Heidelberg Project, Father Solanus, Cafe con leche

24 May

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Within about a mile of Jefferson on Mount Elliot there is an interesting variety of places to see including two historic cemeteries, a riverfront park, East Riverwalk and our destinations of the day.

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The Solanus Casey Center is located on Mt Elliot in Detroit. Inspired by the life and example of Father Solanus the center strives to be a place of pilgrimage, healing, reconciliation and peace. Father Solanus was well known in Detroit throughout his more than twenty years of service at St Bonaventure. His ministry of charity, comfort, and concern for the poor inspired the Detroit Capuchins to establish their Soup Kitchen which continues to this day.  The center welcomes people of all religious backgrounds and all walks of life.

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Park on the street, then walk through the garden on your way inside. When you enter the building through the beautiful glass doors you will notice an instant sense of tranquility. Skylights flood the lobby with sunlight and it draws you further inside. There is a small museum like section that tells the story of the life of Father Solanus that I believe anybody would find interesting.  He spent his life in the service of others, in times of trouble and sorrow people sought his prayers and advice, many still pray to him today.  The St Bonaventure Chapel is connected to the center and is open daily from 7:30-5:00pm. Be sure to wander in, religious or not you can’t help but admire the intricately carved wooden alter, the architecture is simple and elegant at the same time. Feel free to have a seat, it is a perfect place to meditate or reflect. 

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Just a short drive away is the Heidelberg Project, these two places couldn’t be more opposite.  Here there is a sense of energy and controversy, it feels loud.  The colors are bright, houses are painted with polka dots and numbers, found items are grouped together in unlikely collections. It challenges you in a way that is whimsical not offensive. Walk the two block area with an open mind, just have fun.

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The Mission of the Heidelberg Project is to inspire people to use and appreciate artistic expression as a means to enrich and improve their lives, and to beautify and preserve the environments in which we all live, work, and play. Tyree Guyton created the Heidelberg Project 25 years ago, in an effort to bring positive change to his community and the city of Detroit. It began as an outdoor art project in the heart of a blighted neighborhood in Detroit, but has grown to be much more. Today the project is recognized as one of the most influential art displays in the country. It is a demonstration of the power of creativity and its ability to transform lives. Each day the project attracts visitors from all over Detroit, the nation and the world. It offers a seed of hope, a forum for ideas, and a bright vision for the future.

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After all of the activity it was time to go to Southwest to Cafe con leche, this is the coffee shop I mentioned in an earlier post. It is one of our favorite places to go and have some sort of espresso drink, sit at a table in the window overlooking Clark Park,and watch. In warm weather or cold, Kris always gets a large Cubano, it is wonderfully rich espresso that is brewed directly into a cup containing raw sugar, so the espresso and sugar mix together, then it is stirred gently and enjoyed. My selection varies from visit to visit, but when it is cold outside you can’t go wrong with a Spanish Hot Chocolate. Owner Jordi comes from Barcelona Spain, so he knows how to make them right. Hot chocolate so thick, you can eat it with a spoon! It has almost a pudding like taste and texture to it, heck, it’s so good, get it anytime.

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This cafe has a loyal following, regulars come and go at the same time each day, the baristas greet them on a first name basis, and ask “your usual”? It is comfortable and friendly, Spanish is the primary language being spoken, but people easily change back and forth to English, and there is usually a nice selection of music being played quietly in the background. They offer a small selection of mostly Mexican pastries, and they recently added Panini sandwiches. Located at 4200 W Vernor, it is a great place to kick back and relax and just hang out.

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