Michigan Trip, Summer 2017 [All Posts]

Like with my Montreal travel diary, I wanted to put my Michigan posts all in one spot for easier reading. I loved seeing the Midwest. My aunt Nanette has lived there my whole life, and everyone else in my family has visited her, but I never made it out there until this August! I had a lot of observations, took a lot of photos, and despite the laid back nature of a Lake Michigan vacation, a LOT happened! I hope you enjoy reading this travelogue.

DAY ONE: AUGUST 9, 2017 

This week I’ve been in… MICHIGAN! I’m here visiting my aunt and uncle. It’s my first time out here, and Michigan is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. On my first day, I had a crazy morning of travel…

…and did two things I’ve never done before.



I got up at 6 and headed to the airport with a little over an hour before my 8:30 AM flight. Since it was a Wednesday and Austin has the chillest little airport ever, I didn’t worry about getting there too early. But they changed the time of my first flight, so I technically wasn’t within one hour of the flight and was locked out!! I was put on another flight, which included a second layover in Houston.

“You better run,” the United rep said. “Your flight is boarding basically the second you get through security.”

I would rather run than wait around for hours, so I smiled and ran off with my unwieldy carry-on duffel and backpack. I made it through security, and down to my gate. I was in line with my group to board when I saw a girl rearranging her backpack and jamming her laptop inside. I instinctively reached to my backpack to feel the hardness of my laptop case against me, and it wasn’t there. The color drained out of my face as I got off line and ran towards TSA.

“SKY BLUE LAPTOP?” I sputtered to the TSA agents. They pointed me to a guy behind a comically huge podium. He asked for my ID and said they’d paged me, but my name is a hard one to hear over loudspeakers (…and while you’re listening to a podcast. Oops.) I thanked them profusely, carefully put my laptop into its spot, and ran back to my gate. My group wasn’t even boarding yet. I was shaken, but soooo glad it all worked out.

Three flights later (yes, three), I landed in the Grand Rapids airport. It’s even smaller than Austin’s! I love a small airport. I’ll take West Palm over Fort Lauderdale any day.

My aunt met me as close as she was allowed, which really made my day all better. We chatted the whole way home, with her taking the lead. Introverts exhausted by travel are often grateful for extraverts with lots of stories. We ate cheese and crackers outside at her place, and then went for dinner when my uncle got home.


We went to a great restaurant called Mangiamo’s (I think) and ate outside. The weather was PERFECT! The restaurant was in a beautiful old building that we took a tour of first.



I was feeling a little sick after all those flights so I just had soup and salad.

However, I did have room for ice cream. The ice cream shop was in walking distance, and they even had vegan options! It was a cute neighborhood in Grand Rapids, with a lot of old buildings. Nothing in Austin is that old. Our old stuff is like 1970s Americana instead of 1870s Colonials.


I had smores ice cream, which you would think would be an easy call, BUT this place had lots of tempting flavors, like Van’s Donuts, which is a local donut place. Note to self: try to get there! Donuts while traveling are the best!



I’m still kind of regretting not getting D’ough, which looks like straight cookie dough 😍.

I read two books while traveling all day, walked four miles through Chicago O’Hare (my second least favorite airport after Orlando 👿), and my bed was niiiice and comfortable. Between my long day and the soothing song of summer cicadas outside my windows, I was asleep in no time.


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.

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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:



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 came unsweetened. You’re not in Texas anymore, girl! And Midwesterners drink their coffee black. I had to ASK for sugar!!

I got red curry chicken for lunch, which was a disappointingly mild curry, but we shared artichoke fondue with beer bread and roasted grapes.


Destination: Cottage

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 when traveling with my aunts! Haha.


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 FOREST 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. I made hamburgers and she made delicious honey roasted zucchini, and we had glasses of wine. I thought I seasoned the burgers okay, like I would at home, but my aunt was startled by how garlicky they were. Hey, you try living with an Italian for 6 years. My metric for a normal amount of garlic is totally broken!


