Monday, July 4, 2011

How To Enjoy a Long Holiday Weekend in St Joseph (Day 4)

Day Four

Today's breakfast was at the lake, but not at the beach. I'll treat you to a different view of beautiful Lake Michigan this time. This is the view from Lookout Park along Red Arrow Highway.

I really should do a panorama view from this park one of these days. But until then, here's another view. The fish must have been biting in the area because you can see several groups of fishing boats clustered on the lake.

And you can see the lighthouses from here too even though this area is about 3 miles from downtown.

St Joseph is without a doubt the most patriot town I've ever seen. Most of the houses in town fly the American flag for the holiday. Lake Bluff Park is lined with flags, as are the cemeteries around town. And one of the many activities in town on the Fourth of July Parade featuring the area children.

The parade started at 10:30am and went down State Street. Some rode bikes...
Pulled wagons...
Walked dogs...
Were pulled in wagons...
Or walked with friends...
There was a great turnout!

After the parade was over, D and I did some shopping in town. There's a new store at the corner of State Street and Broad Street... Lana's Boutique.

We stopped in to check it out.
I found lots of lovely fashions and some very stylish sandals I just had to have. The sales staff was friendly and it was a nice shopping experience.

After we were done shopping it was time for lunch. Since it was a picture perfect day to be by the lake, there was no better place for lunch than the outdoor cafe at Schu's.

D and I enjoyed lunch by the lake and were amused and entertained watching the pedestrian and street traffic go by. There were lots of families at Lake Bluff Park, some staking out their spot for the evening's fireworks.

After lunch we treated ourselves to a Chocolate Eruption at the Chocolate Cafe on State Street.

They have outdoor seating as well and we enjoyed that experience too.

After our delightful morning in town, we decided we needed some hydro-solar therapy (catching some rays and taking a dip). We thought about going to the beach but decided to head back to our condo and spend some time at the pool instead.

We didn't take in the fireworks this year but I'm sure they were wonderful, as always. We've seen them before and enjoyed them tremendously. 

So, now you've seen how we can fill a 4-day holiday weekend in St Joseph. If we'd had 8 days in town, we could have easily filled 4 more days with visits to wineries, museums, South Haven (just 30 minutes north on Red Arrow Highway), more sunsets (no two are the same!), a ride on the carousel, the Krasl Art Center, the nature center, and more!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How To Enjoy a Long Holiday Weekend in St Joseph (Day 3)

Day Three

No breakfast at the lake this morning. Instead we headed to Benton Harbor for breakfast at Sophia's House of Pancakes (just off I-94 at the Pipestone Rd exit). This place has the best breakfasts around. The portions are generous, the prices are reasonable, and the food is fantastic!

After breakfast we headed back to St Joseph for the Antiques on the Bluff. This flea market is held the first Sunday of each month, May-October. This is a wonderful way to while away some time while you stroll the beautiful Lake Bluff Park overlooking Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and there were crowds on hand to shop from the merchants.

This isn't just antiques, there are all kinds of collectibles and just plain junk there too. Something for everyone. You know what they say, "one man's trash is another man's treasure"!

The vendors are all friendly and helpful. Even if you're not interested in shopping, it's a great place to go just to people-watch.

By the time we had strolled from one end of the park to the other and back we were ready to go. I got lucky and found a lovely set of bird salt and pepper shakers, just what I'd been looking for!

We made our way home for lunch and prepared another great salad using the fresh fruit we bought yesterday. It tasted just as good today!

What next? Time for a road trip! We decided to make the short drive down to the Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall in Michigan City, Indiana. It's about 40 miles from St Joseph. You can take I-94 down there and make good time, but it's ever more fun to take Red Arrow Highway. That's what we did.

Red Arrow Highway makes its way through a number of small towns and interesting spots along the way. You'll pass Warren Dunes State Park. There's a great beach there and a big sand dune to climb if you're so inclined.

One of the small towns you'll pass through is Harbert, where the beach umbrellas are on display. There is a competition for these hand painted creations in August.

There are several along the sides of the road. They are so colorful and welcoming.

The outlet mall was a popular place today.

In fact, I've never seen it busier. This is very good news considering the state of the economy!

