Tag Archives: Up North

Up North: Bay View Wine Trail

28 Jun

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Today’s excursion takes us to northwest Michigan’s Bay View Wine Trail. We picked up a brochure in town with a list of all of the wineries and an area map, let’s go. Heading east out of Charlevoix we quickly find ourselves looking at beautiful countryside, roads are smooth and absent of traffic. Rudbeckia Farm and Winery is tucked away on 190 acres of farmland and open fields, a small metal building welcomes visitors. You can sit outside, have a glass of wine and something to eat, play Bocce or corn hole, go for a walk, you can even fly a kite. We’re here to do a tasting. Inside we have the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, he tells us the story of how he went from living on the east coast to having his own winery here in northern Michigan; let’s just say it’s a dream come true for he and his wife. We taste wines and continue our chatter, they serve both wine and beer in Riedel Crystal tasting glassware. We enjoy everything we try, decisions made, we make our purchase and it’s on to the next place.  

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Walloon Lake Winery is family owned with 7 acres of grapes on the 36 acre farm; they produce boutique wines made from cold-hardy grapes. I really like this place and always look forward to coming back. The building is unique, made from stacked cordwood, it’s pretty inside and out. Sunlight floods the tasting room, it has an open, airy feel, lots of wood, Michigan-themed artwork, wooden crates hold bottles of wine and Walloon Lake Winery merchandise; their logo, of course, is the shape of Walloon Lake. The resident dog greets us at the door, he checks us out then finds a place on the floor to take a nap. We begin the tasting process, I find I like everything they produce here; before long I realize we’re going to need a box… We go out to the patio to take in the view, it’s absolutely gorgeous; vineyards, rolling hills, valley’s, wooded areas, check out their tractor–sweet! 

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The drive to the next winery rewards us with stunning vistas, changing elevations, farms and plenty of fresh country air; Kris could drive forever up here. Up ahead we see a historic red barn with the American flag painted on the side, this is Resort Pike Cidery And Winery. The petite red building in front of the barn is the tasting room, white lights and flags dangle from the pergola that covers the patio. Their logo is part apple, part grape, love it. The interior is compact, rustic and casual feeling. The back bar is home to 20 taps delivering sparkling wines and ciders, they make root beer too! We have the place to ourselves so we can take our time tasting and talking, that’s one of the perks of coming up north before the tourist season is in full swing. One more bottle to add to our box…

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We traverse inclines and slopes, twists and turns through tranquil surroundings, Mackinaw Trail Winery is next. The building is larger and fancier than the previous wineries, situated on 30 acres, 15 of them are dedicated to growing grapes. Family owned, the winery is best known for its fruit wines. Having been awarded over 50 medals and 6 Best of Class awards it is one of Michigan’s most awarded and recognized wineries. The tasting room is spacious, there are tables and chairs, multiple shelves filled with bottles of wine and a large bar for tastings. At this point we’ve had a lot of wine and we’re starting to get hungry so we get an order of pretzel bites, served with mustard and a cheese sauce for dipping I find myself wishing we got 2 orders. I’m not really fond of fruit wines but I have to admit Michigan wine-makers produce some really excellent varieties. We go down the list choosing and tasting, I like to try and get something different at each winery we visit; we’re bringing home a bottle of their Estate Grown Frontenac Gris.

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Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery will be our last stop before lunch. We turn in off of Atkins Rd to find a farmhouse-looking-building in saddle brown with red trim with a breathtaking view of  22 acres of farmland, an 11-acre vineyard and lush green pastures. The 60′ long outdoor patio is empty today, I imagine it’s in high demand on the weekends. The quaint interior is done up in wood, stone and warm colors. One of the owners is behind the bar, we strike up a conversation immediately; turns out they relocated from Rochester MI to Petoskey to take on this amazing adventure. You can’t go wrong with a Michigan Riesling, the 2016 Whitecap is really nice too, but the 2017 First Crush, an Estate Sweet Rose is the one we’ll take home. 

