A “Frenchie” Takes on Life in Detroit

Nora Mandray is a “Frenchie in the D” behind the Detroit je t’aime project. She moved to the Motor City in 2011 to shine light on what makes Detroit unique.

Today, she answers some of our questions about what life in Detroit has been like for her.


Q: What made you move to Detroit and how long have you been here?
A: I moved to Detroit in August 2011, with one goal in mind: make a documentary about the city.

Q: What makes Detroit different from other places you’ve lived?
A: Before living in Detroit I had been living all over Europe (Paris, London, Krakow, Berlin…) and I had been studying for 2 years at UCLA, in Los Angeles, right before I came here. I’ve always had a thing for “post-industrial” cities but Detroit was nothing like what I had ever seen. The ruins, of course, is the first thing that strikes you when you come here — even though they’re a sign of blight, they’re beautiful old buildings with a fascinating history. But the reason I stayed in Detroit for a year is really because of the people. Detroiters are truly welcoming, heart-warming and generous; I wanted to be a part of that community.

Q: Where are some of your favorite places in the city?
A: Whenever I want to relax I take walks by the Detroit River and hang out with the occasional fishermen, whom I always ask whether their fish is American or Canadian! It always triggers interesting conversations! What I love in Detroit are those strips of paradise that exist within the city, and the people who find themselves there: urban farms and community gardens are such places. Feedom Freedom, in the Eastside, as well as the Brightmoor Farmway, are beautiful in the Summer, and definitely worth a visit! And the Eastern Market, and Belle Isle, and the Fender Bender bike shop, and the DIA, … the list goes on and on!

Q: Where have you been in Michigan outside of Detroit?
A: I’ve been to Lansing and Traverse City. I’m going to go back to “TC” next week actually, for the Traverse City Film Festival! Michigan has so much to offer, I feel lucky I was able to spend a whole year here. After spending two years in L.A. where the weather is almost steadily the same all the time, I was happy to feel the cycle of the seasons in Michigan. Fall is, I think, my favorite, with the trees that turn orange and red.

Q: Do you think people from different parts of the country (and world) would enjoy visiting Michigan?
A: I can’t speak for all foreigners, but I can tell you this: French people LOVE Detroit. I’ve met a large number of ‘Frenchies’ who’d come visit and wouldn’t want to go back! It’s partly due to the history of the city, which was founded by a Frenchman (Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac!) on July 24th, 1701! French people do feel connected to “Détroit” (which means “strait” in French, by the way.) As a tourist you can find lots of attractions here, it’s a great and rich place to learn about American history and culture, from the Tigers games to the Henry Ford and the Motown museums… Plus a brewer friend of mine recently told me that “two of the best breweries in the world” are both located in Warren, MI… yet another reason to visit!

Q: What advice would you give someone visiting Detroit for the first time from another country?
A: Talk to everybody! Detroiters from all walks of life are eager to tell you about their city. Sometimes it even feels like Detroit is a person, the way people talk about it!

Q: What has surprised you about Detroit and Michigan in general?
A: The sense of resilience and of ingenuity that Detroiters show is amazing to me. I didn’t expect to witness such a strong “DIY spirit!” This has been a very inspiring, life-changing experience.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about your experience here?
A: I’ve been writing a blog since I arrived; it’s called “Detroit je t’aime”, French for “Detroit I love you” : www.detroitjetaime.com, where you can also watch some of the videos I’ve shot so far.

Nora is a Fulbright scholar and UCLA filmschool MFA. In Summer 2011, Nora escaped Hollywood to move to Detroit and has been working on several film and journalistic projects. If you’re looking for things to do in Detroit, visit michigan.org.

Peter Greenberg Puts Spotlight on Ann Arbor, Michigan

When you think of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan might first come to mind. But did you know that Ann Arbor is also home to a number of unique cafes, storefronts and art galleries? With a mix of eclectic shopping, world-renowned music venues and more than 200 restaurants, it’s a town that offers something for everyone.

This past Saturday, May 26th, Peter Greenberg put Ann Arbor in the spotlight to explore these unique offerings during his weekly radio show. While broadcasting from the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Peter spoke with local influencers and subject matter experts that helped him answer questions like “How did the town of Ann Arbor gets its start?” and “What on earth is a ‘fairy-door’?”

Guests include:

  • Dhani Jones, former University of Michigan football star and current collaborator on the non-profit organization Bow Ties for a Cause
  • Tom Murray, owner of Conor O’Neills, Ann Arbor’s “real” Irish Pub
  • Jonathan Wright, founder of urban-fairies.com and creator of Ann Arbor’s “fairy-doors”
  • Joseph Rosa, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

Check out a recap at PeterGreenberg.com, or visit iTunes or stitcher.com to download the full show.

NASCAR, Auto Shows, Ice Cream and Pure Michigan

It’s been a busy week for Pure Michigan and today, we thought we’d catch you up on some of the news you might have missed from earlier this week.

Pure Michigan 400
Yesterday, the Michigan International Speedway and Pure Michigan announced that they are again teaming up to host the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at MIS on Sunday, August 19. The three-year partnership was announced at the North American International Auto Show with two of NASCAR’s most popular and successful drivers, Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. Check back here later this year for information as we get closer to race day.

Pure Michigan Ride and Drive Track at the Auto Show
Speaking of the North American International Auto Show, be sure to stop by and check out the Pure Michigan Ride and Drive Track–a quarter-mile indoor ride-and-drive test track surrounded by landscaped and forested terrain, where visitors take a ride in electric and hybrid vehicles provided by more than 30 auto manufacturers. This ride and drive area features a sand-covered road to convey a Pure Michigan dune look and feel, and 40 banners displaying natural Michigan scenes will also help create a unique driving experience. Remember, the show opens to the public on January 14th and runs until the 22nd. For a recap of vehicles from the Detroit automakers, check out this post from earlier this week.

Hudsonville Ice Cream “Create a Flavor” Contest
Do you like ice cream and think you have a great name and idea for a new Pure Michigan State Park flavor? Hudsonville Ice Cream in Holland is partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Pure Michigan and has launched a “Create a Flavor” contest where you are encouraged to submit a name and flavor that best represents the outdoor joys of Michigan. The winning flavor will be chosen from a panel of Outstanding Outdoor Kids and celebrity judges.

To enter, visit www.hudsonvilleicecream.com. The grand prize for the winning ice cream flavor includes free Hudsonville ice cream for a year, a one-week stay in a Michigan state park or harbor of the winner’s choice, a $1,000 gift card from Meijer and Pure Michigan merchandise.

The campaign will continue throughout the summer with an RV ice cream tour crossing the state promoting the popular DNR Recreation 101 program. As the official ice cream of the Michigan State Parks, Hudsonville Ice Cream will distribute the winning flavor to retail outlets and ice cream parlors throughout Michigan and the Midwest as well as during the RV ice cream tour this summer.

For more information, check out this audio clip featuring Maia Stephens from the Department of Natural Resources on Shelley Irwin’s Morning Show.

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