Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dave and Judy Armstrong's 25th Anniversary Dream Getaway to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
Dave & Judy Armstrong: medieval wedding at a Protestant church: 6 October 1984

By Dave Armstrong (11-21-09)

Our 25th wedding came around on October 6th. A few days later we were privileged to be able to stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (in the straits between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan). It's a very famous hotel, and often listed as one of the top 25 in the world and top ten in the United States. From the Wikipedia article:

The hotel is also on the Conde Nast Traveler "Gold List" of the "Best Places to Stay in the Whole World" and Travel + Leisure magazine's list of "Top 100 Hotels in the World." The Wine Spectator has provided the Grand Hotel its "Award of Excellence" and Gourmet Magazine's "Top 25 Hotels in the World" list. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has provided the facilities with a four-diamond rating[16] and in 2009 named the Grand Hotel one of the top 10 U.S. historic hotels.[17]

Readers may be familiar with the science fiction romance movie, Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. It was filmed at the Grand Hotel.

Best of all, we got to stay there for absolutely free, including supper and breakfast! This was a great blessing for an apologist like me, with a very modest income and four children to provide for. Our room, at the weekday rates, would have cost $650. It was one of the few lakeview rooms with a balcony as well. It all came about when Judy's mother, Joan Kozora, wrote to the hotel, thanking them for the royal treatment she and her late husband Ray received when they visited for their 50th anniversary in 2004 (a gift courtesy of their six children). She also sent an old photograph from one of her sisters.

The owner then wrote back and invited her as a dinner guest, and a night's stay. By mere coincidence, our family was planning to visit her for our fall trip at her home in Ossineke, Michigan, in the northeast Lower Peninsula, ten miles south of Alpena, at the time. My mother-in-law asked if we could also come, in order to drive her there (about 100 miles from Ossineke), and mentioned that it was our 25th anniversary.

She was told that we were invited, too, courtesy of the hotel, for supper and overnight. We didn't know when we arrived if we would have separate rooms, but the hotel was gracious and generous enough to provide those, too. We didn't pay one red cent. All we paid was the fee for the ferry there and back, and for the horse-drawn carriages to the hotel from the ferry dock and back. We even received a professional photograph (seen below) for free, that would have been $20.

Here is a travelogue account, by photographs and brief commentary. You can click on photographs (where indicated) for a much larger version. Many can be clicked on twice, for two larger sizes (indicated).

[all photographs below taken by my wife, Judy Armstrong]

Near the main entrance. We rode in this kind of "old-fashioned"
carriage when we left

The red carpet treatment!

Another close-up shot of the front of the hotel. Judy's mother's room
is seen on the upper far left, by the downspout.

The historical background detailed . . .

The lovely green in front of the hotel

Here you can see our room. It's on the bottom row, on the overhang, just to the
left of the central tower, with balconies: two separate ones!

Out by the romantic fountain. This was a washed-out photo, so I had to play
with it, and opted for the artsy "dreamlike" look

On the famous porch

One of the main lobbies

In the fabulous dining room, dressed up for the evening
(required in the hotel!)

Judy's mother

Calling the old-fashioned way (two hands)

Elegant and quaint winter travel accommodations

Back to the porch in the moonlight after dinner. Great view
of the dining area through the window

Romantic atmosphere to spare out there! A lovely Michigan autumn 
evening on the world's longest porch. . .

The grand staircase; on the way to the dance floor
I proposed on a dance floor: at Judy's twin sister's wedding

The author finds a cozy little "book nook"

Typical 19th-century shops of the island

No cars or even roller skates allowed!

The old fort was actually Michigan's first state park

Back to the ferry, before the coach turns into a pumpkin

Good views of the famous Mackinac Bridge can be
seen on the crossing
[not our photo]

Some beautiful mid-Michigan fall colors on the Au Sable River
on the way back home.

We're both fall fanatics. Can you blame us? Met in the fall; married
in the fall . . . I even showed Judy my recent fall color photos when
we first met in October 1982

Our professional, "official" anniversary photo

Thanks so much for viewing our photos with us, and sharing our anniversary celebration. Hope you enjoyed 'em. Here's to the best wife in the whole world. I still literally believe that after 25 years. Thank you, Lord, for bringing her into my life and (crucially) giving me enough sense to know that she was the right one for me!


Liz said...

I live on the island year-round and I always love reading about how much people enjoy their visits here. Happy anniversary!

Jordanes said...

Beautiful photos -- and happy anniversary, Dave. I have a friend in Michigan who has exulted in the loftiest prose of his visits to Mackinac Island and regaled me of horror stories (true ones, he says) of cars being blown off the Mighty Mackinac during high winds. One of these days we'll have to go up and see it ourselves. It was one of the places my grandmother visited during her post-retirement trips -- I've found some of her postcards from Mackinac Island among her things that I inherited after her death.

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks to both of you.

How wonderful, Liz, to live there all the time. Wow! Must be wild in the winter!

Maybe you work at the school we walked by that wasn't far from the Grand Hotel?

Paul Hoffer said...

Mackinac Island is one of my family's favorite places to go on vacation (the other is Williamsburg, VA). My wife and I spent our 24th wedding anniversary (a couple of years ago) there too. The sights there are beautiful. Historic St. Ann's is a gorgeous Catholic church. We love the butterfly house and the parks there provde some really good bird watching. We don't get to stay at the Grand Hotel though-we camp out in a tent.

More importantly, congratulations on your anniversary! I hope you and your wife have many more! Someone once said that a happy marriage was a preview of heaven-I believe that.

Jordanes, I can tell you that bicycling across the bridge and back in 1978 was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. The space in the expansion joints were literally large enough that I thought I could fall through if I didn't cross them right.

God bless!

Dave Armstrong said...

Cool, Paul. I had been there twice before, and even went into the hotel one time (I actually had to make a delivery there in 1993, in my old job; got paid $300 to drive all the way up), but nothing like this time, to wander around the place at will and stay there. The last time my wife and I went, we walked all around the island, including over to the limestone arch.

I was told by someone in the hotel that much of the island is uncut wilderness. That interests me as well. I'd like to hike in there and camp if I could. That's what we usually do when we travel. :-)

I once bicycled across the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, which is about a mile long. They don't even allow that now. And we floated under it this summer in my three-man rubber raft, in our Huck Finn-like journey down the Detroit River (which is actually a strait) about five miles.