Monday, June 25, 2012

Holland, MI (+ a video!)

Holland, MI was not actually on our original trip route.  While in Grand Rapids, we came across brochures for Holland and I was completely won over - a cute town on the lake with a nod to the Netherlands and 125 miles of paved bike paths, sign me up! Fun fact: Holland, MI was settled in 1847 by Dutch escaping persecution in the Netherlands for their beliefs (there are many businesses in town named Van Somethings). It was a fun change of pace to randomly come across a town and like it so much to decide to stay a couple days.

When we first got to town we took time to walk around the downtown area where there are a lot of shops and restaurants, and we wandered over to the weekly farmers market, where it seemed that all the town residents were gathered - a popular place to be.

A few years ago we went to Amsterdam and fell hard for the city. I was set on the opportunity to relive a little bit of that trip, so we went to Dutch Village for a couple hours.  The park is definitely more for kids than for adults, and it was all a bit corny and overdone, but we had a good time nonetheless. We bought some cheese, visited with the animals, watched some traditional Dutch dancing (video below!) and were sorely disappointed that we missed the tulips in bloom.

Since we were enjoying the vibe of the town so much, we decided to set up camp for the night.  This was our first time camping for the trip and we were both excited to set up the tent and just chill. We did manage to burn our dinner on the campfire, but at least I had set a pretty table to eat it on!  One thing we were completely blown away by were the campground bathrooms (we are so bummed we didn't get a photo).  They were nicer than any hotel we've ever stayed at - separate shower stalls with benches, mirrors, the works. If you ever find yourself camping in Holland, the bathrooms at Holland State Park are totally worth the $27 camping fee.

The campsite was directly across the street from Lake Macatawa and a mile down the road from Lake Michigan. Taras jumped into Lake Macatawa for a few minutes - I think the water temperature was somewhere in the high 50s - brrrr! This whole lake area of Holland was a total beach town - cyclists everywhere, beach shack restaurants, rollerbladers, and a little boardwalk. In the evening, the whole town congregates at the state park's beach on Lake Michigan to watch the sunset. Near the Big Red Lighthouse there's a rock wall/concrete dock that goes out into the lake - couples and families claim rocks and just enjoy the view.  We particularly enjoyed watching all the tiny fish jump to the water's surface to feed. We noticed this was even a popular hangout for the high school kids, as we watched one of those kids ride his skateboard off the dock and into the lake, doing a flip in the air - totally wish we were prepped to video that!

Our last morning in town we took advantage of the bike trails in the area and did a 20 mile ride. The ride took us a little bit through the town, then out into more rural areas where we rode past farms, and finally up near the lake where there were too many adorable houses to count. The ride was a good mix of fun, curving roads, some uphills, and a good amount of shaded areas - and the smell of spring flowers in bloom were a great bonus.


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