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!

Trust me, I slept with the windows open this time! 😊

DAY 3: Friday August 11, 2017

Day three of my Michigan trip began with me bundling up and venturing out into the living room. My aunt and uncle were up drinking coffee and reading from their kindles, and enjoying their Midwest summer. But for me it was pretty much winter. I wore my hoodie and sweats and socks and long sleeve shirt. When I left Austin it was a pleasant 96°, so I wasn’t adjusting well to the low 60s in the morning!! I had coffee and shivered when they told me we were either going to the beach or tubing in a river.


Waking up in the woods is incredible. It was so surreal and beautiful. There were deer in the woods sometimes, eating leaves close to the house. They had longer, fluffier tails than the deer I’m used to. I liked to sit on the couch next to the window where I could watch the deer or look at their beautiful handmade fireplace.


We went into town for a while, hoping that by the time we were done in the afternoon it would be warmer. The cottage is near a really cute lake town with a lot of farmers and some antique shops.


My aunt and I sat in a bookstore and talked for a while, which was super nice. The bookstore had a great selection of books, including some used ones. I am all about a bookstore with a good used section! For lunch I got a turkey panini that really surprised me since it came with… cherry jelly…

I mean, it was good and all. But cherry jelly is not what I expected on my sandwich. The midwest definitely has its own ideas about things. I also noticed they have cookies and cream jello and stuff in the deli next to meat… And strawberry fluff and chocolate mousse in the salad bar. Oh, and everything is very meat oriented.

Then we went tubing!

We rented tubes and set off in a lake. The slow current sent us under a bridge and down a little river. I didn’t bring my phone, so no pictures. I never bring my phone tubing, which is a shame since those rivers usually have some of the best scenery. It was still cold out (to me) so I kept my cover-up on and my feet in the water, since the water was warmer than the air.


Our tubing adventure was kind of crazy! The wind was pretty strong, so we had to paddle in parts. My uncle got separated from us and had to paddle even more, just to battle the wind a bit behind us. At parts it was so creepy alongside the river I was imagining all the horror stories I could write if I rented a cabin in Michigan…! Watch out, Stephen King. Maine doesn’t have anything on Michigan.

Plus, it was freezing! Towards the end, my aunt lost her tube and had to swim after it, into the seaweed and muck near the lake’s mouth. It sounds unpleasant- well, that part was for her, and for my uncle when his tube blew away, too- but it was actually a really fun, relaxing time overall.

you know me… you know I have to tell you about my FRESH MANICURE:

I took a hot shower to warm up after our tubing adventure, and then gave myself a manicure. I only brought three colors, a top coat, and my OPI Nail Envy (that’s a lot of restraint for me, although I heroically only brought ONE polish to Montreal). I went with OPI’s Black Onyx, which would go with everything.

Since my nails are a little shorter these days, I can pull off dark colors a little better. Black looks especially good on shorter nails. But as I wrote in my Black Onyx post, a shiny top coat is a MUST. This manicure was completed with a heavy coat of Seche Vite quick dry (my fave).


At night, we ate dinner at the house. It was one of the most relaxed Friday nights I’ve had in a long time.

DAY 4: AUGUST 12, 2017

Saturday was a beautiful day at the cottage, with big plans for the evening. I knew going into this trip that we were going to a wedding on Saturday. I’d packed two dresses and a lipstick, since I wasn’t sure what kind of wedding this would be.

That afternoon, we were hoping to go to the beach, but it was a little too windy. Due to the lake effect, weather can be unpredictable and strange. So my aunt suggested something I will NEVER say no to- shopping!



Grand Haven is a cute town on the water about forty minutes from their place. Although maybe it’s farther. Or closer. It was really hard for me to tell how far away we were from places, since there’s a lot of driving on flat farm roads in Michigan.


