Sunday, September 4, 2011

Los Angeles to Ann Arbor to Tecumseh

Two words come to mind when I think of my first-ever trip to Ann Arbor's University of Michigan: Huge and Beautiful.

I had kind of expected Huge. I knew before I got there how big its student body is (about 42,000, of which about 27,000 are undergraduates). I learned how many fans its football stadium holds (nearly 110,000--about 20,000 more than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena). I read how the university grew up and around the town of Ann Arbor, swallowing it until it became, in essence, part of the campus.

But the Beautiful: That was a surprise. Big, mature trees everywhere. Gorgeous old buildings (the current campus location dates back to 1837), and even gorgeous new buildings made to look like old ones. Sometimes I felt like I was in Cambridge, England--the feeling was that lovely, established, and leafy.

One of the 37 bajillion leafy, mature trees that make this campus so beautiful.

Some of the university's dorms are fairly new, but they are rendered in an old style:

A slightly different angle on the same building:

This is the Kinesiology building, right up the street from where The Boy's dorm. Look at that Tudor wonderfulness!

And there are ivy-covered walls everywhere you look:

Only the parking meter and the stairs tell me I'm not standing in front of some college at Cambridge University:

Another very Cambridge-y looking building:

This is the Student Union, below. That's The Boy, heading in to do a little shopping in the student store:

*Sigh.* I'd buy my pens and pencils one at a time, just so I could go through those doors more often.

The North Campus, where many of the upper-level engineering classes convene, is more modern. so not as much to my taste. But The Hubby slowed down when we drove by this, because he knew I'd like it. It's hard to see, but this column with its fancy capital is HUGE. It's...monumental:

Which brings me to the other hallmark of UofM: Its size.


U-M covers more than 700 acres. It's so big, students often take an inter-campus bus to get from one class to another. The campus is by far larger than the town of Ann Arbor, which itself has a population of nearly 114,000. That's bigger than Santa Barbara.

This is the outside of the football stadium, called "The Big House." It's the largest stadium in the United States, and the third-largest in the world! That "M" is probably four stories tall:

The brick building with windows on the left side of this photo, below, isn't really a building. It's the top four or five levels of seats in the stadium, which is set into the ground. Many, many more tiers of seats cascade down from this level to the sunken playing field:

I lifted this image from Wikipedia (so sue me, WikiPeople!) to give you some idea of the enormity of this place:

The official seating capacity of The Big House is a hair under 110,000. That's a lot of fans!

Of course, a lot of things about the UofM are just like anywhere else. They have sororities and fraternities, a spot that's constantly covered in spray-painted graffiti, and plenty of things to buy that feature the maize-and-blue "M" on them.

It just seems like...there's more of everything there than I've ever seen anywhere.

This is a very poor picture--forgive me, shot from a moving car--of one of the many fraternities on campus with an inflatable pool on the front yard. I never saw so many young men milling around with so much music blaring from their houses while they filled so many gallons of water into so many big, blue pools:

This is a tiny corner of a gigantic student store on campus--one of many locations where you can buy almost anything you can think of with the word "Michigan" on it. This particular display of goods represents approximately 0.000000000012th of the maize-and-blue "M" stuff for sale:

This is the official boulder where graffiti happens. It's in the middle of a roundabout, and in two days it was repainted four times! Somebody in Ann Arbor is making a killing, selling spray paint to college kids.

Repainted four times in two days. At that rate, over the lifetime of the college, I calculate that the original boulder underneath the 22 gazillion coats of paint is the size of a bowling ball.

The town of Ann Arbor is, to my big-city-girl eyes, absolutely charming. This is the entry to a cemetery:

Cute, English-countryside charm. Love the roof pattern.

There's a lot of stone buildings in the town:

And there are lots and lots of clapboard-sided, two- and three-story houses with appealing porches:

It's blue. It has a bike. It has a porch: Of COURSE I love this house!

Look at this beauty, below: fish-scale shingles beneath the eaves, cute attic window, generous wraparound porch: Love!:

I would kill to live in this two-tone blue baby, with its double deck of porches and asymmetrical windows:

Everywhere that isn't a building or a street is green. It's as if the entire state of Michigan has a default mode set to "GREEN!" This is the parking lot of the local CVS drug store, for Pete's sake:

So many trees! And even the lamp posts are more appealing here than where I live.

This is a totally typical view out our rental-car window as we drove around Ann Arbor:

Green, green, green, and a patch of blue-and-white sky.

To a gal from semi-arid Los Angeles, all this green is nothing short of a miracle.

