Within walking distance of Lakeshore and Water Tower Place is a wooded beachfront area where you won't have to fight crowds, commuters or conventioneers, and most days you'll be able to revel in the quiet.
After all, it's not Chicago's Gold Coast. In the Michigan beach town of Union Pier, about 75 miles from Chicago, there is indeed a street named Lakeshore — although it's one word and a road, not a drive — and there is a Water Tower Place, but it's a street, not a shopping center.
We spent a night at The Inn at Union Pier, a lovely 16-room bed-and-breakfast originally built as a summer resort that at the time was the only kosher hotel in Union Pier. Today it's just the place for a relaxing or a romantic getaway about half a block from Lake Michigan.
Checking in: Enter through the side door of the main building to check in at the front desk. When we arrived, two rooms were available. We decided on the spacious Captain's Quarters.
Just past the front desk is the large Great Room, furnished with antiques and comfortable couches and chairs. Tables are ready for a game of cards or chess. There's a beautiful piano. At the far end is an antique Swedish fireplace called a kakelugn, which is more than 100 years old. The inn maintains that it has the largest collection of kakelugns — 13 — in the U.S. Most of the inn's rooms have one. All of the kakelugns were taken from homes in Sweden, disassembled and reconstructed at the inn.
The rooms: The Captain's Quarters was a large, L-shaped room with hardwood floors and mocha-colored walls. It was exceptionally bright with windows on three sides and a glass door to a private balcony. Being on the second floor, up amid trees and birds, it was tranquil. The room's layout was especially pleasing. Across from the entrance was a bar with a small refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot and sink. A large closet was just inside the door.
To the left was a small wooden table and two chairs next to a window, perfect for sharing a meal or a snack, or maybe just for writing in a journal.
Farther into the room was a spacious sitting area with a love seat and coffee table atop an oriental rug in front of the room's kakelugn. It was already stacked with wood, just waiting for guests to strike a match and start the fire.
Adjacent to the sitting area is the king-size cherry wood sleigh bed. The room is arranged so you have a view of the fire from either the bed or the sitting area. The Captain's Quarters is one of the few rooms with a television — a plus or a minus depending on your state of mind.
The room also had two comfortable wing-back chairs and a chest of drawers. The nautical theme was present but understated, evident in some of the artwork hanging on the walls.
The bathroom had a whirlpool tub and pedestal sink, both with gold fixtures. A glass-topped wooden table next to the sink nicely solved the problem of what to do with toiletries on a pedestal sink.
The food: Breakfast, included in the room rate, was a delight. The dining room, smoldering kakelugn in the corner, was full of windows and wood, an elegant but casual way to start the day.
The server started us out with a pot of coffee, a carafe of orange juice and two muffins with a hint of orange and a light icing. Next up was a baked apple with a dollop of whipped cream. The main dish was eggs Florentine: poached eggs atop ham with spinach and hollandaise sauce.
Perks and peeves: Delicious cookies are waiting for you in the guest room. Complimentary wine and popcorn, not your usual pairing but somehow it works, are available in the Great Room. We enjoyed the red wine before heading out for dinner. A peeve: We arrived on a cold afternoon, and it would have been nice if the kakelugn in the Great Room actually had a fire burning in it.
Kid-friendly: The inn says children over 12 are welcome, but this is more of a place for couples.
Handicapped accessibility: There is limited accessibility for wheelchairs. Call ahead.
Bottom line: Our room was $210 plus tax, but a $30 discount was offered for the February date. I would happily return. It's cozy and soothing in winter and close to the beach in summer.
The Inn at Union Pier
9708 Berrien St.
Union Pier, Mich.