First Impression: Ann Arbor, Michigan

ImageArrived at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Thursday evening on a thankfully uneventful Delta flight out of Baltimore.  Mark picked me up and we headed off to the Residence Inn where he is staying in corporate housing to drop off the bag, before driving into downtown Ann Arbor for dinner.  I’m typically a weirdo and LOVE a good Residence Inn…pool, hot tub, microwave popcorn, breakfast and afternoon snack/dinner – what’s not to love?  This Residence Inn, however, was a bit sadder than the ones I’ve stayed in before.  Same amenities (although Mark didn’t even realize there was a hot tub until I literally pointed it out to him), but perhaps a bit smaller room and less inviting building layout (i.e. parking lots running between the buildings).  Oh well, I’m not going to have to stay there many nights, and Mark is on a work-run-dinner-sleep routine.

Downtown, we walked along Main Street, looking at the various menus of all the bars/restaurants.  All the outdoor seating (of which there was plenty) seemed to be filled to capacity and beyond.  The streets were bustling with diners, pedestrians, window shoppers and soloists, duets and trios playing guitars and singing on every street corner.  I may have made an allusion to the sidewalks being crowded like NYC, which was clearly hyperbolic; but it was crowded!

We chose the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, which looked to have a delicious and healthy menu and craft beers.  We each had great salads that were very fresh and filling.  I was impressed by most of the menus we perused along Main Street.  Even typical-type bars seemed to have farm-to-table vibes.  Lots of good places that we’re going to have to try!

After dinner we strolled around downtown, through the more college-kid-filled State Street and got frozen yogurt with toppings 🙂  Not TCBY, but just as tasty and refreshing!

Heading back to the hotel, I started to get my bearings.  I’ve been studying the map (obviously) for weeks, but it’s not until you’re really there and moving around that you figure out which way is up.  I mean North.

Friday morning I drove Mark to work (early) and took a different route back to the hotel past the gigantic football stadium with the huge yellow M that can be seen from downtown.  I’m very excited to experience “The Big House” this fall, which, according to Wikipedia, is the largest stadium in the US and the third largest in the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Stadium.  I’m sure we’ll be up in the nose bleeders since games are an uber popular ticket, and I’ll oft be overheard saying, “What is this: A center for ants?” (Thank you Will Ferrell, “Zoolander”), given the players will look teeny tiny.  Like ants.  Time to break out those distance glasses.

Back at the hotel, I went for a quick run and breakfast.  Upon leaving the room for the day at 10am, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I turned right around once I got outside and changed into leggings and a sweater.  I won’t say it was cold, but the lack of humidity meant that I was a bit chilly until I really started doing a lot of walking during the heat of the day.

I drove up to check out our new apartment (as of August 1).  I couldn’t go in, but I drove through the neighborhood, and it seemed very convenient – right near the Medical Center and a park along a river that would be great to ride bikes….now I need to get a bike.  I then drove back into downtown and walked around a bit, grabbed a Starbucks, and met Mark for lunch.  That’s when I had my first Michigan pizza experience!!  He took me to a locally-owned (the owner may have been taking orders and flipping dough) lunch spot with reasonably priced design-your-own pizza, salads and sandwiches.  We split a delicious margherita pizza and a salad.  I will expand on my love of pizza one of these days, but overall I thought this was a great start to my Michigan pizza explorations.

After lunch, Mark went back to work and I walked around.  Literally, all around.  Besides the actual UM campus itself, I’m pretty sure I saw all of Ann Arbor by foot.  I was up in the Kerrytown neighborhood where there is a farmer’s market every Saturday, cute shops and restaurants, including an amazing spice and tea store that has every variety of scoopable loose teas and ground spices that you could imagine.  I feel like I may end up spending a lot of money in this store.  This is also where the famous Zingerman’s deli is.  Everyone I’ve  ever spoken to about Ann Arbor has said I HAVE to go to Zingerman’s.  Well apparently they were correct because the place was PACKED.  Every seat was taken and waiters and waitresses were running around bringing people sandwiches of every kind.  Apparently they make their own pickles (which I have yet to try), along with everything else.  They have a whole separate bakery/sweets shop right next door, where I bought about 6 homemade chocolates in all sorts of weird flavors like balsamic, peperoncini and kalamata olive…for $15!!!  They let you sample everything, including the chocolates and gelato, which is great….until you realize that’s because everything is so expensive, the mark-up must be insane.  But they clearly do well nonetheless.  And the chocolates were delish.

Zingerman’s was also where I believe Jason Segel’s character is meant to be working in the movie “The Five Year Engagement”.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s sort of long and sad and drawn out, but it’s a good education in what might be in store for me in Michigan (hopefully not though): fiancee, Emily Blunt, gets job at UM, so the couple moves from San Francisco, where he was a chef, to Ann Arbor, where he has trouble finding a job, grows a mountain-man beard, hunts, drinks, keeps bees to make mead, wears large homemade sweaters and keeps a cross-bow at the ready.  Also, most of the plot, which spans five years, takes place in the winter.  They just skip the summer parts.  That might be the most telling part of the whole plot.  Hm.

