I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Saturday
Jun242017

At the lake

 

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We are so enjoying the lakeside life with our sweet friends.

 

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Torch Lake is simply lovely, too.

 

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This morning, we took a short drive up the lake to Alden, a cute little town.

 

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First stop was the Mill House, set in lush gardens

 

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Next stop, the knitting shop next door, where Sue kindly wound yarn for the next pair of socks for me.  I haven’t finished the current pair yet, but it pays to be prepared!

 

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After a bite to eat in the Muffin Tin cafe, we found a few cute souvenirs before heading back.

 

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Whilst we were out, the weather had cleared and the sun was shining.  Time to take the boat out?

 

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Leia the dog was perfectly happy on board as we spent a fun hour or so sailing around the upper part of the lake.  There are some gorgeous properties around here and on a sunny afternoon, the lake was beautiful.

We were back in time to welcome another couple of friends to celebrate a birthday with a super relaxed dinner followed by a scrumptious cake complete with candles.

 

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As the sun was going down, we jumped into the boat again, for a sunset cruise.

 

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Breathtaking.

 

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A wee bit chilly too, but who cares when there’s a sky like that?

 

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So, we’ll say Goodnight from Torch Lake at the end of a beautiful day spent in delightful company.  We are blessed indeed.

Friday
Jun232017

A Road Trip kind of day

 

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Perhaps it was good that the weather turned on the day we had the greatest distance to travel?  But you know, driving through that weather isn’t so good.  We were pleased when it eased off.

 

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We were travelling in a westerly direction, heading for Torch Lake, but hoping to have time to take a look around Traverse City on the way.  We drove past acres of Christmas trees and through miles of lush green landscape.

 

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As always, we stayed on the smaller, regional roads and didn’t use the Interstate at all.  As a result, the view through the windscreen was the classic road trip view.

 

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I made some progress on the socks!

 

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And before too long, we reached the lake.  Lake Michigan, that is.

 

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Traverse City lies at the southern tip of a finger of the lake and is a popular holiday spot.

 

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As soon as we stepped out on to the street, it was clear we were amongst the holiday crew.

 

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We dropped into a cute little shop and immediately noticed the strong  “Michigan” identity.  In particular, the “mitten state” is very much in evidence.  Love it!

 

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I don’t think my Hero was tempted by the Traverse City look in the shop next door, however.

 

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It was fun to walk through the town and do a little window shopping.

 

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With a wealth of smart, independent shops, browsing was fun.  I was admiring the style of this lovely bath and body product company store, taking pictures of well-designed window arrangements and great colour schemes.

 

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Right next door was a great independent bookshop too.  Road trip conversations tend to include reminiscences of previous trips and this morning, we were trying to recall the name of the actor we’d seen in the Coyote Cafe, Santa Fe, some years ago.  Was it Matthew McConaughey?  It wasn’t, but neither could we remember who it was.  So, walking into the bookshop, one of us might have uttered a suggestion in the form of a name of some actor or other, which unsurprisingly,  piqued the interest of Sharon, one of the booksellers.

 

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Of course, we had to explain what on earth we were on about.  Poor Sharon hadn’t really anticipated an encounter with the three of us, who finish one another’s sentences and have weird points of reference.  But she too had been in Santa Fe at the same time as we were there, knew the Coyote Cafe and was keen to help us remember just which actor it was who’d been there at the next table that night. 

I was sure his name began with M, so when we eventually worked out that it was Dermot Mulroney, I wasn’t totally wrong Winking smile     We agreed that at some point in the future, we’ll probably encounter Sharon again and when we do, we’ll whisper Dermot Mulroney in her ear!

 

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We ‘recovered’  a few doors down in the Cherry Republic.  Well seeing the motif on the sign, with the magic word ‘pie’ in there too, how could we go wrong?

 

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Yes.  Everything is cherry in here.  Cherry good.

 

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The Cherry Bears are in here too and the decor reflects that.

 

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Right up my street!

 

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Having sampled our way around the chocolate covered cherries, the cherry salsas, the cherry maltesers, the cherry sausages (yes, really), we decided to stop for a drink.

 

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Cherry Ginger Bear for me, Cherry Root Bear for him!

 

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Hehe.

 

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Michigan is a “pop” state.   Geddit?

 

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Fortified by cherries and more cherries, we wandered further up the street, finding another great bookshop at the other end of town.  How civilised is that?

 

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This bookshop had a balcony level and around the balcony was the greatest collection of quilts including this pretty one made from fussy cutting a floral fabric.

