed to order a beer (that's one of the quirky Mormon-inspired rules.)

4. Speaking Gilbertese with Nei Tofinga - a Mormon guide from Kiribati. It has been so long since we spent time with someone from our Peace Corps country. We heard that someone from Kiribati was giving tours at Temple Square and we left one of our business cards hoping she would call, and she did, so we visited her on-the-job and had a blast.

Here are the things we really liked about Salt Lake that we think just about anyone would enjoy:

1. Temple Square. Think what you want about the Mormon religion, Mormons have always been very kind and generous toward me AND they have some amazing architecture on 35 acres on the north side of Salt Lake's Downtown. You can take the cool little Trax train right to it. The walled portion has a couple of visitor's centers where they give you an abbreviated version of their history and sing to you at the end. These are inevitably very cute ladies from all over the world who, as you might have guessed, travel in pairs. Outside the walled portion is the conference center where the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics were held. The center has like 1.5 million square feet in the whole complex. The auditorium has seating for 21,000. It's a football field in length from the top balcony to the stage. Yet it feels quite intimate. (Technogeeks will marvel at the 1,400 computer-controlled stage lights!)

There are also former homes of Bringham Young that one can explore, though we didn't take the time to do that.

Another cool thing is, in another part of the city, they actually have a cheese factory that is part of their charity mission.

2. The Red Iquana. A very popular Mexican restaurant just past the western edge of downtown. At least 3 friends recommended it, and they steered us the right way. Of course, they might have told us about the Buffalo Burrs along the way. These are part of the plant kingdom and when they get lodged into a baby stroller tire, only go deeper as you roll. Yes, we left the restaurant to discover that we had 3 flat tires. Fortunately, the cab ride was not far to our hotel, and there is a bike shop in downtown Salt Lake.

Red Iquana: four webbed thumbs up!

3. The Beehive Tea Room. I don't usually get into tea rooms, but Scott Osondu has gotten me to appreciate tea, and this place has a very welcome vibe. Stella liked it, too.

4. Sugar House. Marian can blog more about this cute neighborhood, as I was attending a conference on the day they visited here.

5. The Library. It has the best view of the town and the surrounding mountains. I'll look for a photo and post it. The library itself is a marvel in architecture, and Stella loved reading books in one of the numerous nooks there.

There were some other nice things, like the Gateway Mall, the Discovery Center kids museum, and the IMAX. But I'd say that just being in such an unusual FEELING place is what made it for me. The West is just plain different from the East, and Salt Lake is a step removed from much of the West. It does one good for a change of scene.