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Walloon Lake Village is just a hop and a skip from here, when we asked for local restaurant recommendations Barrel Back was suggested every time. This is our first visit to Walloon Lake, I’m looking forward to checking it out after we eat. Barrel Back Restaurant sits on the shore of Walloon Lake, the building is shared with a marina; the restaurant is on the upper level, the lower level is Tommy’s, a water-skiing and wake-boarding Pro Shop. The term ‘barrel back’ refers to the boat design of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s wooden boats, think Chris Craft. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, we opt for the patio, looking around I think you have a view of the lake from anywhere you sit. Food is prepared using a number of wood-fired appliances including a pizza oven, grill and a rotisserie smoker. We order off the happy-hour menu and are eating in no time. The black bean nachos are topped with tomato, sweet onion, pepper jack and provolone cheese, salsa and cilantro-lime sour cream, yum! The Asian lettuce wraps are equally delicious, Asian-spiced ground chicken, peppers, cashews, black sesame seeds and romaine lettuce to scoop it into. I’m so glad we found about this restaurant.

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A little Walloon Lake history. The lake itself is glacier formed, they say the water is so clear you can see the bottom 30′ down. The late 1800’s were the heyday of Northern Michigan’s lumber industry, over a 20-year period all of the White Pines were cut down, the industry then moved south to hardwood forests. That left railroads with trains and nothing to transport, hey, how about people? The railroad companies turned northern Michigan into “Vacationland”, they built hotels and resorts creating a destination for city folk to escape the summer heat. They ran publicity campaigns drawing people from Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St Louis, Kansas City and Chicago. They touted crystal clear water, beautiful views, great fishing and boating. In 1891 Walloon Lake Village was accessible by a spur from the main trunk line of the railroad. People came, and they continued to come, year after year, many built their own cottages, visitors became residents. Ernest Hemmingway’s family had a cottage here, he spent his first 22 summers at Windemere on Walloon Lake. He often used the area as a setting in his short stories featuring Nick Adams. The cottage is still owned by the Hemmingway family.

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The village was hit hard by the most recent recession and a number of other ongoing factors. Developer Jonathan L Borisch stepped in and rescued the village where he spent his childhood summers. He and his son have opened retail shops, Barrel Back Restaurant, many businesses and the 32-room Hotel Walloon; let’s go inside. From the street you’d swear this was a historic hotel, the architect did a marvelous job capturing that back-in-time elegance that’s so sorely lacking today. The lobby is a wonderful blend of old-fashioned opulence and modern flair. To the right is a lovely seating area with turquoise-painted wood panels and ceiling, bold fabrics and a red-clad chandelier, I feel like I’m on Mackinac Island. The hotel manager spots us and comes over, we explain that we’re ‘just looking’, we are offered a tour. The hotel is stunning, everything is gorgeous, impeccable, every last detail has been thought of. The hallway to the elevator features wainscoting and tin ceiling. Rooms are spacious, comfortable and inviting, there’s an underlying historical feel in the space. Lots of painted wood, wainscoting and serene water views. Instead of taking the elevator to get back to the main floor we opt for the stairway through the hall of mirrors. We’d love to come back and stay at the hotel.

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Across the street are a few small businesses, the antique and sweet shop are both original cottages from back in the day. We take a look through  Vintage Mercantile, they have an eclectic mix of items from vintage toys to glassware, metal signs to furniture; I like the old wagon out front. Sweet Tooth lives up to its name; candy, ice cream, fudge. There’s an old-fashioned ambiance here; glass jars filled with colorful candies, pretty wooden shelves, antiques here and there; a black and white photo shows the cottage back in the 1940’s. You can even purchase a shovel and pail for playing in the sand. Of course it wouldn’t be vacation without ice cream… We take one more look at Walloon Lake, the sky has become overcast, the sun hidden behind the clouds, the water placid. Northern Michigan is filled with treasures from charming small towns and magnificent lakes to picturesque landscapes and did I mention wine?

