Monday, June 8, 2015

Kalamazoo - Urban Explore

Does Google Maps know the personality of the owner of the phone it is running the app. on? Does it look at the photos in the owner's camera roll and see this...

and instantly know that she would much prefer to travel a road like this...

Now if Google Maps was to look at my husband's camera roll it would see this...

Yes, that would be nothing. Google would know that he is definitely a destination person and it should get him there as fast as possible. Yet when we travel we usually use the Google Maps on my phone, and it always has us taking the back country roads way into our destination. I know it drives him crazy, but it makes me so happy.

I went urban exploring this week, but Google Maps was still kind enough to take me there via a few backroads.

I have just finished this book, The Idle Traveller - The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran.

The author is a big fan of the slower modes of travel; train, car, bus. Transportation that will let you see the country. In particular he likes walking, you can't get much slower than that. I had already thought about doing more walking adventures before I read the book, but reading it completely convinced me. 

For my first adventure I chose the city of Kalamazoo, MI. Kalamazoo is a little over an hour from my house, depending if you take the expressway, or the backroads. Backroads, add another half hour, only because there are things to stop and photograph along the way. 

Thanks to Goggle Maps I drove into the city without a hitch. All the streets have parking meters, so instead of being tied to coming back to the meter every hour, I chose a parking lot in the Haymarket Historic District, received my parking ticket from the delightful parking assistant, who kindly pointed out that I could dispense the ticket myself from the machine just by pushing the button marked TICKET. Feeling slightly dumb after that, I found an empty spot far from her booth to call mine for the next few hours. 

 I grabbed my gear from the backseat; small daypack with wallet, tissues, hand sanitizer, tripod for iPhone and remote shutter release for iPhone. I also threw in the latest Bella Grace Magazine to read at lunch. I have no problem eating lunch alone, as long as, I have something to read. I also slung my Canon dslr across me with the wide angle 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on it. Such a great all purpose lens. Geared up, I set off.

My first destination was the train station.

The original depot was built in 1887 by the Central Michigan Railroad, replacing an earlier structure. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The inside is filled with gorgeous vintage details, there were too many people to get photos though, without being completely obvious. I still like to keep a low profile in places like that. No need to draw attention.

After leaving the train station, I noticed this building across the street, such lovely detail and those windows, be still my heart.

Kalamazoo abounds with beautiful old buildings like this, all the easier to stop and appreciate if you are doing a walking tour of the downtown.

I saw this mural on the back of one of the downtown buildings and it reminded me that there were a couple of highly praised coffee shops in the area that I wanted to scout out.

On the way to the first coffee shop I got distracted by this though...

I felt that excited, fluttering feeling inside me the second I laid eyes on it. An empty, for sale warehouse on the edge of downtown with outstanding grunge factor. I will come back here on an overcast day, more photos need to be taken. I was limited to where I could stand and what I could include due to bright sunshine.

I was reluctant to leave the warehouse but the sun was only getting higher in the sky and I was starting to feel some hunger pains, breakfast had long worn off. As I looked around I realized I knew exactly where I was, having been over here on a brief explore last fall. The desired coffee shop should be just on the other side of this warehouse. Granted I had to walk back around the block to get there, but I was right.

Water Street Coffee Joint, the place was quaintly adorable. I was so happy to secure a table by the windows, natural window light is a photographer's best friend. Lunch of a Prosciutto Panini and a coke was delightful.

After lunch, I set off to explore the Architectural Salvage store I had seen earlier in the morning, but it hadn't been open yet. These places don't open until 11 a.m., so no need to be an early bird, or you can go to the Coffee Shop first.

A bounty of treasures lived here. I want to go back someday when I have more time and when I am not carrying my big DSLR around, having to be careful not to bang it on anything. 

After the salvage store and the antique store next to it, I set off to wander more of the main downtown area. I wandered for blocks but always kept my starting point fixed in my mind. If I did get lost, I did have Google Maps to get me back to the car since I knew where I parked. 

I was starting to get thirsty again, so I happened to notice another coffee shop on the way to a block long park. Coffee shops are like a magnet to me, so in I went. Since it was pleasantly warm out, I decided on an iced latte (my first ever) Vanilla and Brown Sugar. It was delightful! 

Iced latte in hand, I set off for the park. I noticed as I got closer that churches pretty much lined the perimeter of the park. Beautiful old church buildings made of stone, with huge, detail rich wooden doors. I noticed one church that had huge, red wooden doors and front steps that were in full shade. A perfect spot to set up my iPhone on it's tripod and take some self-portraits for the photography class I was taking at the moment. A momentous occasion, me drinking my first iced latte. 

