Birthday in Holland (Michigan, that is)

111508 City Flats (1)

What's the greatest birthday gift a girl could wish for? Or, more specifically, this girl could wish for? How about unlimited time in an ultra-cool, super-deep soaking tub with little else to do but relax, read and enjoy.

111508 City Flats (3)

And that's precisely what I got. Chris whisked me away on Saturday to a surprise destination. Turned out to be the high design Euro-style City Flats Hotel in the perhaps unlikely location of Holland, Michigan. Check out the coolness:

111608 City Flats (6)

The fancy neon lights in the lobby and the ultra mod-looking, funky and totally uncomfortable chairs.

111608 City Flats (1)

I loved, loved, loved these botanical style green and brown panels in the hallways. I'd adore some fabric like this for our house.

111608 City Flats (3)

Hotel lobby bar. Needless to say, on a November weekend, the hotel wasn't exactly packed, but there were a few revelers here on Saturday night.

111608 City Flats (5)

I fell in love with these light fixtures, crazy messes of curly wire. Too cool.

Holland's just a couple of hours west of Ann Arbor, not far from Saugatuck, where we spent a weekend last November. (We seem to pick the coldest, greyest weekends for our getaways.) It's known for its Dutch heritage, obviously, and its annual tulip time festival which, as you can probably guess, doesn't take place in mid-November. It's also heavily Dutch reformist which means that the town basically shuts down on Sundays. Thus our plan to spend part of Sunday exploring the charming but tiny two-block downtown was canceled.

We asked the eager and youthful help at the hotel's front desk what people in Holland do on Sundays and they said, "Go to Saugatuck." So we thought we'd do that. But we had a couple of stops before that. From the window of our hotel we spied a giant scrap heap in the distance and I figured it'd make for some good and interesting photos. We were surprised to find the gates to the scrap yard were wide open and we could drive right in. (Although we later discovered the hidden cost.)

111608 Holland Scrap (2)

I think it's fascinating to view these giant piles of weird, odd shapes and think that they all served some purpose at some point and are now on their way to being something else.

111608 Holland Scrap (10)

111608 Holland Scrap (11)

The road outside the metal yard was dotted with some odd scrap metal sculptures that, upon looking at these pictures, I realize aren't actually that interesting.

111608 Holland Scrap (4)

111608 Holland Scrap (6)

Once my scrap metal jones was met we were slated to hit the road to travel the 20 miles or so to Saugatuck. But before we did I convinced Chris we needed to check out what I suspected was a corny little attraction called The Old Dutch shops. I was right. It was a cheese fest. A closed cheese fest. Of which I have no photos, because we were distracted by the realization we had a flat tire.

Yes, the price for the scrap metal photos was a thin, long shard of metal in the right rear tire. Which meant that instead of heading for Saugatuck, we had to kill two hours at an outlet mall and shopping strip.

By the time the wheel was patched (a mere $10 repair, thank you very much), there wasn't much daylight left. We decided that we wanted to take a gander at Lake Michigan and, on the auto mechanic's advice, drove the 18 miles to Grand Haven instead of Saugatuck, for a little more direct beach access.

111608 Grand Haven (3)

There was barely any sunlight left but the sky had been dark grey and moody all day anyway, letting out random flurries of snow here and there. We braved the cold wind for the briefest of walks on the beach, whipped by the wind, watching the waves raging across Lake Michigan. Then we retreated to the warmth of the car and watched the Lake until there wasn't enough light left.

111608 Grand Haven (9)

111608 Grand Haven (6)

We headed back to the hotel. There were more baths. More relaxing. And, best of all, more of Chris' time, with him completely unplugged from work. That was the best of all the birthday treats he lavished me with. Well, that and the morning bath I took on Monday before heading home, from which I watched snow fall on the crazy little town of Holland, Michigan.

111508 City Flats (10)

(As always, there are more photos the hotel, scrap metal, etc. on my Flickr page.)