Summer Festivals

A blueberry clock, perhaps? - tangledpasta.net

A blueberry clock, perhaps? – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

There is nothing more quintessentially American than ubiquitous summer festivals. Quite of few of these annual festivals center around fruit, although there are those that focus on vegetables, corn is a dominant August vegetable.

Here in the Heartland in early August, we celebrate the blueberry. There is, however, one county not far from ours that has the audacity to hold its blueberry festival over Labor Day weekend, when there is not a fresh blueberry to be had. However, I am pleased to report that in the Michigan [a mere twenty minutes to the State Line from our abode, genuine August Blueberry Festivals abound. My daughter and I hopped into our roadster and headed for the South Haven Blueberry Festival.

This beach community is on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, one of the Five Great Lakes. South Haven itself clocks in at less than one-and-a-half hour’s drive from our home. Although we have spent summers on Lake Michigan, we had never visited South Haven. Downtown was jumping, with pedestrians everywhere. We wound up in a picturesque park with a large clock overlooking the shady walkways. Since it was a blazingly hot and humid day, we welcomed the shade. We meandering and following our noses, we detected the scent of Italian beef in the air. On the other side of the park was a tent-covered area with a vendor selling Italian Beef Sandwiches slathered with roasted bell peppers and onions. Resisting this temptation, we moved on to booths of blueberries every which way: In quarts, 4-pound and 10-pound lots, pies, muffins, jams, mustard [actually quite good], syrup, salsa, and ketchup, of all things.

We purchased 4 pounds of blueberries, a 16-ounce jar of blueberry jam, and headed back to the “blueberry strip” downtown. Upon entering The Blueberry Shop, I tasted the blueberry coffee [mighty fine, even to this non-coffee drinker, although I am aware of the irony of that remark], while Anjelica taste-tested blueberry-covered pretzels [a winner, she decreed].

Happy with our blueberry tea, blueberry cocoa, and blueberry salt-and-pepper shakers, we headed off in search of lunch. Although we had hoped to garner a table at The Stray Dog, its two-and-a-half hour wait propelled us to another eatery a few blocks up the street: The Black River Tavern, overlooking the harbor. While the tavern was packed to the gills, a table for two had just opened. On the advice of our hurried, yet chipper waitress, we ordered a specialty of the tavern: Perch sandwiches. The perch had been freshly caught in Lake Michigan that morning, and may I say “Bravo!” to this cold-water fish! Fast food fish sandwiches pale dramatically after chomping down the enormous fresh perch ones at The Black River Tavern.

Sated, we moved on to the Black River Bookstore. This charming bookshop offers used books, along with new ones by Michigan authors. In the children’s section I came across the Camp Fire Girl Guide. As I thumbed through this well-worn copy, I was reminded of my book when I was first a Bluebird, and then moved up to Camp Fire Girl for twelve years, first through twelfth grades with my mother as the Leader of our troop. Carefully I placed in back upon the shelf for a girl to discover. After making a book purchase, we took a drive along the shore, parked the car, got out and watched the sailboats glide by the lighthouse. We may return to South Haven for a week or two stay on the beach next summer, and, of course, for the blueberries.

Ciao for now.

Weekend Getaway, Part II

 

Upon docking at Mackinac Island, we caught a four-legged taxi to The Grand Hotel.  No cars are permitted on the island, which means work horses abound on the island.  The Grand Hotel driver wears a black top hat, tall leather black leather boots, white breeches, and a burgundy-colored waistcoat with tails.  The carriage itself has large wooden spoke wheels, windows, and is pulled by a pair of black horses decked out in black leather gear.

The Grand Hotel’s taxi in front of The Grand Hotel- tangledpasta.net

The horses’ clip-clop-clip-clop up and down the hills of the winding streets finally depositing us in front of The Grand Hotel’s steep red-carpeted steps.  Schepler’s Ferry transported our baggage via horse-drawn carriage to the hotel prior to our arrival on the island.  Shortly after checking in, our bags appeared outside our room door.

This was our third stay at The Grand Hotel; as a result, our room had been upgraded to a Category III Lake-View room.  Two four-poster canopy beds coördinated with the brightly flowered wallpaper supplied a cheery greeting upon our arrival.  Dorothy Draper’s protégé, Carleton Varney, the hotel historian informed us, decorated each of the 385 rooms differently in 19th century fashion.  Each paint color is unique to The Grand Hotel.

Dressing for formal dinner in our Lake View room, The Grand Hotel – tangledpasta.net

The large geranium-motif carpet runs throughout the hotel [the geranium is the signature flower of The Grand Hotel].  In each bathroom, small bars of pink geranium-scented soap greet the guest, as does rosy geranium-fragranced body lotion.  The lake vista, the brightly splashed wallpaper, comfy beds, and scent of geraniums wafting through the air calmed the senses.

Part of The Salon, The Grand Hotel – tangledpasta.net

We decided to partake of formal tea time in The Salon.  My daughter chose a glass of pink champagne, and I the dry sherry.  Our server, who was dressed in a crisp black and white uniform replete with a white headpiece à la 19th century servants, displayed before us a tasty repast of salmon, crab, ham, and turkey each served on crustless bread cut in the shape of hearts, circles, and rectangles.   Another plate was laden with sweets and fresh cream.  The tea itself was full-bodied.

Formal tea at The Grand Hotel, – tangledpasta.net

We strolled around the grounds overlooking the Tea Garden where enormous greenery has been trimmed to resemble animals.  A large fountain bubbled away as workers scurried to set up for a wedding to take place overlooking the fountain.

The promise of a fine weekend loomed large.

Ciao for now.

 

Weekend Getaway, Part I

Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan, Unit...

Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An island of paradise exists in The Heartland in the guise of Mackinac Island.  Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, sitting in Lake Michigan, this miniscule island is home to one of the treasures of our country:  The Grand Hotel.

Opened in 1887, The Grand Hotel celebrates its 125th Anniversary this year.  In a testament to war, economic decline, and prosperity, The Grand Hotel has never closed its doors since it first opened.  An impromptu getaway at The Grand Hotel proved once again that she remains the embodiment of the Grande Dame of Hotels.

Having spent summers at our family cottage on Eagle Lake in southwestern Michigan, my affinity for Michigan and the Great Lakes in general has not waned. The Grand Hotel is a throwback to an age of refinement, culture, and fine dining.  Like my summers of yore on Eagle Lake, The Grand Hotel is an experience unto itself.  Each summer I long for at least a weekend on The Lake.  We snatched up last-minute availability at The Grand Hotel; within days we commenced our seven and a half hour drive north to St. Ignace.

Not only is northern Michigan lush in its plethora of trees, but also in its mountainous terrain.  The further north we traveled, the fewer and farther the towns in between.  In order to reach St. Ignace, we had to cross the cathedral-like suspension bridge across the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, thereby linking Mackinaw City with St. Ignace in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The five-mile Mackinac Bridge offers panoramic views of the two Great Lakes.  For us, the mighty bridge acts as a prelude to one of our most beloved travel destinations:  The Grand Hotel.

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City...

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan, photographed on July 31, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We parked the car, and caught Schepler’s ferry to Mackinac Island.  As we ferried across to Mackinac Island, we gazed at the majestic bridge in all its beauty.  Our long weekend getaway was off to a rousing start.

A Mackinac Island ferry passing in front of th...

A Mackinac Island ferry passing in front of the Mackinac Bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ciao for now.