Our evening was winding down nicely. We drove through downtown Saugatuck and amidst the flurries and increased weekend traffic the little town was awakening ever so slightly. Shannon wanted to visit a few of the clothing shops, most of which had a 50% off sale trying to clear out the winter merchandise. But, even at 50% off some of the items this exclusive town is known for were still priced beyond our modest budget. Definitely not a town to shop for bargains. She was able to get a deal on some bags and some slippers.
From there we headed to what we had hoped would be a relaxing dinner at The Butler. Everything was enjoyable – the fireside, the view of the bay, the ambiance, and even the clam chowder soup was delicious. I ordered pan-fried walleye, and Shan ordered Crab Mushroom Chicken. My entree was excellent with a side of the Butler fries. Shannon’s entree on the other hand arrived pink in the center, which of course is not good for chicken. She returned the entree to the kitchen to cook it further. When it arrived the second time, it was only slightly better. She picked at it and we left feeling a bit cheated by the whole experience. The bill was roughly $40. I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant to anyone unless they order something like the Butler Burger for which they’re known. Our server Patti was very delightful, but very over extended due to the proximity off the tables in our section being so far from the kitchen. We may try the restaurant again, but will certainly avoid the chicken entrees.
After dinner we drove all through Douglas and the outskirts of Saugatuck doing some sightseeing and getting a lay of the land. On our way back into Saugatuck for the night, we snapped the above picture at the Lake Street entrance to Saugatuck.
After our eventful, but relaxing morning we headed to Holland to one of Shannon’s yarn shops Lizzie Ann’s Wool Co. Shannon had previously been to this shop, but when she walked in, she was reminded why she had forgotten the place. It may well appeal to the locals, but she said, if a store like Thread Bear Fiber Studio in Lansing was closer, they would put Lizzie Ann’s out of business. They were nice “enough,” but the overall substance of the store was lacking. The pricing, in Shannon’s estimation was over-priced. Again, using Shannon’s 5 Point Knitting Needle Scale here’s the low-down…
Yarn Selection = 3
Accessories/Notions = 3
Patterns/Books = 3
Service = 4
Organization = 4
Location = 5
Would Shannon Return = NO
JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar – Holland, Michigan
While Shannon shopped at Lizzie Ann’s, I strolled over to a local coffee house called JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar. Based on Shan’s review of Lizzie Ann’s, it appears my trip to JP’s was much more…delightsome shall we say. As I stepped in the place was hopping, even at 3:00 p.m. There were wall-to-wall coffee drinkers, wi-fi scrounges, and baristas everywhere. A very hip and happenin’ place. A very energetic vibe, the kind you’d expect at a successful coffee house. Nothing like the lethargic generics at Starbucks! The baristas were all chatty and helpful. My Vanilla Latte was the best I’ve had in a long time.
While I waited for my drink, there was a video playing of a barista competition where they were literally making art out of the foam and froth atop the various lattes. There were leafy floral patterns, hearts, and swirls of all types. I was fascinated as the barista, like an artist would carefully and cleverly pour the froth, swirl, and voila! A masterpiece in your mug so fantastic one would hesitate to drink it. Surely a snap shot taken by your camera phone, uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, and Flikr would be in order before the sip!
After our marathon day, it was nice to settle into our cozy and comfortable room at the Bayside Inn of Saugatuck. For a detail of the layout of our suite click the LINK.
A Brief Review
This suite is also a bed and breakfast. We got an extremely competitive rate on the room due to the season. Granted, there wasn’t much going on around Saugatuck, Douglas, and even Holland, but that’s part of the reason we came up here. There was just enough stores and restaurants open to make it a relaxing weekend.
Our Suite (No. 9) was huge being more long than wide roughly 16′ x 40′. Overall the decor was fairly modern, but the kitchen was dates as was the bathroom. The bedroom was on the small side, but the large living, sitting, and dining area more than made up for the lack of bedroom size.
Cleanliness was decent. We weren’t thrilled about finding a baby’s diaper in the bathroom trash. Fortunately, it was just a wet diaper. The linens were clean, but could have been more generous in the quantity. The kitchen was clean, but the cupboards were a bit dated. There was not a dishwasher or garbage disposal, but it did include a full-sized fridge and microwave. There was a hair dryer, ironing board w/iron, a 27″ flat screen TV with DVD and cable, and the best part, a gas fireplace that added warmth and ambiance.
