The very best way to learn a city is to visit it with a friend who knows and loves it. Diana grew up close to the heart of the city, but far enough away Pewabic Pottery that a trip to downtown was special. She got to know many of the landmarks, knowledge which she shared with Kay and Elsa on our whirlwind tour of the city.
We began at Pewabic Pottery, Michigan's only historic pottery. Mary Chase Perry Stratton, an accomplished potter, founded this pottery in 1903, in a building designed by her architect husband, William Buck Stratton. The building is typical of the Arts and Crafts style. Visitors enter a gallery with changing exhibits of contemporary pottery, then can browse the sales rooms of custom-designed tiles and other items. The large shop fills much of the back of the building, where an assortment of large kilns are kept in use; the pottery supplies decorative tile for businesses, commercial buildings and individuals, and also manages a school for potters.
Having seen the pottery, we proceeded to see some of its products, including, first, Diana's mural at the Karmanos Breast Cancer Institute (see Diana's mural at Karmanos photo).
Then we took a short drive through some historic neighborhoods fighting to stay alive (the spacious old houses cling to isolated patches of lawn and tree-shaded gardens, between collections of vacant lots, and we peeked into a lovely old Catholic church (which still says mass in Latin on Sundays).
We were in Greektown now, one of the major ethnic neighborhoods of the center city, where a casino and shops beckon tourists as well as Michiganders. We took the corner booth at the Greek restaurant on the corner and ordered its signature appetizer: a yummy square of cheese is brought in a skillet, the server flames it crying "Opa!", squirts it with lemon juice, and it's ready to share. (The rest of the food was good, too!)
Off again, this time to the Detroit People Mover Art People Mover, an automated elevated train which describes a looping path through the center of town. At almost every stop we stepped out to see the murals, most supplied by Pewabic (Diana had worked on many of them). They are a grand assortment from abstract to representational art. The latter includes mosaics of a set of classic cars, intricately drawn in shiny little tiles.
Finally, we explored the building housing Fishbones Cafe. Here an old skyscraper has been gutted and re-built, with brick and ironwork and beams reminding visitors of its original uses, but with large open areas for restaurants and shops. A gorgeous fountain, many stories tall, is hidden at the core of the building, a special treat for the adventurous explorer.
We left the city feeling that there's lots of life in downtown Detroit, after all (at least during a sunny day!) and that we need to return many times to explore other areas of this city where people of good will are working hard to rebuild the urban center into a welcoming, attractive destination.