Charlevoix The Beautiful

16 Jun

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We are in the picturesque town of Charlevoix nestled between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. We’re spending a few days checking out everything the area has to offer while staying in an Earl Young cottage. After breakfast the first thing we do is walk down to the beach, we have easy access as stairways are built into the bluff on the other side of the road from our cottage. The white sand is already warm, we discard our shoes and walk the shoreline. Lake Michigan’s sparkling water is still frigid, we take turns walking from water to sand. The water is so clear you can perfectly see rocks nestled into the bottom, looking out, the water changes shades from clear to turquoise to deep blue. Pleasure boats  skip across the waves, beach combers are preoccupied looking for the coveted Petoskey stone, paddleboarders head out into the lake. Sunbathers are already set up as we walk out to the boardwalk, the South Pier Lighthouse is owned by the city of Charlevoix, restoration has been ongoing, the Coast Guard still operates the light. From here we have a spectacular view of the lake and our surroundings, far to the left is the cement plant, to the right a fancy boat follows the Pine River into Round Lake; it’s staggeringly beautiful here.

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Next we amble towards town, we make a stop at the Charlevoix Historical Museum inside the Harsha House on State Street. This splendid Victorian home was built by Charlevoix businessman Horace Harsha, his daughter Irene married Earl Young. The house is decorated in high Victorian style, bright-colored, patterned wallpaper covers the walls, doilies are everywhere. There are 3 period rooms filled with graceful, decorative items, exquisite fireplaces, artwork created by local artists and pianos. The next section concentrates on the settlement of Charlevoix from the 1850’s through the 1880’s; we learn what life was like in this tiny lake town; the kind of businesses that were here, the modes of transportation. They have a working player piano, a huge safe from the Charlevoix Lumber Company and an Edison Gem phonograph, I especially like the weathered wood fish market sign, Kris is fascinated by the historic photos. The gift shop offers a nice selection of Charlevoix-esque things including books on Earl Young and his mushroom houses.

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In town we park on Bridge Street in the snug, 4-block business district. We make a beeline to That French Place, a quaint little creperie and ice cream shop to get a quick lunch. Studying the pastries in the glass case our hunger is apparent. We order at the counter from a chalkboard menu and grab the remaining table in the front window. Moments later our crepes arrive in cardboard crepe cones just like you would get on the street in Paris. The ham, egg and cheese is served in a buckwheat crepe, it’s delicious, the butter and sugar crepe— ok, butter and sugar folded up in a delicate crepe wrap, tres bon! This is a nice change from the standard menu offerings in town.

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Now we can take our time walking both sides of the street, we wander in and out of galleries, clothing boutiques home goods stores, shops selling Michigan themed items housed in cute storefronts. We grab an iced coffee from a corner bakery, fill a bag with dozens of different flavored taffy from The Taffy Barrel. Gourmet food shops such as Kilwin’s, American Spoon, Murdick’s Fudge and Cherry Republic are Michigan staples, I can’t resist stopping in no matter how many times I’ve been. The streetscape is so pretty; beautiful blue water, miles of Petunias and the drawbridge that opens every half hour. The year-round population of Charlevoix hovers around 3,000, that number swells dramatically in the summer months. This small town offers big-city conveniences such as a municipal airport, marina, skate park, farmers market, performance pavillion and waterfront parks. And one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the country.