The big question? Would we ever stay here again – A resounding YES! Our particular suite was great for a couple, but a family would have a difficult time managing with one bathroom, one bedroom, no dishwasher, etc. While the couch does fold out to a queen size bed making it possible for a small family to stay here, I’d still spring for a 2-room suite for the overall enjoyment of everyone…especially Mom and Dad!
After a relaxing morning of room-service breakfast we headed toward Saugatuck. I swung by Biggby Coffee and tried one of their “skinny” Teddy Bear coffee drinks and it was superb! That fueled me for the drive west and about an hour and half later we drove into Saugatuck and were greeted by one of their more notable landmarks the “Peterson Mill.” I snapped a few shots off of the mill and the surrounding frozen water.
Blue Star Antique Pavilion
We drove through the small water town and since it was only 11 a.m. we decided to seek out some antique shops I had looked up online. Fortunately for us, we started with the best the area had to offer in our opinion – Blue Star Antique Pavilion located at 2945 Blue Star Highway Douglas, MI. Their website is http://www.bluestarantiquepavilion.com/
This place is so filled with treasures, the hardest part about shopping here is knowing where to begin and how to fit it all in. We shopped for 2 ½ hours and spent about $130. We purchased a silver chafing dish, several Zane Grey books, a 1969 Farmer’s Almanac, a small jewelry dish, and a set of (4) 24kt. gold leafed bowls, and (2) plates to match. The best treasure of all was stainless steel Sunbeam Coffee Percolator for $20! This was a treasure for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it was made in America, coffee strength selector dial, and extremely quiet percolation. This little pot buries the “made in China” models I’ve had in the past for quality, speed, and yes, price. Judging by the cord configuration this model is circa 1970…hmmm not bad for 40 years old!
We will definitely make this a regular place to visit if we are ever in the area. For any antique enthusiast, this store is a MUST! The staff were friendly and accommodating and overall we felt the pricing was within reason. 5 out of 5 ‘Stars’ for us!
Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters
Another Saugatuck MUST for coffee lovers (and tea) is Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters. You are greeted by the intoxicating aroma of not just fresh ground coffee, but fresh ROASTED coffee! Roasts varying from their House Roast, to Guatemalan, Columbian, Kenyan, Fog Cutter, and their Coffee Lover’s which after being given a complimentary taste I had to buy a pound!
Land Sharks of Saugatuck
We hit the 50% Off Winter Sale at Saugatuck’s Land Sharks. I bought a pair of Keen’s, my favorite shoe maker of all time. And a pair of Patagonia’s which made me feel guilty for cheating on my Keen’s! For less than $150 I upgraded my casual/outdoor shoes. I even got the approval of my cousin Matt Bowen who also is a Keen Enthusiast!
Kilwin’s of Saugatuck
No anniversary celebration is complete with CHOCOLATE! Kilwin’s more than fits the bill here. At first we were disappointed as we drove into town to see their former location boarded up. As we drove further into town we were relieved to find their new location just before the 4-way light. Shan picked out a few of her fav’s as did I. I had a hard time making up my mind, but came up with quite an assortment including several truffles of dark and milk chocolate.
After settling into our suite for the night, the last thing we felt like was heading back out into the cold. We googled pizza places in Saugatuck and were pleasantly surprised by Pizza Mambo’s. We ordered 2 salads; 1 Caprese and 1 Antipasto. For pizza we ordered a 12” medium with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and green peppers.
Awesome is a way overly used word to describe things, but in terms of pizza and salad this raised the bar. The pizza was thin-crusted and used provolone instead of mozzarella. What a change from the blasé typical pizzas. The show stoppers were the European-style Caprese and Antipasto. Fresh Mozzarella, Basil and Sliced Tomato, drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar adorned the Caprese. Prosciutto, Salami, Sausage, Smoked Provolone, Parmegiano Reggiano, House Marinated Olives & Giardiniera on a bed of Romaine. Served with Grilled Italian Bread was enough to share for the Antipasto! Is your mouth-watering yet? Definitely a ‘do-again’ is in order for this place. Delivered for $38, but gourmet all the way. Incidentally, delivery is the only way to go with this place as it is entirely too small to eat-in.