What is more familiar is the array of wonderful places to eat and shop in Ann Arbor. We had a fantastic dinner with wine at Grange, where the offerings heavily feature local meats, cheeses, and produce. I tried my first plate of poutine, the Canadian answer to chili-cheese fries. In this heavenly version, the French fries are crisped in duck fat, then smothered in a delectable gravy filled with tender shreds of duck, and over all that, a lovely soft cheese melts into the hot wonderfulness:

Omigosh the cheese! More on that in a moment....

We also had lunch at the famous deli/Ann Arbor institution called Zingerman's. The array of cheeses in the deli case was dizzying:

I don't believe I've ever been in a deli in Los Angeles that offered duck leg confit:

The Boy, the Hubby, and I ate our gigantic sandwiches out on the busy patio:

I accompanied my sandwich with a ginger ale so potent it ripped my head off:

Now that's a gingery ginger ale! After the first few sips you stop feeling the pain....

My favorite shop was a terrific store called Downtown Home and Garden, an Ann Arbor institution for more than 100 years. It evolved decades ago from a feed store into a marvelous assembly of all things unusual and lovely for, well, home and garden.

This is DH&G's famous shop cat, "Lewis." He made local news recently when he went missing for a number of days. Fortunately, he turned up across town, and now he's back at the serious business of greeting shoppers:

Smile, Lewis! You're back home now.

I could have spent hours in the store, but we only had 45 minutes or so. Nonetheless, I snagged these wonderful spatulas:

Some color-coordinated pastry brushes:

...and a whole mess of these.

Do you recognize them?

They are rhizomes of Bearded (a.k.a. German) Iris.

I bought three each of these varieties:

All shades of blue, natch. With any luck next spring I'll have some of these a-bloom in my garden:

Our wonderful dining and shopping experiences would not have been so enjoyable if it were not for the lovely and talented Erika and her handsome and talented hubby, John:

photo credit:

I first met Erika through this blog you are reading now. She was the very first person to put Teapots and Polkadots as a "Like" on her own blog, so naturally I had to take a look at hers.

I learned that Erika and her hubby run a terrific specialty-food emporium, The Boulevard Market, outside Ann Arbor in the sweet little town of Tecumseh. In addition to running the gorgeous shop, Erika teaches monthly cooking classes, and John makes their own fantastic cheeses (Four Corners Creamery) and creates his own chocolates. On Erika's blog, I learned about their three lovely daughters, their cute dog Pierre, and their fondness for good wine and food.

We hit it off in cyberspace.

Then, when The Boy chose to go to UofM, I knew I just had to meet Erika, John, and Pierre the puppy.

So we made arrangements. We met, we yakked, we dined, we drank, and we totally hit it off. It was a love fest.

I had such a good time, I forgot to step outside their shop and take a photo of it. Argh! But here's a link to the Google street view of their historic building, built about a century ago.

To give you an idea of the charm dripping from this little corner of the world, here's the flower bed and bench just outside their shop:

...and the street light over the bench:

The Boulevard Market is a brick building painted white. Across the street, there's this natural-brick building:

This is looking kitty-corner across the intersection from The Boulevard Market:

Inside, their shop is filled with goodies:

I was tempted to swipe this set of four cheese plates and make a run for the door!

At the very top of this photo, below, is a box containing "Northern Lights," one of the soft cheeses that John makes and sells at their shop and to restaurants elsewhere:

This is John's single-source chocolate:

I bought a couple of bars, of course. It is seriously delicious!

At the back of their lovely old building is the entrance to their Bed & Breakfast, the Inn on Evans, where they graciously put us up for two nights:

How I love this 100-year-old door and its red paint:

I can't thank you enough, Erika and John, for making our trip to Ann Arbor and Tecumseh a memorable one. We'll be back sooner rather than later, I hope.

There's still more of your cheeses to sample.

And that award-winning restaurant next door we have to try!


  1. Hmmm, I foresee many trips to Ann Arbor in your future (just to be sure The Boy is fine, of course...). Thanks for a great tour!

  2. A-MAY-zing!! So much charm, beauty, enticements, and pleasures all in one spectacular place! A place I would love to visit, for sure! How wonderful to know you'll have future opportunities to visit, with more time to explore the area treaures. It is wonderful, also, to have such a detailed feel for my nephew's new environment -- looks very welcoming to me -- I'm sure he's going to have a great experience!

  3. I could never narrow it down to just one thing I love about ann arbor. But I can tell you that Spring is probably my favorite time to be here. Australia visa offer a specialist service for anyone wishing to travel to Australia for either tourism or business. When it's in the upper 60's to mid 70's and the tree's and flowers are all in bloom, the odor's are floating on the wind and everything seems so fresh and alive. It's like the whole world is being born again.



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