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After eating and shopping we take a field trip a little south off M-66 to Castle Farms. I really didn’t know much about Castle Farms until I read a few things once we had our trip planned; intrigued by the story and photos we put it on our list of things to see while we’re here.The farm was built in 1918 by Albert Loeb, the acting president of Sears and Roebuck at the time. Loeb was fond of the stone barns and castles found in Normandy France, he decided to build his own French-inspired model dairy farm right here in Charlevoix. The farm was home to over 200 head of prize-winning Holstein-Friesian and 13 pair of Belgian draft horses. At one time the farm employed over 90 people and was the largest employer in the city; surrounding residents would come to the farm to buy milk, cheese and ice cream. Loeb would try out new farming equipment here to decide if Sears should sell it. It must have been quite a sight back in those days, all those cattle roaming around the castle…

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From the 1970’s to the 1990’s the property became a music theater and summer concert venue: Castle Farms Summer Music Theater. Rock was the main genre, big names like Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, Peter Frampton and Def Leppard all played here. Maybe you saw a concert here. In 2001 Linda Mueller purchased the property and began an extensive renovation of the property and buildings. What had been removed was rebuilt, what was here was restored, one of the largest model railroad layouts in Michigan was added in 2008. Today it’s a unique, lovely, wedding and event destination. Let’s go for a walk…

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We meander in and out of gorgeous stone buildings alongside  gardens organized by theme, a rose garden and a formal garden.  We get our first look at the model railroad, wow! G-Scale trains run on seven levels through tunnels, over bridges through hedges and past waterfalls. There are more than 60 trains that glide past little buildings, water towers, animals and people. An observation tower overlooks the railroad giving us a great view, guess what? Tracks line the inside of the tower, trains chug by making their way to the top.

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We traverse the grounds stepping into the Round Office with historic photos and blueprints of the farm, the Octagonal building was once used as an ice house. The Carriage Hall originally had open sides, it was used to house the Loeb’s wagons, carriages and cars. Two antique vehicles are on display along with showcases filled with toys from 1860 through the present. Each building houses one of the owners many collections such as glass, toys, royal commemorative pieces honoring royal families from around the world, wedding cake toppers, you get the idea. The original blacksmith shop is now the 1918 Museum featuring WWI memorabilia and items from the 1918 Sears catalog. Shelves of items such as toys, trains, hats, boots, plates and tools are displayed next to the actual catalog page description. WWI uniforms and posters are treasured collections of the owner.

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One space after another offers an elegant, opulent, dazzling space to hold a wedding or special event. Some such as the Great Hall have soaring wood-beam ceilings, stone walls, wrought iron chandeliers; the King’s Balcony overlooks the grounds. Each space is a little different in size and decor but all are awe-inspiring. Four towers were originally built as silos, original glazed tiles still line the silo walls; there’s a nice blend of old and new. Speaking of new, Norm the dragon found a home here in 2013 after being purchased in 2012 at ArtPrize, now he has his very own garden. We say good-bye to Norm, watch the ducks in the reflecting pond then make our way back to our cottage. We’re back at the beach in time to watch the sunset, what a magnificent one it is. Goodnight.

Charlevoix: Rock On!!!

8 Jun

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Our travels have taken us to the northwestern edge of the mitten, the city of Charlevoix to be exact. You may know Charlevoix by reputation; quaint, small town surrounded by water: Lake Michigan, Round Lake and Lake Charlevoix, magnificent views, stunning harbor, pristine sandy beaches, fresh whitefish and fudge. What you may not know about the city is its one-of-a-kind stone “mushroom” houses built by famed local architect Earl Young. We have the good fortune of spending the next 4 days at one of his cottages on Park Ave called Abide. Check in is at 4:00 pm, so we have some time to explore the neighborhood.

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Earl Young built more than 30 structures in the city of Charlevoix. In 1908 he enrolled in architecture school at U of M, bored with the study of traditional architecture, he left after one year; he learned about construction and architecture on his own by reading books and magazines, he was an apprentice stone mason to gain understanding of how things were built. He became a realtor and insurance agent, never a registered architect. Young had his own way of doing things, he never made blueprints, he designed the structure to fit the landscape, it is said he was difficult to work with, he designed on-the-spot using stones that ‘spoke to him’. His wife Irene, an artist, would refine his sketches and bring them to the job site describing Young’s vision to workers. 

