Note: The Straits tales continue from Nov. 19 under the title of the Tale of Three Cities. Come and explore the magic of the Straits of Mackinac, its history and lore.
Mackinaw City, MI – I usually make my base camp in this town south of the “Mighty Mac,” which is the longest suspension bridge in the USA. Maybe it’s because of the fear of crossing the bridge that sways in the wind over the Straits of Mackinac. This is where Lake Huron joins Lake Michigan.
Not long ago, the bridge authority designated some employees to transport the fearful drivers across the bridge for additional $5. Even truck drivers take advantage of the service.
I have visited the Straits area in all seasons and I’ve done everything from swimming, hiking, skiing, shopping, studying history, bird watching, smelling lilacs to bar hopping.
What keeps me coming back is the unique combination of nature and human achievement, much like the NASA area. The Mackinaw Crossings village was added to the human achievement side recently.
In spite of the hotels, souvenir and fudge shops, as well as high speed ferries to the Mackinac Island, the three communities are not the usual tourist traps.
The Mackinac Island is one of few inhabited islands in the North with 200 year-round residents, a school and the Town Crier. There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island, only horses, bicycles, feet, skis and snowmobiles. Even old ladies ride their snowmobiles to the Saint Anne Church.
Saint Ignace on the north side of the bridge is a gateway community to the Upper Peninsula and further to Canada. It’s already a charming “Yooper,” a new word that made it into the dictionary designating anyone who lives in the UP (Upper Peninsula.)
The orientation in Saint Ignace is easy, either you continue on Highway I 75 to Sault Ste. Marie and Canada or you hang a left onto Highway 2 along the lakeshore to inland UP and to the amazing Tahquamenon Waterfalls. Soo with the locks for the tankers is only 40 miles away.
What binds these communities together is the rough weather. Sometimes they still have snow in May.
But, it’s a paradise born to be loved with its lighthouses, shipwrecks, maritime Icebreaker and bridge museums, endless snowmobiling trails, hand-crafted breweries, pasties and smoked whitefish.
Here, the nature at its best leaves you in awe and keeps you coming back.
Mackinaw City, MI -This is a story about three communities located on the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. The Straits are a narrow waterway that separates Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.
But the Straits connect two of the Great Lakes, and that is Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The USA’s longest suspension bridge the “Mighty Mac” spans the five miles over the Straits. The steel construction swings in the wind. It connects the communities of Mackinaw City on the south side and Saint Ignace on the north side.
The area is magnificent as it combines human skill with nature’s beauty. It is rich in history and folklore. It is the most visited tourist location, and a nature lover’s paradise.
There are forts on both the Mackinac Island and the Mackinaw City, and an abundance of romantic lighthouses.
Local specialties include pasties, smoked whitefish and fudge.
One day is not enough for the entire area. So, you have to make a decision about your base camp. Saint Ignace is cheaper, but you pay the $4 fee to cross the bridge.
The most expensive is the Mackinac Island, some seven miles from the peninsulas. Three ferries will whisk you to the island in season for $18. My preferred time to go is off-season, because of the availability and the price of hotels. And the crowds are smaller.
Off season is somewhere around mid October until April. The colors are still beautiful in October, and the weather is nice around 60s Fahrenheit.
For a story on the Mackinac Island in winter go to the travel page on EW Emma’s Writings.
The stay in the new Bridge Vista Beach hotel in Mackinaw City at the beginning of November cost $69. The hotel has magnificent vistas of the bridge, the Straits and the island.
However, many establishments do close for the winter. So, check ahead of time who is open.
A great restaurant open year round other than the mainstay Keyhole Bar in Mackinaw City is the Pancake Chef. The local specialty the northern pasty beef or chicken is tasty and hearty. They also have local brews.
Many souvenir and fudge shops stay open. Marshall’s Fudge offered some 60 flavors.
To be continued….
Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved Emma Blogs LLC
Leelanau Peninsula, MI-Between family gatherings, shopping, holiday baking, this time of year can get extremely hectic. However, the first two weekends of November, the wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula have the perfect antidote for all that holiday stress. Toast the Season features tastings and pairings at 25 wineries throughout the area and showcases the incredible diversity among reds, whites, rose, and cherry wine, not to mention hard cider, all made in the same region. At $50 per person or $75 per couple, you can hardly afford not to embrace your inner sommelier. Tickets also include a bag with a Toast the Season glass to be used for sampling wines, a Christmas ornament, and other goodies.
Even on a dreary, wintery day, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the panoramic views of the hills, lakes, and fields of grapevines in picturesque Northern Michigan, though when it comes to aesthetic appeal, Aurora Cellars was one of the most unique.
The exterior beckons you to imagine that you are no longer outside Traverse City, but rather have been transported to a centuries old Tuscan villa. In addition to delicious wines, Aurora rents its facilities for weddings and other events. Of the dozen wineries I experienced over the weekend, one of the best whites had to be Blustone Vineyards two time gold medal winning Reisling. While most vineyards are known only for red or white, Blustone has both award winning Reisling and Pinot Noir. For lovers of rose, 45 North, named for the line of latitude on which it sits, has a delightful Rose of Cabernet Franc that is sweet and fruity while still maintaining an elegant sophistication.
