Musings on Michigan: a week sans kids

IMG_0837Some of you may be wondering where hubby and I escaped to on our 9-day adventure sans kids. I mentioned we were travelling to the US but I didn’t say where. Much as I wished it was an exciting city like New York or San Francisco, it was not. We went to Detroit. You may ask why? Understandably so. It’s hardly a tourist destination and won’t be making any Top Cities of the World lists.  But we did not go to Motor City for a holiday. It’s fair to say we are facing a major life decision as hubby has been offered a job there. But that’s another post altogether! For now, let me share with you my musings on Michigan.

I have travelled to the US several times, for both work and pleasure. I’ve been to Seattle, New York and Chicago (pleasure) and Nashville, Huntsville and Las Vegas (work). I am both fascinated and perplexed by the States but there’s a lot to love.

Things I loved:

Choices, Substitute & Sides

I just love ordering at restaurants in the US. Some people may find it irritating but I embrace the choices available on menus. You order a burger but it doesn’t end there. Do you want a whole-wheat, rye, and white, sour dough bun? American, cheddar, provolone or Jack cheese? A side of fries or salad? Mustard or mayo? I love it! For someone, like me, who never likes EXACTLY what’s on the menu, I love the way I can substitute ingredients and the waiter doesn’t look at me like they want to spit in my food. It’s awesome.

Mexican is huge in the US and they know how to do it well!

But the sizes are huge. This was dinner for two!!

The people

The Americans are just so darn lovely. During our week in Michigan we were welcomed by everyone from the shop staff, to the waiters, to strangers on the street. They are sincere, polite, helpful and friendly.  Although, Aussie sarcasm is a little lost on them!

The burgers

OK, I actually first discovered Red Robin in Canada but it’s an American chain and I always hunt it down when I am visiting. I’ve had a garden burger (vegie burger) in Chicago, Vegas and now Detroit. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it’s the mayo or relish that makes it so good. Delicious. Every. Time.

If you are ever travelling in Northern America, you MUST locate a Red Robin!

The shopping

I just love clothes shopping in the US. It always seems much easier and less expensive than Australia. Somerset Mall had all my retail requirements under the one roof. I was very democratic with my expenditure and shopped up a storm at The Limited, GAP, Banana Republic and Anthropologie (my favourite shop in the US). And GAP kids did pretty well out of my visit too! And Kitchen Aid stand mixers were on sale for $399. We pay double that in Australia. It’s a pity the electrics aren’t compatible with Australia, or is that just what hubby told me….?!?!


Things I didn’t love so much:

The weather

Admittedly we visited during the longest, coldest and snowiest winter on record in Michigan, but coming from 35 degrees in Melbourne to below 0 temperatures in Detroit was quite the shock. On one day it was -14, hubby spent 15 minutes scraping the snow and ice off the car windscreen, and then we got stuck in the snow and hubby had to push the car out of it.

I also discovered that snow may look pretty blanketing the houses and streets but it looks ugly piled up on the side of the road, smothered in dirt. I had to wonder if I could survive a winter…..I tend to think the novelty of snow might wear off quite quickly and become a nuisance.

 Fresh snowfall is breathtaking…

But scraping the ice and snow off the windscreen and having to shovel the snow out from under your car is not fun!

A frozen playground! Not sure they needed the sign to keep people away!!

Downtown Detroit

It was an incredible experience driving around the streets of downtown Detroit and the neighbouring suburbs. Although it was fascinating, it was eerie and sad to see so many houses abandoned, simply rotting away. Entire streets had been evacuated. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. And I’ve been to war-torn Bosnia and seen buildings destroyed by bombing and shrapnel. In some ways it reminded me of that. Devastating.

The flight home

Flying at 50,000 feet suffering from Strep throat is by far the most agonising experience of my life. I have NEVER been in so much pain and can honestly say it was worse than childbirth. It didn’t help that we were delayed in LA 12 hours and our 30-hour flight home came in just under 50-hours.

The highlight of the trip:

Having my girls leap into my arms when we arrived home, shedding tears of excitement. I have never felt so grateful in my life. There is no place like home. No place.

Have you ever spent time in the US? How did you find it?


  1. says

    I think your blog ate my comment! I was just saying that Detroit would be such an eye-opening place to see at the moment. Very sad, but many still have much hope. ‘Aint that America. The US is one of my favourite places to visit as it is such a diverse country with so much to see. As you know we are off there again in Sept. Can’t wait! And yes, the people are so God Damn Lovely!

    • says

      You are so right, Jodi. It’s an incredibly diverse country. Yes, Detroit was eye-opening! I’ve never seen a city like it. But it’s also interesting as you’ve got poverty and affluence living side-by-side. Your trip in September will be here before you know it. How exciting!!

  2. Lindy says

    You packed so much into your short trip! What a bugger that you got strep throat – urgh. Hope it’s easing now. I love the idea of snow … but after having my wet hair freeze solid in Canada I know the reality is different. But your pics are so pretty! x

  3. says

    HA! I remember that happening to my hair once in Canada too! The idea of snow is so beautiful but living with it every day would present certain limitations I imagine. What’s hard to balance is the freezing cold outdoors and the over-hearted indoors. I was sweating in the car and in restaurants. I even wore a sleeveless top one night!