 

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But the weather was coming in over the lake and my Hero was keeping an eye on the forecast.  He’d chatted to a chap called Dave whilst I tried clothes on in Chico’s and he too was aiming to leave before the storm.

 

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There was just one more “must do” before we headed off.  We needed to eat ice cream at Moomers.  (Thank you for the recommendation, Joanne!)

 

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At last, we made it to Torch Lake, where we’ll spend a few days with friends in the most gorgeous lakeside setting.

 

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Thankfully, the storm didn’t arrive.  Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow!

Thursday
Jun222017

to Saginaw

 

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I’d googled places along the way to Saginaw, including Paper Source, a favourite shop to visit when we are on this side of the Atlantic.

 

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My Hero had googled “breakfast” and come up with Toast, described as an upscale diner in the same location; Birmingham.

 

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So, fortified with one of their specialities, Key Lime French Toast (yum!) we headed over to Paper Source to take a look around.

 

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Via Woolly & Co, a glorious knitting shop right opposite.  How could we walk right past without looking inside?

 

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Colour.  Texture.  Pattern.  Put that together with a warm welcome from ‘Fiber Fairy’ Gigi and Mary and I were quite happy to stay for a while Winking smile

 

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But we didn’t have all day to stay and play, so we took a short walk around this delightful small town, popping into Anthropologie (to take photos of their visual merchandising concepts) along the way.  I might add that both Woolly & Co and Anthropologie had comfortable sofas for those not interested in knitting or display concepts…

 

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On then, driving through the leafy suburbs of Northern Detroit towards Saginaw, our destination for tonight.

 

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Next place on our list was Meadow Brook Hall, where the garage door provided a place for a useful reminder.

 

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Meadow Brook Hall had been the home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of John Dodge, the car manufacturer, who’d died of the ‘flu when she was just 37.  Now one of the wealthiest women in the country, she met and later married Alfred Wilson, a lumber trader and together they built the hall in Tudor Revival style.

 

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We really enjoyed our visit, which took us around all of the public rooms of the house including this lovely garden room.

 

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The proportions of each room made the house feel very liveable and not at all the stately home we’d expected.

 

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But our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide delivered her commentary in the most peculiar style which became rather distracting.  Instead of simply telling us, “Here is the Games Table” , we heard “We’re going to be having the Games Table in here”.  Of course, the three of us think on similar lines and as soon as we caught each other’s eye…well!

 

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Still, we enjoyed our visit to the hall and it proved to be a good stop along the way.

 

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Because we had a little more shopping in mind a bit further along.

 

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Having all made purchases of some kind, we were ready for the last stretch, past Flint and on towards the base of the thumb.

 

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So, here we are in Saginaw-esome!

Wednesday
Jun212017

The Motor City

 

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After breakfast in The Dime Store again, our eyes looked upwards to the Guardian building, the skyscraper with the star shaped top and the flag.  We knew it to be another must-see but didn’t really know much more.

 

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As we got a little closer, we could see colourful Pewabic tiles on the lower floors.

 

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The doorway was grand too, but nothing could prepare us for what was inside…

 

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The stepped and very colourful Mayan-style design hinted at on the exterior continued throughout.

 

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The barrel-vaulted ceiling was breathtaking.

 

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Even the elevator lobbies were richly decorated, with stained glass windows too.

 

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And to one side, up a short flight of steps, was the “retail arcade”.

 

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Originally a banking hall, it was felt that customers would appreciate the ability to have a private conversation without their voices being heard throughout the building.  So a layer of horsehair was laid and then covered with painted canvas on the ceilings of each alcove. 

 

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Needless to say, the retail arcade maintained some interesting shopping opportunities, particularly in the Pure Detroit shop, where these bags caught my eye.  Made from seat belt webbing, they were beautifully made but disproportionately heavy.  Clever though.

 

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Anyway, we had plans for this morning, didn’t we?  And you know what happens to plans?

The answer is they get adjusted.

We pulled up at the Motown Museum (again), parked the car in the  car park of the funeral parlour next door before being gently reminded that it was reserved for funeral use only.  But it was one of those times when an English accent works wonders and the charming attendant waved us over to a spot near the fence and we were fine.  Until we arrived at the museum to find it fully booked up until this afternoon, that is.  Bleh.

I bought us tickets for the 3pm tour then and we returned to the car, where the parking attendant looked askance and we explained the situation. 

“I’ll reserve your spot for you till later, then” he said!

 

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We headed for the Detroit Historical Museum, then.