As for reds and cherry wine, my personal favorite was Black Star Farms. Their Artisan Red has the richness of a red with the sweetness of a white so that lovers of both colors of wine can be satisfied. The Vinter’s Select is also excellent if you prefer something a bit more dry, and a cup of their hot mulled cherry wine is perfect on a chilly day. Black Star also doubles as a charming inn. For the eco-conscious wine lover, Good Neighbor features organic wines and ciders. Possibly their most unique offering were the coffee and chai flavored hard ciders. Sparkling wine lovers can’t go wrong with L Mawby/M Lawrence. Their tasting room has a fun, almost rock and roll feel to it that matches well with the creative names and luscious tastes available there.
Since not everyone is a wine connoisseur, many of the wineries offer a range of hard cider options as well. Verterra Winery’s apple pie flavored cider is just the thing for the adults’ table at Thanksgiving dinner. The notes of cinnamon and sugar are the perfect complement to turkey and stuffing. If you prefer something a bit more dry, Tandem Ciders is the place to be. Their ciders are vaguely reminiscent of what one could find in Normandy, France as opposed to the light sweetness of many of the other hard ciders available in the area. While you can get bottles of Tandem Cider in stores around Michigan, It is most definitely worth stopping in for a visit. In addition to the regularly available ciders, you can buy a custom blend of any or all of the options on tap.
Wine and cider loving Michiganders, forget flying out to the Napa Valley for tastings; you need go no further than your own backyard to Toast the Season at the spectacular Leelanau Peninsula.
Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved Emma Blogs LLC
One hundred fifty years ago, life was much simpler. There was no television, no Internet, and the only kind of Apple you could buy in stores grew on a tree.
Visitors to Historic Bowens Mills on the last weekend of October are able to feel as if they’ve been transported back in time to experience what life was like during the Civil War era.
Children can sit in the antique desks in the oldest one room school in Barry County to be taught about American history by eighty-four year old Virginia Alles, dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Alles enjoys giving pennies to young visitors, telling them it’s a picture of her.
One of the highlights of the weekend for her this year was meeting a couple of descendants of actual Confederate soldiers. Next to the school-house, Dave Rowgo makes hairpins and honey dippers on a wood lathe fashioned from a 1920’s toy woodworking set and the treadle of an old Singer sewing machine.
Ladies spin wool into yarn and weave cloth outside the tiny Plank House where families lived as long ago as the 1840’s. Elizabeth Barker shows chemistry in action by making soaps in a variety of scents in the Bowens House, and music lovers can’t resist a stop to hear the live bluegrass in the Trading Post.
If you play an instrument, you can even join in! A couple of the best demonstrations in the village are the mills themselves. Fresh, sweet apple cider has been made on the press here since soldiers were going off to fight the real Johnny Reb instead of just reenactors. The delicious results of the press can be bought by the glass or by the gallon. A cup of their hot cider with a homemade doughnut is the perfect thing for a cool fall day.
As delightful as all the other diversions are, the highlight of the weekend is by far the battle. The Third Michigan Federal troops go up against Confederate forces from Virginia and North Carolina across the field, taking shelter behind trees and fences. They try to change the battle slightly each year for repeat visitors; the North may win one day while the South come out victors the next.
For true history buffs, the fact the Third Michigan uses a cannon whose barrel and fittings were made in 1861 and was actually used throughout the Civil War is especially exciting. From the homespun crafts to live combat, Bowens Mills’ Civil War Weekend can’t be beat for an old-fashioned good time.
Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved Emma Blogs LLC
Lowell, MI- ‘Tis the season to be merry, and to shop merrily. After all the wedding turmoil, I find it hard to immerse myself into the holiday spirit or to go back to a full writing, design and marketing schedule.
With a full house, for the last 17 days, I had to steal time to write about the International Wedding and to post other writers’ stories like Sarah Harmon’s Pumpkin 5K run.
But, on the flip side, I found out that I would not be able to live without writing. There is so much value in the written word. Writing is such a powerful tool not only to express oneself, share information, facts and communication, but it is also a means of escaping the real world.
Call it a reprieve, if you will. It helps organize thoughts and different experiences.
Christmas through Lowell attracts hundreds
Our EW team plans to cover Christmas activities throughout the area such as the 23rd Christmas through Lowell from Nov. 14 through Nov. 16. The tour is one of my favorites as people open their decorated homes to the public and offer Christmas gifts and nick knacks, along with cookies and cider. The tour features more than 50 houses, businesses and organizations from Alto, Lowell to Vergennes Township. More than 300 vendors will be offering their crafts and arts.
The Christmas tour attracts people from all over Michigan.
