Posts filed under ‘United States’

everything i didn’t know about detroit (part 1)

I’ve really been slacking with the blogging, but I want to get back into it. I have a big trip to Italy coming up (more on that in another post), and I’ve been thinking about my neglected travel blog. I haven’t blogged about any of the trips, small or large, that I took in 2012, so I figure that January 2012 is a good place to start with catching up. Even better: this trip only requires one post!

My friends, Jules and Christina, and I got together for New Year’s (sometimes belated, sometimes not) for a few years in a row, and in 2012, we decided to meet in Michigan for a long weekend after the start of the new year. At the time, Jules lived in a small town in central Michigan, but she was well into a Detroit kick, and she wanted to take us to the big city where she would eventually move (more on that in a future post, too).

I always felt like I’d been to Detroit before. I’d flown in and out of the airport a couple of times and I’d been through it on Amtrak. I’d been all over the Detroit suburbs, mainly at various skating rinks and shopping malls. When I lived in Lansing, Jules and I went to Windsor fairly often, and sometimes we’d cross on the moderately-terrifying Ambassador Bridge, but sometimes we’d take the moderately-terrifying tunnel under the Detroit River, which connects the downtown districts of Detroit and Windsor. On those trips, Jules would point out landmarks from the highway and on the streets downtown. One time, I discovered some “landmarks” on my own—I picked up Christina and Jen from the VIA Rail station in Windsor late one night and on the way home, we were routed off the highway and through Mexicantown, Corktown, and Midtown, past abandoned buildings and the old Tiger Stadium. We never drove that way again. Another time, before either of us had a smartphone, we went on an epic search on Telegraph Road for a Fifth Third Bank after my wallet was stolen and we desperately needed cash to fill up the gas tank.

I felt like I’d been to Detroit.

But here’s the thing: aside from a trip into the bank (which we eventually found) and a fill-up at a gas station near the Wayne State campus, I’d never actually gotten out of the car in Detroit until January 2012.

I like cities, though, sketchy or not, and especially historic ones, so I was looking forward to my first real visit to Detroit. Once Jules threw in an art museum, I was all in. Unfortunately, I was also almost all broke. Fortunately, I learned that Detroit is super cheap.

As most touristy days for us begin, unless we are really pressed for time, the day began fairly late, but we finally got out the door. Our first stop was the Eastern Market.


Detroit’s Eastern Market is probably vibrant, bustling market in the early mornings or in the summertime, but it was early afternoon and January, so it was quiet when we visited. We took a walk through and looked at some of the stalls, but most of the vendors that were left were starting to pack up.


The area around the market is fun, though, with a lot of shops and restaurants. Jules had scoped out some of the options ahead of time, and we’d decided to try Supino Pizzeria, known as Detroit’s best pizza. Supino holds a solid 4.5-star rating on Yelp, and when you consider the picky sort of foodies that generally post on Yelp, 4.5 stars is incredibly impressive, especially for a place that is priced so reasonably. Even in the mid-afternoon, there wasn’t a single table, and an order for a whole pizza was going to take over an hour, so we got slices instead, and scarfed them down in Jules’ car. The pizzas are thin crust and quite tasty. Since we opted for slices to go, we didn’t get to try any of their fancy pizzas, but I’d love to go back sometime…maybe call ahead for a pickup to avoid the lines!

The afternoon was already starting to fade away after that, so we headed straight for the Detroit Institute of Arts after that, arriving about an hour before closing. I knew it was going to be a good visit when we walked up and saw that they have a cast of Rodin’s “The Thinker” outside.


At home in Chicago, I’m used to paying close to $20 to get into a premiere museum. At the DIA, the admission is only $8 for adults! I got in for only $5, as I was still a student at that time. The DIA is also free for members of local counties, and it’s free for everyone on the second Sunday of each month. Even at full price, though, the museum is a still, even for just one reason:


The room of Diego Rivera frescoes is mind-blowing.

“Detroit Industry” is one of the finest examples of 20th Century Mexican art that exists anywhere, much less in the United States. Rivera painted the frescoes, made of 27 panels, between April 1932 and March 1933. They depict Detroit’s forays into industry, when the city was one of the booming metropolises of the country.

The room that houses them is called “Rivera Court,” and I could have spent several hours here alone. If you are visiting the DIA, allow plenty of time to take in this work. Visitors can check out iPads in the room that contain interactive software with all kinds of information about the different panels and the industries and symbols that are depicted. We checked out an iPad, but only spent about 15 minutes with it, as we wanted to see some of the rest of the museum:


The rest of the museum was nice, of course, but the collection’s crown jewel is certainly the Rivera frescoes. A year later, I can only remember a few vague impressions of the rest of the art, although I would still love to visit again and spend more time enjoying the entire museum.

Just north of the museum on Woodward is a little strip of shops and cafes. We went into one store, Goods, which does fun, Detroit-tastic screen printing.

Overall, my first (real) day in Detroit was a success, and it made me anxious to learn more about the city. Although much of it is still downtrodden, it is evident that Detroit is on the rise. It is exciting to see its residents committed to the ongoing rebuilding projects. Jules moved into the city recently, and if I ever catch up, I’ll have plenty more to post about my second trip to Detroit. And by the time I posted about the second trip, I’ll probably have taken a third as well…


February 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

New England 2010

The final leg of the Canadian Road Trip took place in New England, USA. Since everything relating to travel is more expensive in Canada than in the United States, I had opted to fly into Seattle, rent a car stateside, and then return it in Manchester, NH, after 30 days. Chele, who lives just over the MA border from NH, volunteered to pick us up and we spent the weekend with her. Christina and I love Boston, and Jules had been wanting to go for ages, so we were happy to squeeze a few extra days out of the trip.

