We're on vacation.
I say this partially to inform you of the fact and partially to remind myself of it because, really, leaving the house with kids... not exactly a vacation*. As my friend Lauren's friend Jenny once said: trips with young children can be fun but they are not relaxing. There's a reason why people without children always cite Travel as one of the first of many things they do with all of the hours they spend not assisting small people in the bathroom.
We decided not to go to Colorado due to flame, smoke and ash so Steve and I took a road atlas with us to dinner last Friday and thought about where to go. I used my thumb and pointer finger to estimate a radius from Minneapolis that approximated the distance to Colorado and then suggested New Orleans.
"Ha," said Steve, but not unkindly. "How about driving around Lake Superior."
I said, Memphis?
Steve said there was no way he was going south, let alone South, in July and repeated his desire to circumnavigate Gichigami.
I suggested Cherokee County Alabama but I wasn't really expecting it to pass even with a quorum and then I noticed that Mackinac Island is right at the top of Lake Superior and everything fell into place. Mackinac has no cars, lots of fudge and oodles of charming Victorian architecture and ever since I visited the island once as a child I have thought that a few days at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel would epitomize the elegance and grandeur of a bygone age. We called, they had space, we went.
We were underwhelmed by the Grand Hotel. So underwhelmed that we have come up with a new slogan for the place. Mackinac's Grand Hotel: Only Slightly Better Than a Forest Fire. It's a quasi-all-inclusive hotel/resort that requires coat and tie after 6 pm and - despite lauding itself as a family favorite for over 100 years - it does its best to discourage the presence of actual children. They have a kids' program for example that allows parents to have dinner alone but they only take kids over the age of five. FIVE! That's, like, almost the age when you no longer need to get rid of them in order to eat. They did agree to take Caroline and Edward one night but Edward was subsequently banned. Yeah. Edward.
Anyway, I didn't really mind the authentic itty-bitty turn of the century sized room or the inauthentic late 80s-meets drag Queen Victoria decor but the service ranged from indifferent to surly, the food was really mediocre and the whole thing was so outrageously expensive that it was hard not to keep calculating fun per minute per dollar ratios and feel like we were being shafted.
So Mackinac Island is lovely but the Grand Hotel was a disappointment. When I checked in the guy at the reservations desk was so hostile that I was too afraid to draw his attention to the sign behind him that offered me a free stay if he failed to smile. I thought he would shiv me. Ten thumbs down.
On the plus side Patrick was devastating in his evening blazer
the proprietary Big Porch Ale (made by Bell's) was excellent
and the tiny room led to a series of musical beds that resulted in a photo of Edward and Steve all snuggly-sleeping.
So that was that.
On the way the timing was especially fortuitous and we were able to stay a night with friends at their amazing place on the Upper Penisula. It was so fun. Multiple familes and lots of kids and water and swimming and boats and beer (on draft!) and a great dinner. We were sorry to leave.
After Mackinac we headed into Canada. Last summer we were awestruck by the Canadian Rockies and this time we were floored by the remote beauty of their side of Lake Superior.
Caroline fell into the lake. Twice. I had so many items of wet clothing hanging over the shower rail last night that Edward refused to go pee because "it was raining in the bathroom."
We spent a night in Marathon, which was nothing special although it currently ranks as the worst family dining experience we have ever had. The restaurant staff was so harried and confused that a four-top in the corner near us waited over an hour and a half for sandwiches that still hadn't arrived by the time we left. It took us two hours to get food and then only part of our meal showed up. Edward spilled water and then Patrick spilled lemonade and finally the waitress slipped and spilled lemonade all over Patrick who burst into tears. Edward burst into tears. Caroline burst into tears. I alternately scolded, bribed and cajoled. Steve threatened dire consequences upon us all. Caroline and Edward cried harder and louder until I bodily removed them to the parking lot where the three of us crouched in the hot car and ate bread and ham out of a cooler.
For the record the Grand Hotel was STILL the low point of the trip.
Last night we went to Thunder Bay or Thundery Bay as Edward calls it. It rained and was quite pretty, especially down by the waterfront.
I had never seen a splash pad before but I think they are brilliant. Public fountains always seem to be made for wading and yet you're never allowed to do so. The idea of a purpose built one like this delights me. We did tell the kids to just wade and try not to get their clothes wet since we all had to get back into the car but... that worked pretty much as could have been expected.
As ever I love Canada. If Canadaphile is a word (Canadiphile looks a bit too much like candidia, no?) then I am one.
Tonight we are at the Lutsen resort north of Duluth. It's right on the lake and lovely.
Nothing like what we had planned for Colorado but all in all a very pleasant trip. I've never been this far north in Minnesota and I definitely want to come back. It's spectacular.
* Except Tyler Place. Tyler Place was an actual vacation. I cannot wait to go back.
PS Despite looking like this
Edward was actually negative for pertussis. So outbreak in our area, check, Edward experiencing respiratory distress, check. But no pertussis. I think Edward gets sinus infections like Patrick. Stealth ones. I also think that both of them have benefited from antibiotics but they are now in a vicious cycle with them in which the natural immunities that reside in the gut get wiped out by antibiotics and leave them more susceptible to future infections. I am trying to be really agressive with probiotics and limiting what we treat but it's hard. They get sick and just... stay sick.
Oh and although it was apparently completely irrelevant to Edward's situation, I thought the vaccine discussion was lively and informative and I thank you for it.