Daytrip: Flint

18 Mar

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I have always had a soft spot for the underdog, which is part of the reason I like  Flint. The city has more going for it than you may have imagined; Great museums, delicious food, and a fascinating history. Don’t look now but downtown is starting to make a comeback too! Did you know the first completed production Corvette rolled off the Flint assembly line in 1953? It was one of 300 hand-assembled ‘Vettes made that year. The 1950’s and 60’s  were the height of the city’s  prosperity and population. The economic and industrial struggles the nation faced through the years were even more magnified in this auto producing town. Today you will find new life in long standing neighborhoods and institutions, and a breath of fresh air sweeping into the city.

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It has been a while since we were at a farmers market; the sky was clear and blue, the sun was shining, what better time to drive out to the Flint Farmers Market?This year-round public building was built in 1940 by WPA workers, it has been a vital part of the community ever since. During the summer there are all sorts of vendors outdoors, this time of year it is mostly contained indoors. As you would expect you’ll find produce, meat, poultry, breads and baked goods. I love the initial scent as I walk into a market, it’s always a wonderful mix of aromas! The building is laid out in one long aisle from end to end, a wine shop caps off one of the ends. d’vine Wines has a generous variety of wines both local and international, along with beer and even dairy items from the ever popular Calder Dairy. 

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We strolled the main aisle, up one side and down the other; spices, jams, dips and cut fruit all available to sample. Ethnic groceries, cool looking sea salt, deli sandwiches fresh cider mill style donuts and hot coffee all beckon to be purchased. The cheese vendor has an especially large variety to choose from, Kris picked one out and we got a chunk to eat while we walked. Upstairs is home to an art gallery; jewelry, ceramics, photographs, and paintings fill the display. Across the hall is a restaurant called Steady Eddy’s Cafe, this place is always packed, today was no exception. Serving breakfast and lunch the menu leans towards vegetarian and vegan selections, they also have homemade soups daily. Satisfied with our market stop it was time to move on.

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If you’ve never been to the Flint Institute of Arts, put it on your to-do list, this is a terrific museum. The museum itself is 150,000 sq ft with 25,000 sq ft of gallery space. The building also houses a cafe, gift shop, art school, library and theater. We were there on a Target Free Saturday, so there was no admission fee; good to keep in mind. We have been here many times and still my favorite space is the Viola E Bray Renaissance Gallery, it is superb! The gallery itself was built for a single purpose: to display the 60 Renaissance and Baroque items donated by Mrs. Bray. The most exquisite being a collection of  10 tapestries made in France in the 17th Century. The tapestries represent the legend of Rinaldo and Armida as told in Jerusalem Delivered, a poem by Torquato Tasso. One of the gallery volunteers told us  that it is quite unusual for anyone to hold a complete set of tapestries. Not only did Mrs Bray donate the items, she also donated the money to build the gallery; it is elegant, ornate, magnificent. Floors are marble, the ceiling coffered, reflecting true renaissance style. The tapestries themselves are made of wool and silk, take a close look; the borders are filled with symbols such as laurel wreaths, Mercury, Urania, Justice and Victory; the detail is awe-inspiring.  Don’t miss the Decorative Arts Gallery, they have a sensational collection of glass paperweights. With the recent expansion the layout guides you easily from gallery to gallery; painted in bold colors such as berry, Celadon and bright yellow, the artwork really stands out. You could easily pass a couple of hours traversing the space.

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On the drive up we had decided to have lunch at Hoffman’s Deco Deli located inside the Carriage Town Antique Center. First we would eat, then we would browse. Being a deli they have a wide variety of sandwiches to choose from along with wraps, salads and gourmet coffee. A large chalk board hangs on the wall; Items are written in colored chalk giving a full description. We picked the Super Veggie sandwich on whole grain bread, the Farmers Market Salad and a side of the southwest barley salad. Place your order at the counter then take a seat at one of the tables in the dining room or a high-top by the window. The building itself is a restored Art Deco warehouse, the interior of the deli is decorated with funky objects, it’s always fun to look around. Our lunch arrived quickly, which was good because we were really hungry. Everything looked so good we didn’t know where to start! The sandwich was stacked high with avocado spread, feta, sprouts, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, cucumber, leaf lettuce and tomato with a bit of veggie seasoning, delicious. The salad is a bit unusual in that a drizzle of BBQ sauce serves as the dressing; it works well with the other ingredients such as chicken and crumbled bacon, definitely a winner. The barley salad added  a bit of spice to the meal and was a nice change from pasta salad.When we’d had our fill we walked through to the antique center of the building, the pieces here are in good condition. Items run the gamut from antique china cabinets, loads of colored glass and pottery to vintage clothing, period lighting and Christmas items on the second floor. There are shelves and glass cases filled with beautiful items from days gone by. Vintage collectibles rest side by side with period furniture, heirloom jewelry and an antique organ. It’s a great shop with an ever-changing inventory. 

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We enjoyed the time we spent in Flint, there are many more things to see and do, but they will have to wait until next time. If you’re looking for a change of pace give Flint a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

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