There are still locations willing to add more vendors such as the Red Barn Market, Riveredge Gathering Place and B&B, Grand Volute Ballrooms and many more. For a complete list go to www.christmasthroughlowell.org
New vendors are Gless Board, Lowell Women of the Moose, Our House to your House, Small Town Sentiment, Riveredge B&B and Red Barn Market.
You will find delightful treasures, jewelry, Christmas decorations, folk ad fine art, antiques, repurposed treasures, primitives and garden art, beeswax candles and home-made candles, crocheted and knitted crafts, purses, bags and totes, home-made rugs and quilts.
The Lowell Area Historical Museum also opens its doors beautifully decorated for Christmas.
The Christmas tour attracts people from all over Michigan.
We will also cover the Santa Parade and all related activities.
International wedding brings huge success, creates memories
By EMMA PALOVA
EW Emma’s Writings
Wabasis Lake Park, MI- On a beautiful last Saturday in October, Jake Pala and Maranda Ruegsegger became husband and wife.
They got married in the historical Saint Patrick Church in Parnell, Michigan. As the sun rays passed through the colored windows, the sun beams spread all over the altar, the floor, on reverend Mark Peacock and the bride and the groom. Peacock in the homily talked about love, relationships and the importance of wholesome families.
“That is a beautiful church, I was married there,” wrote Jeana Schwacha on facebook. “It looks like it hasn’t changed much.”
Anthony Amelia, brother of the bride, read the wedding classic reading on love 1 Corinthians 12 : 31.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs,” resonated through the church.
The bride’s colors were purple, beige and lavender which carried over to corsages, ties and sashes. The bride, the matron of honor Jessica Kraima and the groom’s sister Emma Chavent wore the ever-popular bustier strapless dresses. The bride’s wedding gown had a long train that dropped down several steps from the altar. The best man was Pala’s longtime friend Ken Kline. The French flower girl was Ella Chavent, 4.
It was a picture perfect afternoon with degrees in mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit.
Just a few miles northeast of the church, overlooking Wabasis Lake covered with autumn golden carpet, sits the park lodge which was the place for the reception.
The scenery for the wedding featured blue skies and blue waters of the Wabasis Lake. The lodge has a large fireplace and it was decked out for a grand wedding celebration. French doors and windows span the entire northern and southern walls. It seats approximately 130 to 140 people.
“It will be rustic chic,” said the bride Maranda Ruegsegger in a previous interview for E Brides & Fashion blog.
The tables were decorated with stumps that served as bases for large vases with candles floating in them.
“Grandpa Tom made the stumps for me,” Maranda glowed.
As Mr. Pala and Mrs. Palova entered the lodge, they got a standing ovation from the crowd.
The song “When a man loves a woman” settled into everyone’s heart as the husband and wife danced the first dance. Turning and swirling to the catching melody, the couple danced passionately and skillfully.
The buffet dinner included chicken marsala, roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad and more.
“The food was delicious,” I kept hearing comments.
A separate dessert station was set up by the fireplace. Wedding baker Jarmila Karmaskova of CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Desserts set up the three-tier wedding cake on a stump. The cake was topped off with pine cones in the spirit of the rustic theme.
“The desserts are very good,” said friend Jean Jeltema. “Bring me some of that cake log.”
CJ spent three days baking the wedding cake, cake logs and traditional Czech kolache. Karmaskova baked well into the wee hours of the wedding day.
“I was kind of scared out there,” she confessed later.
She and her two sons George & Paul flew 6,000 miles to get here for the wedding.
The wines featured Fenn Valley’s sweeter Lakeshore white and red Capriccio, French Vouvray chardonnay, Rodney Strong chardonnay and Spanish Sangre de Toro red and Sangria. The bar also offered plum brandy, pear brandy and Becherovka herbal liqueur.
“Everybody liked that,” said father of the bride Dan Ruegsegger at the tailgate party on Sunday.
No Czech celebration is complete without beer. Since it is the month of the Octoberfest, the groom ordered Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Ichabad pumpkin ale.
The international selection of wines and brandy reflected the international spirit of the wedding. Mr. Jakub Pala was born in former Czechoslovakia and Mrs. Maranda Palova, born Ruegsegger, is American. The groom’s sister Chavent is Czech, but her husband and children are French.
The difference in the names Pala – Palova lies in the gender and the grammar. All females in Slavic languages after marriage take on the man’s name, but because of the grammar rules, the last name is modified by adding either –ova to the end or –a to the end.
For example the famous Czech tennis player Martina Navratilova, a man would be Martin Navratil or Ivanka Trumpova, the man is Donald Trump.
And my dad Vaclav Konecny fills in the Spanish gap as a big fan of the Spanish language.
During the wedding, my parents Ella & Vaclav Konecny received a blessing for their 55th anniversary and danced the longest on the dance floor. They had the greatest longevity of marriage of all the couples present.
Groom’s sister Emma Chavent made the wedding video accompanied by a great selection of music including Queen. It covered the groom’s childhood all the way to marriage.
The dance floor was busy until the closing. The DJ was accommodating also to requests for slow dancing music.
So Mr. & Mrs. Palova danced the night away under the bright stars.