I grip the handle tightly in borrowed mittens. Through thick ice fishing boots I feel my feet wobble on the tire-treads of the sled runners. Breathe. In and out. Ahead of me five dogs pull their lines taut and stare intently at our guide, Kyle’s, sled in front of us — they’re waiting for his signal. My friend Mary sits as a rider in Kyle’s sled. But me, I’m driving my own sled. I didn’t expect to be this nervous for Michigan dog sledding. But here I am, quite literally shaking in my (giant) boots. The long list of Kyle’s instructions swivel through my head: Feet on the tire treads. One foot on the drag pedal to slow. Stomp on the claw brake to stop. Keep the dog’s lines tight. And whatever you do, don’t let go if (when) you fall.
When in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you need to stay somewhere grand. And really, in Michigan’s second biggest city, there is no better option than the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. This historic and luxurious riverside hotel is well known among us Michiganders. Personally, I’d wandered its halls at Art Prize festivals past, or walked the skywalk that connects the Amway Grand to neighboring buildings (it’s useful in a Michigan winter… trust). But I’d never actually stayed at the Amway Grand… until our recent visit to Grand Rapids with Experience Grand Rapids!*
It was travel that introduced me to the magic of day spas. From the baths in Bath, England, to the hammams in Marrakech, I was easily converted to this type of wellness tourism. Not only do day spas give you a respite from jet lag or travel-related stress, but you get a peek into local traditions. So when my friend Amanda, who I met up with in NYC, sent me a photo of a rooftop infinity pool with views of the Manhattan skyline… I knew we had to go! Meet Sojo Spa Club, the best Korean spa in NYC, that’s well, not actually in NYC.
New York City is truly a gluten free mecca. Actually, NYC is the first place I traveled to when I originally had to go gluten free back in 2012. I remember that trip vividly – I had only been gluten free for about six months (filled with many cross contamination experiences and a lot of sickness and frustration). I was living on bland salads at my college’s dining hall and dreading travel to a new location. Then I arrived in New York City to a huge array of high standard gluten free restaurants serving safe food that tasted … GOOD. The gluten free restaurants NYC scene has grown exponentially in the passing years, just as awareness of celiac disease, and the pop culture and scientific research on gluten free lifestyles have grown too. Yet, some of those original restaurants still remain. I have been back to NYC so many times over the passing years, now having both best friends and family living there. Each time I love revisiting my old favorites, and exploring new gluten free options.
You all know by now that one of my favorite places to travel in Michigan is Traverse City, a small city located on Lake Michigan. I’ve spent years coming to Traverse City in the summer for swimming, boating, paddle boarding, farmer’s markets, and quintessential Michigan summer experiences. Turns out Traverse City is equally wonderful in the winter, though… it’s the perfect cozy destination and Cherry Tree Inn was the ideal place to escape the cold.
I have big news, everyone. I got all my Christmas shopping done before December 1st this year. I know, right? No, I’m not a super organized person (ha!). What I do have to thank for this feat is a little coastal town in Northern Michigan: Traverse City. I’ve loved Traverse City for years, from childhood visits to my cousin’s destination wedding a few years ago, but always viewed it as a summer town. What I discovered during my most recent visit, though, is that the Traverse City shopping scene is another reason to love this town.
Ahh, Detroit! Motorcity, Motown….. Gluten Free Heaven?! After spending years growing up and living in Michigan, I finally made it to Detroit (twice in the last month!). It’s definitely a city that gets under your skin and keeps you wanting to come back. The huge variety of gluten free Detroit options may have had something to do with that!
Oh my friends, it has been a lazy month of blogging for me, but I just needed to pop by and share about my birthday weekend in Detroit! This was my first birthday back in the USA and I really wanted to use it as an excuse to get my friends together in one place. However even among my American friends, we are spread out all over the place! A couple months ago I got my wheels turning about a good location that could be a halfway point for everybody and I settled on…. Detroit! Luckily, when I pitched it to my friends, they were keen too, and the plans for my birthday weekend in Detroit began.
As you guys know, I moved back to my home state of Michigan in December, and since then I have been exploring and appreciating it as much as I can. One thing I’ve wanted to do for years is attend Grand Rapids ArtPrize…but the whole living in another country thing kind of got in the way. Each year my mom would go and then send me photos of her day, and I was just so so jealous! This year, though, I made it happen. We drove over to Grand Rapids for the first full day of ArtPrize and it was really everything I dreamed it would be.
I did a poll on Instagram the other day, and I was so surprised to see that 98% of you want to see more Michigan content! One common thought among Americans, especially those of us hailing from the Midwest, is that you have to travel far away for any kind of excitement. Michigan is certainly a different pace than I experienced living in England, but it is special in its own way, and so close to my heart. Michigan is a stunning state, home to more coastline than any other state in the USA! But so many travelers (both international ones and those who live in MI!) still don’t know what our state has to offer. Which is why I’m bringing you my Michigan bucket list.