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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Mackinac

In March and June I talked a little bit about my bucket list, and earlier this month my husband and I actually got to strike one item off with our trip to Mackinac Island. Because we were so late in deciding to go this year, we weren't able to find reasonably priced accommodation on the island itself (the cheapest I could get was at $245 a night - with the exchange rate on our  Canadian dollar, just not doable). Instead, we stayed at The Rainbow Motel in Mackinaw City for three nights and took the Arnold Line ferry to Mackinac Island on two consecutive days. 

The Rainbow was quite inexpensive, but ranks as the #4 hotel in Mackinaw City (out of 41!) according to Trip Advisor. We were quite satisfied with our stay there, and the money saved enabled us to do other things. While the Arnold ferry is slower than the other two lines, one of which is a hydro jet, they offer a two-day pass, which made it the most economical option. And with a 35-minute travel time, it hardly made for a day wasted in commuting. Both days we were on the ferry for the earliest crossing (8 a.m.), and arrived on the island before it got overly busy. Wise indeed!

My husband had fun turning a color photo into black & white to create an impression of times gone by.
With no motor vehicles permitted, the pace of life on Mackinac is much more relaxed, or at least as relaxed as you want it to be. On the first day, we rented bicycles at the Arnold Line dock (I think the pricing is pretty much the same anywhere) and cycled around the 8-mile island. The lakeshore is very picturesque with lots of places to stop along the way, including a climb to Arch Rock, which is quite pretty. There are also lots of plaques posted, where you can read about the island's history. A number of War of 1812 events occurred here. For $2 you can pick up a guide from the Visitor's Center, both to read while you are there and as a keepsake to take home and read at your leisure.

We had breakfast at The Chuckwagon, a popular greasy spoon, a smoothie at Twist 'n Sprouts for lunch, and spent the afternoon hiking along the paths, including a stop at Fort Holmes. I admit that we didn't visit Fort Mackinac, mainly because we tend to feel that if you've seen one fort, you've seen 'em all, and because we were there as a couple and not a family. Fort Holmes, a reconstruction with no activities on site, was a free attraction.

On day two, we rented a horse and carriage from Jack's Livery and Stable and my husband drove us along the lakeshore and through the middle of the island from British Landing. This was an opportunity to good to pass up. Where else can you self-drive a horse and buggy like this? We enjoyed the romance of it, as well as being able to travel at our own pace, instead of being shepherded to sights determined by the official carriage drive at a pace set by them. While we also didn't get all the commentary that goes with that, we felt that we had the info we needed in our little guidebook.

My husband's hand and Shorty's rump as we steer along the lakeshore

That day we also went to The Grand Hotel for their luncheon buffet.  We quite enjoyed it, though we felt a bit uncomfortable that while most of the diners were white, 95% or more of the wait staff were Jamaican. It seemed a throw-back to another era, which is likely the intention. The good thing is that these servers are not slaves or servants. When their paid shifts are over, they're over and they go to their places of residence. I expect Jamaicans are hired either because of tradition or because no Afro-American would take these jobs due to the effect of history on their collective conscience. 

We also enjoyed exploring the public areas of the hotel and the grounds. In a word: exquisite, especially the interior.

The Grand Hotel - note the topiary 'horses' in the bottom left

We walked and walked, too much, my husband would say. But all-in-all a worthwhile experience, and one I wouldn't hesitate to have again should the right time arise. As you know, I have many other travel destinations on my list!

What did we miss? Unfortunately, the monument that references the movie Somewhere in Time.  Forgot all about it and didn't look for it. 

But in Mackinaw City, we did enjoy the Mackinaw City Trolley sunset tour, which took us across the famous landmark Mackinac Bridge. We learned about the city and the bridge, got lovely photos and a spectacular view of the sunset. Highly recommend this if you are going.

Mackinac Bridge, Michigan

Traverse City and Harbor Springs were suggested as places to include in our trip, but we didn't get to them. Instead we stopped at Frankenmuth and Birch Run on our way home. I won't go into detail on them here, as they weren't bucket list items and by this time you've probably read quite enough! 

What's a trip anywhere without a visit to the local library?!

4 comments:

  1. What beautiful shots! I've never heard of this island, but the idea of no cars is super appealing. I'd be a little worried about being in charge of a horse and buggy. I'd probably get a horse with a mind of its own. Bicycling and hiking would be wonderful.

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    1. You should go if you ever get the chance! I've heard that the Lilac Festival in June is lovely too. The island pretty much shuts down mid-October to mid-May.

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  2. What a wonderful post! It brought back good memories as well as a desire to visit the Island sometime. We didn't have time the last time we were there. I am curious though... Had your husband ever driven a horse & carriage before? Thank you for sharing. It all sounds wonderful! K.

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    1. No, D had never driven a horse and carriage before, but he has gone horseback riding a few times. He had every confidence he could do it, but they rent self-driving to anyone and give instruction before you go.

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