Posts filed under ‘Detroit’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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…

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February 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm 1 comment


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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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