Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grand Rapids Fun

I have been working hard here in Grand Rapids. I spend close to 11-12 hours at the hospital everyday, do a 30-36 hour call every 5-6 days and see more viral bronchiolitis than you can count on two hands. But, there has been some time to explore this very fun city with a great and vibrant downtown. Here are some things I would recommend if you are planning a trip!

1. Where to Stay: Courtyard Marriott
There is a strip of Marriott properties downtown - the Courtyard, the JW Marriott, and the Amway Grand Plaza. The latter two are super expensive and other than more plushing in their mattress, won't offer you more than the Courtyard. In fact, they offer less because internet is included here at the Courtyard. Perhaps because they are all owned by the same group, the staff here at the Courtyard is better than any 5-star property I have ever seen. The front desk staff is always exceeding my expectations and doing great things for me - like the birthday surprise they put together for me (see previous blog post). Stay here - you won't regret it.

2. Where to Eat:
There are lots of great local eateries here that use only local ingredients that are fresh and delicious. One of my favorites is called Cygnus 27, a restaurant on the 27th floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The food is not cheap, but not ridiculously expensive, either. And if you go just before sunset you can get a gorgeous 360 degree view of downtown and the Chicago River as the sun's light evolves the colors over the city. And ultimately, when the sun is set, you can enjoy the manmade lights around downtown. And the food is amazing. I had one of the most moist and delicious salmon dishes I have ever enjoyed. Ever! That said, explore all the local eateries - they each have a niche market and great service.

3. Where to Visit:
Downtown is full of fun places to spend a couple hours.
  • Art Museum: It is small and cozy with a pretty small collection. But, the architecture of the building is really cool and they do have some beautiful paintings. The $8 admission is pretty hard to justify, in my opinion, so I won't return - but it is cool for a one time visit.
  • Symphony: Hands down a beautiful concert hall and a beautiful sounding orchestra. I enjoyed tremendously their interpretation of Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 61, by Ludwig van Beethoven. And the Grand Rapids crowd is amazing - we gave an almost 10 minute standing ovation at the end of the performance, with several curtain calls. It was well-deserved and a wonderful display of appreciation for a great orchestra. If they are playing when you are in town, YOU MUST ATTEND!
  • Gerald Ford Presidential Museum: I haven't been yet, but plan on going.
  • Grand Rapids Museum: Haven't been, but plan on going.
Overall, this is a truly vibrant city and I have been having a wonderful time enjoying what it has to offer. If you are ever in Chicago or Detroit, which are 3 hours away, it would totally be worth a weekend trip, or even an overnight trip, especially if the Symphony is playing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


People often comment that I have the coolest birthday day since I was born today, on Valentine's Day. True, while nobody forgets my birthday day, it is difficult to get them to come out and celebrate on the actual day. Many forget that getting into a restaurant on this day is near impossible (unless you tell the Hostess that you had, in fact, made reservations for a party of 8...not that I ever did, I mean would). It is also difficult to gather your many married/relationship-tied friends to come out because they want a special evening for themselves.

The difficulties aside, however, there are many wonderful things about having a birthday on Valentine's Day. For starters, I get to share my day of birth with a Saint who made it his life's mission to bring people together in love and celebration of each other's beauties. Some call this a "Hallmark Holiday" but nothing could be further from the truth - in the ancient custom, today was a day to actually write hand-written notes of passion and love to somebody you were smitten with or just somebody you thought needed a little encouraging. The only reason Hallmark makes a pretty penny off of this holiday now is because we have lost a bit of our passionate and personal side in today's society.

On a more personal note, my mom never forgets my birthday - since 2000, I have been somewhere else on my birthday every year. For four years at Whittier College, my mom sent a cake each year (which usually got shared with my swim team friends because my birthday fell about a week before our final meet; and at our final dinner, they would always get something for me, too!) Then, for two years in Baltimore, somehow my mom, who has trouble turning on a computer and still doesn't carry a cell phone regularly on her person, would find some company to send me a cake at work. In St. Maarten, she wasn't able to find a cake delivery, but I always got a card - and don't worry mom, NK, SA, MR, GC and others made sure we went to a delicious place for dinner.

And that brings us to today - year 28 of my life is kicking off. This is the year of my life when I will pass my board exams, when I will walk into a patient's room as "Doctor" and hopefully leave as trusted friend, when I will drink a little more lemonade and not stay up so late, cry a little less and laugh [a lot] more - why wait until 30! (For those of you who didn't get this allusion, please speak with anyone who knows country music). And again, somehow my mom worked her magic this year. And with the help of a truly awesome hotel because of an awesome STAFF - they put together what you see in the picture up top. The restaurant treated me to some delicious desserts, the front staff put together a yummy goodie bag with various and sundry edibles, and they somehow found balloons from somewhere I will never know because I haven't seen any balloon shops nearby! A shout out MUST go out to somebody named Barry - an amazing, kind, make-you-feel-at-home type of person who works the front desk; he got me the good deal to stay at this hotel for a month as well as putting me in a great room and always giving me great recommendations for places to visit; indeed, if ever in Grand Rapids, do not stay anywhere else; come to the Courtyard Marriott. The service here is truly 5-star and better than you will find at places way more expensive.

Today, I like to think people are celebrating my birthday (and Valentine's day, as an aside :) Therefore, while I see great things happening in my life this year, it is my birthday wish that awesome things happen in the lives of everyone else, also. As my friend CP shared on her blog, from author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, let yourself be truly seen so you can be truly loved. I would add that I hope we all put out in the universe that which we hope to achieve, through hard work, faith in God, knowing that He wants great things for us, and a focus on improving ourselves in order to improve the world around us for everyone. I think that would make St. Valentine a very happy Saint, indeed.

Happy Valentine's Day.