Paul Harris visits a Michigan city which last weekend witnessed an invasion of more than 101,000 Manchester United and Liverpool fans... and they were on their best behaviour
ANN ARBOR has, quite possibly, never seen anything like it. Last weekend the streets of this city, just west of Detroit, was awash with the red shirts of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Outside every bar, restaurant and store, fans mingled happily in the sun, enjoying all the hospitality on offer, with not a spot of bother.
They were in town for a match between the two sides in the International Cup and they seemed to care little for the fact that the Reds of Liverpool and Manchester were both missing most of their star players.
As I walked towards the Michigan Stadium known locally as ĎThe Big Houseí, fans were singing all the traditional songs.
The majority of them were American and Canadian and speaking to them it became evident that soccer, as they call it, is catching on big time Stateside.
That more than 101,000 spectators would pay top dollar to watch what was little more than a pre-season friendly speaks volumes.
The 107,600 capacity ĎThe Big Houseí, home of the University of Michigan football team, is the largest stadium in America and reputedly the second biggest in the world.
That Liverpool beat United 4-1 seemed to matter little to the fans whose good humour continued post-match as they enjoyed all that Ann Arbor has to offer.
Even the presence of Manchester City shirts could not spoil the atmosphere.
For visitors to the city, a food tour is a great place to start and gives something of an insight into Ann Arborís history, too.
The place owes its quirky name to the men who founded it in 1824, land speculators John Allen and Elisha Walker Rumsey, both of whose wives were called Ann.
The second part derives from its greenery and it was originally registered as ĎAnnarbourí.
Never previously heard of Ann Arbor?
Remember Bob Segerís single, Mainstreet, which achieved reasonable success 40 years ago?
Itís a nostalgic reminiscence of his home city, describing the clubs and bars of his youth.
The highly reputed University of Michigan, the stateís oldest, founded in 1817 in Detroit, relocated to Ann Arbor in 1837.
Thirty years ago, the Samuel and Jean Frankel Center for Judaic Studies was established and the university is a major feeder for the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Theological Seminary.
Today the city offers a diverse range of restaurants, attracting visitors from all parts.
Aniruddh Gala, founder of By the Sidewalk Food Tours, a new company, has formulated a food tour which celebrates the diversity of dining casually, formally and offbeat.
Among food stops are Miss Kim, a Korean style eatery with a twist. It is allied to Zingermanís Delicatessen, one of the longer established, better known establishments in Ann Arbor.
Thereís the Argos Farm Shop, offering seven days a week the type of produce available at farmersí markets, and more.
Or Eat More Tea, which specialises in home-made tea-infused confectionery, including gelatos, macaroons and cakes.
Food tours, costing $52 for three hours, take in a selection of 36 establishments, including Fustiniís Oils and Vinegars with just about every flavour you can imagine.
To be more precise, there are 39 balsamics, 24 olive oils and wine and cider vinegars.
The food tours include a selection of 36 featured outlets, many within the historic Kerrytown district, once a village in its own right.
It soon becomes obvious why the city has developed an enviable reputation for dining, with more restaurants per capita than even New York City.
Marcia Greenfield owns and operates Savor Ann Arbor, a company that creates and leads custom tours around the city.
Tours are tailored to the interests of participants and usually include local history, architecture and the food scene.
Born into an ultra-observant Jewish family, Marcia estimates that there are between eight and 10,000 Jews in Ann Arbor.
Chabad, headed by Rabbi Aharon Goldstein, holds regular dinners and childrenís camps.
It operates one of four mainstream synagogues in the city. The other congregations are an Orthodox minyan, Conservative and Reform.
There is also a reconstructionist synagogue.
Kosher meat is available in two supermarkets, and a half hour drive away, in Oak Park, there are several kosher restaurants and a kosher grocery store.
Ann Arborís Jewish community traces its roots to the turn of the 20th century with the arrival of the Lansky family in 1895 and Osias Zwerdling, a furrier, in 1904.
At the time, there appeared to be no signs of a community.
In 1980, though, a tombstone, beautifully engraved in Hebrew script and dated 1858, was discovered and the community was found to date back to the 1840s.
The first Jewish settlers were farmers and peddlers, who eventually traded furs and skins.
* For further information visit www.visitannarbor.org, www.puremichigan.org or www.visitdetroit.com
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