Tag Archives: visit Michigan

Bay City: Part II

23 Jun


On our way to the bed and breakfast, we take a detour along the Saginaw River in search of the permanent mooring site of the USS Edson. I read that the destroyer had arrived in Bay City and was to open as the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum in May. We continue to follow the river, just as we are about to give up, the enormous ship comes into view; at an overall length of 418 ft, it is quite a sight. A trailer sits off to the side, it’s early evening, we hope there’s still time to get a tour. Inside we are greeted warmly by volunteers, told we can start our tour immediately, we pay the admission and we are off. As we approach the destroyer I am taken aback by its size, our guide  is knowledgeable and friendly, he rattles off facts and figures effortlessly, here are a few; the USS Edson  is a Forrest Sherman-Class destroyer, 45 ft beam, 22 ft draught, 418 ft overall length. Commissioned in 1958, earned a reputation as a Top Gun ship, nicknamed “The Destroyer” and “The Grey Ghost of the Vietnamese Coast” as a member of the US Pacific Fleet, decommissioned in 1988.

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We go inside the ship, everything is painted the same shade of grey, hallways are narrow, the low ceiling is thick with wiring. We peek inside a series of different rooms, in some, walls are covered in nautical charts, in others bunks hang from chains and are stacked three high, officers had it better, one bed and their own bathroom. Everywhere I look I see switches, dials, gauges and knobs. As we walk our guide tells us stories about the Edson and the men who temporarily called the ship home. They had everything they needed; a barbershop, doctor, dentist, they could buy a candy bar and mail letters. We enter the galley area, there are maybe a dozen booths where the men would take their meals, with a crew of 17 officers and 218 men, they had to eat in shifts. We go down to the engine room where the 70,000 horsepower Worthington steam turbines are located, these monsters are capable of powering this massive ship to nearly 50 miles per hour, Wow, can’t imagine how loud it must have been down there, not to mention the heat. The pilot house is huge, we peer out the windshield at the Saginaw River, passing boats blow their horns and passengers wave as they pass. The Saginaw valley was home to many shipyards, the former Defoe Shipbuilding Company built many ships for the US Navy, making Bay City a perfect home for the USS Edson.

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We make our way back downtown to Populace Cafe on Washington Ave, time for a coffee break. Opened in 2012 the original owner ran the cafe, the wholesale business and most importantly roasted all the coffee. Though he still owns and runs Populace Coffee Company he sold the cafe to his barista, Lindsay, and the place is thriving. The decor is an eclectic mix of vintage and modern, chalkboard menus hang on the wall in pretty vintage frames. They have the usual espresso and coffee drinks you’d expect to find, but what really sets the shop apart are Lindsay’s homemade syrups; vanilla, dark chocolate and 3, yes I said 3, kinds of caramel! Kris had an iced coffee with the vanilla and loved it, unable to decide between the dark chocolate and the salty caramel, she made me a latte with both, yum! They also have a nice selection of teas and some tasty looking baked goods. Heck, we’d come to Bay City just for the coffee!

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At last we arrive at the Historic Webster House where we will be spending the night; built by Judge Thomas Webster in 1886 the 4,750 sq. ft. home is a lovely example of Queen Anne architecture. We are immediately greeted by innkeepers Frank and Gail, we walk through to the breakfast room where Frank points out a batch of freshly baked peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. The home is gorgeous; stained glass windows, polished hardwood floors, ornately carved wood trim and moldings, it is completely furnished in Victorian period pieces. Gail leads us to the stairway, she pauses at a table holding a platter of cheese and crackers, I catch the fragrance of red wine before I see the decanter and matching glasses, I love this place already! We ascend the steps up to the second floor where a guest refrigerator is stocked with soft drinks and more wine, Gail takes us into our room, it is splendid. The room is distinctly shaped, one wall is a series of large windows; a small table and two chairs are placed against a window. The bed is higher than a standard bed, the blanket is fluffed, it looks extremely comfortable. We have a fireplace and a small flat screen TV, the bathroom is roomy, I wish we were staying all weekend…… We help ourselves to a glass of wine, unpack a few things and get ourselves situated. If you’re looking for some luxe accommodations in Bay City, give this place a try!