  4. says

    My parents just got back after spending 5 years living in Michigan as a result of my dad’s job. They lived in Rochester, MI about an hour out of Detroit. They had a fabulous time – the town was really friendly with loads going on, they had some great trips around Michigan visiting the lakes, Ann Arbor etc, and are now completely obsessed with ice hockey! They also took the opportunity to visit other parts of Canada and USA – their last roadtrip was to Yellowstone.

    The weather was pretty crazy, and I chose to visit in the Spring when it was wonderful – but I think they kind of enjoyed the proper winter once they were used to it!

    Good luck making the decision!

    • says

      Oh wow! That’s amazing Pamela. We were staying in Rochester! We looked at lots of houses in ROchester as that’s the area we would like to live in. The downtown area is really nice and we heard that there’s lots of summer activities that happen. I am guessing your dad works in the car industry?
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. It is nice to know that your parents enjoyed there 5 year stay. We would love to explore more of the US and Canada and that’s one of the draw cards. But it’s so hard to leave family….that’s the major downside. Anyway, decision should be made very soon. Thanks for commenting :-)

  5. says

    I love the US and cannot get enough of the people, the food – but especially the shopping! Love your pic of Walmart – I’m like a kid in a candy store each time we have been to Walmart! The images of all the snow is so surreal for us, hard to imagine that it is just everyday life for some. Hope the decision you guys have to make happens quickly – trust your gut feeling – it is the only way to go xx

  6. says

    HA! I love Walmart too. You know, surprisingly it took me 6 days to actually walk inside a Walmart store. They weren’t on every corner which was a little disappointing. I bought some fondant and cake icing gel from there – so much cheaper than Aus! Yes, I agree re trusting our guts. My instincts are usually pretty powerful and sometimes I try to talk myself into the alternative. But not this time….xx

  7. Zohra says

    Never been to the US, though it’s been on my list ever since I grew up on a diet of American TV shows!
    Enjoyed reading your post, and your pro’s and’re the first person I’ve heard who say they enjoyed the food choices there.
    Good luck with your decision, won’t be an easy one..but it’s not forever!

    • says

      Thanks Zohra. Yeah, the food was quite a surprise to me too. I’ve certainly had some bad food experiences in the US but this time it was all really nice. I think we’ve finished weighing up our pro’s and con’s list…and it looks like we’ll probably be staying put. Not an easy decision but we feel like it’s the right one, for now anyway….

  8. siobhan Blewitt says

    Mic- cant believe the kitchen aid didn’t make its way home- what about those electrical plug converters? What I love the sound of is sides/selections- I want to try! SB XX

    • says

      It’s about the voltage not the connector/adaptor so most US electrical appliances do not work in AUS. Believe me, I wondered the same thing! But I’ll get that Kitchen Aid soon!! Just waiting for them to “discover” me and send me one! xx

  9. Steev Selby says

    I’ve been to Michigan twice since 2003 and every time it was harder to leave .. something just magical about the place for me, yes it has some big ‘downs’ but if I had my chance/choice I’d definitely try it on for a year or three. Getting out of town and heading up to Saginaw .. even the drive on i95 .. just wonderful. Thanks for reminding me what it’s like.

    • says

      Hi Steev, you are right – there are some really lovely parts of Michigan. I have heard that Saginaw and other places out of town are beautiful. Unfortunately we stayed in town but I’d be keen to see more of Michigan. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences :-)

  10. Michelle says

    I lived in Detroit for one year back in 1994. I don’t think much has changed since then. It is an interesting place to live, and was very different from our life here. We lived in one of the more affluent outer suburbs, but did venture downtown to see and experience the “real” Detroit. It was a fabulous experience and one I would do again if given the chance. There are some lovely spots around Detroit, but some not so lovely also. We got to travel extensively throughout Michigan while living there, it is a beautiful state with some great places to visit. It is freezing in winter. I remember leaving melboure’s 35 degrees and arriving in -20 degrees. The area we lived in had a great village feel to it with shops, cafes, restaurants, local business all there, and just a short drive away was the Mall. There are nice suburbs with strips shops and great restaurants. But there is also the downtown area that is all together another experience.

    • says

      Hi Michelle. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences of Detroit. That’s so interesting! We looked at Rochester, which had strip shopping, and Troy which also did. They were both nice areas. Rochester was lovely – especially the library. I have also heard there are some lovely places to visit in Michigan. Like you, I loved going downtown and seeing the gritty Detroit. FASCINATING and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It felt a little eerie in some areas – all those abandoned streets and houses are so sad. Glad you had a good experience there. Thanks again for commenting :-)

    • says

      Yes, I think that every city offers good points, and bad. I’ll read your story with interest. I do agree that Detroit has some great features. Especially the people – so friendly and helpful!