Monday, July 8, 2013

north [korea] shore

We recently returned from an amazing vacation on the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior, and I think I will forever associate it with North Korea. 

(This is why no one will ever hire me to be a travel writer. Did I just influence anyone to visit the North Shore?)

It's not because of anything northern Minnesota did. I highly doubt North Korea is known for its waterfalls, hiking and biking trails, or lighthouses.

I just may have made a mistake in choosing which book to bring along on our trip. My Nook was loaded up with the 433 page Pulitzer Prize-winning The Orphan Master's Son. The book was amazing (surprising for a Pulitzer winner, right?), but I now understand why those books with covers depicting women on the beach are dubbed "vacation reads".

Nobody wants to resturn from a restful vacation with memories of kayaking... and Kim Jong Il. 

A few things about the Lake Superior North Shore that have nothing to do with socialist nations:

+ Go to the New Scenic Cafe for the best sandwich of your life: prosciutto with dates, arugula and cheese on ciabatta. But don't let Siri tell you how to get there; she will direct you to a random house. And that random house will probably not be home to the best sandwich of your life. 

+I accidentally showed a bunch of teenagers my underwear at a lighthouse. Don't wear a skirt by the windy shore of a giant lake. It never ends well.

+ If you're ever in the area, eat fish. Smoked fish, preferably. These people are pure Norwegian-- they know how to do fish. 

+ We stayed at the Bluefin Bay Resort, which was ridiculously well priced for our two bedroom, lake view suite. We also received complimentary access to mountain bikes and biking tours, hiking leaders, kayaks and kayaking guides, tennis equipment, and a plastic baggie filled with s'more fixings, perfect for the fire each night on the beach. AND there was a porcupine in the lobby THAT YOU COULD PET.

+ Grand Marais is a small town -- an "artist's community -- on the North Shore, about 50 miles from Canada. It's kind of the hub of activity for people vacationing in the area, and people love the small town. But I have to say, I wasn't impressed. I've visited plenty of small towns known for their charm -- Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, to name a few of my favorites -- and Grand Marais just didn't do it for me. 

+ There's a flower in North Korea called the Kimjongilia. Sorry, I couldn't resist. That was my favorite fact from the book. 


  1. I love the North Shore! I've driven by the New Scenic Café a few times but never been in. (You want another of the most fabulous sandwiches ever? Go to Va Bene. It's in Duluth, right by Leif Erickson park.. tiny little Italian place overlooking the water, but their balsamic pollo Panini is TO DIE FOR. God, everybody is talking about food in their 4th recaps and I'm just starving. This fatty wants pizza, nachos, and a panini right meow.

    also, love Bluefin. Well, I'd love it more if the sole reason I'd visited 2 years ago wasn't for the nightmare wedding of the century. (Bridezilla, yo. yeesh).

  2. I spent time on the north shore this past week for the fourth, Angry Trout is my favorite for a restaurant in Grand Marais.

    Maybe there's something about the north shore that feels comfortable and homey to me...I would never have permanent residence but to get away from the city for a few days is a nice break.

    Sorry you were disappointed, every place isn't for everybody though I suppose.

  3. As newlyweds and before kids, we always went up to Grand Marais for the weekend _after_ Simchat Torah. We were there the weekend the brand new Radisson Grand Marais as a joint venture with the Ojibwe. The kids were running the hotel and they were a riot. We went back year after year.

    It's a great town, and if you ever get the chance, take the ferry to Isle Royale. Pack's a long day.

  4. Those are some really, really pretty scenery shots! I have been craving a relaxing lakeside trip, this isn't helping!

  5. HA. I'm going through a non-fiction phase at the moment... my honeymoon will be associated with the history of the religious right in America, I guess!