Friday, September 6, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ Michigan - Garden of a Goddess (photo heavy, fair warning!)

When Lorraine arrived yesterday - from Connecticut and a 2 day drive - she barely took a breath before asking what we were going to do, where we were going to go and how to do both, pronto. I'd been in slo-mo but got into gear quickly enough, querying and mapquesting about lighthouses and ferries in the area. There are a lot of both as it appears, along with some interesting sounding museums as well.

Bound by time constraints, it was heading fast for mid-afternoon, along with open or closed hours, we finally chose a place that sounded good and took off. That's usually how good things happen, hoped for serendipity was only 17 miles away.

Belle Isle is an island in the Detroit River. It is also a city park, the largest of its kind in the US. You can read all about it here, where a very colorful history can be found, including the origins of the automotive industry inventing the electric starter because of a personal injury.

No doubt there are a lot of stories, colorful and not so much, but I only have mine. We drove onto Belle Isle, crossing a semi-interesting bridge, having no clue what was there or what it was about, except knowing that a museum we wanted to see wouldn't be open. But maybe lunch on the water? Or, who knew. We found out it was really a huge park, filled with some whimsy's and magic.

The sign isn't what caught our eyes first, but it was some information. You can read all about the conservatory here. The most important info is that it was open. Even if it hadn't been? I think I'd have found a way in.

This is what caught our eyes.

Before going inside, we wandered down to this statue. Serious stag going on! Around the bottom are some almost Art Deco-ish creatures - an eagle, a penguin, a rabbit and something else I wasn't feeling on safe ground sure of guessing.

Sidling casually past a catering company setting up a big bar and tables, we walked into this.

This is cactus world. I felt like I'd never left home.

Fern world was pretty mesmerizing as well.

We thought this rock was coral, but it's called tufa rock.

And now you know about tufa rock, if you didn't already. I did not.

I saw no usual suspects, and what looked like a bad dream to me.

Yes, really.

This is Angie. She's the Goddess.
A woman, who turned out to be Angie,  was sitting in front of this orchid section, on the phone and taking photos. When she was phone free we were saying what a great place this was and how incredible the varieties of flowers and plants. I asked her if she came here a lot and it turned out she runs the place. The whole place. Along with being in charge of every vacant lot in the city of Detroit. With a staff of four people and a few volunteers.

I asked her what the catering tents were about. She told us it was a fund raising event to get the bronze statuary around the place restored, particularly the stag. Detroit, as you might know, has gone bankrupt this year, so Angie doesn't know how long she'll have her job, her very hard job, yet she took time with us, a couple more times after we first met her, to tell us stories and inform us, smiling all the while. A real smile. Good on you, Angie, I hope whoever ends up in charge keeps you right where you belong.

A kiwi vine, next to a fig tree. Lots of figs and Angie said there were kiwi, but we didn't find them.
One of the bronzes needing attention. There was one other like her, elsewhere in the city. Someone took her away, incredibly. Hopefully this girl stays where she belongs.
Angie told us people steal orchids as well. While truthfully, it might have crossed my mind to desire owning some of those beauties, stealing them would not have been how I'd go about it. One of the joys of this place is that basicially, you're on your own to wander. I'm sure they have tours, but we walked around with nary a soul asking us what we were doing there. It's free, it's open and damn those thieves! That's what cameras are for.

We went through every area twice, mainly because the first time is almost pure gawking at what is high above you. The second time is for a more intense look. But truthfully? I could come here ten more times and not be bored.

Yes, that IS a papaya. It's only about 3 feet tall and bearing budding blooms.

Bees! Hooray.

Another semi-hidden gem.

These three shots (above, this and below) look very parcha like to me, but there was no signage and Angie was busy.

We ran into Angie again in another section and after a bit more history, moved out to the  pond. I'm glad we saw her because there was a closed door near where she was standing that she told us to go right through. I might have missed it otherwise.

Lots of koi here.

Big koi!

A view from the pond side.

One more wander through. Angie told us that there was man who, on occasion, donated trees to the conservatory, an expert on palms he is. But the particular tree she told us about was a rainbow eucalyptus. She said it was small, with no signage as yet. We didn't find it. But I did look them up and WOW! I hope it thrives.

There were a lot more varieties of aloe than I knew existed, some real beauties.

And it's Free Range Friday, so where's the food? Here you go, but I missed two photos and could kick myself. This place is in Grosse Point, a rare air sort of city that back in Detroit's heyday was the place to be. Any place that has a website describing itself like so - "The City of Grosse Pointe is a community nestled along the shores of Lake St. Clair...", well, it's not Culebra, plunked onto the sea.

But! We had a fine stop, pre-dinner, post lunch, Luxe's, with outdoor seating along the main drag boulevard in Grosse Point. A Mediterranean board of meats and cheeses and many kinds of olives, served by a beautiful lad, well...that's the part where I forgot to take the photo. Oops.

I did get their very signature burger that Lorraine ordered

Along with an onion soup (where the remnants of the aforementioned board peek out in the background, but oh so sadly, not the lovely lad)
Have a fire freely when focused Friday. Do something fine.


  1. We were at the Atlanta Botanical Garden last night, and I was thinking of you as I snapped shot after shot of unusual orchards. I'll put them on FB tonight.

    1. Schmazin' work to create beauty out there! I'll check your posts for sure.