World tour

Shop for fantasy and food in Denver's international Cherry Creek North

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Take a stroll along Denver's East Third Avenue, and you might hear shoppers and storekeepers conversing in French, Chinese, or Turkish. With its international flavor and vibrantly colored wares, a visit to this street in the Cherry Creek North neighborhood is like an escape to warmer climes during spring's chilly "mud months."

The eight blocks from University Boulevard to Steele Street, an enclave of small, low-slung shops, stand in contrast to the high-rises of nearby Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Pick up on the street's vibe by settling in for lunch next to the huge windows at Little Ollie's Asian Café  ($$; lunch and dinner daily; 2364 E. Third Ave.; 303/316-8888). You can people-watch as you enjoy dishes ― such as crispy sea bass in a spicy sweet-and-sour sauce ― that are so authentic, you'll feel as if you're in China.

Suitably fortified, you're ready to roam through Ten Thousand Villages  (closed Sun; 2626 E. Third; 303/316-8773), showcasing handicrafts from 30 developing countries ― lacquered paperweights from Vietnam, onyx bookends from Pakistan.

Only the truly disciplined can pass by the Chocolate Foundry  (closed Sun; 2625 E. Third; 303/388-7800). Preparing for the Easter holiday, the shop becomes a chocoholic's dream, stuffed with fudge, truffles, and chocolate-dipped fruit.

Painted wood flowers from Bali lend vibrancy and color to Art.Z  (2727 E. Third; 303/331-1919). On down the street, stepping into Turkish Designs and Beyond  (2817 E. Third; 303/388-8896) is like walking into a bazaar. Bright tapestries hang by the door, and the walls are bedecked with rugs from Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. For a midday energy boost, linger over a strong Turkish brew at Guzel Coffee and Spirits  ($$; lunch and dinner daily; 303/ 388-3339), the coffeehouse that occupies part of the store.

As you head back to your car, the aromas of baking bread may pull you into the Cosmopolitan Bread Café  (2636 E. Third; 303/393-6200). Owner Lin Carson has devised a system that will custom-bake a loaf of bread in 8 to 10 minutes so you can take it home hot.

CRUISING CHERRY CREEK NORTH

For a map, list of businesses, and more dining options, contact Cherry Creek North: www.cherrycreeknorth.com or (303) 394-2904.

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