Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

It’s been awhile since I posted, and while I do have a huge backlog of subjects, today’s is a really recent jaunt Sam and I took over to Sault Ste. Marie.

Also known as “the Sault” (or, even just the Soo) to Michiganders, Sault Ste. Marie is a neat old town that feels far from its age (which happens to be hmmm, more than 300, since it was founded in the 1660s. Maybe 350-something years old.) The stunning stretch of history of the town is always there, just behind and beneath the new developments and updates.

We go there once in a while for business, and always look forward to finding new, cool things — because that’s what happens every time we go!

The Soo Locks as seen from the air. The shoreline view is pretty good, too.

It’s a maritime town, centered on the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks that allow Great Lakes freighters to pass between lakes Superior and Huron. (You shouldn’t need three guesses to decipher how the town got it’s name.) It has a Canadian sister city on the other side of the river; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which is much bigger.

The locks are a big draw, and there’s no doubt it’s pretty cool to watch the giant ore carriers pass through. There’s a phone number to call for a shipping schedule to maximize your chances of catching the show here. Or, if you have some time to kill, there’s Karl’s Cuisine restaurant overlooking the locks. Although it’s nestled next to a mini golf course and sports tourist-friendly decor, make no mistake; the chef is talented and committed to using local ingredients and foods, and it’s well worth stopping.

In the past, we’ve also enjoyed eating at Antlers, which also is by the river and has come under new ownership in recent years. The wild game lasagna is always a favorite.

But this time, it had to be Clyde’s Drive-In, which, like all great drive-ins, opened in the 1940s. Unlike many, it’s stuck around thanks to a loyal following, and burgers and fries raised to perfection. They hand-make the burger patties, use plenty of malt in their malts, and you won’t ever get a soggy or underdone fry or onion ring at Clyde’s. The small burger shack overlooks the ferry to Sugar Island, a little hamlet on the islands in the middle of the St. Mary’s River, and isn’t the easiest to find, but worth the effort.

Clyde's Drive-In. And yes, there is curbside service if you want it!

Speaking of Sugar Island, we also found an awesome new store on this visit to the Sault. It’s called Island Books and Crafts, just opened in the winter, and it’s named that because owner Les Townsend is a Sugar Islander born and bred. He’s also a fun guy to talk to, and knows quite a bit about the store’s home, a huge building on the corner of East Portage Avenue and Ashmun Street that was formerly the Sault Savings Bank. Some of the original bank marble still graces the entry. You’ll find plenty of books there, alongside the work of dozens of area crafters and artists, from handmade jewelry to pine-needle-and-agate woven baskets to gorgeous hand carved wood furniture.

I look forward to going back to the Sault and finding new things each time — It’s at the least a great day trip for U.P. residents (or for northern L.P. residents), but there’s more to do and see than you can ever do in a day, which is what makes it so much fun to keep coming back.

Where are your favorite stores and restaurants in Sault Ste. Marie? What do you look forward to doing or visiting there?



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Anyone who’s ever played Monopoly knows Park Place means high-class (or at least high-rent), and the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan doesn’t disappoint.

We were there on a recent weekend to check out some area wineries and story ideas, and get a taste (hehe) of the TC foodie scene while we were at it. (More on the food and wine, later!)

The Park Place Hotel in Traverse City. It was cold and rainy, but still lovely.

We stayed at the lovely, downtown Park Place Hotel, and found it to be a very friendly place, with a few exceptions.

The rooms were well-designed (two sinks, YAY!) and large, with plenty of room to stretch out and unwind after a day of exploring the area. Ours even had a balcony, which would have seen more use if the weather hadn’t been so cold and rainy. (Actually, it started to snow as we were leaving.)

The front-desk service was immaculate and helpful, although the service at the attached restaurant, Minerva’s, wasn’t quite as impressive. It’s not in my nature to be picky with service employees, but I’ve also never been told that a restaurant couldn’t seat anyone else in the next half-hour because they had a very large party of guests that had just been seated. Hmm…

Moving on. The other complaint we had at the Park Place Hotel was that upon returning to the hotel Saturday night, there was a sign up in the parking lot saying it was full, presumably from restaurant or event patrons at the hotel. That’s kind of disappointing when you can’t actually park at the hotel where you’re staying. I’m not sure what the downtown Traverse City parking situation normally is, but it apparently could use some improvement.

But in all, the hotel was a great base of operations for a Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula wine tour, or an exploration of Traverse City’s many shops and restaurants.

Where would you stay in Traverse City? We’ll be headed back down soon, so your recommendations are welcome!

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I have a lot more post subjects to write about in Chicago, but I’m going to add in a few from our Traverse City jaunt in between, so the blog isn’t all Chicago all the time. Don’t worry, I have plenty more topics from both trips that should last at least until we go somewhere else 🙂 I’ve been collecting posts as we wander around the U.P., as well. So here’s a peek at one of the discoveries we made down in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

On our recent weekend trip to Traverse City and environs, we had the pleasure of a lazy, rainy drive through the Leelanau Peninsula wine country.

