Thursday, June 19, 2014

West Michigan Weekend Part III: Windmill Island Gardens

De Zwaan Windmill - Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]

When you visit Holland (Michigan, in this case--although, the Netherlands would also apply), it just makes sense to immerse yourself in some Dutch culture. And that's exactly what Brad and I did during the first full day of our Memorial Day/anniversary weekend trip. Starting the morning off right, we made our way to Windmill Island, home of the famous De Zwaan windmill.

De Zwaan Windmill - Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
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Built in the Netherlands in 1761, De Zwaan was brought over to the United States in the 1960s and to this day, is the only functioning, authentic Dutch windmill in the country. We enjoyed a tour inside of the windmill, starting at the bottom and working our way up through the tower to see the ins and outs of flour-making. It's amazing how much engineering goes into something we use in so many of our basic foods!


De Zwaan Windmill - Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
De Zwaan Windmill - Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]

After the tour, we meandered around the Windmill Island gardens, frolicking among tulips and admiring the lovely, little drawbridge. I even snuck up on these two sweet lovers:

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Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]

We stopped by some shops before heading out, where I got to enjoy my first wooden shoe trying-on experience. Maybe I was wearing the wrong size, but ouch--my feet were not meant for these things. I think for me, at least, wooden shoes may be best left to the Dutch (or painted and used as flower planters).

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After passing by an adorable carousel and saying hi to some peacocks (all part of the gardens), it was back to cute exteriors and more flowers. I couldn't get enough of the colors that day!
Tulips, pansies . . . there were even several unique plants to admire in the Windmill Island conservatory.

Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]
Windmill Island Gardens-[Wading in Big Shoes]

Can't you just imagine parking yourself at the gardens for an afternoon picnic or nap? Such a gorgeous place!

All good things must come to an end, though . . . and so we go on to our next adventure. Any guesses as to where we stopped next? Sound off in the comments below!

Friday, June 13, 2014

West Michigan Weekend Part II: The Baert Baron Mansion

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While I was excited for my surprise anniversary trip to Holland, I was even more excited by the fact that Brad had made reservations at a Bed and Breakfast (rather than the typical hotel). Before our recent excursion, I had never been to a B&B before, and knew very little about the concept other than what I'd once (or twice) seen in an episode of Gilmore Girls.

The lovely destination? Why, that would be the Baert Baron Mansion, a Victorian era home located just outside of Holland in Zeeland, Michigan. Built in 1872, the Baert Baron switched hands a few times throughout the years before being claimed by ​current owners Vic & Anna Van Deventer, who renovated, refurbished, and transformed the home into the getaway it is today. The mansion, which is nestled in a quiet neighborhood near a lovely downtown, caught our eye with its charm the moment we drove up.

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Inside, the mansion was decorated with all kinds of tokens from years gone by. I particularly loved looking at all of the old photos that covered the walls and sprinkled tabletops.


Word around the house was that the movie Return to the Hiding Place was actually filmed at the Baert Baron, and that a memorable scene took place in this very bedroom:



I haven't yet seen Return to the Hiding Place, so I can't vouch for it . . . but now I guess I need to go check it out! Has Michigan ever not been a mecca for movies?

Some of the other guests' rooms (they were nice enough to let us check them out):


And THIS was our room! So plush and comfy. My favorite part was all of the natural light that we got each morning (I am a window lover).


When we arrived, there were cookies, truffles, and other treats waiting for us in our room, plus a handwritten note welcoming us to the Baert Baron. I couldn't stop snapping photos of every single thing I saw (thus the zillion pictures in this post).

Our room was the only one without an attached bathroom, but we did have our own private bathroom just down the hallway. And of course, it was incredibly adorable . . . complete with one of those great stand-alone tubs you always see on Pinterest and in Better Homes & Gardens magazine.


Oh, and did I mention? . . . fresh flowers in every room.


We were also invited to spend time downstairs in the large common room, a lovely sitting area with antique furniture that was restored by the owners. This opened into the dining room, where--you guessed it--we were treated each morning to an amazing breakfast. We're talking homemade quiche, blueberry muffins fresh from the oven, fresh fruit, and all the hazelnut coffee your little self could ever want. All on a perfectly-set table that would rival any holiday dinner setup.


And then, there were the desserts. I wasn't expecting this to be included in our stay, but each afternoon, Anna would ask us what we'd prefer for dessert that evening. While the other guests enjoyed their treats sometime after dinner, Brad and I were out both nights when it was time to chow down. So, rather than letting us miss out, Anna made sure to set our desserts aside for when we returned. She even left little notes on the door letting us know where to find them. When we got back in, I understood just how perfect life can be when you're kicked back on a comfy bed at 1 a.m. and armed with a plate of chocolate mousse.



Besides enjoying the house itself, Brad and I were pleased to get to know the Van Deventers and hang out with the other guests. What I discovered about the whole Bed and Breakfast thing is that you have the opportunity to meet some great people (particularly through conversation every morning at the breakfast table). By the end, we were talking like old friends and showing each other little discoveries we'd made during our stay in the house. The girls even shopped together in Anna's downstairs jewelry shop (profits go to end human trafficking), while the guys talked cars, investments, and other manly topics. Plus, every couple there that weekend was celebrating an anniversary, so we all shared some common ground (yay, May weddings!). 

It was a little bittersweet to say goodbye to the Baert Baron at the end of the weekend, but more adventures awaited us. And yes, I will be back to tell you all about them.

Have you ever stayed at a Bed and Breakfast? Was it a lot like the Baert Baron or completely different? Comment below with your story!

Friday, May 30, 2014

West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland

Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
To celebrate our third wedding anniversary, Brad and I took a trip to Holland (Michigan, not the Netherlands) over Memorial Day weekend. Our weekend was so jam-packed, I'm going to need a few posts to talk about it . . . so let part one begin!

We arrived last Friday night at a local bed and breakfast (I can't wait to tell you about this adorable place in an upcoming post), then swung by Salt & Pepper for some live music, delicious sandwiches, and a complimentary appetizer (coupon arranged through a collaboration between Salt & Pepper and our B&B). Two words: Idaho Nachos (really waffle fries smothered in cheese and bacon). It's more than too much for two people, but it's the tastiest unhealthy thing you'll ever eat. Trust me on this one.

Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
Wading in Big Shoes - West Michigan Weekend Part I: Arrival in Holland
Clockwise from top left: Salt & Pepper's Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Idaho Nachos, and Blackjack Burger
After dinner, we took a short drive to hang out by the water, but because it was pretty chilly, we switched gears and detoured to the movie theater for a late showing of Godzilla. Totally fine, though, because we still had plenty of time the next day to explore the city (but more on that later).

How did you spend your Memorial Day weekend? Comment below and keep an eye out for upcoming posts on our Holland excursion!

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