There is a nice variety of stores at the mall. D and I hit our favorites, Crocs, PacSun, Bath and Body Works, Cold Water Creek, and the Coach store. We found some great deals (including an additional 30% off at the Coach store ;-) and headed home with lots of packages. Helping out the economy in our own little way. :-)

By the time we were heading home it was dinner time. There are lots of art galleries, antique stores, boutiques, and restaurants along Red Arrow Highway so we decided to drive back that way too. D and I really like to try new (to us) restaurants so we thought we choose one we hadn't been to before.

The restaurant we decided on was Redamak's on Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo. Redamak's has been a fixture in that town since 1946. The parking lot was packed. There were lots of people milling around. All signs of a good restaurant.

There was a short wait to be seated in the main section of the restaurant and no wait for the porch. We opted for the porch. The weather was nice and mild and we weren't uncomfortable without air conditioning.

The menus are cute and full of lots of choices, but Redamak's is famous for their burgers. I like a good burger so that's what I choose... a single with Swiss cheese and grilled onion, and a side of sweet potato fries. (It didn't photograph well because they wrap each burger in wax paper and the cheese stuck to it.)

D chose a Chicago-style beef sandwich and regular fries.

We were both happy with our meals and we'd stop there again if we were passing by but we wouldn't make a trip down there just for their burgers. They're good, but no better than the burgers at Roxy's in St Joseph.

We made our way back home and once again we stopped for an ice cream cone at the Dairy Korner before heading down to Silver Beach to watch the sunset. We weren't sure we'd actually see the sun set because the sky was clouded over but we figured we'd just people-watch along the beach anyway.

We never did see the sun but the twilight show after sunset was awesome! Sometimes you just have be patient and wait for Mother Nature's show. This evening's was spectacular. It was one of the most dramatic sunsets/twilights I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few. The cloud patterns were stratified and highlighted in dramatic reds, oranges, and yellows. The sight was magical and breathtaking all at once. Such a great show! Here's one photo for you. You'll have to visit my photography blog to see the entire series of this day's sunset pics. Don't miss it! It's worth seeing, really!

And so ends another wonderful day in St Joseph...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How To Enjoy a Long Holiday Weekend in St Joseph (Day 2)

Day Two

What a difference a day makes. The sun was shining this morning and people were heading out to the beach early. The forecast was for 90 degrees and sunny.

But summer means more than great beaches in Southwest Michigan. It means lots and lots of fantastic fresh produce as well. Southwest Michigan is known as the "fruit belt" of Michigan for good reason. There are orchards and farms all over the area.

After breakfast at the beach, we started out with a drive to Coloma, to Fruit Acres, where the picking season has begun. The u-pick farm is off exit 39 on Friday Rd. But the owners have a fruit stand right at the exit (south of the freeway). We stopped in and bought some fresh cherries and raspberries.

Then we drove up Friday Rd. to the farm to take a few pictures.

After buying this wonderful fruit we headed home to make lunch... salads topped with fresh cherries and raspberries! YUM!

It was a hot and humid day so after lunch we headed to the beach. Lake Michigan is still a bit cold, water temps in the 60s, but it's not bad when you get used to it. D and I spent some time in the lake and some time laying out on the warm sand beach (Lion's Park beach). Ahhh, summer.

After an afternoon at the beach, we showered up and had dinner at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Stevensville. Good southern cooking and shopping there. For dessert we headed to our favorite soft serve ice cream stand, Dairy Korner in St. Joseph.

We ended the day with the most popular evening activity in St Joseph, watching the sunset over Lake Michigan. The golden rays of the setting sun cast a warm glow on Silver Beach as people made their ways home.

One popular spot for viewing the sunset is along the south pier, next to Silver Beach. The pier fills up with folks of all ages.

Just across the St Joseph River channel is the north pier with the famous lighthouses.

Be sure to bring your camera if you decide to watch the sunset. It is so beautiful and you'll want to remember it. As the sun sets the light and colors will change every few minutes.

Once the sun goes down the crowds leave the pier and another day on the lake comes to an end.

Friday, July 1, 2011

How To Enjoy a Long Holiday Weekend in St Joseph (Day 1)

Day One

As luck would have it, the first day of our long Fourth of July weekend was a rainy day. Not a problem. There's plenty to do indoors and outdoors in the area.

