My parents, Mike, the kids, and I spent a week on Michigan's west coast. The house itself was just what I needed--slightly rustic (one-lane dirt roads, no cable, wide plank wood floors, a stone hearth on the fireplace) but also luxurious (gourmet kitchen, master suite, enormous windows, lots of space).
The best part of this place, without a doubt, was the private beach. Look straight out to the west, look north, look south--all the eye can see is lake. The water was clear and cool but nothing we Michiganders couldn't handle. The beach itself was like many on that side of the state that tend to land on "best beaches in the world" lists like this one in Travel and Leisure.
We felt very, very spoiled. Surely we could have roughed it a bit, but we figured the cost of this rental was equivalent to two quality hotel rooms and most meals out at restaurants for a week. We went that route last year for a long weekend. This year's vacation was far more rejuvenating than any trip of that sort that I've taken.
The kids' favorite parts of our accomodations, aside from the beach--a word they can now say without sounding inappropriate--would probably be the "round-and-rounds" and the owl. Every bedroom had a ceiling fan that amused them. Coupled with the lake breezes, the "round-and-rounds" also made the a/c only necessary when a couple of storms rolled in and forced us to lock up. But what an amazing experience storms are in that environment! I almost wanted more.
Yes, I did mention an owl. Ok, there wasn't a real owl. There wasn't really a fake one either, but there was this fella:
Michael spotted him out the landing windows halfway down the main staircase after his first nap. Every morning after that we would hold hands and count nine stairs down, say hi to "Owoll," and then count the remaining nine steps to breakfast. We did the reverse at nap and bedtime, of course. So yeah, we greeted that stump well over 25 times. I kind of miss our watchful buddy...and the deck, and the occasional boats, and the mudroom. Oh, how I would love a mudroom.
This trip was slightly disorienting for my parents who spent much of their lives on the Michigan's east coast, but after watching the sun set magnificently into the lake a couple of times, I think they got their bearings. I have to say, I've never seen my dad--a man who has spent his adulthood in Army and now security guard uniforms--look so dang relaxed.
I mean, who is this man?
Who was that man who said the cold water of Lake Michigan felt good, swam out into it, and returned with a smile? Was that the guy who spent another chunk of his life living in Georgia and has always longed to return to balmier weather? Was that my dad? Well, no, not exactly.
That was Sophie and Michael's Grandpa.
Like grandkids tend to do, Michael and Sophie seem to have given their grandpa a slightly different demeanor these days. It's been a joy to witness.
It was also wonderful have my mom, essentially one of the kids' child care providers, with us on this trip. She knows them and they know her in a way that allowed Mike and me to let our guards down. When we're on our own with one kid per parent, that's not so easy. Mom also made stuffed cabbage and Hungarian chicken (chicken paprikash to the rest of the world), which made that lake house really feel like ours for a time. On this trip, we were able to reeeelaaaaxx.
We did leave this beautiful home a few times to visit nearby towns. We had a nice dinner in Pentwater on Tuesday night on the deck of Gull Landing and grabbed some sloppy soft-serve before heading back for the night.
On Thursday morning in Ludington we avoided some rain by exploring Sandcastles, a children's museum (kind of a mini version of the one in Grand Rapids). The kids were very patient later as we perused various antique stores, and I enjoyed the best brewery lunch I've ever had, a beef tenderloin wrap at Jamesport Brewing Company. It's making me salivate thinking of it. The beer was good, too.
On Friday afternoon in Grand Haven we checked out the shops and ate lunch on the patio at Porto Bello. We could see kids playing in a fountain by the water and decided to let Michael and Sophie do the same. It was well past nap time when we suited the kids up, but they enjoyed getting their feet and their parents all wet before we hit the road for home. The real one. The one without his and hers vanities in the master bathroom. Or a master bathroom. Oh, how I would love one of those in real life.
My one regret for this trip was not making a stronger effort to bring more family along. Maybe next year!