It was an absolutely beautiful day out in Grand Haven. We went to a farmer’s market and bought some peaches. I don’t usually go to farmer’s markets in Austin. I don’t like making small talk with vendors before taking the free sample and running away. I like the idea of supporting local farms and small businesses, of course, but I haven’t found one with enough of a draw for me. I went to one every week in Hawaii because they had beignets with lillikoi sauce. Now THAT is a draw.



Then we went to a hat store. I got my new favorite hat of all time. At first I was surprised it was all summer hats, but I guess this is kind of a beach town. It was also cool to have a store entirely devoted to one item.


We walked around and had a fabulously productive day of shopping. I found a new outfit and a new top, and picked up some Lake Michigan touristy swag. I’d been really regretting not getting any cool tourist Montreal shirt on my last trip, so a ‘Lake Michigan: Unsalted’ tee was a must-buy.

Then we walked to this old restaurant for lunch, and headed right up the stairs. Yet again my aunt had the scoop on a rooftop lunch spot! My aunt Nanette is very cool, and her scoop on cute lunch spots just proves it. We ate at the bar and enjoyed vodka thyme lemonade cocktails that we both agreed were amazing. I could see the water and feel the lake breeze (although my new short bangs were not loving the wind treatment) and we gossiped and chatted happily. I ordered a delicious stir fry bowl that I LOVED.


Wedding at Wabassis Lake!

After our fun afternoon in Grand Haven, my aunt and I headed back to the cottage. We got ready for the wedding and headed out. I changed into my sundress and put on my new hat. I realized when we arrived that this dress is TECHNICALLY white, with big red flowers splashed over the linen, but the bride was wearing silver sequins anyway, so it was all gucci.


We drove a very long time to the lake park, and this was peak grouchy for me. I was carsick in the backseat, and we drove through tiny town after tiny town on these curvy roads that jostled me around back there. It was probably just an hour and a half, and I was probably just dehydrated or something, but I was VERY relieved to get to the wedding.


My aunt and uncle were seated with all their friends, who were all (obviously) their age. I felt like the little kid at this table of people in their 50s and 60s. The bride and groom were my age, but I didn’t end up meeting them. It was a casual reception since they’d already gotten married a few weeks ago, or something like that. Either way, we were fed and I got to sneak home two Kahlua cupcakes. Also, everyone liked my hat AND knew exactly which hat store I got it at! Apparently the hat store in Grand Haven is quite well known in those parts!


There was supposedly a meteor shower that night, but the three of us were exhausted by the time we got back to the cottage. I headed off to bed, which was nice and cool with the windows open. I wrapped up my stolen wedding cupcake (one of them didn’t survive the long drive home) and headed off to bed!


This was SUPPOSED to be the last day of my trip. Spoiler alert: I stayed three extra days because something bad happened on my last day. At any rate, what do you do on the last day of a vacation?

…You do it all!

We had to wait for the day to warm up before we could go to the beach, so we went to the lavender fields in a nearby farm town. This was definitely something I was excited for. In my head, for some reason, lavender grows like corn or sunflowers and I’d be running around in a white sundress through big boughs of scented lavender. That’s not what happened, but I still got some good pics!! 😂

The lavender fields!

Well color me surprised, but lavender grows close to the ground. And the air isn’t vibrantly scented with lavender. I couldn’t smell it at all until I picked some. Still, this farm had a lot more to offer than that.



There were also gardens with tons of different plants. My aunt knew to take this laminated guide book out of the box to wander around with. We were the only people there who were doing that, which really enhanced the experienced. The guide book explained what was planted in each bed.




We ate a LOT of herbs in this garden. I don’t know if we were exactly supposed to, but we tried everything. There was cocoa mint, ginger mint, basil, oregano, dill, grapefruit mint, rosemary (the best rosemary I’ve ever had) and tons of other herbs and plants that Severus Snape would have totally harvested for his potions.

On to the pottery shop!

We stopped at a beautiful house tucked into the woods after that. It was a pottery shop that sold their wares to the public. They were all unique and cool, and we picked out a mug and hummingbird feeder. The house itself was amazing and felt like fairies built it, and an old golden retriever lived there.