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We begin our walk in Boulder Park, Young purchased this large piece of land in 1924, partitioned it into 85 irregular-shaped lots, he sold them for $100 each with the stipulation that the first floor of any house built had to be made of stone or stucco; Young built 10 homes in Boulder Park. He first worked on a house with green mortar between the stones, entryways to his homes are in unexpected places, almost hidden, some without a walkway to the entrance. Chimneys are remarkable, giving the impression of randomly placed stones, often chimney-tops appear to be slathered in frosting or snow (I prefer frosting…). Houses are built of stone and timber, some have rolled eaves, colored mortar, stucco. All are playful, whimsical, looking as if they sprouted from the place in which they sit. One looks like an English cottage, another resembles a Swiss Chalet, they have Arts and Crafts characteristics. There’s the Owl House, the Enchanted Cottage, the Norman Panama House, the Pagoda House. 

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The most well-known house in the park is Boulder Manor, it’s amazing. Young had a habit of saving boulders, he would hide them underground, in the woods or in Lake Michigan, always remembering each one, waiting for an opportunity to use it. Boulder Manor would be the recipient of many of these stone treasures. He began work on the home in 1928, it was to be his family home, the playhouse in the backyard was finished first. Before the home could be completed the Great Depression hit, Young lost the house to the bank in 1929. Finally in 1937 he regained possession, finishing it in 1939. You can’t miss it, the front of the house has a huge arched window that looks out over Lake Michigan, the boulders used in construction are massive. Pictures of the interior feature a magnificent fireplace. You do not simply look at these homes, they literally stop you in your tracks. Combinations of stones, uniquely shaped exteriors, roof lines, all cause us to pause, study, and admire the structures.

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The temperature hovers in the mid 80’s as the afternoon sun blazes overhead, the breeze off Lake Michigan provides relief. We head northeast following Lake Shore Dr to East Park to see some of Young’s later houses,  He started building in 1919 and continued into the 70’s. On the left perched above the lake is one of the most photographed of Young’s houses. This one appears to resemble an elongated  mushroom, glass panels afford us a view straight through the house to the turquoise water below. The house is irregular in shape, the chimney made up of 3 stone stacks, flat stones are layered to create borders and fences, it’s pretty spectacular.

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Park Avenue is home to some of Young’s  later houses, referring to these structures he is quoted as saying he “built roofs and then shoved the houses underneath”. Indeed Young’s creativity flows here; roofs meander, buildings are built into hills and trickle down slopes, I can picture Tinkerbell or perhaps Snow White and the 7 dwarfs living in Half House, Hansel and Gretel in Abide, they’re interesting, inviting, they pique our curiosity, I want to peer inside the funny shaped windows, sit on the rock steps, drink hot chocolate by the fireplaces. In 1945 Young built a large cottage with a thatched roof from Europe, later the roof was changed to shingles, the new owners of the house have returned the roof back to thatch as originally constructed. 

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We walk to downtown for lunch at the Weathervane. Originally built as a gristmill in 1871, Young purchased the property and converted the building into this iconic restaurant in the mid-50’s. There are 5 fireplaces in the restaurant, the main one is topped by a 18,260 lb. glacial boulder found by Young years back. We are seated on the deck overlooking the Pine River channel and Lake Michigan, not a bad view! We eat a lunch of today’s special whitefish sandwich, very tasty and a caprese salad, I wash it down with a Belgian Dubbel from Petoskey Brewing. We are entertained by all of the activity; boats come and go through the channel, tourists walk waterside out to the beach. 

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When we are finished we take a self-tour of the restaurant, checking out the fireplaces, the main bar constructed of shipwreck planks, the view. A circular stairwell leads to the lower level where Young once had his office, we find massive timbers and boulders, another fireplace. Displays pay tribute to Young and his work, old photos and memorabilia tell the history of the buildings and Charlevoix. Outside we cross the parking lot to the Terrace Inn nestled into the landscape, Young’s signature turrets obscure stairwells that lead to the second floor rooms of the hotel, it’s enchanting. We peek into the lobby to get a look at yet another sensational fireplace.

