26 December 2012

2012 MICHIGAN Rochester - Our Anniversary

Yes, this is Pearl Harbor Day (12/7, a solemn event in our history), but it is also our anniversary--37 years this year. We usually do something special to celebrate our event, even if it is just a quick overnight out of town. We recently watched Under the Radar, a PBS show about fun things to do in Michigan, and they had a spot on Rochester, MI.

Each year Rochester has "The Big, Bright, Light Show." Buildings in downtown are covered with 1.5 million Christmas bulbs and they are simultaneously lit each evening at 6pm during the holiday season.

Backing up a little, the day started for us with the drive from Kalamazoo to the Somerset Collection in Troy, MI. "Collection" is a ritzy way of saying a collection of stores or in other words "a mall." But it is very chic-chic and has a lot of the stores we miss browsing in California at Stanford Shopping Center (our fave in the world), such as William-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Restoration Hardware, etc. 

We had a heck of a time finding a parking spot. We cruised the aisles a good 15 minutes. Mike is not very patient about waiting or lines. He was ready to give up, but I took over driving and after a bit longer we found a spot. This place is huge. It covers the size of two typical shopping centers with a bridge going over a city street to connect them. The bridge is so long it has four sections of moving walkways like you see in an airport. Lots of good restaurants, too, but all with a 25-45 minute wait. No way, San Jose, for Mike.

A great thing about our anniversary trips at this time of year is that everything is decorated to the hilt for the holidays. And the displays here were no exception. Santa's place was a HUGE 3-story castle, like nothing we had ever seen before. We had to laugh in comparing this with our little cubby hole Santa cabin in Kalamazoo.

After buying a few goodies in William-Sonoma (mushroom flavored salt crystals and very fine vinegar salt for homemade chips) and a quick pizza bite at the food court, we continued on to nearby Rochester. We arrived just as our friends the Bruces did, who were meeting us there to celebrate.

First we toasted our celebration with some sparkling cherry wine they had purchased from a winery "Up North." We did some catching up and then headed out for a walk down Main Street to check out the light situation. On the fronts of the buildings from top to bottom were strands of vari-colored lights about four inches apart. At this point they were not lit, but the anticipation was growing.

Then off to dinner at Rojo, a fancy-ish Mexican restaurant. We started off with a round of premium sipping tequila and guacamole made at your table from scratch. Next course was raspberry margaritas for the gals and Mexican beer for the guys with our main entree. I don't remember what everyone else ate, but I ordered lobster tacos. A bit decadent, but, hey, we are celebrating.

During our meal, came a cry of oohs and aahs from those nearer the windows. The holidays lights came on simultaneous and they were spectacular. The display covers about 4 blocks down Main Street and some side streets as well. It was so beautiful, it took our breath away. You cannot imagine this without personally seeing it.

After dinner we took another stroll and continued to be amazed by this fairyland atmosphere. To fortify us on the chilly walk, we stopped at the Rochester Mills Brewery. It is housed in the historic Western Knitting Mill and it is huge, maybe half a football field in size. They decorated here with giant snowflake lights. And it was full. So full, we could not find a seat. Soooo back to our hotel.

Our hotel, by the way, was a wonderful surprise. The Royal Palm was like an old country inn you would see in New England and located next to a creek. Quite classy. We continued with decadent desserts and aperitifs in the lounge. We were so stuffed, we almost had to be rolled back to our room. We settled in for the evening in the luxuriously linened bed.

Next morning a great breakfast in the hotel "conservatory" atmosphere restaurant and then a uneventful trip home. Thanks, Bruces, for making our anniversary a really fun trip!

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.