Never let it be said that Chris and I are not fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants people, for we are. And to prove it, we made last-minute plans this morning to drive over to Windsor, Ontario for the night – my very first trip to Canadia. We fortified ourselves first on the lunch buffet at Raja Rani in Ann Arbor – not great Indian food, but decent, and a fairly generous buffet. Then, loaded down with curry, we got in the car and headed…um…east? South? I’m not really sure. I wasn’t paying much attention. One of the great things about living in a college town is college radio, which means you hear some unbelievably amateur DJ-ing and some really weird stuff. Such was the fare we caught on our way towards Ontario, when they played “The Black Cat,” an episode of a 1947 radio show entitled “Mystery of the Air.” In it, the fabulously over-the-top Peter Lorre narrated a fantascially predictable "dark and compelling tale" of a man who spirals into a drunken mania and winds up offing his black cat. The cat, naturally (or, perhaps, supernaturally) seeks revenge from beyond the grave.
Unfortunately, we lost the signal before we heard the end, but I’m going to go ahead and guess it wasn’t good. Not good at ALL! DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNN!
Anyhoo, it only takes about an hour from Ann Arbor to skirt Detroit and cross the Ambassador Bridge – suitably impressive for such a passage – into Canadia. There, at the border, I clutched my British passport and Resident Alien card and prepared myself to answer a whole slew of questions about my mother’s mother and the contents of my pill case. I was actually rather disappointed when we were waved through without incident, having been taken for our word at whether our trunk was weighed down with firearms. I must say that, at first sight, Windsor is a bit of a disappointment for someone who has let her excitement about visiting Canadia get completely out of proportion. (I should also mention that this doesn’t change much with subsequent sights, either.) First, we drove down a few rather nondescript streets to reach the Hilton on the waterfront, where my genius husband got us yet another unbelievable hotel room deal - $57 plus tax for the night.
Our hotel room, located on the 17th floor, has quite a nice little view of the Detroit skyline which, according to multiple sources, is one of the “best” things Windsor has to offer. Huh. Call me crazy, but I get far more pleasure from the site of a big, cushy bed made by someone other than me. But the view’s okay, too, I suppose.
Perhaps it didn’t help that it was gray and rainy, but a brief walk along the waterfront and an exploration of some of the streets surrounding our hotel didn’t yield much excitement. We’re just a couple of blocks from the Casino Windsor which looks like it was inspired by the Love Boat, a design concept that now sticks out like a bad suit from the same decade.
Right before the rain came down, we ducked into a little coffee shop where I observed a very strange phenomena – it seemed that every person in downtown Windsor was a rather weird looking middle aged white man. For a solid five minutes, all who entered or passed the coffee shop fit that description to a T, save for the young women behind the counter. I had just started to feel a little Twilight Zone, when a young family broke the spell by coming in out of the rain. But still. Weird.
It was still raining and we had no umbrella, so we headed back to our hotel where we killed an hour watching a Spanish soap opera. We understood nothing except that one woman was married to Eduard – who was not the guy she was kissing – and that an older guy had nothing. Plus, everyone cried. Compelling stuff, but we were both disappointed that our linguistic skills had not improved as a result of our viewing time.
Then we set out to find a place called Kildare’s, an Irish pub in Walkerville. (The area is named after Hiram Walker, who manufactured his booze there.) This afternoon, I’d thrilled to see loads of British sweets in the shops and for a brief second, the hazy stroll along the river side took Chris and I back to similar strolls along the south bank of the Thames in London. Somehow, fish and chips had come up and we did a Google search to find the best in the area and a place called Kildare House popped up.
Built inside a historic home in the area, Kildare’s is probably the most authentic British pub I’ve ever encountered in the states. The front room is dark, warm and filled with that wonderful sweet and cardboardy smell of pubs, with chairs arranged around some low tables and men holding up the long, shiny dark wooden bar.
We took a seat in a smaller room where the walls were decorated with photographs of Hiram Walker’s original manufacturing plant as well as some WWII letters and photos from a Dixon family. The menu offered tons of wonderful fare from my childhood – Shepherd’s pie, steak & kidney pie, fish and chips. And even though I’d wanted fish at the night’s outset, when I saw they were offering up Scottish pie with chips and beans – our traditional Saturday afternoon lunch when I was a wee lass in Glasgow – I couldn’t pass it up.
Chris got the fish and it was the closest thing I’ve ever tasted to Scottish fish and chips, if you can forgive the substitution of halibut for cod. Even the diet coke had a sweet, syrupy flavor I remember from pub colas in my childhood. Lovely place, wonderful and dark. Everything was nostalgic, right down to the British-style service (read: indifferent.) There were plenty of genuine Irish and Scottish accents ringing out from the other room and I burst into a giant grin when I heard a gruff Glasgwegian voice good-naturedly declare someone “a fuckin’ fuck bastard.” My people have a way with words. I got misty-eyed.
We’d have stayed for the Monday night open mic if we weren’t two hours too early for it. So we drove around a bit to see what Windsor was about and the answer seems to be: bingo, “massage” parlors (complete with actual red lights), and strip malls. Plus, the odd auto manufacturer, seeing as how this is one of Canadia’s largest auto manufacturin’ cities. It is also the only place where you reach Canadia from the United States by heading south. And now that’ll have to do because I’m fresh out of facts about Windsor. I hope to gain some more tomorrow as we seek out a public sculpture park and an Underground Railroad Museum.