As you can see I was cold. Jeans AND a long sleeve top! That’s a top I got in Grand Haven. The lighting was so good my aunt and I couldn’t resist some selfies. #aunt-niece-time 😊.




In the afternoon, it was finally warming up enough that we could have a beach day! We made sandwiches and packed the cooler, and headed off to the private lake entrance. We parked and walked up a big hill, heading down to what looked like the OCEAN!


It is pretty surreal that Lake Michigan is that huge. I couldn’t see the other side, just like with the ocean. I was so glad to finally be there.



We set up camp on the beach and ate our lunch right away.



We only got about an hour of sun before the clouds set in. Then there was wind. And the water was WAY too cold for me to go in. I shivered even just putting my feet in. Not many people were in the water, anyway, except for two kids paddle boarding and kayaking. It was so relaxing! The vibe was very different than the beaches I grew up with in New Jersey.

Dinner & sunsets

We showered off after the beach, and then headed into town for dinner. We went to an old restaurant and sat in the back room by the salad bar. Our waiter was afraid of us (lol not really but there was some bizarre behavior), and my aunt and I got special summer martinis. I tried London broil and it came with salad bar, which was good, because the salad bar had CHOCOLATE MOUSSE and I needed to get my hands on that. I guess in the midwest it’s normal to have jello, mousse, and strawberry fluff next to watery chickpeas and cherry tomatoes in a salad bar selection!

Then we headed back home and decided to go watch the sunset. We drove to the beach area next door, and I bundled up in my Lake Michigan long sleeve tee.


We caught the sunset! It was gorgeous. I haven’t watched the sunset in a while. I used to watch all the time when I lived in Hawaii and hung out on Waikiki Beach. It’s always extra special to watch the sun dip down behind water.


As far as last nights go, this one was perfect… Except it wasn’t my last night!


So, the end of my Michigan trip did not go as expected. On the last day at the cottage, I woke up at 6 AM, which is WAY early for me (I’m an 11 AM girl preferably). I felt kind of sick, so I figured maybe I had a hangover from the tropical martini I had at dinner the night before. I drank some water and ate two Advils and laid back down.

Then I got sick in my bedroom. I showered, dressed, and threw up some more. I thought about my worst hangover ever, which occurred in the middle of the afternoon after day-drinking with Scott’s company at a bowling alley. I don’t get a lot of hangovers (a) because I’m still in my 20s, (b) I don’t drink a lot in general, and (c) every time I get even the slightest hangover I quit drinking for months. But I’ve never had a hangover where I threw up before, so something wasn’t adding up.

My aunt and uncle caught on that I was sick and encouraged me to drink some milk to settle my stomach, which I did. We had to drive back to Grand Rapids that morning before the next guests got to my aunt and uncle’s cottage, so we loaded up the car and headed out. My flight home was at 4, so we were going to drive home, hang out for a few hours, and take me to the airport. I sat completely still and my aunt kindly didn’t talk the whole hour-long drive back to Grand Rapids, which must have sucked.

At this point, I knew I was really sick.

We pulled up to their house and I stumbled over to the edge of the driveway and threw up. I barely managed to change into sweatpants and get myself onto the couch after that. I laid on the couch shivering and getting up to throw up for the next two hours until my aunt and uncle gently pointed out that I was NOT fit to travel.

“You’re barely walking in a straight line when you walk to the bathroom,” my uncle said. “You’re not going to be able to walk through two airports.”

“You’re an adult, we don’t want to make this decision for you. But you’ll probably regret traveling in this condition…” my aunt added. I thought of all the other people I could get sick if I traveled, and that the worst thing ever would be throwing up like this trapped in a middle seat. I wasn’t able to hold down WATER!

They generously rebooked my broke ass on a cheaper flight out of Detroit in a few days. That meant my uncle would have to DRIVE me from Grand Rapids to Detroit, which meant 4 hours in a car for him. I’d be in Michigan until Thursday, which seemed like a lot longer (I never want to overstay my welcome!), but they were right that I’d need a few days to recoup and heal up. I couldn’t even put crackers or ginger ale on my stomach without throwing up.