As promised here are the details of day number 1 of 4 of our anniversary. Fortunately for me, my work day was cut short so i was able to slip out and get some much needed prep work done on one of my favorite travel tactics called the “boondoggle.” This is my attempt at adding a bonus day to weekend getaways or vacations. Basically, an unexpected bonus day of travel in which to lengthen the experience as much as possible.
Lexington – Lansing
When I found out we were cutting out of work early I began to scour the internet for a cool place to spend the night before our official weekend was to begin. My favorite travel site is Kayak.com the best for comparing prices of various websites – be it for hotels, car rentals, or flights, it saves time, and if you’re saavy money too! Now, don’t be fooled however. There are times, more often than not, if you call the hotels directly you can actually get a better deal – in my case this was a move with exponential benefits. With Lansing being on the way to our final destination of Saugatuck, I searched for hotels in the area and stumbled upon a recently updated hotel Lexington Lansing. Originally, their price was the same as what was listed on the internet. I inquired about an upgrade which would have been one of two suites they have available. The price was $150 without the suite. With the suite, it was $280! I started back-peddling and said I would stick to the $150 room, which was nice enough. It was a king, non-smoking, and included continental breakfast. As the woman starting putting my information in, she asked what my occassion for traveling was. I indicated to her this was for my 20th anniversary and she said there may be a special. Sure enough there was!
For $165/nt. I was upgraded to the Empress Suite. This included a full breakfast voucher, a 2 room/bathroom suite with king-sized bed, 2 flat screen TV’s, cookies and milk before bed, and chocolate covered strawberries, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice! As you can see, calling the hotel directly brought great dividends. See a personalized video tour by Shannon and myself below…
Thread Bear Fiber Studio and Yarn Shop
A passion for Shannon is knitting. A past time for me is finding these knitting and yarn stores. Our weekend getaways often include trips to yarn stores and coffee shops. If the 2 ever meet in the middle, surely the planets must be aligned and a lottery win somewhere in the near future…just kidding. I don’t believe in either! But knowing how much Shannon enjoys knitting, I find it rewarding to locate these shops online and take her to them. Many of the shops are located in the heart of the towns and cities we enjoy traveling in, so in addition to yarn stores, coffee shops surface as do shoe stores (a personal favorite of mine…more like an obsession I guess). Lansing coffee shops and shoe stores didn’t surface this time, but getting around the outskirts of the city was fun especially in this college town.
Thread Bear is located at 319 S. Waverly Rd. in Lansing. Be warned however, if you plug the address into your GPS, you may still have to pay close attention to where the store is located. We drove right past the store without realizing it. The plaza’s sign indicating what stores it contained was missing several panels including Thread Bear’s sign. We did find it, much to Shannon’s delight, and my relief!
Shannon’s Ratings are as follows on 5 Knitting Needle Scale (1 = BAD and 5 = EXCELLENT)
Yarn Selection = 5
Accessories/Notions = 2
Patterns/Books = 5
Service = 5
Organization = 4
Location = 2
Would Shannon Return = YES
Rae’s Yarn Boutique
We should have stopped at Rae’s Yarn Boutique before going to Thread Bear as it was right on the way. This shop is what my Italian friend calls a “patuzzo.” Which being translated is a speck or a small place. We would call it a hole in the wall. While small in size, they did not lack substance.
Shannon was a little shocked that the owner, Renee or Rae was so young and so introverted. Yarn stores are specialty shops by nature and usually the owners typify some flamboyance and are outgoing. Shannon was pleased overall with the store.
Yarn Selection = 3
Accessories/Notions = 4
Patterns/Books = 2
Service = 4
Organization = 2
Location = 4
Would Shannon Return = YES
Rae’s Yarn Boutique is located at 2004 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing. Don’t blink otherwise you’ll miss it.
