I dropped the ball, you guys. Sorry about the delay. I promise I will see the series until the end! That being said…
Welcome back, and thank you for following along as I recount my recent trip to Ann Arbor. If you’re just now checking in, please take a moment to check out part 1 and part 2. As for the rest of you? Come with me. There’s still so much to see!
72 Hours in Michigan: Part 3–Detroit Edition!
After sleeping off our exploits from the night before, Chelsea and I headed to Detroit for the day. A city known for its industrial history, beautiful architecture, art, and, yes, crippling financial struggles.
First, we grabbed brunch at Townhouse, a large, trendy restaurant downtown with a beautiful outdoor dining area. What follows is a satirical review about our experience.
My friend and I went to Townhouse on an especially windy day. We asked to be seated on their patio, which was stunning. I loved the industrial minimalism meets feminine loft-style chic aesthetic. The drinks were delicious, and the food even better. However, my hair kept flying into my mouth while I was eating. I managed to ignore it when it happened the first few times, but then it started to feel like the waitress was deliberately ignoring my dining struggles. She could have offered to hold my hair back while I ate. I’m just surprised a place like this hasn’t figured out a way to control the wind. I would have given this place five stars if it weren’t for the wind problem, but, taking that into consideration, I have to give it 2/5.
what we ate
the great white buffalo//israeli street pita
rating//4.5/5 (my pita was fantastic and I loved my drink, our waitress was attentive and upbeat, pricey–so I would recommend stopping here for a special occasion, or after pay day)
We spent a little time after brunch walking around downtown and toward the river. Our aimlessness led us to Campus Martius Park, which is home to the Woodward Fountain, the Michigan Soldiers & Sailors Monument, and a faux beach (with outdoor bar) that’s 21+ in the evenings. What a neat concept! The park hosts food trucks on the daily, and, starting in November, an ice rink is set up along with Christmas decorations.
About a ten minute walk from the park is the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. It seems to me that $5 is a pretty reasonable toll to pay to cross the border into Canada. And if I’d remembered my passport we probably would have done just that.
The tunnel’s next door neighbor is none other than GM’s headquarters–an imposing series of skyscrapers that reminded me of the underground living quarters for the clones in 2005’s The Island. (Which is funny because I looked up the filming locations after writing this paragraph, only to discover that most of the city scenes were filmed in–you guessed it–Detroit. A fact unknown to me until composing this post.)
We stumbled upon these fancy chairs on our walk back to Chelsea’s car. Not really sure what the story is behind these, but a photo op was necessary.
We also visited Belle Isle, a large island specifically devoted to environmental and cultural enrichment. Sights and activities include an aquarium, conservatory, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. We only had time to visit the 93-year-old fountain, and it is a must-see if you are visiting Detroit. It is made of marble and is reminiscent of the large, ornate fountains found in Greece and Italy. An interesting bit of trivia? Apparently the guy it’s named for caused a bit of controversy after leaving $200,000 of his fortune to erect the fountain in his name. (Another bit of information regarding this James Scott fellow: his mansion is in the process of being restored into 27 apartments.)
After taking a satisfactory number of selfies in front of the fountain, we took a short walk along the river’s edge where our vantage point allowed us to enjoy views of both the U.S.A. and Canada.
In researching Belle Isle for the purposes of this post, I discovered that Rodney Lockwood, a real-estate developer who looks like a cross between a clergyman and a Star Wars character in his promotional photo, envisions a future where the island is purchased from the city of Detroit and developed into its own city-state as an effort to revitalize Detroit. In fact, Mr. Lockwood wrote an entire book about his ideas for this tax-free utopia, aptly named “Belle Isle.” More about this absurd idea can be found a 5:07 of this clip from the Colbert Report.
I enjoyed our brief visit to Motor City. I’d like to come back sometime and explore more of the cultural attractions and historical landmarks. My overall impression of Detroit, however, is that the abandoned, graffiti-covered buildings serve as a disheartening backdrop for its modern elements, unique public art, and redevelopment. The short drive to and from Belle Isle from downtown provides numerous examples of post-industrial wasteland juxtaposed with gentrification. It saddens me how parasitic our species is and how quickly a city can go from a hub of prosperity and activity to a poverty-stricken wasteland. In our image and social-media driven culture it’s easier to rely on the beautiful features of a destination to supplement our travel stories, but I think it’s equally important to acknowledge the more depressing aspects because “the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”
And on that note…we are in the home stretch of my Tale of Two Cities series! In my final post, I’ll be sharing how we spent my final 24 hours in Ann Arbor. (Hint: it involves wine, karaoke, and getting lost in the woods. Exciting stuff.)