Footpath fails and teenage kicks: Shopping in Dearborn

I’m not surprised that there are no footpaths near my hotel in Detroit. This is a city still clinging, however improbably, to the notion that manufacturing cars is the only road to economic salvation. Why encourage people to walk?

Actually, this is not an uncommon phenomenon in the US: finding yourself in a hotel where there’s essentially no way of leaving unless you’re in a vehicle. Add in the fact that I’m in Dearborn, near Ford’s Detroit HQ — every second building is the Henry Ford something-or-other, and I’m here to check out Ford’s design facilities — and I should perhaps be grateful the roads aren’t fenced off with barbed wire.

Not being able to walk isn’t an issue in my favourite US cities (San Francisco, Boston, New York, even Vegas), but you can’t keep going back to the same old places. Even though my principle aim today in visiting the Fairlane Town Center is something I’ve done several times before: heading to Macy’s and buying some cheap-by-Australian-standards Levis.

So while the mall is right opposite my hotel in Dearborn, no-one seems to have considered that visitors might want to stroll on over and spend some money. I have to wander through a half-empty car park, up a grass verge, across a four-lane road and through another two empty car parks to get to the stores. The traffic on a Sunday makes this feasible, but I suspect it would be impossible during rush hour.

The mall itself is bleak and largely empty, which I attribute partly to the early hour and partly to the depressed state of US retail in general and the Detroit economy in particular. The cheapest Levis turn out to be in JCPenney rather than Macy’s, but with that chore done there’s nothing that keeps me wanting to shop.

But at least I’m allowed to shop whenever I want. While grabbing some lunch in the food court (cheaper than hotel room service), I’m struck by the huge sign and leaflets promoting the ‘Adult Supervision Policy’ at the mall:

This actually turns out to be an anti-teenager policy: if you’re under 18, you’re not allowed in the mall after 5pm at night unless you’re accompanied by an adult. Apparently, before this policy was put in, the place was filled with gangs of marauding teenagers and sales suffered. What I’m wondering is: how did the teenagers who didn’t have cars ever get here in the first place?

Time for a bit of flamenco

I need to write up the extraordinary 19-course meal we had at Calima Dani Garcia in Marbella last night, but while I get around to that, here’s a quick (and not very well-shot) video of the flamenco dancing and singing that entertained us later in the night.

No dipping my feet in the Alboran Sea

Despite my earlier prediction, I didn’t end up swimming in the ocean waters off Malaga. The beach itself is stony with unimpressive waves (very Skegness), and the mist is so persistent you can’t see any decent distance. Looks perhaps interesting for a walk first thing in the morning (the sand was too hot when I went down at 4pm), but no swimming appeal.

The problem with coming from Australia is that northern hemisphere beaches nearly always seem like a disappointment. Not that I’m a big ocean hunter anywhere on the globe, but there’s not much that impresses me the way the NSW North Coast still always does.

A delayed trip to the glories of Andalusia

Getting from Sydney to Malaga takes a while, so the last thing you want is delays. But I had delays aplenty on the 40+ hour journey between those two places, most of them caused by mechanical problems on aircraft.

Getting between Sydney and Singapore was no problem. The trouble started when we got back on the plane. Sitting a few rows in front of me in Premium Economy (win!) is a guy who, to put it charitably, has had way too much to drink. A decision has been made to remove him, and after bringing in a few burly-looking security guard types, he agrees to leave. A good idea — you don’t want a sloshed vomit fountain sloshing around the cabin on a 13-hour journey. But that means a good 30 minutes of delay while we wait for his luggage to be removed as well. (Memo: if you want to get smashed before boarding a plane, please travel only with hand luggage.)

That’s done and we pull back and try not to sleep through the safety announcement, but we haven’t even left the ground when another problem is detected. One of the windscreen wipers isn’t working. We have to return to the gate and get it fixed. At least we’re in Singapore, a true 24-hour airport, but that still means we ultimately take off two hours later than scheduled.

It is events like this that make me glad I schedule flights in a paranoid way. I originally had a seven-hour gap between landing at London Heathrow and flying out of London Gatwick (pretty much unavoidable if you want to get to Malaga). Even with two hours delay, I have oodles of time, and I’m at Gatwick via a National Express Coach with room to spare. Our flight is put back 10 minutes because of late incoming aircraft, and the BA First lounge is pretty ordinary and lacking in power outlets, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

We take off, cross the channel, and then hear some very suspect noises from the landing gear. In due course, the captain comes on and announces, rather long-windedly, that because the indicators to check if the landing gear works aren’t giving readings, we need to return to Gatwick to avoid the risk of leaving a hard-to-service aircraft in Spain. We’re turning around, but will need to fly for 20 minutes or so to burn off fuel. Great.

We land, and after initially telling us we’ll disembark while they work out what to do, BA decides to shift us all into a plane being bought into the next gate. We can’t get off until we’re ready to move to that plane, and even our route between the gates has to be approved by airport administration. All that results in us eventually arriving in Malaga three hours behind schedule, and means I don’t actually hit my hotel room until 10pm.

These annoyances go with air travel. I’m not that bothered really, and unlike previous occasions, there’s been plenty of communication on what went wrong. But I feel sorry for the people who have to sit next to my sweaty body on the plane.

Anyway, now I’m here, soaking up the glories of the Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona — the kind of place I only ever stay in when someone else in is footing the bill. The picture above shows the view from my room (I’ll take better pics with the good camera tomorrow). The grey area is actually where the sea is, but there’s so much mist you can’t see it. That doesn’t mean it is cold and unpleasant, quite the opposite. This might be the trip where I actually get to swim in a European ocean, rather than just looking at them. It’s about time.