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Across the road, Young built another hotel called The Lodge, which opened in 1959, a huge rock out front bears the name of the hotel. Two-stories tall, constructed of wood and stone it looks very lodge-like, here again we have the castle-like turrets that enclose stairways. We enter the lobby, the desk clerk is not surprised to learn we are here to see the fireplace. It’s unique in its vertical design, the wood mantle is very attractive, we learn the sawn-log end tables are original to the lobby too. When you come to Charlevoix you have many options of Earl Young designed accommodations available to you, in addition to the hotels many of his cottages are available for rental privately or through VRBO. Which leads us (finally) to Abide, the cottage we have rented for the long weekend.

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It doesn’t get any more charming than this. Abide was built by Young in 1938 as a rental cottage, it’s darling. A curved pathway leads us to the arched wooden door which is unlocked, waiting for our arrival. Inside a landing of rock makes way to a wood floor, in fact the whole interior is wood, stucco and stone. The square footage comes in at 620 sq ft, every single inch exudes warmth, beauty and coziness. The fireplace is the first he built of Onaway stone, an easy chair is pulled up close. The living space is wide open, one area easily leading to the next. A large table with a bench on each side fills the dining room, wood beams line the stucco ceiling, windows give us a view of the outdoors from every angle. A single bed is tucked into the sleeping porch, a queen bed takes up most of the main bedroom. A narrow hall leads to a galley-style kitchen, all of the modern conveniences are found in this sweet space. As I unpack and explore Kris plays Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on the CD player, I feel as if I have gone back in time. The evening breeze shuffles the curtains, as evening falls people walk past on their way to catch a sunset on the beach, what a wonderful idea. We immediately feel at home, and we are, at least for the next few days that is…… 

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DETROIT: Indoor Outdoor ??

9 Feb

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There is so much going on in Detroit these days, it’s hard to keep up; restaurants, shops, galleries, an Outdoor Adventure Center on the waterfront. For years, one of Detroit’s greatest assets, the river, was sorely under-appreciated and underused. Cement silos and vacant industrial buildings were painful reminders of what Detroit once was: a thriving industrial city. Today, thanks to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the State of Michigan we have  a series of riverfront parks, a State park and the Dequindre Cut Greenway giving residents and visitors access and opportunity to fully enjoy the Detroit River. We are driving down Atwater, construction crews are busy building Orleans Landing, sunlight sparkles on the river as if someone has sprinkled it with glitter, joggers from the Dequindre Cut wear determined faces. We park in the designated lot for the Outdoor Adventure Center, from this side we recognize the building as the historic Globe Building. This is the only remaining building of an industrial complex that began life in the 1860’s as the Dry Dock Engine Works. Later the company was absorbed by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company, after that it was used by a stove manufacturer then Detroit Edison Co and finally the Globe Trading Company, a wholesale machinery firm. 

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Inside, the former wide-open engine building facility has been recreated into an Up North play land; pine trees, wildlife, campsites, even a waterfall invite guests to explore all that Michigan has to offer. The DNR brings the outdoors indoors in this 3-story, 40,000 sq. ft. building complete with hands-on activities and simulators. We pay our admission, hang our jackets in one of the free lockers and begin to wander. We are greeted by Michigan’s majestic elk, surrounding placards explain where the elk live, what they like to eat. Exhibits are beautiful, interesting and informative. At the Fire Circle, Aspen trees surround a small campsite, a campfire looks inviting, a small tent and empty Adirondack chair wait for activity. Moving on, a large display chronicles the history of the Globe building and Detroit’s importance as a shipping center. I learn that Henry Ford worked in the building from 1879-1882, this is where he first became familiar with internal combustion engines. Detroit Dry Docks had 3 slips across from this building, notable ships built or worked on here include the Ste. Clair, the SS Columbia, the Greater Detroit and the Greater Buffalo.

