Humor Travel Life
I’d argue that summer is the best time to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan. The weather is the warmest and sunniest you’ll get all year, allowing you the chance to see West Michigan in all its glory. Plus, working remotely full-time as a writer, I was able to travel to ‘The Mitten’ for a substantial 2-week trip.
I left Los Angeles on a red-eye flight out of LAX airport. Red-eye flights seem like a great idea; you sleep on the plane and arrive at your destination in the morning. But that only works if you can actually fall asleep on airplanes. It’s never been something I’m good at. I’ll close my eyes, feel unbelievably tired, and still can’t manage to doze off. And when you can’t sleep on an overnight flight with no movies and you’re too tired to read, you’re left counting the minutes until it’s time to land.
Rather than be nervous about not sleeping, though, I was more concerned of encountering someone who’d throw a fit about masks, requiring us to make an emergency landing in Nebraska or somewhere. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. And despite the emergence of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, the vaccine did give me a stronger peace of mind while stuck in an aircraft 30,000 miles above the ground with a bunch of strangers.
After landing in GR, I had a busy day ahead of fixing the awful haircut I had received at an LA Supercuts. I had an appointment at Cheeky Strut, a trendy hair salon in downtown Grand Rapids that had employees and customers who seemed more ‘LA’ than me. I listened as the woman getting her hair done across from me talked about her fancy Europe vacations in the tone of a Kardashian. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have appreciated some of my hostel suggestions…
The next day I went to check out downtown Grand Rapids and wandered into a local store on Monroe Center, Oh, Hello Co. Paper & Gifts. I saw a sign out front notifying people that there was a dog in the store, and immediately upon entering the store, the most adorable golden retriever came right up to me. As someone who loves dogs, especially golden retrievers, I was in retail heaven. The dog, Bancroft, was even decked out in his special Fourth of July bandana, further adding to the cuteness of it all.
I looked around the store, which had so many great items, but my attention kept getting diverted to sweet Bancroft, who was so excited to say hello. Eventually, I settled on some earrings and left the store, though I could have easily hung out with Bancroft for hours.
The following day was the primary reason for my visit: my dad’s 70 birthday party. To be safe, we had an outdoor gathering which was mostly family and a few of his close friends. And let me tell you, no one is more weirdly invested in whether you get married and have babies than random friends of your parents.
Meanwhile, my Fourth of July experience being back in Michigan was mostly marked by my sheer annoyance of fireworks, particularly from my parents’ unruly neighbor who seems to enjoy doing them unnervingly close to our house.
When Monday rolled around it was back to work for me. One thing I love about remote work is the ability to do your job in coffee shops from time to time. I initially hit up Wealthy Street Bakery, but immediately wish I would’ve packed a coat. That’s the thing about Michigan in the summer: businesses will blast the AC when it’s barely 80 degrees. So, you go in with your summer attire, only to freeze your tuchus off. Later that week I also made my way to The Bitter End, a coffee shop on the west side of town that was slightly less chilly. While I love both coffee shops, The Bitter End is a better working environment since it’s quieter.
I was also able to get in some delicious food during my stay. I caught up with some friends for tacos and margaritas at Condado Taco on Bridge St.
For those of us who grew up in Grand Rapids, it’s surreal to see how GR’s west side, particularly Bridge St, has changed in the last decade. What was once a sketchy area, has now become a popular row of bars and restaurants that is especially busy during summer and has some nice outdoor seating.
Condado Tacos is one of the newer businesses in the area. In general, the venue definitely caters toward the 20-something crowd, but it’s a great find and is very inexpensive. Not only did they have excellent margaritas, but you can build your own tacos. Two tacos will easily fill you up!
I also grabbed breakfast with my mom at Cherie Inn, which is located in Eastown Grand Rapids. This is actually the city’s oldest restaurant. Prices were great and the food was amazing. I had the Lake Drive Omelet with toast. They give you a lot of food, so I definitely recommend splitting a plate with someone.
One of my favorite experiences, however, was visiting Happy Cat Café on Division Street. Here you can book a 1-hour time slot to sip coffee and hang out with some adorable kittens who are up for adoption. You are welcome to still visit even if you’re not planning to adopt, though.
$25 gets you 1 hour with the cats, but you have to pay extra for beverages. An hour was plenty of time. Plus, how many chances do you get to play in a room of adorable kittens?
Dad and I also got in some great hikes at Pickerel Lake and Saugatuck. When we went to Saugatuck, we were hoping to see some of town as well, but it seemed everyone else had the same idea so parking was non-existent. If you go here during summer, try to go either earlier in the day to snag a parking spot or on a weekday instead of the weekend.