 

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Inside was an exhibit of old Detroit streets, in similar vein to those which used to be in the Castle Museum in York (and of similar vintage).

 

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There was a fascinating display of a century of Detroit culture, which explained the roller coaster of fortunes experienced by the city over that time.

 

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We enjoyed the room with the music story there to read and listen to.  Who knew that so many musicians came from the area?  Stevie Wonder and the Motown stars of course, but also Alice Cooper, Eminem and Iggy Pop amongst others.

 

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We were keen to see the Motor City exhibit, needless to say.

 

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This was concerned mostly with the manufacture of cars, bringing together parts from  a variety of sources and in particular, on the development of the assembly line.

 

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The big deal, for which there was a countdown, was the body drop where the body is dropped precisely onto the chassis below.

 

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Having waited a while for the big moment, it was a bit of an anti-climax, the more so as it almost immediately began to lift again, ready for the next show!

 

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We scooted around the rest of the museum, including an interesting, if a little uncomfortable exhibition about the Underground Railroad, which we hadn’t realised, went as far as “Canaan” or Canada, just across the river from here.  But we’d done with the history and were ready for the art, in the DIA across the road on the opposite side of Woodward Avenue.

 

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As soon as we went through the door, we were confronted by Art in the form of Thalassa by Caledonia Curry.

 

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Inside, of course, was art of the  more conventional sort, including works by Mary Cassatt

 

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and this fine painting by Henri Gervex, which we admired for some time, took a photograph and identified the artist too.  Yet neither my hero nor I spotted the unfinished panel down the side.

 

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Mary did, though.  So what’s going on there, then?  (I have no idea)

 

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The principal sight in the Institute of Art is the set of murals by Diego Rivera though and we were keen to take a close look.

 

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Filled with detail, it was only when we returned to the hall to take a second look that we noticed a few things and asked a docent for some additional details.

 

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So it was she who pointed out the artist’s self portrait in there: See the chap wearig the bowler hat at the back of the group of workers?

 

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She also pointed out Edsel Ford in the lower corner, discussing plans with William Valentiner, the Institute director of the time.

 

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Later, we picked up one of the tablets and explored the pre-loaded apps, one of which gave a great commentary on this section, noting Rivera’s disdain for the middle class visitors who’d come to watch the workers earn their living.  He’d also found amusement in including Dick Tracy in the crowd (wearing a grey hat and coat) and two comic book characters leaning over the wall,  

We could have spent hours just looking, learning and listening to the stories but it was time to go.  We had tickets and it was going to be third time lucky. 

 

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Wasn’t it?

 

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We were back.  We parked the car again – the funeral service parking attendant kept his word and there was “our” space (not really, for it was surely pure coincidence that there wasn’t a car in that spot!) and off we went to have fun in the Motown Hitsville HQ.

Sadly, no photos allowed, but believe me that all of those amazing singles by Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Four Tops, Temptations….the list goes on….were created here in those two very ordinary houses.  Such simple, low-tech and totally uncomplicated recording processes completed in just one room – Studio A.  The same studio A where we stood this afternoon, singing “I got sunshine….on a cloudy day…..”  Really, there wasn’t that much to see, but that really was the story

Finally.  We made it to Motown!

Tuesday
Jun202017

The Henry Ford again

 

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But first things first.  Breakfast at Dime Store where I’d say they hit the spot perfectly!

 

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From there, it was a relatively short drive through the Detroit suburbs to Dearborn, where we planned to take over where we left off yesterday.

 

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Greenfield Village is part of The Henry Ford and consists of a “village” created from structures moved mostly from different parts of the USA.  Many have historical significance but apart from Thomas Edison’s home, we had no idea what to expect.

 

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An early arrival was a great idea.  You know how we like to have these places to ourselves.

 

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Mind you, we did wonder if we should have dressed for the occasion.

 

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Or perhaps used a different mode of transport to get us here?

 

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We began in the collection of buildings known as the Liberty Craftworks.

 

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Arranged around a small pool, it was quite an attractive setting.

 

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First, the weaving shop, brought from Bryan County, Georgia.

 

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Here were sock looms (familiar to anyone who’s lived in Leicestershire!)

 

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and a set of conventional looms too, both manual and powered.  A young docent was on hand to explain and answer questions, but just like the museum yesterday, this was “bite size” learning.  Fine with us.  We had plenty to see and do and time was limited, as always.

 

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So, on to the potters next.  Here was a 7-day working pottery, creating items to sell and to use throughout the park.  I think we arrived before the potters, though Winking smile

 

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A couple of artists were demonstrating the sgraffito technique on slip-glazed plates, though, which was interesting to watch.