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A large aquarium holds a variety of fish, we identify Sturgeon, Bass and Perch by the pictures nearby. We feel as if we are underwater; blue lighting, suspended fish and motorboat overhead. The waters of the mitten state are home to 154 different species of fish. Michigan parks offer a variety of overnight options, we enter a yurt complete with bunk beds, add your own camping story to one of the guest journals. Looks like we are back on the water, an empty fishing boat is ready to take us on an adventure; take a seat, press a button and the video begins, grab on tight to one of the available fishing poles, these fish don’t give up easy. Across the way I climb into a kayak simulator and paddle down one of our scenic rivers, this whole area gives us the illusion of being out on the water. We have reached the waterfall, walk behind it, look out and see the turtles resting on a rock, ducks gathered to the side. Under the waterfall we learn about Michigan’s geology and mining. There’s a duck blind, tower blind and a cool beaver lodge you can go into.

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We take the stairs to the next level, we look out over the railing at the waterfall, above it is a scene from the woods; rocky terrain, trees, deer, black bear, even a cute little fawn. The space is so wide open and has so many windows we can see the sky, sunlight drenches us, I swear I smell Pine, it’s almost like being outdoors. There are miles and miles of trails in Michigan, simulators take us for a ride through the woods on an orv, the snow on a snowmobile and trails on a mountain bike, all fun. We reach the suspension bridge and cross to the other side, enclosed by netting it feels like we’re up in the treetops. A 35′ tall bur oak tree allows us to climb through the trunk and then slide out the bottom. I climb back up and find Kris hunting squirrel at the laser shot simulator. A walkway leads us to bright red airplane from the DNR, the third floor takes us up to the treetop, again we have a great overall view. The adventure center is open Wednesday through Sunday, come check it out!

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We pop over to Eastern Market, a new deli called Stache International opened recently, we’ve been looking forward to trying it. Located on the Fisher Fwy service drive it sits next to Thomas Magee’s Sporting House, look for EAT above the front windows. The building is said to be about 125 years old, this particular section has been empty for years….. After a full rehab and renovation the decor has a carnival vibe, I like the large electric Eat ‘Em Up sign that hangs on the left wall. All of the meats are smoked in house, sausages are housemade too. Beverages include Faygo, Vernors and Germack coffee. The sandwich menu has something for everyone–meat-eater or vegetarian. We are sitting at a 4-top table, our server brings us water right away, after a few questions we place our order. In no time our salad arrives–served in a cardboard tray it is piled high with spring mix, sweet corn, shallots, fried okra, tomato and Better Made pork rinds, a housemade Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette is served alongside. The okra is really good, cooked just right it’s got a nice crunch and a hint of spice, the dressing is maple-delicious; a very nice salad. The Turkey Mondulo sandwich is (oh so tender and juicy) marinated pulled turkey, avocado, red cabbage slaw and rosemary garlic aioli on grilled sourdough; next to it are warm, crispy homemade chips, yum!

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We walk a little way down to Gratiot Central Market, a sign for Red Truck Fresh Produce has caught our eye. We stop in the small retail space, so colorful with cases of Towne Club pop, a rainbow of fresh apples and crates of bananas. The shop is super attractive; the namesake, a 1941 red Ford truck is parked in the center of the space, a refrigerated case is the back of a white box truck–notice the reflectors at the top, brake lights at the bottom. The produce market is part of a workforce development program, a rotating workforce of 7 veterans work in the store for 13 weeks of on-the-job-training. The eventual goal is to convert the store to a worker-owned cooperative. In addition to fresh produce and smoothies the market sells locally prepared foods from FoodLab Detroit and Detroit Kitchen Connect. Don’t forget to stop in next time you’re in Eastern Market.

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