When we left Canada, we drove over the U.S. border into upstate Maine. Upstate Maine is…well, I think some call it “rustic.” Perhaps also “quiet.” We, however, would call it at least moderately creepy. The highway had hardly any exits and the ones that existed were deserted. We stopped in a rest area, where the only other car in the parking lot, in Christina’s words, “had been there since 1987!” A guy was sitting in the front seat, alone, and I remembered all of the times my mom had told me not to stop at rest areas while driving alone at night. Well, it wasn’t night and I wasn’t alone, but I wondered if any of that mattered in Upstate Maine. Fortunately, we got out of the rest area without incident, discovered that all gas stations in Maine are full serve (thanks for the best windshield wash ever, Ke’von!), and stopped in Portland for lunch with Daphne. Downtown Portland was super cute and we loved the lunch buffet at David’s.

But we really wanted to see some of the legendary Maine coast, along with lighthouses, of course. One of the guides we picked up had advertised the world’s largest lighthouse store, so that was a must, and we pointed the car towards York Beach.

York Beach
It’s easy to see why people rave about Maine’s shoreline! I don’t think I’d mind staying here for a summer holiday.

At the world’s largest lighthouse store, all of the car’s doors had just slammed (and locked) when Jules said with wide eyes, “I just locked the keys in the car.” Sure enough, there they were, right on the seat. Earlier in the trip, I’d commented on how irritating it was that I’d been given two keys to the rental, but they keychain was fused together, so I couldn’t separate them. And then at our very last stop, when we were barely an hour from the Manchester airport to return the car, we locked the keys in the car. Thank goodness for AAA and the ice cream shop across the street, which helped pass the time while we waited!

Sometime in southeastern Maine, Jules, Christina, and I had started speaking in southern accents and we just could not quit. I have no idea how it started, but once I get going, it’s hard to stop. I perfected an Oklahoma accent when I was young, spending time in Tulsa with my grandparents, and with kids who told me that I talked funny. So I learned how to talk like them. I think Chele spent five solid minutes laughing when she picked us up, because of course she didn’t expect it. And you know, sometimes the accent just feels more natural, especially when I’m tired, I guess because I heard so much of it growing up! It’s the same way that I pick up Ontario vowels so easily when I spend time there, how I will mostly likely pick up a lovely British accent when I spend two weeks in London at the end of the month. I’m fascinated by speech patterns.

Anyway, enough about speech. I’m also fascinated by lists (obviously), so I have a goal of visiting all 50 states. I’d been to Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts before, but not Rhode Island. So Chele took us shopping in Providence.

RI Capitol
We didn’t do any sightseeing, but when we left dinner, this was the view down the street. Hello, Capitol Building.

Then it was back to Chele’s in northern MA for a good night’s sleep before our big day out in Boston!

Travel photography was the part of photography that I have always loved, since long before I knew anything about apertures and the rule of thirds, when I was still using a black & pink “Fun Kodak” 35mm film camera. But there’s something tricky about Boston.

My Boston photos typically do not survive.

My first trip to Boston was Thanksgiving 2003. When my computer crashed in February 2004, Boston was one of 3 groups of photos that I lost due to slacking on backups. I went to Boston again in August 2008. By this time, I was a “real” photographer and much more diligent about backups. So when my laptop died for good that year and Best Buy’s Geek Squad took it back and gave me a refund instead, I didn’t panic. Everything was backed up. Well, somehow, everything got backed up except Boston. So one of the jokes on this final leg of the Canadian trip was that I could not leave New England without triple-backing-up my Boston photos. Of course, this time, I haven’t lost any of the drives, but when it happens…I know I have my Boston photos copied 3x over! And here are a few:

Holocaust Memorial
Boston’s Holocaust Memorial is one of the most chilling monuments I have ever seen.

One of the things I love about Boston is how cramped and diverse it is. New buildings, old buildings, unidentified heavily-ornamented building, boys in matching outfits—all easily had in the same frame.

After a bit of sightseeing, we paused for a pub lunch. I was craving “chowda” and a lobstah roll, and we went to Hennessey’s. We were sitting pretty far back in the pub, far from the view of the windows, so we didn’t realize just how hard it was raining until it was time to leave, until we’d already left our table and were standing awkward in front of the hostess stand. Chele confirmed that Fanueil Hall was about a block and a half away, so we decided to just bolt.

Only we hadn’t realized the full magnitude of the monsoon. My favourite part was wading across an intersection that was flooded up to middle of my calves. My flip-flop came apart in the rushing water and we barely made it across the street without getting swept away. Mel’s first Flash Flood, check! Fortunately, it didn’t last too long, although it did take most of the afternoon for us to dry off.

Once the rain stopped and we had some ice cream, we headed for the Boston Common and Public Gardens. I was determined to get a photo with the Make Way for Ducklings ducks. And not lose it this time.

Me with the Ducks!

Girl in Boots
The by-product of the monsoon was that part of the Public Gardens had flooded. There’s supposed to be a pond there, but the water had crept over its usual banks. We made some duck friends and some swan friends, and also watched some cute kids stomping around in their rain boots.

Old South Church
Our walk towards the Pru and shopping took us past Old South Church, which I absolutely loved. Beautiful building!

Fenway Park
Fenway gets a little tricky to find once you’re only a few blocks away and you can’t see it in the distance anymore, but we finally made it! No game that night, unless you count a huge drunken scavenger hunt going on around us. Since I’m a fan of the other Sox, and since they won the Series in 2004 (ending an 86-year drought) before we won the Series in 2005 (ending an 88-year drought), I feel a little bit of camaraderie with the BoSox, so it was nice to see Fenway in person.

So despite the unexpected flood, my trip to Bostonia was pretty great! And, for once, still documented by photographs almost a year later.

June 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm 1 comment


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