We started our day with breakfast by the lake. Yes, it was raining. Lightening too. But we didn't mind. We stopped at a local McDonald's and got a carryout breakfast (I love their oatmeal) then we drove to Lion's Park Beach. This is now a pay-to-park area which is patrolled and you will be ticketed if you don't pay the $5.00 fee on the spot or buy a season pass at the St Joseph City Hall. We have a season pass so we were free to park in the lot and watch Mother Nature's lightening storm over the lake. It was awesome! If you've never watched a storm over the big lake, be prepared for one terrific light show!

As soon as we finished eating, we got out our cameras. D and I love to make a game of trying to photograph lightening bolts over the lake with the lighthouses in the background. Hey, it's harder than you think! Give it a try and see what you can do. Here are a couple of my lucky shots.

After our photography fun, we ran some errands and stopped at the new Meijer store in Stevensville. It's just a ways south on Red Arrow Highway from St Joseph. This store is new and just opened in May of this year. It's clean, neat, and a pleasure to shop at.

Once we finished our errands and shopping it was time for lunch. D and I decided to check out a new restaurant. It's not new to the area, just to us. We pass by it all the time and decided it was time to stop in. The restaurant is Baguette de France on Hilltop Rd. just west of Washington in the strip mall with Papa Vino's restaurant. This restaurant was recommended to us by family members who are vegans (no meat, no dairy). We have a few vegans and vegetarians in the family now and it's always a challenge to feed them. So we're always on the lookout for restaurant options.

I'm happy to say that we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was here. The menu is limited to subs and salads but the subs are made with baguettes and you'd be surprised what a difference that makes.
I had the Hawiian Chicken (left) and D had the roast beef (right). We both enjoyed our sandwiches. Mine was sliced chicken (lunch meat, not a whole breast), a slice of pineapple, lettuce, Swiss cheese, and a touch of their garlic sauce (which is like a Ranch salad dressing with garlic in it) on a warm whole grain baguette. They have a meat-free version of this as well. Yummy!

Since it was still raining when we finished lunch (in spite of weather forecasts to the contrary ;-) we decided to take in a movie. Off to Celebration Cinema in Benton Harbor we went. I'm an unabashed fan of rom-coms (romantic comedies) and it just so happens a new one opened this day. We saw Larry Crowne, starring Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. Don't bother reading the reviews on this movie. The movie critics ALWAYS pan rom-coms. I think it's a law or something. Anyway, if you like an engaging, lighthearted movie with a happy ending, go see this movie. You won't be sorry. I promise.

By the time the movie was over, it was time to think about dinner. Clementine's Too is a favorite restaurant of ours in St Joe. We go there often but we hadn't been there since they remodeled it in early June. That seemed like a good reason to go there for dinner. The thing about Clementine's is, if you don't want to stand in line for a table you have to get there before 6pm on the weekend. After 6pm, there's always a line.

D and I got to Clementine's about 5pm so no line to be seated. :-) The wait staff there are always polite, friendly, and prompt when it comes to serving. So we placed our orders right away and then I had a few minutes to take in the decor before we were served. OK, I was not impressed. The new decor looks just like the interior of a Panera Bread cafe... earth tones and contemporary styling. Dingy mustard yellow and rusty red walls were lighted by simple round ceiling lights. Nice for a restaurant that features bread, out of place for a restaurant on the river next to a marina. The old decor was nautical and very fitting. The new decor is simply boring.

The old uncomfortable church-pew booth seating was replaced. It's all nice and new church-pew seating now. Just as uncomfortable as the old seating though. That's a real disappointment. The lack of any art on the walls is disappointing too.

I'm happy to report that the food is just as good though! I had my usual favorite, the Red Rooster (strawberry-walnut chicken breast with rice and broccoli and garlic toast. D had the Friday special, prime rib. We shared an apple dumpling with ice cream for dessert. Mmmm, good!

After dinner we took another drive by the lake and low and behold, the sun came out (sort of, in a hazy kind of way)!
It was a lovely note to end a dreary day on. And any day here in St Joseph is better than a day spent anywhere else. :-)