I picked Mark up later that afternoon and we headed up to Traverse City, Michigan, about 4 hours from Ann Arbor in the Northwest portion of the Lower Peninsula (the part that looks like a mitten) for my friend Alli’s wedding.  Traverse City is a cute little beach town that actually seemed hotter than Ann Arbor (I have no idea why).  We had a great dinner at a Asian-fusion Japanese restaurant and then joined Alli and her now husband Greg at a bar where their families were celebrating.

Saturday we hiked Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Not the insane 4 hour trek up and down 6 or 7 humongous dunes in the beating sun that makes you feel like you are in the Sahara and want to die, but the more reasonable, one dune hike: up and over, down to the edge of Lake Michigan, which was so clear and not even as cold as the Atlantic at the Jersey Shore over 4th of July this year.  Tiny waves lapped onto the rocky shore, and all up and down the beach was empty, quiet and calm.  We also hiked a wooded trail that pops you out on a cliff overlooking an expanse of the Lake Michigan coastline – breathtaking to see cliffsides dropping sharply down to long and winding white sand beaches abutting the great lake.  The air was cool and refreshing, and the sun was warm on the skin.  The perfect conditions for a sunburn – good thing we grabbed the 50 SPF.  GMA Votes Sleeping Bear Dunes #1

Alli and Greg’s wedding was beautiful that evening.  Held at a rustic farm, it was clear that every detail was considered and executed perfectly.  She obviously looked stunning and they both were overwhelmingly happy – their joy just sprung forth and filled the barn, decked in fairy lights and paper lanterns.  A gorgeous evening with perfect weather for an outdoor celebration.

Sunday, I had my second taste of Michigan pizza, this time in Traverse City on the drive out of town.  Just a hot bite which was tasty, although a bit on the deep crust side for my personal preference.

I gotta say, with the long, flat, straight roads, 4 hours seemed to take forever, and I’m starting to think that Michiganders aren’t very good at driving.  It is my ultimate pet peeve when you are walking in the mall or on the sidewalk and someone cuts in front of you and starts walking reeeeeallllllyyy slowly or stops altogether and looks around confused.  Well I feel like this was the driving equivalent of that.  Cars were pulling out in front of us left, right and center, and then would go so slowly that we’d have to hit the brakes.  And there was no one coming behind us!  Just wait 3 seconds and pull out after we pass!  What’s the rush?  Clearly nothing if you’re going that slowly!  And then the in city, cars were trying to dart out at lights to make left turns in front of oncoming traffic.  Again, just wait a minute and the coast would be clear!  I’m so confused.  According to my cab driver to the airport on Monday, car insurance is very expensive in Michigan, and perhaps the most expensive in the county: Michigan Car Insurance is Expensive  Hmmm, I’m not saying there’s a cause and effect relationship here, I’m just pointing this out for consideration.

Okay, so this post has gone on long enough.  Suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised with my first Michigan expedition that was capped off with a friendly chat with my cab driver on the ride to the airport, who not only told me about the woes of the expensive car insurance, but also alerted me to the fact that Chase is hiring in and around Ann Arbor.  Good intel!

I will leave you with a few random things I noticed on this first foray into the Midwest:

1. Not only are the drivers questionable, but the roads are not in great condition.  I guess all that cold and snow will do a number on the asphalt, but the shock-absorbers were getting a work out.

2. While I was on the treadmill watching TV, there were gun commercials.  Not like, “Hey, come to the gun show this Saturday,” but a full on “this-is-how-we-craft-our-handmade-rifles” commercial.  I get it, there is lots of hunting here, it just caught me off guard because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gun commercial at 8:30am on a Friday before.

3. The Detroit airport is SO NICE.  It’s huge with a tram system running inside between the outer ends of the terminal.  There are lots of upscale stores that I would expect to find at Heathrow or Gatwick, not Detroit.  And the lines weren’t bad at all either.

4. For some reason they seem to be obsessed with Macklemore.  Mark noted that he hears at least one Macklemore song every morning and every evening on his 7 minute commute to and from work.  And then I started noticing it too.  And then another out-of-town guest at the wedding independently mentioned it.  Macklemore’s not even from Michigan.  I don’t understand.

5. A lot of the roads are named for a measurement of length.  I knew of 8 Mile from Eminem, but it seemed like there were tons of roads called “6 Mile Road” or “3 Mile Road”.  Do these roads dead-end in 6 or 3 miles?  And they were all over the place, so I guess that means there are multiple “6 Mile” roads in Michigan?  What if the road is 6 and a half miles long?

I look forward to going back in August to explore more.  If anyone has any good yoga studio suggestions there I would really appreciate it!  The number of studios seems overwhelming so I would love to find a place to start.

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5 thoughts on “First Impression: Ann Arbor, Michigan

  1. I have lots to explain.

    The roads stink and will continue to stink. It’s the snow and salt mix

    The mile roads are named for reason which is their perpendicular distance from the base of Detroit. More geometry to follow I’m sure because some mile roads are longer than others

    Next, the “big house” is certainly worth a visit despite the ant like size of the players. Pre and post games are even better

    I do hope that you are getting oriented, and it sounds like you are!! Evie has been very excited to visit the dunes so you are ahead of her on that!!!

    I hope you continue to enjoy your Time in the mitten!!!!

    Like

    1. Thanks Kate!! I’m still not sure I understand the naming of the roads, but I will do more independent research 🙂

      I really liked my first visit – so many new things to learn!

      Like

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