Once the new flight was booked, I was flooded with relief. And nausea, of course. I stumbled upstairs to “my” room and promptly fell asleep for six hours with a plastic bag next to me. You know you’re sick when you can pass out for hours and hours in the middle of the day like that!

I didn’t eat a thing until Tuesday morning, when I felt a little better and managed to hold down some ginger ale and then chicken noodle soup. I’ve never had a glass of ginger ale before, and it was delicious. I drank so much ginger ale that week.


By Wednesday, I was basically all better. I got lunch with my aunt. She and I had some great talks this trip and I learned a lot about my family. I may not have cousins or a big family, like Scott does, but I think I got the way better deal.



After a few long days and nights of taking it easy, I recovered, and we went out for pizza on my last night in Michigan. We went to a restaurant featured on the Food Network and ordered a nice, garlicky pie. Even I could taste the garlic this time!


My aunt and I took one final pic together. Can you see how happy I was to be out of the house and able to eat and standing in the warm night air? Being sick REALLY makes you appreciate being healthy, and I was only out of commission for two days.


I even got to see their grocery store, Meijer. Good prices and even more stuff than Target!

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…But wait! The drama isn’t over!

On Thursday, my uncle and I drove out of Grand Rapids to Detroit. It was a cloudy day, and my bag was stuffed to the brim with books and clothes and a cool mug for Scott. I said goodbye to their dog Lola, who was very concerned about my well-being while I was the resident sick patient. I came this-close to spilling coffee on my new white shirt while driving, whew. My uncle and I had awesome talks about evolution and his life in Michigan, and the drive went pretty quick. Detroit airport was under construction and was crazy confusing, but we made it to departures on the second try!

I got onto my first flight right away, which was then delayed getting into the air.

Okay, this is fine, I thought. We’re only fifteen minutes delayed.

Then when we were about to begin our initial descent into Atlanta, the pilot announced that we had to circle for a while and wouldn’t be landing for another twenty minutes because of weather.

Oh, god. Weather. At least that meant my next flight might be delayed, too.

The SECOND we landed, I looked up my next flight. It was delayed, too!

But as you can see from the screenshot, boarding was at 4:20. And I was on the plane at 4:25, lined up back in row 22 waiting to deplane. The guy in my row let me out first, and I proceeded to do one of my favorite/least favorite things.


I ran through the Atlanta airport!

I was SO grateful I’ve been interval running lately, because I was sprinting UP the escalator to the next terminal with a 40 pound backpack (why did I have so many books with me??), and then running to Gate C from Gate A. I was wearing my leather clogs (not my preferred running shoes) and barely had time to observe the weird, dark jungle motif the Atlanta airport has going on as some kind of art instillation. I was too busy yelling at little old ladies to PLEASE EXCUSE ME. Eventually I found a crazy looking European family that was also running full tilt through Gate C, and took off with them. It’s always nice to run through an airport in a group- it takes the experience from stressful to right out of Home Alone!

I practically skidded to a stop at my gate, which was STILL BOARDING!!

I got in line, and got on the plane to finally, finally, finally take me home.

And after all that, my checked bag did NOT make it to Austin!

Delta told me they assumed there was NO way I was making it on that flight, so they sent my bag to me the next day. Whatever! I took that as a compliment. Most people wouldn’t have made it on that flight. Physical fitness is important- mostly just so you’re ready to run a mile through a crowded airport at any second!

I finally made it home from Michigan! But I missed Lola.


So, there we have it. My Michigan trip diary in its entirety. This was such a fun trip, even with the getting super-sick part. I watched cute deer play in the woods and saw a salad bar that served chocolate mousse with my own eyes. I loved spending time with my aunt and uncle, and can’t wait to go back!

More Travels With Taylor posts soon!





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