The Romantic Gringo

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lakes Superior and Michigan, Plus an Upper Peninsula Quarry

Although this blog is supposed to stay focused on charming and frugal accommodations, R.G. is making an exception with this post. She just got back from a week in the Upper Peninsula and on the west coast of Michigan. While her living situations were either not charming or not frugal, she feels she should give Michigan a boost as a vacation destination. It is, in a word, gorgeous.

The first photo is of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which runs along 12 miles of the south side of Lake Superior. The rocks are sandstone cliffs, reaching heights of 200 feet, cut by glaciers millions of years ago. The second photo specifies a beach to which R.G., her brother, cousin, cousin's family, and friends pontooned. It was, as you can see, virtually uninhabited, the sand fine, and the water turquoise and surprisingly tepid. Lake Superior has a reputation as the coldest of the Great Lakes by many degrees.

R.G.'s clan spend most of their vacation at a duney paradise on Lake Michigan, on the south side of the Upper Peninsula near Brevort. R.G., alas, has no photos of that beach. She does, however, have this photo (third) of a spring-fed, limestone quarry a few miles north of Epoufette Bay, in which they swam and cliff-dove one perfect day. Chances are, the water was drinkable, although no one drank it. Clear as glass, it had cool boulders on the bottom.

On their way back to Detroit, R.G and her brother stopped off at their friends' Lake Michigan rental near Harbor Springs in the lower peninsula. The beach was private, meaning people could walk by but not plop their towels down, and the second day they didn't see one other person. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the Great Lakes.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Montmartre, Paris

R.G. was recently off to France for her friends' wedding in the Loire Valley, and she popped into Paris on the way there and back avec her ami, T.P. The photos from the last time she stayed in old hotels of the City of Lights went missing, so it was very important that R.G. get a good place to document.

And so she did. The Grand Hotel de Clermont is absolutely perfect for R.G.'s purposes: on a quiet street in Montmartre, R.G.'s favorite neighborhood; the first residence of Edith Piaf as a young, busking teenager (R.G. forgot to ask for her room); firm mattresses (T.P. says hard); TV-free; 38 Euros for a double; and above arguably the best bar in Paris.

The bar is a real selling point. If you abstain, the Clermont loses some pull. The bartender is friendly but cool, the clientele is all local, the interior is charming and the music great old French standards as opposed to ubiquitous Euro crap. Even though their combined French is not impressive, R.G. and T.P. met many cheerful drunken folk, and, when they left the next night to broaden their horizons around the corner, they ran into many of the same revelers as if the party had not stopped. And that was a Monday and a Tuesday.

Grand Hotel de Clermont, 18 Rue Veron, (33) 1 46 06 40 99,, no credit cards.