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The Webster House is located in the Center Avenue Historic District, in 2011 the district was expanded to include 875 structures in a variety of styles from Gothic Revival and Italianate to Richardson Romanesque and Arts and Crafts. As we walk we pass grand manor homes, keep in mind this neighborhood was where industrialists, lumbermen and ship builders dwelled.  It is a perfect evening; water splashes in concrete fountains, Irises are blooming, lilacs perfume the air. The grass is deep green and lush, long walks lead to front porches bearing cement lions or gargoyles. Huge urns filled with annuals add a splash of color, ivy climbs the fireplace of a stately Tudor. There are also a number of “kit homes”, the Alladin and Lewis & Liberty Companies pioneered the manufacture of kit homes right here in Bay City. We arrive at a quaint little park; in a pond, water streams up from a whale and a dolphin, they look as though they have been entertaining children for decades. We take Center Street back to the bed and breakfast, have to freshen up for dinner.

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Everybody we talk to in Bay City tells us to have dinner at Old City Hall; as you may have guessed the building, opened in the late 1890’s was the city’s first city hall. Back in the logging days this area was known as “Hell’s Half Mile” for all of the rough activities that took place in the local saloons and brothels that stretched this section of road, eventually it forced the relocation on city hall. Today the restaurant looks like something you’d find in Birmingham or Ferndale, exposed brick walls, funky light fixtures made from empty wine and liquor bottles and a diverse menu. We begin our meal with the Thai lettuce wraps, a tasty blend of chicken, cashews and veggies smothered in a mild Thai sauce spooned into crisp romaine lettuce leaves, delicious. Our entrée of shrimp pad Thai arrived in a large bowl and smelled wonderful. A combination of shrimp, tofu, bean sprouts, egg and crushed peanuts the sauce was sweet and spicy, scrumptious.

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After dinner we walk down to the water front, the temperature has dropped quickly, we can see our breath when we speak, ah, Michigan in May! Lights across the river reflect on the still waters, pretty, a large white sculpture lights up Wenonah Park, the Delta College Planetarium looks super cool at night. The cold night air sends us back to the bar at Old City Hall; with 150 wines from around the globe and 23 beers on tap there is much to choose from. We sip our drinks and relax, it has been a fun and busy day.

A Drive In The Country; Wolcott Farm, Lamb’s Tail Antiques & Time on Main Cafe, Richmond

13 Aug

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Every once in a while you just need to escape from the fast-paced, traffic laden, frenzy of the city; even if it is only for a few hours.  Wolcott Mill Metro Park Farm Center surrounds you with that country feeling, located just outside of the northern suburbs you won’t have to drive all day or spend a small fortune on gasoline. The Farm Center is positioned on Wolcott Rd in Ray, and is actually just one of four parks in the metro park. This is a real working farm complete with a vegetable garden, goats, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, a gigantic rabbit, and of course my favorite; cows! I have to admit cows are my favorite farm animal, besides their sweet faces they provide us with milk, cheese, butter and ice cream; what’s not to love? The farm has lots of them; big and small, all brown or white with black spots, Holstein and Jersey, come see them being milked at 10am daily. Amble the farm roaming in and out of barns, take a deep breath of fresh air, listen to the sound of the clucking chickens and the baaa of the sheep, feel the simplicity of it all, it’s a great place to unwind. The center plans many activities through the year; A country fair, Farmers Camp for kids, Cider and Donut Wagon Rides and Farm Halloween. Fall is an especially beautiful time to visit.

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Continuing north on Wolcott past 32 Mile road, it will hook east and become Armada Ridge Road. Just as you round the bend you will come across an antique store called The Lamb’s Tail, do stop in! This is not your average country store; housed inside a Historical barn, this place is charming and whimsical, eye-catching displays lead you from one area to another, items for your home and garden, artwork and local honey. Drift from one room to the next imagining where to place different objects in your home. Dishes and glassware, mason jars in blue, vintage furniture, there’s a bit of everything here. The outside is just as lovely, vintage aprons hang from a clothesline, Victorian teacups and saucers are re-purposed as bird feeders, wonderful shabby wooden signs make declarations such as Beach, Michigan or Lake House, it almost makes you want to buy a cottage to place these enchanting wares.

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From there head east on Armada Ridge, this region bestows some photogenic scenery, then just sit back and enjoy the ride. With the recent rain the grass is a lush green, farm fields are bursting with produce, small stands along the road are piled high with baskets of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. The corn stands tall waving in the summer breeze creating a perfect backdrop for large red barns and horses grazing. Lovely homes are set back from the road and far apart; from turn of the century to modern country estate. Seemingly every second home has a private pond, most bordered by gorgeous beds of flowers, sunflowers seem to be a popular choice. The smooth road curves and winds leaving you anxious to see what’s around the bend.