Of course, that was the reason for the business trip: To get more familiar with vintners, chefs and others in the TC area, because one of the publications we work for, Northwest Michigan Second Wave, covers a lot of things happening in those fields, and of interest to those in the food and wine business. If you have ever been to Traverse City, you know food and wine is a major pastime there, and heck, you probably know that even if you haven’t been there.

It appears that fascination with food extends up the more rural and agricultural Leelanau, as we were looking for a nice place to breakfast before heading out to wineries, and found the somewhat aptly named Cedar Rustic Inn, in Cedar. Now, Cedar itself is a nice, very small town, with not much more than a few stores, the inn, and a sprinkling of houses before the countryside gives way to farms and orchards again.

The Cedar Rustic Inn opened in 2006 and was a great stop to eat on the Leelanau Peninsula.

The Cedar Rustic Inn is right next to the Longview Winery tasting room, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner for those passing through, perhaps on a wine tour.

From the photos in the foyer, the restaurant has been the subject of quite a restoration project, having opened in 2006. In past lives, it’s been a roadhouse, a foundry, a gas station, and a pool hall. Now, it’s run by Chef Aaron Ackley and his wife, Nikki.

We were greeted with friendly service and good coffee, and decided on a late breakfast of pretty traditional fare; bacon, eggs, potatoes, corned beef hash, et al. We were told the breakfast sausage comes from Cedar’s own butcher shop, Pleva Meats, and it certainly lived up to its reputation.

Examining the menus for lunch and dinner showed that the prices are pretty nice all day, which isn’t always what you get in a heavily tourism-centric area, so that was good to see.

The dinner menu departs a little from traditional American fare, bringing in more global influences, but sticking with coastal Michigan favorites of seafood, fresh fish and local ingredients.

We’ll be  visiting the area again this summer, so do you have any other breakfast, lunch or dinner recommendations? We know there are lots of great places near Traverse City to eat!

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Before we take off for spring break this coming week, I thought I’d tell you a little about our home area, which is a pretty popular travel destination in its own right. I grew up in the largest town in the region–Marquette, Michigan. When I was a kid I remember a lot of outdoorsy-type tourists, doing things like skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and hiking.

The Marquette Lower Harbor on a foggy morning. Photos provided by http://www.KurtMensching.info

That’s still a major part of what draws people to visit up here; the abundant wilderness to wander around in pursuing your outdoors pastime of choice. In more recent years, though, Marquette has drawn a more urban crowd, with bicycling and arts & culture booming. That’s not to mention the 6-million-or-so awards and rankings the city keeps getting for being walkable, bike-friendly, kid-friendly, livable, “cool”, entrepreneurial, historic, you name it.

Marquette is all of those things, but for me, my hometown is all about the lake. (That’s what we call Lake Superior around here.) The town was built on shipping, and wraps around its two harbors like any good port city. Part of what makes hikes, bike rides and walks so enjoyable in Marquette is the ever-present lakeshore.

At several spots in town, the pines and sand dunes rimming the shore give way to wide, sandy beaches that are packed with families and other beachgoers in the summer. Some beaches have even drawn a group of daring lake surfers. One of the least-tamed city parks you’re likely to find is Presque Isle, not too far from town, down along the city bike path, and offers acres of forested trails and striking cliffside views of the lake — understandably popular with photographers.

Lake Superior waves on the sand. Photos provided by http://www.KurtMensching.info

While I think the best way to enjoy the lake is to just find a quiet spot and sit by its edge, for visitors, there also are hotels that overlook the water, like the historic Landmark Inn (or the Econo Lodge Lakeside for tighter budgets).

A few restaurants can claim a lake view, such as the Vierling, which is also a microbrewery with some great craft beers, or Coco’s, which has a seriously awesome Friday fish fry and European-inspired desserts.

But if you’re like me and prefer to enjoy the lake and forests in a less-crowded setting, it’s well worth it to take a trip (with some good hiking boots) up County Road 550 northwest of town, and find one of the many little out-of-the-way beaches like Little Presque Isle, Wetmore Landing, or even one without a name.

Have you visited Marquette? What did you do and see? Love to hear from you in the comments!

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I’d better start by introducing myself. I’m Kim, and I’m a freelance writer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s that part on the map that looks like it should be part of Wisconsin, if you’re not familiar.

That part up top near Wisconsin is the U.P.!

I live up here with my fiance, Sam, and, some of the time, his daughter, Shaylyn. You can find out more about all of us on the About page, of course.

We do a good bit of traveling, mostly around the Midwest for either work or visiting family. Several times, Sam and I have thought about blogging our travels, but they didn’t fit very well with our main blog, Pen vs. Sword, so they never got written about at all.

There and Back Again will be an outlet for talking about our regular travels, plus all the travel planning we do in between. This summer, there’ll be some massive plans going on, as we get ready for our two-week road trip honeymoon around the borders of the U.S. (Awesome, right?) Maybe I’ll post other travel-related stuff I come across, too. Or not. Either way, I hope it’ll be a fun blog and maybe even useful to others who travel in the areas we do.

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks, as we have some plans made for Shaylyn’s spring break from school, and a business trip planned after that. I hope you enjoy sharing our travels as much as I will writing about them!

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