How is Michigan different from Austin? On day 2, I noticed one key difference: their summer weather is actually nice enough that you can sleep with the windows open. Seeing as it’s still 92° on a nice night in Austin this summer, that idea was hard for me to swallow. I actually closed all my windows to sleep the first night, since I just didn’t get it!
So! On a beautiful Thursday, my aunt took me to the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. And I loved it! Meijer is German and pronounced Meyer.
This place is a must-see if you’re ever in Grand Rapids. They hold concerts here, and the DeVos family has dumped a lot of money into it, as well as the Meijer people, who own the grocery stores. It’s gorgeous, well maintained, and stocked with adorable elderly volunteers.
We took a tram tour of the sculpture garden, which was really great. I was the only non-Michigander on the tram, and got to hear the delightful stereotypes about Texans.
“Ah, Texas! Oil? Cowboy hats? You a cowgirl?” the tour guide asked meaningfully before wandering away to talk to some Muskegon folks. Hmm. This might be worse than the time friends assumed I didn’t have any electricity because I lived in Hawaii.
My aunt and I hopped off the tram when we arrived at the Japanese Gardens. This was the best part. There were waterfalls, ponds with lily pads, bonsai trees, and a hill that overlooked the whole thing.
The zen meditation garden and bonsai tree area were both beautiful.
I was really regretting not bringing sunblock on this trip, because it was a super nice, sunny day. My aunt and I took some selfies on an authentic, meditative Japanese bridge.
Here is my favorite sculpture we saw:
LUNCH IN GRAND RAPIDS
We headed downtown after the sculpture gardens. Grand Rapids isn’t a particularly large city, and we drove through it. It was rougher than I expected, at least on the block where we got lunch. But who could resist the lunch spot my aunt chose? She seems to know all the best rooftop restaurants.
Note: the iced tea comes unsweetened. And Midwesterners drink their coffee black. I had to ASK for sugar!!
I got red curry chicken for lunch, which was a daringly mild curry, and we shared artichoke fondue with beer bread and roasted grapes.
After lunch, we headed up to the cottage by Lake Michigan! It’s about an hour north of their home, and they spend a lot of time there in the summer. I’d only heard it referred to as The Cottage, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m just along for the ride!
We stopped at a roadside fruit and veggie stand, which was awesome. Michigan is farm country. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this. We took the backroads up to the cottage and passed tons of soybean and apple fields. We picked out farm fresh corn!
Then we made our way up north, and I got to see that the Lake house was actually a WOODS house. I mean, it was smack in the middle of the woods. Evergreens everywhere. We don’t have evergreens in Austin, really, so I was excited.
Actually, what’s funny is I couldn’t remember the word for evergreen at first. I guess I just haven’t said it in so many years since I usually just visited Florida…! I was like, wow, look at all the Christmas trees! The firs and pines! The… spruces! Haha.
I got right into comfy mode and my aunt opened some pink wine. This was not like my Montreal trip, where fashion was pretty much my number one priority. I was also freezing. The midwest is pretty chilly, y’all. We went to a grocery store and cooked dinner together.
That night, it POURED. It rained so hard out in the woods that we couldn’t hear our movie. We could have closed the windows, of course, but that’s not the cottage way!
I slept with the windows open this time!