I hope you had a merry Christmas, and are looking forward to ushering in the new year! It is my last day in California with my family before I pack up some snacks for the plane and head back to regular life in Tuscaloosa. I’m hoping to squeeze in at least one more walk through the hills before I go. In the meantime, here’s a post I’ve been working on bit by bit for you this month…
A few weekends ago, we flew up to Detroit for a close friend’s wedding and had a bit of time to explore. David poked around online and found this bakery with several vegan items, so we stopped in. And I am so glad that we did.
Avalon International Breads (where most all the photos in this post were taken) is truly a special place. It is tiny, with just a few little tables, but we found enough space for the two of us on a bench along the side counter.
We sat for an hour or so, just soaking up the atmosphere, and I was sad to leave. First, it smelled amazing- welcoming and homey. Like freshly-baked bread, but more than that too: maybe espresso and savory focaccia and soups.
Secondly, everyone who worked there seemed so joyful and lively as they went about their jobs. We watched a woman with a jaunty knit hat muscle her way through a huge pile of vegetables that needed to be cut, and men shape bread rolls from an enormous slap of uncooked dough. Seriously, it was the length of a huge table, maybe six feet, at least a foot wide, and probably six inches tall.
And there were so many sweets to admire and consider! At least 7 or 8 were vegan, and a couple were gluten-free. Look at how thick these brownies are!
Also, Avalon makes green tea lattes! With soy OR almond milk! I haven’t seen those kind of options since the West Coast.
Avalon was in a small, proud community called Midtown Detroit, which seemed to be undergoing a revitalization and sprouting of independent shops and loft residences. We chatted with a few people we ran into, and they were all very enthusiastic about the area and its local holiday event, Noel Night, that was happening that weekend. It included live music, carriage rides, a sing-along, food, shopping, and (my personal favorite) the Flagstar Bank Ice Scraper Challenge. An ice scraper competition! That is how you know you are in the Midwest.
We strolled a bit, past Goodwell’s Natural Food Market and Deli where locals were crowding in for lunch, and bought a cute and very reasonably-priced fluffy gray scarf from the friendly, energetic ladies at Flo Boutique. Lots of comfortable, stylish, and unique pieces in there, blissfully below what you may typically think of as “boutique” pricing. I’m so glad a woman at the bakery told us to walk the two doors down from Avalon.
We drove over to the Park Shelton and popped into the Peacock Room, which had a neat selection of gifts and apparel, including some very unique items like knit winter hats shaped like tea pots. I finally bought an ear-flap hat, the one I feel like I’ve been waiting to find for several years. Of course, I haven’t actually worn it yet in Alabama because it has been mainly 60 and 70 degrees here lately, but I’m looking forward to staying warm on a dog walk one of these days.
David got a crepe around the corner at Good Girls Go to Paris, which had an astounding chalkboard menu of over 50 sweet and savory crepes. A man made them, two at a time, right at the front counter where you ordered. The whole place had a cool, black and white, 20′s and 30′s retro vibe.
We stayed at the Baronette Renaissance Hotel in Novi, because that is where several wedding events took place. I liked the little library/TV room in the lobby, as well as the sleek seating around a big modern fireplace and charming pantry room with magazines and newspapers. The fitness center was pretty good, and our room had a swanky, comfy chaise with a tiny table that fit it perfectly. The hotel was also right next to a nice-looking mall with a Nordstrom, which was convenient.
On the wedding day, we bridesmaids had our makeup done at Todd’s Room, which was a cool, whimsical, funky salon with glittery butterfly decorations dangling from the ceiling, bright Hollywood-style light bulbs mounted around the mirrors, and tons of fun beauty products to browse. The salon was in Birmingham, a small suburb of Detroit that seemed like it had a walkable, upscale, outdoor shopping area.
My husband entertained himself by driving over an hour to the world’s largest Christmas store. We both love the holiday season, but David really has a soft spot for carols, decorations, and all things Christmas. He said he thought the store might have been enjoyable on a crisp day in September or October, but on December 1 it was just way too crowded and touristy to put him in the Christmas spirit. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is in Frankenmuth, which is a small town with Bavarian-themed shops and restaurants. Allegedly, Frankenmuth is also famous for its fried chicken. Who knew?!
All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend and I could definitely see doing more shopping and eating in the Detroit area. I will say, though, that I forgot how serious the Midwestern cold is! It was “warm” when we were there according to the locals (highs around 50), but the wind blew right through the puffy vest that counts as “outerwear” down in the South, like it was a tank top. And I forgot how sometimes the wind takes your breath away and insists that you pause your conversation mid-sentence until it stops blowing. I can’t stand the hot, humid Alabama summers, but apparently I have taken well to the mild, somewhat sunny Alabama winters. :)
Happy New Year! Enjoy the last hurrah of the holiday season!