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A Day on the Island sept 4 09

In Michigan, we call it simply, ďThe Bridge.Ē Everyone knows what you mean when you say that, for while countless bridges punctuate our highway network, there is only one Bridge, and that is the Mackinac Bridge. The Mighty Mac: that elegant, five-mile-long structure which,spanning the turbulent, blue Straits of Mackinac, connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas and provides our state with one of its most famous and evocative emblems.

The Bridge is a constant presence in the distance as you sit on the upper deck of the jet ferry from Mackinaw City to the Island.

Yes, the Island. There is only one of those, too, at least here at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. Lakes Huron and Michigan are dotted with islands of various sizes, some of them quite largeóDrummond Island, North and South Manitou, Boise Blancóbut Mackinac Island is an island apart from the rest. It may not be the largest, but it is by far the most colorful.

Tourist trap? Oh, itís one of those all right. But itís a wholesome tourist trap with lots to offer, and at the end of a Mackinac Island day, you can return to the mainland well-stocked with Murdickís fudge and satisfied that you had a great time without shelling out a small fortune (though if you want to spend a wad of cash, youíll find plenty of opportunities to do so).

The vast, gleaming-white facade of the Grand Hotel is your first sign that youíre in for a special experience as you approach the Island. But itís when your ferry curves past the lighthouses for its final approach to the harbor, and the shoreline ensemble of lavish homes, hotels, shops, and boat docks looms larger and larger, that you begin to get an inkling of how much there really is to hold your interest.

Leaving the ferry, you make your way from the docks and through a spacious passageway, from which you emerge onto a sidewalk filled with foot traffic and lined with shops. Your ears take in the sounds of voices, and laughter, and the clip-clop of horses. Bikers wheel past you on the street. Motor vehicles arenít allowed on the Island, and thatís just fine. Youíll find bicycles and horses available to rent, and horse-drawn shuttles are constantly patrolling the streets, ready to take you for a slow, relaxing ride up to the Hotel (did I mention that there is only one Hotel?) or north along the shoreline drive toward Arch Rock. The latter makes for a lovely carriage ride down a winding, picturesque street lined with huge, immaculately kept homes, all sitting at the bottom of a great hill beneath the watchful bulk of Fort Mackinac.

Right now, though, itís time to walk the sidewalks and explore the numerous shops. Seems like every other store is a fudge shop. You knew, did you not, that Mackinac Island fudge is the best fudge in the world? If youíve never experienced it, now is the time to visit Murdickís, or Rybaís, or any of the Islandís other fudge artisans, taste the samples, and pick up a bit of fudge to take home with you. A suitcase full will be sufficient.

Of course, you canít live on fudge. By and by, youíre ready for something more substantial. The time has arrivedótime for the ultimate noon-hour dining experience: the Grand Hotelís incredible luncheon buffet. A ten-minute ride on a horse-drawn taxi takes you through the town and up the sloping, curvy road to the Hotel. Here, from the lavish dining experience that awaits you, to the Hotelís stunning interior, to its breathtaking view across the Straits from its great front porch, to its extraordinary gardens, youíre about to get a taste of opulence unstinting and unabashed.

But thatís for another post. Stay tunedólunch is being prepared.

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Written by Dave.