I am of the opinion that when one thinks of an island vacation, the color turquoise comes to mind. That’s the color of the water and the sky and a lot of those cocktails with the little paper umbrellas in such paradises as the Bahamas and the Caribbean. And that’s where anyone with a normal sense of adventure would go for an island vacation.
But no. As I was pondering what to plan for husband Bill’s birthday surprise trip, the voila moment came after watching Somewhere in Time, the 1980 romantic sci-fi film about a love so strong, it defied the obstacles of time itself. And it was set in the exquisite landscapes of Mackinac Island in upper Michigan. As I am a hopeless romantic, the film spoke directly to me.
Setting the wheels in motion, I called the Grand Hotel where I plotted with a jewel of a planning agent who not only made deluxe reservations for us but also enlightened me on extras that would enhance the romantic experience I had been imagining.
So in the merry month of May, off we went for an island vacation that was decidedly not turquoise but technicolor, with seascapes, sweeping landscapes and majestic old trees. The weather was balmy as we made our way to the stately Mackinac Bridge to take the ferry to Mackinac Island where we were greeted, just like in a real romance novel, by a horse-drawn carriage “with a fringe on the top” to deliver us to the very appropriately named Grand Hotel. At first glimpse of this exquisite hotel I thought, “Let the magic begin!”
And did it ever. The hotel is situated on the southwestern bluff of Mackinac Island, overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Our carriage driver informed us that the hotel’s front veranda is the longest in the world, at some 660 feet, overlooking a vast Tea Garden and the lush ground of the resort. It was breathtaking.
Our room remained in character with the romantic ambiance. The Victorian elegance had been preserved intact. Sun-filled windows, velvet draperies, a four-poster bed. It was like a scene from the movie, much to my delight.
There was no better way to begin our visit on this scenic isle than experiencing the charm of a carriage tour with a well-informed driver. We clip-clopped our way along the shores of Lake Michigan, dreamily taking in the raw beauty of the back roads and the famous Tunnel of Trees, vast carpets of wild flowers and air as fresh as a new morning. We were transfixed.
Our three-day visit was an eye-opening experience. We learned that historic Fort Mackinac is a restored 1700s military outpost with 14 original buildings. As the island itself is only eight miles in circumference, almost 80 percent of the land is a protected state park with exciting attractions such as Arch Rock, a natural stone formation that frames an incredible view of the straits and the town of St. Ignace. Just as you would suspect, the town and business district is absolutely storybook charming, with quaint boutiques, cafes and antique shops, my personal heaven. We bought some delicious fudge for friends at home from May’s Fudge Candy Maker. We did notice, however, that the combined smell of horse manure and freshly made fudge is one we will always remember!
Each day after an enlightening adventure, we would return to the Grand Hotel, our home away from home, for Afternoon Tea, enhanced by champagne, luscious little finger sandwiches and intimate concert performances as background music. One afternoon we even partook of a croquet match on the seemingly endless manicured lawn. Ah, this is the life!
Yes, romance was definitely in the air for Bill’s surprise birthday. I was thrilled that we had such a splendid time, and that new experiences, adventures and enlightenment had taken center stage on remote Mackinac Island, truly a blessing in disguise. The visit will always be in our dreams. What’s more, I owe it all to a movie.
And I was also thrilled that it was Bill’s turn next.
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