February 10, 2010 Shannon and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary. I know what you’re all thinking, neither Shannon nor I look old enough to be celebrating such a monumental occasion, but in fact, I was 20 years old and Shannon 19 (she turned 20 March 24th). We were young by today’s standard and even then too. I’ll admit if Nathan or Katelyn came home and told me they were getting married at that age, in today’s lingo I would “freak out!”
As a teenager I was a picture framer (yes this is going somewhere) and one of my clients frequented a little west Michigan town called the funny name of Saugatuck. The pictures Bob Gaunt, my client, would bring back of the town and the art he purchased at the galleries in Saugatuck, fascinated me to no end. I vowed to one day go and see this artsy-fartsy town. Almost 25 years later my long-forgotten goal has come to pass.
As with any of my travels, I do massive amounts of research online and elsewhere. Our travel priorities are as follows…
Comfort and cleanliness
On or near the water
Not too far away (2-4 hrs.)
Local yarn, antiques, and coffee shops
Saugatuck fits the bill in every way.
As a bonus, I like to do what I call a boondoggle before we get to our actual destinations – be it weekends or even summer vacations. It’s a way to feel as if you’ve been away for a longer period of time. For us our boondoggle was Lansing, which was right on the way to Saugatuck. In an effort to streamline and simplify the categorizing of subjects, I’m going to break down our travels by days ex. Day 1 of 4. Making these blog entries serves several purposes for me…
A log of cities and towns
A log of shops and businesses
A log of restaurants
And most importantly our experiences at all the above
Our’s is a simple taste, so if extravagance is what you’re looking for this may not be to your liking. However, if realistic, down-to-earth travel is your bag, read on my friend.
Well, it was bye-bye Hilton Head; hello Charleston. The sad day finally arrived after a very event-filled week; we had to check out. We made room reservations at the Sleep Inn of Charleston, SC. Only about 100 miles away, we decided to make a day-trip out of it.
Sleep Inn of Charleston – Hotel Review 1524 Savannah Hwy (US 17 S)
Charleston, SC, US, 29407
Phone: (843) 556-6959
Fax: (843) 556-1187
Website: Click Here
Booking: I booked this hotel online at Hotels.com. This worked out alright, but we aware, they take the money immediately, rather than waiting for you to pay after your stay. My rate was $115/night and my in-laws were able to get theirs for $112/night. The hotel’s website is HERE.
Check-in: I found the lady at the front desk very pleasant and informative. She asked if we had plans for the evening in Charleston and if she could make recommendations. We welcomed her input and found her info helpful. In addition, she gave us coupons for some restaurants in the area. We informed her we planned on doing a ghost tour in Charleston and if she recommended one. She said she never goes on those tours, “I have enough spooks at my house,” she said.
Since my in-laws made reservations just the day before, rather than when I made mine earlier this month, we weren’t guaranteed that their room would be near ours. The lady made arrangements for us to be almost right across each other.
The Room: Our immediate impression was that it was clean, but had seen some wear in its short life of what looked like about 2 years old. There was a overpowering smell of a “hotel” that maybe at one time allowed smoking, but now no longer does. The smell was readily apparent, but once it cooled off, the smell tended to fade. The beds and linens were clean and comfortable. Interestingly, they had no tub, but one huge shower that sprayed copious amounts of water. For a pool, they shared the pool with the Best Western next door.
Only complaint I really have was not relative to the hotel itself. The guests in the room above us were quite loud and obnoxious at 3 a.m. After enduring what sounded like a 400 lb. man and an annoying idiot bouncing on the squeaking bed non-stop, I made a phone call to the front desk. The clerk was very, very helpful and understanding. She said she would do what she could. A few moments later all the noise stopped and I returned to peaceful sleep.
Breakfast: Was about a 3-star out of 5. They had doughnuts, waffles, cereal, and all the other customary ingredients of a continental style breakfast.
Overall Impression: I would certainly stay here again, but hope in the mean time I can arrange it to do so minus the annoying occupants we endured. Hopefully too, they do something about the pre-mature wear on their walls and carpet. The rating I give this out of 5 stars is about a 3.5, especially for $115 price I paid.
I’ll write about Charleston’s highlights in another posting. There are definitely a couple of things you won’t want to miss when going there.