When we are selecting a travel destination, the thought of visiting new places is captivating. We look forward to immersing ourselves in places we’ve never seen, eating at restaurants where we’ve never dined before, and experiencing communities of people new to us.
But returning to places with which we are already familiar brings its own sense of enjoyment. Of comfort. Most of us have a place to which we relish returning. Perhaps it’s Myrtle Beach. Gatlinburg. Disney. For me, that place is Petoskey, Mich., where my sister and her husband make their home on Crooked Lake.
Bayfront Park on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay encapsulates a great representation of all the alluring characteristics of the city of Petoskey. A walk along the promenade quickly reminds us we are right there on the water. The marina, a playground, athletic fields, walking and cycling paths that wrap around the water’s edge are all there for us to enjoy.
A short walk away are the downtown shops, like Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts and the book store, McLean and Eakin, where it’s easy to rub elbows with authors and fellow lovers of books. There are two great coffee shops, North Perk Coffee and Roast and Toast, where the toughest decision we have to make is whether or not to drink the coffee there or to take it along while we continue to explore the myriad of unique shops and streets of the inviting community.
A newly-erected statue in the park next to The City Park Grill honors one of the city’s most frequent guests, author Ernest Hemingway. While many people associate the Nobel Laureate with Cuba, Key West, Paris and even Idaho, where he is buried, Northern Michigan was the summer home to the author and his family, who crossed Lake Michigan from Oak Park, Illinois, to a small cottage, “Windemere” on Walloon Lake in the early 1900s. He wrote several short stories set in Northern Michigan, and in Petoskey, he recuperated from injuries sustained in World War II. Hemingway spent a great deal of time writing at The City Park Grill, and at the Little Traverse Historical Museum, there is a permanent display dedicated to the almost 20 summers he and his family spent in the area.
Although Petoskey has a host of restaurants, a trip isn’t complete without a visit to The Side Door. The owners are available and approachable, and they love to ensure the satisfaction of their guests. We like to order one of the specialties, an olive burger, and eat it alongside the backdrop of several televisions tuned into sports, usually the Tigers instead of the Reds or hockey instead of basketball, though. Just depends upon when we’re there. For lunch and a view of the bay, Cormack’s Deli is our go-to place. The menu is crazy creative, but the only sandwich for me is the namesake of the city, The Petoskey: smoked turkey, cole slaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on honey wheat.
As enamoured as I am with the offerings of the city, I can just as easily spend the day on Lake Michigan at Petoskey State Park Beach, where the water gives new meaning to cool and crystal-clear. Stones smoothed by the constant lapping of the water line the shore, and one of everyone’s favorite pastimes is to wade through the shallowest of water looking for beautiful stones. The most coveted stone to discover, of course, is the Petoskey Stone, which is actually a fossilized coral with distinctive six-sided patterns covering its surface.
To feel like a true local, we stop in at Bill’s Farm Market, which is open mid-June through Christmas. A family farm for over 100 years, the fresh seasonal produce gives one a literal taste of Northern Michigan. We pick up flowers and produce in spring and summer and pumpkins and squash in the fall. At Christmas, the farm offers trees and wreaths.
The bay, the burgers, the beach. The streets and the market. Familiarity and comfort. As tempting as the thought of traveling to new destinations can be, it can provide neither the comfort or the familiarity of that place to which we choose to return.
(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected].)