I spent last weekend relaxing in suburban Minneapolis on Lake Minnetonka, where I lived, worked, married (twice), and raised my daughter for 18 years before moving to Sarasota. I hadn’t been back since happily escaping the harsh winters and some bittersweet memories over 5 years ago but Allie needed a break from her college studies and some mother/daughter bonding time. She also missed her home state and half brother terribly. She enticed me with pictures of an enchanting airbnb she had found on the lake and my mermaid soul took over. Off we went to revisit her childhood and our former life.
The first thing I noticed upon our arrival, other than my lost luggage, was how soothingly familiar everything was. I remembered instinctively how to navigate the area and it was fun pointing out different landmarks and sites as we drove and reminisced about our life there together, beginning our trip down memory lane.
We spent the first couple of days at the home of close friends and it was almost surreal how little the area had changed; the country roads winding gracefully around the lake, the trees ablaze with autumn color, the pumpkin patch/apple orchard where we spent many afternoons when my daughter was young, the general store with homemade pies…it was quintessential small town America. And I had missed it.
On our second day, we were fortunate enough to go boating on the lake on a surprisingly balmy 70 degree afternoon and it was nothing short of a celebration. People were out in thralls on watercrafts of all kinds – jet skis, cruisers, cigarette boats, and skiffs. Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge, a Lake Minnetonka landmark and one of the areas most popular watering holes, was packed with folks soaking up the sun for what might be the last warm day in many months. Relaxing on the patio, I was flooded with memories of this lake – waterskiing at sunrise in front of our home, taking my infant daughter on daily boat rides to get her to nap, and anchoring off various islands with friends for relaxing Sunday afternoons. Life was good here.
Some fun facts about Lake Minnetonka: it is a special place in that it is only 15 miles west-southwest of the metropolis of Minneapolis but feels a world away. The lake covers an area of roughly 22 miles and has 125 miles of shoreline. It is the ninth largest lake in MN and housed some of the biggest hotels in the country after the Civil War, when southerners came up to the lake for the summer months to escape the heat. Now it is primarily a playground for its water-loving residents.
Equally special are the people who call Lake Minnetonka home. Spending time with old friends here reminded me of how hearty Minnesotans are; they have a true zest for life and an appreciation for the changing seasons. They relish every moment of summer in anticipation of the cold months to come, then enjoy winter’s beauty and outdoor activities with equal enthusiasm. I personally had a little difficulty with winter when I lived there, thus the move to FL… BUT, I’m not a native of the state.
After leaving the lovely home of our friends, we meandered to our airbnb, known as Gabrielle’s Lakeshore Gardens. Located in a tranquil bay in an area of the lake called Cottagewood, the property was surrounded by stunning gardens and an inviting hot tub for soaking and star gazing. The proprietors, Terry and Gabrielle, had created a cozy and inviting oasis on the bottom level of their home, complete with a private entrance, fireplace, separate living and bedroom, patio, and dock. They had kayaks and bicycles available for no charge and had lovingly outfitted our downstairs space with everything from a snack drawer to beers and frosted mugs in the fridge. I had misplaced my reading glasses and Terry offered me his own. This was true Minnesota hospitality.
It was a wonderful retreat and I highly recommend it for any lake or nature lover. This was my first airbnb experience and Gabrielle’s Lakeshore Gardens certainly set the bar high. I only wish our stay had been a little longer so we may have gotten to know the owners better. This mermaid will definitely return… in the summer months.