Lady Lotus Does Des Moines

THE ANTIQUES DIVA™ TOURS – CLOSED FOR ANNUAL VACATION DURING AUGUST – REOPENS SEPTEMBER While my tour guides are taking a much needed holiday and I’m away for the month of August sipping champagne at sunset on a Mediterranean Cruise (after taking a driving tour of Italy), I haven’t forgotten you, my loyal readers, in my absence. August 2008 you’ll enjoy a multitude of guest blogs, pre-posted light blogs and miscellaneous reader questions. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more great addresses and shopping tips this fall! All email inquiries or posted comments will be responded to come September!


Dear Antiques Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>After living eight years abroad, I was used to my husband whisking me away to Italy, Australia or Japan whenever he had a business trip. So imagine my surprise when two months ago he told me his next business adventure would be a little closer to home. I realize we no longer live in Paris or Tokyo and as we currently reside in the Midwestern part of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa is only five hours away by car, but still I found I missed those international days when a business trip meant someplace tres exotic and foreign. I had to be wooed with talk of room service, steak dinners and great antique shopping.

In all honesty, I think he made up the latter, thinking I’d be interested in joining him for the conference if he told me there was antique shopping to be found. But somehow he got lucky and I felt your readers should be informed that not only is Des Moines a great place to visit but there is also a lovely place in West Des Moines for antique shopping. It’s called Historic Valley Junction.

When I first drove up to the outdoor shopping area, I was a bit hesitant. Although it was positively reviewed in my guidebook and two city newspapers, it looked more like an unloved construction zone with workers ripping up the main artery at the end of the street. But I drove around the mess, parked and started walking behind some ladies chatting about finding the best cake shop ever. Well, there was no way I was going to miss out on such a treasure, so I lurked behind as they entered “Let Them Eat Cake”. This small wedding cake business features personal-sized creations for you to eat there or take for later. I was swooning in butter cream, marzipan and edible wedding flowers!

Since I didn’t want to shop with frosting on my fingers, I took note of the place for later and made my way to the main shopping area along 5th Street. I didn’t walk far before my eye was caught by the gorgeous scrapbooking window displays of Heirlooms by Design. It had been eons since I browsed a dedicated scrapbooking store, so I did some damage to my credit card, then headed back to the car to drop off two groaning bags and check out the cake store again (mmm … still looks divine!)

This time I made it at least two more shops down 5th street before stopping. The” target=”_blank”>Heart of Iowa features souvenirs, funny gifts and gourmet foods. I picked up a little espresso cup ($5) featuring the state logo for my husband, Dr. Mr. T’s travel collection, but left the gorgeous local pottery, John Deere toy tractors and tasty jars of jelly.

The next place I found was Porch Light. This shop specializes in antiques and gifts complete with a cute little outdoor area of flowers and garden items. Chairs were hanging from the ceiling, shelves were laden with glassware and pottery … they even had a huge trunk filled with my favorite things – old glass windows and doors! I couldn’t resist a galvanized metal laundry tub from the 1940s which would be perfect to hold my fireplace tinder back home, so I scooped it up for only $25.

I spent the rest of the afternoon zigzagging across the street and through the many antique shops. The Paris Flea Market had gorgeous groupings of both old and new French items, like their cute, cute, cute wall of tea towels. A-Ok Antiques specialized in fun looking games. I was captivated by the Fortune Teller gumball machine, but at $945 I left it in the shop. And did I need a chandelier? David Meshek’s display in 5th Street Finds must have had over 500 pieces of antique lighting.

In addition to antiques, there are numerous art galleries, clothing stores and specialty boutiques. One of my favorite spots was Sisters by Especially Lace. My eyes feasted on the gorgeous bed coverings and little nothings scattered about, but I especially liked a ribbon-bedecked straw hat. The shopkeeper helped show me how it was “crushable”, so I walked out with this $33 treasure, w
hich helped keep the sun out of my eyes as I meandered back to the car (via the cake shop, of course!) with bags a plenty and a pink champagne cake ($5) for dessert back in the hotel.

Don’t tell my husband, please, but I actually hope his next meeting takes place in Des Moines just so I can visit Historic Valley Junction again- sooner rather than later!

Bonne Shopping Diva Readers!

Lady Lotus