Despite the mosquito bites and rainy weather, it was a nice trip, and it was nice to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time due to Covid.
During my trip back to Los Angeles, my second flight out of Chicago was one of those massive planes they typically use for overseas trips. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover this aircraft comes with built-in entertainment, so I was able to watch a few movies on the way home which helped the time fly by.
It turns out we did have a middle-aged man on this flight giving the staff some grievance over masks, but thankfully, it didn’t result in us having to make an unexpected landing.
It’s an interesting time when kids on planes are better behaved than some of the adults. My heart goes out to these flight attendants. Any type of customer service job is tough, made worse by the pandemic, which is why I encourage us to be extra kind as I’m sure they’ve dealt with their fair share of stress this past year and a half.
Goat Yoga has been on my radar for the past year. To be honest, I’m not much of a ‘Yogi’ as they say, but I am a big fan of animals, so the idea of incorporating them into this exercise sounded right up my alley.
For those who are curious about Goat Yoga and want an honest opinion of what to expect, I’ll give you the lowdown on all the details, including whether I think it’s worth your time and money.
The program I signed up with is called Laughing Frog Yoga, who provide the yoga, and they partner with Hello Critter Care, who provide the adorable goats. Tickets were $39 – surprisingly much cheaper than I thought.
For $39, you get an hour-long yoga class with the goats plus time afterward for photo opportunities. However, you are welcome to take pictures throughout the class as well. The event was located at Marine Park in Santa Monica, California. The best part about that? Free parking! And at 9:00 am on a Saturday you should have no trouble finding an open spot.
We arrived shortly before 9. Although they email tickets when you initially sign up online, once we got there, they just asked for the name on the reservation to check us in. I'd still recommend having your tickets with you though just in case.
Right away all our attention was diverted to the goats, who were accompanied by a professional handler. Initially, I was disappointed to only see two goats there, but the handler does a great job of bringing them around to everyone throughout the class.
Most classes seem to advertise baby goats. For ours, we had one baby goat and the other was larger. Goats are known to jump around, so you should expect them to jump on your back or walk through your legs. The baby goat is so light you barely feel it, but for those with back problems, the bigger goat may be harder to handle. However, you can always address this beforehand if you have any concerns.
Once the class was done, the handler once again came around with the goats for photo ops, and I will say, those goats are clearly used to having their picture taken. The baby goat, Koko, was especially great at looking right into the camera. Does she work in the movies too?
Goat Yoga Pros:
1. Affordable price
2. Unique outdoor excursion with animals
3. Friendly staff
Goat Yoga Cons:
1. Only two goats
2. Goats may go to the bathroom near you
Should you do it?
Honestly, I think this was totally worth it, especially if you’re looking for something fun and unique to do. My biggest critique was that we only had two goats and the class was likely around 25-30 people. Had the price been higher, I would say pass, but it was still affordable enough to not feel discouraged about spending the money with limited goat access. The biggest misconception is that the goats are free to run around. Instead, a handler takes them around to everyone throughout the class multiple times to help guarantee everyone gets time with the goats. All in all, I would recommend this as a great activity to try out.
For those who love animals, I feel like we go through this roller coaster when it comes to zoos. We initially go because we love animals and want to see them. Then, when we’re actually there, we immediately become sad because the creatures we love are caged up.
In nearly a decade of living in Los Angeles, I had yet to go the zoo here, so I decided now that the LA Zoo is open, it was the perfect time to finally check it out. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you have to purchase LA Zoo tickets and book an entry time slot ahead of time.
When we arrived around 11:30am, the line to get in was pretty minimal and it only took a few minutes to get inside. It was a gloomy day, but not nearly as gloomy as the venue seemed. The Los Angeles Zoo felt small, and honestly, kind of depressing. We also noticed that multiple animals were missing from exhibits, but I also take into consideration it may have been related to the pandemic. Still, I found the overall experience lacking.
LA Zoo Pros:
1. Affordable tickets
2. Free parking
3. Minimal crowds (*Covid consideration)
LA Zoo Cons:
1. Smaller selection of wildlife
2. Some exhibits closed (*Covid consideration)
Is is worth it?
I wanted to love the zoo in the city I live in, but the truth is that I’d recommend making the trek down to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park instead. It is likely that Covid affected many of the zoo's exhibits, so I also take this into consideration and suggest postponing an LA Zoo visit until the pandemic is fully over.
Of course, the biggest takeaway is to remember how important it is to be kind to our planet and all animals. Some zoos (including San Diego) are doing some important conservation work, which should be acknowledged, and we should also hold zoos around the world accountable when it comes to the humane treatment of animals.
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and comedian who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Sleep Advisor, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com