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Continue on, passing through the tiny town of Armada with its historic downtown, then proceed into Richmond where you will discover a wonderful cafe appropriately named Time On Main Street. This unexpected surprise would be at home in Birmingham or Rochester yet blends in perfectly in the country enclave of Richmond. Owners Phillip and Mimi have created something truly special here. Step inside this wonderful space with dark wooden floors, bright olive-green walls and a marble fireplace. Chandeliers light the large room giving it an elegant feel, have a seat at a high top table or on the settee, it’s all quite comfortable. Whether you come for coffee or for a meal you are sure to be satisfied.  The espresso is Barzula from Italy and it’s delicious, if you like your espresso sweet ask Phillip to make you a Cubano, and tell him Kris sent you, he’ll fix you up! He also makes a terrific cappuccino. The cafe menu consists of soup, salads and sandwiches, they always have a special of the day. We arrived hungry and ordered the House Salad with spinach, fresh mozzarella, walnuts, strawberries, blueberries and dried cherries with a balsamic dressing, everything was super fresh and flavorful. The special of the day was a Chipotle quesadilla; chicken, Roma tomatoes, purple onion and spicy cheese melted together on the panini press, scrumptious! You couldn’t meet nicer people than Mimi and Phillip, they pay attention to every detail and it shows from the food to the decor.

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More road trip……..Saugatuck MI

6 Jun

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Leaving Grand Rapids we had one goal in mind; Lake Michigan, through the years Kris has refined a scenic route. We leave Grand Rapids going west on Leonard Street, this is a beautiful road that winds along mimicking the Grand River.  The roadside abodes are charming, many have elaborate gardens, it is a lovely drive.  Leonard will take you into Spring Lake where you have to get on 31 to cross the Grand River and go into Grand Haven. The traffic in Grand Haven was alarming, we couldn’t get near the lake, the town appeared almost vacant as everyone was at the beach. At last we made our way to Lake Shore Av and zigged and zagged as necessary before arriving in Holland. A lap around the north and east side of Lake Macatawa and we were back on South Shore Dr, aka the scenic route. Our habit is to take that to 64th street all the way to Blue Star Highway(A2), once you are there Saugatuck is just a hop and a skip away. As soon as we made the turn towards town we could see the crowds of visitors, our chances of getting a place to park and then go eat were looking slim when we gratefully came across a vacant spot right along the river.

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We have been regular guests of Saugatuck for almost two decades now, it is one of our favorite escapes. We walked the town going in and out of shops, there’s a nice balance here of souvenir type items, art galleries, and boutiques. There is no shortage of places to eat; Kilwins has amazing chocolate, caramel corn and ice cream,  American Spoon has a storefront here as well, restaurants and cafes are everywhere, and of course there is waterfront dining.  We ate on the porch of a little cafe and did some people watching as well, afterwards a walk on the boardwalk gave us a chance to check out the boats. There is a pretty little park, Wicks Park, with benches and a gazebo that also makes for a great place to watch the boaters go to and from the big lake. We stopped in at Uncommon Grounds for a little break, I had an espresso shake, yummy, and Kris had an iced coffee with a delectable piece of coconut cheesecake. They have a nice deck with cafe tables to sit and overlook the activity on Hoffman St.

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On the other side of Blue Star Hwy is the city of Douglas, you can’t go see one and not go see the other, the area is routinely referred to as Saugatuck/Douglas, both have that small town America feel, with that laid back, friendly attitude. Recently the National Trust For Historic Preservation selected these cities as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations in the United States.

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Oval Beach is ranked one of the top 25 beaches in the world by Conde’ Nast, and one of the top two in the USA by National Geographic Traveler. Needless to say it is stunning! You can walk the white sand shoreline taking in the towering sand dunes, boats, and sand castles, time seems to stand still as you gaze out at the shimmering blue water. The road going into Oval Beach can be a madhouse, so be prepared. A lesser known alternative is Douglas Beach, parking is very limited, but we went late enough in the day that we secured a spot. Here you are on a bluff, so there is a set of wooden stairs that leads you down to the soft sandy beach. We ditched our shoes and started walking, after nearly two hours we knew we had to start the journey back home.

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It’s always hard to leave such a beautiful place, but the time had come. If you don’t enjoy white sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets, quaint shops and tasty food, Saugatuck is not for you. Otherwise, come on out!!

