My favorite type of vacation is visiting friends, and seeing their everyday and special places. In mid-July, we went to visit my closest childhood friends (one lives in Michigan, one in New York) in Saline, which is right outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. We haven’t been all together for two and a half years (this is a VERY long time for us) and we were looking forward to getting our boys together again (my Saline friend has a son one year older than my twins).
I’ve visited this “greater Ann Arbor”area a few times in my life–first when my brother attended University of Michigan (don’t remember much of those visits…such a haze around those :)), then when my friend married and moved to Saline–must be around 17 years ago.
Michigan is the Maine of the midwest. Or Maine is the Michigan of the northeast? Can I do that? Someone’s going to be mad, maybe both Mainers and Michiganders. You really can’t compare, but I will say that both places are filled with beautiful trees, farms and open spaces, and water (oh, all right, one has an ocean, the other does not; one has water warm enough to swim in, the other does not). And funny warm people. And my besties. And crazies. I like the crazies. Most of the time. Here is evidence of crazies:
+A college football stadium that fits 1 million people (well, okay maybe 110,000) and routinely sells out. I have been at a game once: it is awesome! Must get my kid to one next year.
+Shrinkwrapped stealth cars. We saw at least a couple of camouflaged cars as “Detroit” tests out new models without letting on what they are. This was highly entertaining to 10 year old boys.
+Sushi for 7 people for $75. That would be $8 million where I live, and you’d be lucky then. And it is good sushi. Great sushi. Sigh, I want to go back.
+Metro Parks: Hands-down my favorite family picnic park named Hudson Mills is near Saline. A slow-moving river loops around grassy picnic sites and they rarely check for gin in your silver water bottle. Wait, I don’t drink gin. Well, you get it. Yes, we are totally responsible parents. Totally.
+Beetle hunting. Okay, this might be a localized psychosis. My friend who is a great gardener cultivates unbelievably beautiful dahlias. And she had discovered some munchy beetles were coming every night to eat said beautiful dahlias, so every night around 10 pm (summertime in Michigan means light until 9:30 pm!) we went out with flashlights and buckets of soapy water and hunted beetles. You thought the Michigan Militia was about guns? No, it’s dahlias.
The best part of Michigan is spending relaxed time with friends. This is what summer is really all about: hanging out on the back patio, eating corn and pesto made from the huge basil plants, watching the kids practice a trampoline show for hours–and having my friend’s husband teach Lalo to do a backflip for the very first time. Golden.
Also go to the truly amazing University of Michigan Natural History Museum (it moves locations from its wonderful old building at the end of this year–go now! I love the musty current space and its mastodons and stuffies that rival both the Field Museum in Chicago and definitely blow away the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Go Blue!)
We also unintentionally coincided our visit with the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Holey, moley. Huge and fun. And hot, so we had to escape to the Cherry Republic store several times to wipe out huge quantities of tasters of dried cherries and chocolate covered cherries and everything cherry. No cherry wine. Opposed. Love the store. Please go and buy something to pay them back for all we ate.
An additional shout-out to our favorite Palestinian restaurant of all time, Jerusalem Garden. While I don’t love their new huge location (it has lost some of the homey charm), their falafel is out of this world. Get it to go. Go sit in a park. Then go to the museum. Oh wait, I can’t vouch for the new location yet–shall visit next year and let you know.
If all else fails, just bounce.