Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Detroit, MI - 15th July

Friday, 15th July
I arrived into Detroit on Friday. Already, we didn't get on. I waited one hour for a bus from the airport to downtown Detroit which, once it arrived, proceeded to take an hour and a half to get from Wayne County to its final destination. Once I'd arrived downtown I thought I should find a Starbucks, or similar refreshment establishment to get out of the 90 degree + heat, cool myself down, and get some internet to find out where the hostel I was staying in was actually located. I wandered around for over 15 minutes, in searing heat, with my rucksack strapped to my back and couldn't find a Costa, Starbucks or any similar place. Giving up on refreshment, I thought it would be best to just hail a cab and make my way to the hostel that way - what could be more difficult than hailing a cab, I thought? Turns out, not much. I walked up and down Michigan Av. (one of the main arteries leading to downtown Detroit) for a solid 20 minutes, and not one (I repeat for emphasis) not one taxi drove past. A friendly passer-by gave me the number for one of Detroit's two taxicab companies. I called them, and waited a further 15 minutes in the blistering heat to be collected. I arrived at my surprisingly charming hostel, four hours after landing, sun-beaten and exhausted.

I headed out, late afternoon, to explore some of the local area around the hostel and make my way to a local grill I'd been recommended to have supper at. On my way there I passed the iconic Michigan Central Station. Builders worked inside undertaking asbestos abatement, and continued to do so during daylight hours during my stay, meaning I couldn't get inside. However, if this is all you read of my tales from Michigan, take the abandonment of this glorious building as the leitmotif of Detroit: wonderful buildings, gargantuan in proportion, lie to waste - unused, decaying, and forgotten - and stand as symbols of a once booming city now in a sorry state of dilapidation.

Michigan Cental Station: 500,000-sq-ft of abandonment

Recently bought by a billionaire, no one seems to know what Michigan Central Station's future is, but asbestos abatement and renovation of the ground-floor windows suggest this remarkable landmark may not be lost forever.

Close-up profile - Michigan Central was the tallest train station in the world when it was built in 1913

After a hearty supper of monkfish fritters followed by Jambalaya and a few beers at the swanky (by Detroit's standards) local grill I headed back to the hostel for an early night. When I had first arrived I was basically told: 'you want to be safe? Don't go out at nights. Always remember you're in Detroit'. Being said in all seriousness, I (albeit reluctantly) followed this advice for my three-day stay unless I had a cab to collect me.

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