 

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Next stop, the print shop where Todd was demonstrating the Washington Press.  He printed off a small handbill as an example – thank you, Todd, it’ll go nicely in my journal!

 

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The tinsmith had just gone for coffee, so we heard a brief explanation of the uses of his craft before going next door to the last of the craft workshops.

 

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Here was the glass workshop, hot as hell and not really doing much creating whilst we were there.  We didn’t hang about.

 

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Outside, life was perking up and things were happening.

 

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We were enjoying wandering about the small streets, poking our noses into interesting buildings to see what was going on.

 

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Our next conversation was with the lady in Grimm’s Jewellers, which had been situated opposite Edison’s workshop in 1881.  When Henry Ford was working for Thomas Edison, he’d cycled over to the shop frequently, to chat to Englebert Grimm.

 

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The engineering precision and manual skills required for clock repair were greatly admired by Henry Ford and the two men became good friends.  This was the actual shop, moved piece by piece from its original location and rebuilt here, we were told.

 

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The village was a pretty busy place this morning; the first full day of the summer season.  There were plenty of small activities in which to participate, led by the staff members in costume.

 

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As we headed over to the white house on the main street, we noticed a woman telling a story.  We knew this to be the home of the Wright Brothers, and she was telling the story of their first flight, speaking as their sister, Katharine.

 

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No sooner had we stopped to listen, when look who came home!

 

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Wilbur and Orville Wright continued the story themselves, explaining their background and what it had been like.  They played a good part, were interesting to listen to and the whole show was rather entertaining.

 

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Having heard the story, we went next door into their original cycle store and workshop, moved here from Dayton, Ohio.  There was a model of their original plane with photos of the first flight.

 

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In the workshop, behind the cycle shop were the original tools and machines used by the brothers.  A docent was explaining that the most difficult part was making a wooden propeller, which had not been done before but which later engineers have considered to be extraordinarily effective.

 

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Back out on the street, a young woman came up to us and invited us to see a show, taking place in the Town Hall shortly.

 

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We were ready for a break, so settled into our seats and enjoyed the pre-show: 6 talented singers who performed music by Cole Porter.  We chuckled at some of the words: 

If you're ever in a jam, here I am.
If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S.
If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.
Da da da da da da dig dig dig.
If you're ever down a well, ring my bell.
If you're ever up a tree, just phone to me.
If you ever loose your teeth when you're out to dine, borrow mine.

Read more: Cole Porter - Friendship Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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The show which followed was equally great and was themed around Broadway shows.  Four more extraordinarily talented performers sang and danced their way through thirty minutes of non-stop fun.  The whole show was right on the button – not a step or note out of place.  Amazing.

 

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After that, a look around Thomas Edison’s workshops seemed a little tame.

 

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Even though these were the actual machines with which he lit those first electric lights, somehow, it felt a little empty.

 

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The lamps themselves were rather beautiful though, hand made especially for the workshop here.

 

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Edison’s chemistry labs were here too, together with his other works, including the phonograph.

 

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As we stood outside his workshop, we questioned whether we needed to continue right along to the very end of the village, to view the Cotswold cottage?  We decided that, on balance, we didn’t!

 

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Greenfield Village had more than delivered!

 

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Time to move on, though, driving along Ford Avenue, where almost every building bore that name too.  Had we more time, it’d have been fun to do a factory visit, but we had other things on our list!

 

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Hitsville, USA!

 

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Except…      Huh.  We’ll just have to come back tomorrow!

 

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We “made do” with the Fisher Building, just along the road.  This Art Deco classic looks interesting from the outside, but step inside and…

 

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Wow.

 

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It being Monday, we could only explore the ground floor – had it been a weekend, we could have taken a tour of the building.  But no matter.  We were happy to wander and admire.

 

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It was stunning.

 

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The ceilings were beautiful.

 

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And the mosaic panels on the wall, so brightly coloured and beautifully constructed.

 

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Inside is a theatre, closed this afternoon, so it wasn’t possible to see inside.  But surely, it was equally elaborate.

 

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Opposite, just across the road is the equally impressive former HQ of General Motors, now renamed Cadillac Place and being converted into apartments.

 

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We headed for a highly recommended “Made in Detroit” branded shop, Shinola where the design was lovely, the staff delightful, the journals very practical and the rest of the stock

rather too expensive for a mere souvenir, sadly.

 

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Never mind.  We consoled ourselves with BBQ ribs at Redsmoke this evening.

 

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Delicious!