Monday, June 15, 2015

Mackinac Island

 

The ferry ride over and our walk around town the evening before had been gray and drizzly, so waking up to blue skies for our first full day on Mackinac Island was a treat.

 

Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-i-naw) sits slightly to the east of the bridge that connects the upper and lower peninsulas of the state of Michigan. There are basically two parts to the island - the tooth-achingly sweet little town at the south end and the state park that covers pretty much everything else.  There are only a few cars on the island (all service vehicles, I think).  Horse drawn carriages and bicycles are the main mode of transportation. Since the island is only about three miles long and two mile wide, getting around on foot isn't too much of a challenge either.

 

The island has loads of history, from the Native Americans who settled it and named it after the turtle, to fur trading and use by the British as a fort. Two battles were fought there during the War of 1812.  But the use of the Mackinac Island as a Victorian-era resort is what's really stuck.  The place looks like downtown Disney, minus the singing, dancing, and confetti.  Thanks to the horses, the "earthier" smell keeps it a bit more authentic.

 

Mackinac Island is known for its fudge shops.  (Guide books will tell you that tourists to this part of the state are actually referred to as "fudgies".)  There are several to chose from.  We ended up buying at Joann's.  I bought three huge slices - chocolate cherry, maple, and butter pecan - and slowly ate my way through them, piece by tiny piece, over the next two weeks.

 

We stayed at the Island House Hotel.  It's more central and less expensive than the famous Grand Hotel, but is cutely Victorian and has a nice porch as well. Most hotels on the island pick your bags up at the ferry and cart them to wherever you're staying, so you get a nice little souvenir tag in the process.

 

After a morning spent walking around town, we took a carriage tour of the state park.  Our group stopped by Fort Mackinac and Arch Rock before Mom and I departed the tour at the Grand Hotel.  The Grand Hotel is one of those giant luxury hotels that 19th and early 20th century railroad barons had built at the end of the line to increase traffic.  It was made famous by the 80's romantic drama, 'Somewhere in Time'.  (We hadn't watched the movie at the time, but did once we got home and found it pretty cheesetastic.)

 

Mom had made reservations for afternoon tea at the Grand. I hadn't packed anything that seemed quite suited to the occasion, so the day before, I'd bought a floral-print sundress. The tea room at the Grand Hotel features a distinctive red geranium patterned carpet, making this the second time I've managed to match the upholstery for afternoon tea.

 

Tea itself was pretty good - not as amazing as the Fairmont Empress', but definitely respectable. We took the champagne option, which always makes me look on the rest of proceedings in a favorable light. The overall presentation was really cute, with pink flowers adorning each plate. The scones were simple, but good, with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We were served by an almost silent Jamaican woman (about my age), who avoided eye contact, poured, and vanished. 

 

I could write paragraphs explaining why this interaction felt awkward, defining and foot note-ing to try to get my words just right. Maybe our server was having a bad day, maybe being unobtrusive is part of the hotel's training, maybe I pegged her nationality incorrectly and she actually didn't speak much English (most of the island's workers fly in from Jamaica every summer, though other countries are represented as well).  However, looking around the room and noticing that the only people of color present were the ones serving was an uncomfortable realization.

 

In any case, the service was fine.  Definitely not over-attentive - once tea was set before us, we didn't see our server again - but everything necessary had been provided. After tea, we headed out to the blue-ceilinged porch (advertised as being the longest in the world) to enjoy the view down to the bridge. Mackinac Island is an adorable place, but like the sweets sold there, a little goes a long ways.

 

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