Mia – July 31, 2017
Maybe it’s the Dane in me—thank you, great-great-great-grandmother Christina!—but come the heat and humidity of July, I wilt like five-day-old lettuce. Lucky for me, there is an antidote. It’s called Lake Michigan, and it’s our favorite summer vacation destination.
I love going to the beach, any beach. The natural beauty, cool breezes and beckoning waters make it the perfect place for a tired mom to relax and recharge, and—bonus!—a beach vacation is also very child-friendly. Yes, bring on those 90-degree temperatures and crank up that outrageous Midwestern humidity. I’ll be sitting on the beach with the latest in chick lit, watching John help Jake and Alex build a 60-room sand castle, while Astrid collects a bucket full of shells.
Over the years, we’ve vacationed at Door County, Wisconsin, the Michigan Dunes and South Haven, Michigan, and have enjoyed them all. But this year, my husband, John, suggested we seek out a Midwest beach that would bring back memories of our incredible honeymoon in Skagen.
Skagen, Denmark’s northernmost town and premier fishing port, is poised at the tip of Jutland, where the sandy Skagen Odde peninsula reaches into the North Sea. It’s a magical place, with broad white beaches, incredible sunsets and a storybook village of buff buildings with red tile roofs.
You may not have heard about Skagen, but you’ve almost certainly seen it in the work of the Skagen painters (like Peder Severin Kroyer, whose painting “Summer Day at the South Beach of Skagan” is featured above), a group of Impressionists who drew their inspiration from the beaches, the piercing light and the fishermen of the area in the late 19th century. The town’s artistic roots appealed to both of us after spending more than a few rainy afternoons wandering through Chicago’s Art Institute during our courtship.
But even better were the beaches—37 beautiful miles of them, which is only a fraction of Denmark’s 4,300 miles of coastland. The Skagen beaches range from the rougher currents of the western Skagerrak side to the shallow, gentle waters of the Kattegat coast on the east. The eastern coast, which is dotted with blue flags indicating water of the highest quality, is where we spent hours searching for conches, shells and the occasional piece of amber. That’s also where we climbed the bowl-shaped dunes, the better to bask in the sun.
But my favorite honeymoon beach at the Toppen af Danmark—the Top of Denmark, as it is known—was on Hirsholmene, a group of 10 islands southeast of Skagen that are a protected nature preserve. We traveled by mail boat to see the colonies of seagulls and rare birds that flock there and were lucky enough to also see seals on the beautiful Præstebugten beach. It was a breath-taking afternoon.
We knew seals wouldn’t be in the cards for this year’s Lake Michigan beach vacation, but we hoped we could find a wild and welcoming shoreline that would be a perfect backdrop for creating some more happy beach memories. I mentioned our intentions to Liam, a fellow “Hope Chest” writer and also a descendant of one of The Danish Home’ founders, at a planning meeting for The Danish Home’s 125th anniversary.
“How about Sleeping Bear Dunes?” he suggested. Liam is a newlywed, so I trusted that his recommendation would be adequately romantic, even for an old married couple with three kids in tow. As you read this, we’ll be happily ensconced in a guest cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan at Glen Arbor, Michigan.
But, the vacation won’t be over when we return from Glen Arbor, because John and I will be attending The Danish Home’s “Cuisine and Spirits” night on August 10, beginning at 6:00 p.m. and featuring some of award-winning Danish chef Stig Hansen‘s finest dishes, paired with select beer and wines. What a delicious way to top off our trip to the beach!