Not long ago I escaped to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a weekend of art, theater, food, and shopping – some of my favorite things!
Work has been horrendous and I’m writing a novel which means more time at the computer in the evenings. I needed a break, and I needed one NOW.
So I escaped over to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the weekend. It’s a little under two hours from my small town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, so it’s a super easy drive. I lived and worked in Grand Rapids years ago, so it’s also a way to revisit some favorite places and spaces.
Shop Til You Drop
My first stop is often Georgie’s Consignment in a Grand Rapids suburb called Ada. This is an upscale consignment store with exceptional service and selection. I snagged a pair of light grey NAOT sandals at about half off retail that made my feet and wallet very happy. The store is one of the oldest buildings in the small town, and is directly opposite the covered wooden bridge.
I stayed at the Hilton Homewood Suites on 28th Street. This was my first time staying in a Homewood Suites and I really enjoyed the larger sized room and convenient location. The room had a decent size kitchen/sitting area plus bedroom. Breakfast was included, too!
And, thinking ahead, I brought along some of those funky ice pack things from HelloFresh. I planned to stop into Trader Joe’s for unique grocery items I can’t get here in Mount Pleasant. Those ice packs stayed icy cold in the large fridge in the hotel room while I roamed and roamed.
The 28th Street location is a quick drive away from Woodland Mall, where I had to stop for an Olga’s meal for dinner. It’s not a fancy-schmancy dinner, but because I rarely get anywhere that has an Olga’s Kitchen, I almost always have one when I can: seasoned and broiled meat, tomatoes, onions, Olgasauce, and that divine bread.
I managed a shoe store just across East Beltline years ago. I didn’t much like the job at Gussini Shoes and ended up being fired, which set me on my way to Athens, Georgia and some interesting adventures.
That mall the shoe store was in got “reimagined into a hybrid mall/shopping center and it’s now known as “The Shops at Centerpoint.” I always stop at the Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, World Market, and other stores that my little town doesn’t have.
And it wouldn’t be shopping if I didn’t manage to do damage in the thrift stores along 29th Street. There are three that are a must for me every time: Goodwill, New2You, and Mel Trotter Ministries. After the thrift stores, I almost always hit up the independent Schuler Books on 28th Street, too; their café has scrumptious light lunches and refreshing drinks. And books, I bought books.
Beyond Van Gogh
The purpose of the weekend was to attend the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit downtown at Devos Place. This traveling art show was a thrill to see; it reminded me in some ways of the Van Gogh Museum that I’d visited even many more years ago in Amsterdam.
I loved how they told the story of the Van Gogh brothers, and of Vincent’s love of painting. Did you know that Don McLean wrote Starry Starry Night about Vincent Van Gogh? It played as part of the final section of the exhibit and brought tears to my eyes.
The exhibit was laid out in three darkened sections or “rooms.” Walls were formed by black curtains. Only the pictures and meticulous lighting illuminated your way.
The first room told the story; the second featured a waterfall effect with self-portraits, and the final had a 37-minute audio/video presentation. You could stay in each ‘room’ as long as you wanted.
The first room explored Vincent’s relationship with his brother, Theo, using letter excerpts.
The second room was smaller and showed a video ‘waterfall’ effect with accompanying music. I posted a video on Facebook and got a slap on the hand for copyright, so won’t share that video here.
The third room was the showstopper. Here’s a good idea of the size:
The paintings came to life and changed before your eyes, like this – a longer clip featuring the same visuals.
As I said, this room had a 37-minute loop, and it was fascinating to watch. Pictures were displayed on the floor, and on the wall. Music accompanied the entire thing.
Here are a couple of panoramic views of that third room.
Another panoramic photo showing self-portraits.
The rooms were all dark. In fact, the walkway from the final room to the gift shop was dark and illuminated only by green light. I played with the light and it reminded me so much of that classic Queen photo that I had to add add myself right into the picture (sorry not sorry John Deacon.)
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
In between Van Gogh and Mean Girls I had an hour or so to kill, so I went over to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to savor the opulence. I also had a sandwich (and then returned later for pizza.) It’s an easy (and totally inside) walk from DeVos to the Amway.
One of the cool things about downtown Grand Rapids is that there is a skywalk system that connects several buildings. No need to go outside when moving from one building to the other – a real help in the heat of summer or depths of winter. It’s a quick five minute walk via skyway from DeVos to the Amway.
I have to admit I was not familiar with the Mean Girls movie at all. But then I was looking for other things to do and Mean Girls was happening the same day as Beyond Van Gogh in the same building downtown so, why not. I watched the movie, and loved the high school theme – it was good ‘research’ for my novel in progress.
This musical was high energy and filled with lots of typical high school antics arranged around a book that “mean girls” put together about everyone else. Here’s the stage before the performance began.
I enjoyed being in a theater again; it’s my first since the darned pandemic put a stop to so much. I’m really glad that I saw the Mean Girls movie on Amazon Prime before seeing the play, though. This musical moved very fast and I might have been a little lost if I wasn’t kind of familiar with the movie.
Costco Saves The Day
After I got out of Mean Girls and had dinner, I went into the underground parking to my car and -uh oh- the check tire pressure gauge was on. I drove back to the hotel area, hit up TJ Maxx, and the noticed that the tire looked low. I stopped into a tire place, added air to the tire, then crossed my fingers it would hold overnight.
It was Saturday night. The tire place I stopped at was closed on Sunday, as was every other place I googled. Fortunately, Costco was nearby and had a tire center…but I didn’t have a Costco membership.
Sunday morning I scrambled to Costco, got a membership, and had my tire examined. Sure enough, there was a nail in that rear left tire, and the Costco tire crew took care of it for about $15. It took them more than an hour to take care of it, though, so –whoops– more shopping.
You’d better believe I stocked up on a few things at Costco, then headed over to Trader Joe’s for more yummy things to take home. There’s not a Trader Joe’s near me, either, so I loaded my car up with all sorts of goodies like Ube Spread, Lemon Curd, three different kinds of gnocchi, and more. Those frozen packs from Hello Fresh kept everything frozen truly frozen all the way home.
Find The Beautiful
In one of the photos above, I included a quote from an 1874 letter from artist Vincent to his brother, an art dealer, Theo. Vincent asks his brother to “”…find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.”
The weekend getaway to Grand Rapids was perfect for me and filled with the things I love. It was beautiful. Where do you find beauty?
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