Roadtrip…….Grand Rapids; Meijer Gardens,Van Andel Public Museum

5 Jun

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We were hoping to get away for a little bit over the holiday weekend, with the prediction of sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s for Monday, the west coast of Michigan seemed an ideal place to go. We left Sunday morning and headed directly to Grand Rapids. We are regular visitors here, and have watched it change and reinvent itself over the years.  There are so many things to see and do here, you can easily spend a few days in town.

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We started with a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, this place is incredible! The tropical conservatory is the largest in Michigan, along with a stunning collection of plants there are several water features, but that is only the beginning! The five-acre Children’s Garden is unlike any other I’ve seen, anywhere, and it’s not just fun for kids. There is an amazing tree house, get to it from a wooden stairway and elevated walkway, it even has a swinging bridge. Kids love to play in water, here  the bodies of water are actually the shape of  the Great Lakes, they surround the concrete patio area that is of course in the shape of Michigan, lots of splashing and giggling takes place here. The outdoor gardens are stunning, there are benches to sit and rest before visiting the Midwest’s most significant outdoor sculpture collection, seriously. Major works by artists with names like Rodin, Moore, Rickey, and Marshall Fredericks, very impressive. You can do a walking tour or take a tram. All in all there are 125 acres of nature and art, which go hand in hand beautifully.


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While downtown has been making great strides, now surrounding districts are too. Streets like Wealthy and Cherry are seeing a surge in independent entrepreneurs; boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants are popping up in these neighborhoods. We had lunch at the Cherry Deli on, well, Cherry. Order at the counter from an extensive deli menu, then take a seat, we went Al fresco, and your order will be brought out to you. Ours was a panini with a stack of turkey, crispy bacon, and melted cheese, all smothered in a herb mayo, excellent. The Pasta salad was quite good too, no mushy noodles here, all in all good food for a good price. We needed some time to re-charge our batteries, The Sparrows Coffee Shop and Newsstand is a relaxing place to hang out. Serving organic coffee and tea, they also sell local pastries and over 75 magazine titles and newspapers. It’s a cozy space located in the lower floor of a historic building, it seems to be a favorite of neighborhood residents. We had iced coffees and some kind of multi-grained bar with pieces of dried fruit that was scrumptious.

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The Grand Rapids Public Museum was next on our list, this is one of those spectacular museums with top of the line exhibits. With three floors of things to see and do plan on spending a couple of hours here. I always enjoy the “Furniture City” section, which is what Grand Rapids has been primarily known for. The “Streets of Old Grand Rapids” is very popular as is the “Habitats” display. There are life-size items suspended from the ceiling and in the galleria, learn about the history of Grand Rapids and the state of Michigan. One of the big attractions is the 1928 antique Spillman Carousel housed in the Cook Pavilion. It is one of only three of its style known to have been produced by the company. Take a ride; young or old, all are invited to enjoy a spin revolving to the music of a Wurlitzer band organ.

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We had dinner at The Winchester on Wealthy Street, it is a restaurant and bar, but it feels more like a bar. We had a nice dinner at a fair price, but it was pretty loud. Afterwards we went for a walk in the Heritage Hill Historic District, this is one of the largest urban historic districts in the United States. You could walk for hours and never get bored looking at the homes. They just held their 42nd annual home tour in May, this is the first time they scheduled it in spring, instead of fall. We have been on the tour probably a dozen times, and enjoyed the variety of stately homes each time. Grand Rapids hosts a large scope of architectural styles running the gamut from Queen Ann and Frank Lloyd Wright, all the way to Mid Century Modern.

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Back downtown we had a nightcap at one of the newer places in the city called The Viceroy. Come in the door and step back in time to the 1930’s. The decor is retro and cool, red is the preferred color here, from the tin ceiling and walls to tabletops and seats and it looks fabulous. A funky mix of musical styles play in the background adding to the atmosphere.  Their cocktail menu is unique in that in features a wide variety of timeless cocktails; a Perfect Rob Roy, an Old Fashioned, or Kris’s selection for the evening, a Sidecar. I went the boring route with a simple glass of wine, which by the way, was excellent, because one of us needed to be able to drive back to the hotel. Kris found his Sidecar quite enjoyable, and we had a great conversation about Detroit with the manager who had moved to Grand Rapids only recently from Ferndale. It was really a splendid place to end the evening, unique setting, unusual cocktails, and  peaceful enough to have a conversation without yelling across the table. Next time we’re in town we’ll definitely come back!

Just over two hours away from the D, Grand Rapids makes a great get-away.