Of course, nothing in life is that simple. I noticed a lady sitting in her car at the curb watching me. I didn't think too much of it, doing self-portraiture tends to gain some attention. I got the focus set on my iced latte and then positioned myself just beyond it. Just as I pressed my remote shutter release, two of the enormous red, wooden doors of the church swung open and stayed open. I tried to act casual and carry on with my photo session. Then the lady that had been sitting in the car got out and came up the steps, giving me a questionable glance as she walked past. I still act casual and carry on. After getting some shots I stand up to go check my phone to see how they have turned out. I glance up at the open church doors and see that people are gathering for a funeral. I decide it would be best to move on before more people start showing up, as I took my phone off the tripod mount it slipped out of my grasp and tumbled down the steps, an "oh s**t" may have inadvertenly escaped my lips. Needless to say I quickly gathered up my gear and scurried away.

I did find some more awesome church doors, but this time I refrained from taking any selfies.

After finishing wandering around church square it was time to set off for the car. Scout was at the groomer's getting a bath and haircut, and it was time to go pick him up. 

I loved wandering the city on foot. I felt like I really saw things and enjoyed them traveling at a slower pace, and I never felt lost, but I do feel like I know the city a lot better now. 


  1. Cracked me up, drinking a latte on the church steps and just in time for a funeral!
    Great post . . . Love the train station photo/building . . . WOW!

  2. I totally lovely your post Sarah! I think it is wonderful how google maps really seems to know you. I also love Bella Grace and could eat anywhere alone as long as i had that magazine. Your photos are lovely and looks as if you had an awesome day of exploring.

  3. Sarah, your travel posts just keep getting better and better. I loved going urban exploring with you...even though I have to tell you, this place does not look all that "urban"! Wonderful photos and sense of place.

  4. The whole church step selfie vs. funeral service would be my luck and "oh sh.." would be among several reprimands I would give myself. I love your journeys and respect your bravery and envy your iPhone selfie skills.

  5. Loved 'walking' with you! I'm such a fan of walking journeys....and prefer to take them alone {or I just frustrate everyone who's with me!} We did a lot of train travel through Europe when we lived there...and it's a MUCH better way to journey than a plane!

  6. I loved walking with you too..I will have to find out if anyone in my area makes a vanilla and brown sugar latte!
    Seeing your photos makes me want to walk the backyards/streets of the Strand in Galveston Texas.. So much history has been preserved in Galveston.. I am way overdue for a trip there,lol...

  7. Lovely place to walk with all those beautiful churches! Your self portrait story made me laugh! We, as photograpers can get ourselves into some unusual situtations. I seem to always come home with a story or two! Loved the walk!

  8. Google maps takes me everywhere also... love it. I also did laugh about the funeral at the church. Hopefully after the fact you find it a bit funny. I love how dedicated you are to your selfies. My favorite photo is the train one also.

  9. I'm with you on the slow travel Sarah. I loved taking this journey with you. Wonderful images -- especially love the train station. Thanks for the tip about the book.

  10. That park is Bronson Park - and the churches were built around it when the city was founded. You were on the steps of the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church hosts those beautiful dark wooden doors with the tarnished brass hinges. These church steps are used over & over again by photographers, myself included.
    The best time to shoot these places - ALL that you mentioned above - is on a Sunday afternoon! So, your next trip to my home town should include a "guided" tour by yours truly. :)
    YES! There really is a Kalamazoo!

  11. There is definitely joy in the journey, especially when it takes you past old weathered buildings. I have noticed that google map does have a grape bunch icon for wineries, maybe they need to make a barn icon. :)
    Beautiful images, the train depot and the warehouse are awesome.

  12. Oh Sarah, I loved reading about your adventure! You pictures are awesome and so unique. I especially love the train station one. A very impressive shot. Thanks so much for sharing and have a good week

  13. Had to stop by one more time and tell you that I ordered the book you have here and can't wait for it to come. Couldn't get it on my nook so had to resort to the real thing.

  14. LMAO at the oh s*it comment!!! But ohhhhh that train station....and that barn house! great travel logue Sarah!

  15. What a time to take a selfie! Oh those doors and buildings! Absolute heaven to me as you know :-) Wonderful shots xx

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  17. Sarah, You've described a nearly perfect day for me. I love photo walks and adventures - just exploring slowly and checking out every nook and cranny - where I always find the best pictures. I'll check out the book on slow travel (we seldom fly - preferring the train, too). And so glad you didn't let a little adversity (the funeral in progress selfie) ruin an otherwise lovely day .

  18. I LOVE that train station photo. I wish google would take me on the backroads. Maybe there aren't any around here, but I hate taking the same old path and yearn to see new photograph of course.

  19. Stopped by again Sarah to let you know that I ordered this book and am enjoying it. I agree that you see so much when you are out walking..... such a great way to explore a place. Thanks for stopping by my blog and totally agree that Washington would be an amazing place for a LONG photo shoot. Family vacations have a totally different purpose and not much chance for real photography


Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)