There were no spa treatments at the lake resorts of my 1970's childhood, no sashimi on dinner menus or split-level suites with marble bathrooms. The lakefront hotels we'd visit during driving trips from our New England home felt comfortable, but in retrospect they were far from luxurious. If our room had a television, it was black-and-white. Kids slept on rollaways. Meals were unmemorable.
I didn't care. I loved those stays. I'd wolf down a shrimp cocktail and a burger, then run off to play ball or tag while the grown-ups on the terrace talked and smoked and drank.
What I really loved were the lakes. We lived near the sea, and its endless vista troubled me in some existential way that I was a decade too young to confront. But lakes are framed by shorelines. Their boundaries made me feel secure. I could swim without fearing an undertow, row to an island, and spend hours exploring.
Credit: Photo: Christopher Churchill
Time at the ocean is informed by the roar and rhythm of the tide, a ceaseless percussion that engenders quiet reflection. Lakes are easier. They're about families and fun and togetherness, easy mornings segueing into afternoons by way of lunch from the grill and a lemonade. I couldn't get enough of it.
Those lakefront hotels felt fundamentally different from the seaside resorts we'd travel to over winter holidays. There was no sense of glitz or glamour at the lakes, I understand now; no celebrity quotient or ambitious décor. They were owned by families and were outfitted like somebody's summer home. Most didn't even have a lobby. They opened for the summer on Memorial Day, catered to families by the week or even the month, then shut their doors before the first frost.