So this whole trip to Mackinac Island was a spur-of-the moment thing. And for those of you non-Michiganders out there, it’s pronounced Mak-in-aw, so while your eyes are reading Mack-in-ack, your mind is going to have to translate that into the correct pronunciation. If you can’t do that, you may as well stop reading now because there’ s nothing more irritating to a Michigander than non-native folk mispronouncing our cities. I’m sure the residents of Charlevoix would heartily agree. That’s Shar-le-voy to you all.
As any parent can tell you, trying to make spur-of-the-moment plans that involve a toddler are challenging, so our first order of business was to figure out where to ditch the toddler. We were considering bringing her along, but we really wanted to enjoy ourselves and thought Autumn a tad too young to be good company. Since she’s no longer in diapers, we’d also need to have ready access to bathrooms and that wasn’t a guarantee where we were going. We also had no idea if she’d be okay on a boat and getting to the island requires one to be ferried over.
Luckily C-, Autumn’s daycare provider, agreed to keep her for the night (for a modest fee, of course) so all we had to do was find a babysitter for the dog. My parents graciously agreed and were handsomly rewarded with a pound of very expensive fudge. Seriously, that fudge is outrageous. And yummy.
We spent the night in St. Ignace, the city on the north side of the Mackinac bridge, and took the ferry over to the island yesterday morning. It was a gorgeous day. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, but as soon as we stepped onto Main Street we were very glad we had left Autumn behind.
It’s kind of hard to describe Mackinac Island to those who haven’t been there. Automobiles are prohibited, forcing people to get around on foot, bike (oh so many bikes), carriage or horse. The docks of all the main ferry lines empty out onto Main Street, which is very Disney-esque in terms of fabricated old-world appeal. You can’t walk five feet without finding yourself in front of a candy shop and there are people everywhere. And we were there on a Tuesday.
The smell of horse manure is prevalent on Main Street, so we chose to walk away from the dung and followed the boardwalk along the lake shore for a little while. I was looking for something very specific though. I had come to the island for this:
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you’ll recognize this place as The Grand Hotel. If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly recommend it. It’s a little cheesy in the way ’80s movies tend to be, but I absolutely love it. The bulk of the movie was filmed on Mackinac Island in and around The Grand Hotel. It really is a magnificent building that can bee seen all the way from the mainland.
The Grand Hotel has gotten a little high on itself, a little elitist if you will. It now charges $15 to even set foot on the grounds. The signs around the hotel inform you there’s a fee to get into the hotel if you’re not a guest, but the bouncer in the crisp red uniform posted at the end of the driveway above told a different story. He was making sure everyone entering the grounds was either a guest or a paying tourist. Paying to sit on the porch of The Grand Hotel really wasn’t worth it, no matter how dreamy I think Christopher Reeve is in that movie.
So how did I get these pictures? We actually had no idea they were charging to get onto the grounds, so as we were walking up to the hotel, we cut a left into the wooded area that empties out into the courtyard. Nathan was hesitant to follow because he was quite sure we were going to get the boot. I persuaded him to come with me and we climbed the very high staircase to the main entrance. Nathan trailed behind, grumbling and saying things like, “You really shouldn’t be climbing this many stairs with your bad knees.” Did Christopher Reeve say that to Jane Seymour? You tell me…
Yeah, those are the stairs we climbed and day-um there are a lot of them. Take a look at the panorama of the front of the hotel and you can just barely see the stairs. The bushes around it have kind of overtaken everything, which is a shame because there are some excellent views from those stairs.
Once on the deck, Nathan sat down in a chair while I snapped a few more pictures. After we’d had our fill of the hotel, we walked back to Main Street and rented a couple of bikes. I was a little leery of getting on a bike. I haven’t ridden a bike in years, and biking is one of the things my orthopedist doesn’t want me to do all that often.
It turned out my knees handled the ride just fine. They handled it well enough that we wound up riding around the whole freaking island. We hadn’t really planned to do that, but every so often we’d pull out the map and I’d ask Nathan how far around the island was. “Oh, about 3 miles or so,” he’d say. I protested but he assured me it was just that. I think he might have started to doubt his estimate around mile marker number five though.
Folks, the coastline of Mackinac Island is eight miles long. Just so you know.
We eventually made it all the way around. Back on Main Street, we returned the bikes, bought the fudge (again, YUM) and waited for the ferry back to St. Ignace. By the time we got back home and picked up Autumn, neither of us could move without groaning. Our bodies, asses included, were very sore from the bike ride. It was worth it though and in a few years we’ll proably go back and take Autumn with us.
If you’re at all interested in the rest of our pictures from the trip, feel free to click on any of the photos above to go to the rest of the set on Flickr.
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