Thursday, July 7, 2016

Travel: Weekend in Holland, Michigan

At the beginning of the year my Mom started offering to take Luke for a weekend so we could take a small trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  At first we turned her down because we knew we'd be in New York for our actual anniversary and with my little sister graduating college Mother's Day weekend and a lake trip in May was already a busy month before throwing in a weekend away for the two of us.  Then we talked about it and realized we'd probably regret it if we didn't go the midst of making New York plans I booked a B&B in Holland, Michigan, got Luke on my Mom's calendar, and we mostly forgot about it until we were off the Amtrak!

Since we brought Luke home from the hospital at 2 weeks old, either of us had only been away from him for one night (when he was with my parents and we went to the drive-in for our 9th anniversary).  I was nervous about a weekend away from him.  Not because I thought my parents couldn't handle him, but because we'd miss him and the guilt (Mom guilt is very much a real thing).  To this day, 6 weeks later, he still brings up multiple times a week how "I miss you Mom, I at Grandma's house" and I did cry leaving him.  And when we picked him up from my sister's at the end of the weekend (long story) it was her kids who came running to the car to see us, not our little stinker (although he got over that pretty fast).  It was the Saturday after trip #2 to New York that we had our first full day at home as a family of 3.  It was the Saturday after trip #3 to New York that we had our first full day away from our baby.  It was a combination of missing him like crazy but also really enjoying the time away. 

So, onto the trip.  We decided on Holland mainly because it was a place I had been wanting to revisit for awhile.  I had been with my family when I was around 7; Matt had never been (to his knowledge).  It was only a 3 hour drive for us and we weren't looking to go much further just since it was a quick trip.  So Holland it was.  We met at my parents' when Matt got off work, said our good-byes, had one last family hug, and we headed off.  We went straight to Holland State Park hoping to see the sunset.  It's right on Lake Michigan with the Big Red Lighthouse

We got there late enough that they were no longer charging admission (yay!) and the beach seemed pretty nice.  A huge sandy area, a pretty nice pavilion with nice (for a beach) bathrooms.  But it was also mid-May and pretty chilly.  I was wearing a sweatshirt and a jacket and was still doing jumping jacks (thanks, Jillian, for getting those in my head) at the end of the pier while waiting out the sunset. 

Even though it looked like it would be a dud when we first pulled up, it did turn out to be pretty nice and worth a little bit of freezing. 

Naturally, we followed up this "being really cold by the water" with some ice cream.  We waited in a decently long line, at 9:30pm, for this ice cream.  And it was pretty great. 

We wanted something better than just a chain hotel for our anniversary trip and after really considering the City Flats Hotel (but not wanting to pay $200/night just a week after paying even more in Manhattan), we ended up at the Centennial Bed & Breakfast in Downtown Holland.  Our first time at a B&B was for a 5th anniversary trip (which was the same weekend as the Royal Wedding, which is what convinced us (me) to go to London) and then we stayed in them most of our Europe trip so they've always felt vaguely European to me. 
The appeal of this one was the price (good) and location (great).  The hosts were very welcoming and the continental style breakfast had plenty to fill us up both mornings.  We weren't a huge fan of the bed (very squishy) or the pillows (the same) but those were small nitpicks.  We were in easy walking distance to downtown and could stop by throughout the day, we had great conversation with other guests over breakfast, and the people were so nice.  We'd definitely stay again, squishy bed aside.

Onto activities!  I put so much work into planning our New York trip and relatively little into planning this one, other than booking the B&B, picking out the ice cream place (above) and one of our restaurants (coming below). 

Our first stop on Saturday morning was the Windmill Island Gardens.  I had vaguely remembered going there as a child but more that I knew I had been there, not that I remembered much about it.  This is the last authentic windmill exported from the country of Holland and still works today, grinding flour that you can purchase.  Their big season is during Tulip Time, which I believe ended while we were in New York so we just missed it.  The plus side of that is that there weren't crowds, something neither of us are fans of (which I realize is strange to mention in the same paragraph as our New York trip, since, you know, there aren't any people in New York.)

The sky was absolutely perfect and the weather was perfect and it was just a beautiful day to be outside. 

