If you’re anything like us, these bitterly cold temperatures have you looking for an escape. How does 75° and 60% humidity sound? We thought it sounded like paradise, so last weekend we headed to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. Opened in […]
Month: January 2019
Mexican food is probably my desert island food– I never tire of it. Consequently, we have a number of Tex-Mex sort of recipes in our dinner rotation. This recipe is closer to authentic Mexican flavors, and is one of our all-stars; it’s in heavy rotation […]
The last time (part of) the Louisiana Krewe went to France, we rented a car to do a road trip around the northern half of France. It. was. fabulous. (side note: I was a little nervous about driving in a new country, but it was AMAZING to get off the well-beaten tourist paths and visit places you can’t without a car. Bring a GPS, and if you’re looking to rent a car in France you can’t beat the Join Us in France Podcast’s driving in France resource page. There are a few things I would do differently if I were to do it again, but that’s a topic for another day…)
Reading through my munchkins’ history book got me thinking of our visit to Château de Guédelon, a castle being built using only materials and techniques authentic to the 13th century. It was started over twenty years ago, and probably has another twenty to go before being finished! Several of our AirBnb hosts remembered visiting it on field trips when they were in school, ha! It was our day trip on the way from Reims to Bourges, and was well worth the stop.
When they say they’re only using 13th century techniques, they mean it — they twist their rope from scratch, grind and mix the pigments for paints by hand, mold every brick and paver, cut every plank of wood used to hoist hand-hewn stones in place (cemented with authentic hand-mixed mortar, obvs), and grind wheat using a water-powered mill (to make bread, which was delicious)…I don’t know how many times I watched the work being done and thought “This is how they built all these cathedrals and castles?? THIS?!?!” It made the sights we saw later in our trip that much more incredible. Many of the stations were hands-on, and if not, they were all up close. I would love to go back with all my kiddoes after doing a proper unit study on the time period. In case you can’t tell, I found it fascinating!
Know before you go:
- Buy tickets ahead of time for a 1€ discount; you can then have them on your phone and skip ticket lines.
- It’s in the middle of nowhere — be sure to visit the website for GPS coordinates!
- Wear shoes/boots that can handle mud and walking.
- Strollers would work for most areas, but not for all of it; it’s not paved.
- There are plentiful picnic areas available, and parking is easily accessible. But food is also sold there and didn’t seem to be exorbitant. (It was off-season when we went, so wasn’t widely available).
- It’s definitely French, but brochures are available in English and even guided tours during the summer.
Belle Isle Aquarium, Detroit’s tiny aquarium, claims the title of “America’s Oldest Aquarium.” It was designed by Albert Kahn, the “Architect of Detroit” who built the Art Deco Fisher Building downtown as well as the Cotswolds-inspired Edsel & Eleanor Ford house. Having heard that it was small, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect from this aquarium, but the tanks were pristine and the kids genuinely enjoyed our visit. As you might expect, the fish are predominately from the Great Lakes region, with some non-native varieties present.
In addition to viewing the fish, the aquarium’s building is worth the visit. The gallery is a single level with green glass tiles covering the walls and ceiling to evoke the feeling of being underwater. During Prohibition, the basement was occupied by a speakeasy and later served as a storage area for larger fish, which were visible via closed circuit television.
Know before you go:
- Belle Isle Aquarium is located at 2 Inselruhe Ave., Detroit, MI 48207 and is open Friday-Sunday from 10-4.
- Admission is free for all the attractions on Belle Isle but to enter the island, you’ll need to purchase a day pass ($9 at the time of this writing) or an annual pass ($31). That being said, when I’ve visited Belle Isle on Thursdays and Fridays, the booth where they check and sell passes has been unmanned. Drivers with Michigan-registered vehicles can purchase a Recreation Passport for only $11 that allows access to all state parks, including Belle Isle.
- Go on Friday if you can – we had the place to ourselves!
- Don’t speed on Belle Isle. The speed limits are low, so it’s easy to do but the state police that patrol it (thankfully) have little else to keep them busy.
- Accessibility: There is a handicap ramp to the left of the building but when we visited during the week, the door was locked, so I ended up baby-wearing. That might be a good idea regardless, since it’s a small aquarium and probably gets crowded on the weekends.
If you visit when the weather is pleasant, there are several outstanding playgrounds where the kids can burn off some steam. (A favorite is the one outside the nature center at 176 Lakeside Dr., Detroit, MI 48207.) Hopefully you enjoy your visit to “America’s Oldest Aquarium” as much as we did!
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a throwback post in honor of Tintin’s 90th birthday! If you are unfamiliar with the Tintin books, the comic strip follows a young reporter around the world as he thwarts nefarious plots. Originally published in Belgium (and hence […]
Ah, children and food; every parent’s favorite negotiation. I won’t pretend to have this subject figured out (the more children I have, the more I don’t know), but I do think that our children are growing up to be reasonably adventurous eaters. Whatever credit there […]