We took a tour of the windmill and learned a lot about how it works.  My favorite part may have been going outside.  I may have taken a lot of pictures.  A lot.

The base of this windmill was made specifically for it in America, only the top part is from the Netherlands.  And with something like that, there have obviously been repairs over the years.  They had pieces inside and around the windmill that showed evidence of bullets hitting it during World War II which is just crazy.  Imagine the history this windmill has seen.

We checked out what was left of the tulips, these were about the most alive ones we found. 

I believe the waterways are how the miller transported their wares, both to and from the windmill.  I don't remember if these were made for this windmill but the bridge and canal (?) adding to the European effect.

To make up for the lack of blooming tulips there were plenty of whatever these were around!

At the Windmill Island Gardens there were also recreations of Dutch Buildings.  We walked through most of these too.  They were cute.

And checked out the wooden shoes, trying them on but not buying.

It was a fun trip and we spent almost two hours there.  We had also considered going to the Dutch Village, which I very much remember from my visit 25 years ago, in part because of my sister's obsession with the candle making shop.  I remembered them being part of the same attraction but they aren't.  When learning we'd have to pay $9 each to see the windmill and then another $12 each to shop, we picked the windmill and that was it.  I wasn't going to pay just to shop!

Quick stop at the B&B to leave our car and then spent the afternoon walking around Downtown Holland.  First stop was lunch at the Alpen Rose Restaurant.  I had picked this from some tourist literature we were given at the B&B and was intrigued by their ham, brie, and apple sandwich (I usually look at menus online before visiting somewhere new...I like knowing what I'm going to order before I go.).  So we went there.  The atmosphere was vaguely European (or I may have just been feeling that on the trip) and food was delicious.  Matt got a turkey club on a pretzel roll which he really enjoyed.  It was a good pick.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the shops and stopping at many.  Naturally the first thing we bought was something for Luke.  We probably bought him more things than we bought for either of us.  (#momguilt)

It's a very charming area and very walkable.  We were amused by the signs pointing to the public restroom, which seemed very strange after coming from New York where it seems they are guarded ferociously. 

After showing Luke our pictures back home, he kept asking to see the one where "Mom sit on Ben Franklin lap".  I have no idea why he found this so amusing.  Or why Ben Franklin seems to be staring at my chest.  Or why there is even a statue of Ben Franklin in Holland, Michigan anyways.

When at the Alpen Rose for lunch we noticed a sign for $4 drinks for happy hour from 4-6.  We had planned on 5pm Mass but still wanted happy hour drinks, so we got there right at 4, drank our $4 drinks pretty quickly (to have them consumed well before our hour fast for communion) and then walked to Mass.  It worked out great.

I found a non-dead tulip!

The restaurant I had picked out ahead of time was The Curragh.  We strangely also visited an Irish restaurant on our 5th anniversary trip so I guess it's a tradition?  We ate outside on a perfect evening.  I had shepherd's pie and Matt had fish 'n chips.  Neither of us could finish all our food because the servings were huge but also delicious (I definitely ate all my mashed potatoes).  We also had drinks, because, vacation.  I drank this Manger's many times in Ireland and it felt appropriate for here. (Matt had a beer...I didn't take a picture). 

A little more walking the streets...

A stop at the B&B for the car...

Before driving back out to the Holland State Park for another sunset.  It was almost a cloudless sky and absolutely gorgeous, but also much more crowded!  And still cold.

My feet were about numb from walking in the sand, neither of us were brave enough to touch the water!

But the sunset views were amazing. 

Well worth my freezing feet.

We debated another ice cream stop but were both too full from supper so that was it for the night.

Sunday we got up, got down to breakfast just at the end of breakfast time (just like the day before and just like many other guests) before checking out and headed south to home.  It was a wonderful trip and I'm so glad we made the time for it.  It's not often we have hours of uninterrupted time together, at least before 9pm when we are both pretty tired.  It was a perfect weekend away besides missing our little guy (who, like every typical parent, we talked about frequently). 

For a vacation destination we'd definitely recommend!  It was perfect weather, a fantastic small city to explore, gorgeous sunsets, and great company.  Great way to celebrate 10 years of marriage.  We'll definitely go back someday, probably with Luke in tow!

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