Episode 31: That Time I Travelled Back In Time On Mackinac Island

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript of Episode 31: That Time I Travelled Back In Time On Mackinac Island

Hello and welcome to this week’s podcast. So we’re still in the October chapter from the book 365 Dates of Travel: The SECOND six months. And this week I will be reading three dates from that chapter. The first date is when I’m on a European river cruise. It’s day two of fifteen where I will be travelling from Amsterdam along the river to Budapest. And then the second one is in New Zealand, where I’m travelling for netball and I forget something really, really important. And the third date is when I’m on Mackinac Island and the special Somewhere In Time weekend that is held there.

For this first story. It’s 2013, and it is the second full day of the river cruise. So I’m still learning how everything works and loving every second of it at the same time.

14th October (2013) Köln and the Rhine River, Germany

Not docking until the afternoon, I slept in and had breakfast delivered to my cabin. This allowed me to choose the latest delivery time and remain in my pyjamas on its arrival. Getting dressed is overrated on holiday.

For a €2 delivery surcharge, I had breakfast in bed with glorious Germany going by as we cruised the Rhine River. Perfection!

There weren’t many opportunities to languish in bed with morning shore excursions. Once I realised how brilliant it was, I organised it on two more occasions with morning cruising.

You didn’t choose your food. A selection was delivered with variable options dependent on who made it.

Today’s tray contained a pot of tea; a jug of milk; a glass of orange juice; a bowl of fruit salad; a basket of various pastries; and a plate of condiments. What more do you need? I hung out in bed, eating and drinking tea as Europe went by.

I semi-dressed and sneakily refilled the room service teapot with hot water from the hot beverage station and had a second pot of tea in bed. This is the way to travel.

After working two jobs, I was exhausted. I needed a relaxed start to the trip. Some cruisers didn’t appreciate the quietness, though. When I enquired why, I received a plausible explanation. Being of the older age variety, they were retired. They relax at home as their normal state. On holiday they want to go-go-go. It’s their time to be energetic. Us workers are go-go-go as the normal state, so we want to relax.

We had a 4:00 pm included city walk on arrival in Cologne, or Köln. We broke into three categories of groups based on abilities. I joined the energetic tour. I don’t remember what the two fastest categories were called, but I loved the name for the least athletic cruisers called “The Gentle Walkers Group”. Such a cute name. The people in this group required walking sticks and frames. But they always alighted. Sometimes they’d have vehicles of varying styles to deliver them to the sights. We energetic people walked into the town centres. I hope I’m travelling when I’m a gentle walker.

There were two walks. Being my first visit to Köln, I chose the general tour over the more specific Jewish Heritage tour. Before alighting, you pick up headsets, but you had to pick the correct ones for the tour and speed you desired. White was always for the Gentle Walkers. Blue was for the Jewish themed tour and five colours for the rest.

Being more energetic than most of the group had its advantages. I’d either race ahead to get photos while they caught up or stayed back knowing I could catch them. I’d be apart from the group, but hear the commentary via the headsets. This was my first headset tour. I used to laugh at people on those tours, but I discovered their advantages. If the voice disappeared, I knew I’d gone too far, and either waited for them or ran faster to catch up.

European towns are beautiful compared to Australian towns. They’re not afraid of colour, which makes everything appear as from a fairytale. In a row of five houses you go from a green house, to orange, cream, yellow and pink. You would never see that in Australia. Add the stone round turrets behind them and it’s romantic, even by yourself. You can’t help but smile, be happy and grateful to be there. And don’t forget the cobblestoned streets, elegant lamps attached to the buildings and the intricate shop signs showing in pictures and designs what’s for offer in the store; a tradition dating to when people couldn’t read. I love how the tradition continues.

In the Alter Markt, or old square, City Hall has one hundred and thirty statues on its facade, and the Platzjabbeck, a wooden carving where a red tongue pokes out every hour.

We walked around the magnificent Köln Dom or cathedral. This is Köln’s famous landmark. A cathedral has existed here since 818 CE, expanding throughout the centuries. We ventured inside to marvel at the exquisite medieval stained-glass window. I bought a postcard to ensure I had a picture that did it justice.

I took a photo showing the historic hotel next door. This was for future travel planning reference. What an incredible place to stay. It was closed for refurbishment during my next visit to Köln. It would be expensive, given its prime location.

Our official tour finished here, but I paid entry to see the Cathedral Treasury. I would have preferred to climb the tower, but it closed at 5:00 pm.

I walked over the railway bridge to look back at the city view and a full circle to the boat for a 7:00 pm dinner. The boat didn’t sail until 8:15 pm, allowing time for dinner in Köln if you wanted. Couples often did this to add to their experience and have alone time. Given my interesting history of meals while travelling alone, I returned to the boat. We docked below the cathedral, thus easy to navigate your way back.

After dinner, I took night photos of Köln from the rooftop deck as we sailed. The movement and darkness blurred the photos. So blurry that people who aren’t me would have deleted them. The colours look great in thumbnails though.

I bought a map of the Rhine River to follow our progress. It’s a flip map taller than me when open. It starts in Köln and continues to Mainz, depicting every town, castle and sight along the river bank. There could be no more detailed guide to what I’d witness from my bedroom window. Though it highlights what you’ll miss while sailing overnight.

The map cost €3.50, Treasury entry €5, postcard 90 cents, totalling €9.40 with €2 for room service to be paid later.

***

This next story has a very long background to it, so I have included that under the date of the 19th. It is all backstory until you get to when I talk about my diary from 1:30pm in New Zealand time. Everything before that is all behind-the-scenes information to help you understand the situation or the reason behind why I went to New Zealand. It was an amazing trip, very unexpected, all sort of stemming from a combination of a broken ankle, a netball obsession and a sporting crush on Sharelle McMahon.

It also includes a wonderful travel mishap, which I still can’t believe I did. And it’s such an Australian thing to do. But for those outside of the Australian and New Zealand world, Australia often takes ownership of things and places that are New Zealand and pretends they’re Australian. And there is a rivalry in all sorts of senses of the word between Australia and New Zealand. And also there’s this weird understanding, or just comprehension, that, well, New Zealand’s not really another country. It’s just part of Australia that’s over there, isn’t it? Hence why we steal things and call them our own. But I never really expected that would end up in me not feeling like I was actually travelling overseas and to another country. So wait to see what I did on this trip.

19th October (2001) Wellington, New Zealand

This trip has a long background story after a seed planted in July. The background will help you understand this trip, a greater understanding of the Jamaica trip, and a future story at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. This is where they started.

In the middle of June, they removed the cast from my broken ankle, fitted me into a boot brace, and sent me to physiotherapy. I’d broken the dome of my talus playing netball and had worn a cast for four weeks. The talus bone is part of your ankle joint connecting your leg to your foot. The physiotherapist said, “I can’t guarantee you’ll get full use of your ankle again.”

What? Without my ankle, I thought I’d have to stop nannying, and being my accelerator foot, I couldn’t drive, losing my dream of driving across Africa.

15th June: I felt deformed, like my life was never going to be the same again, and all alone. The tears just poured out. I was sobbing… two games of netball televised got me through… Sharelle McMahon (Aussie GA) [Goal Attack for the Australian team] excellent shooter.

The Netball Tri-Series was being televised. I watched games between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. International netball at its best and how I discovered netball legend Sharelle McMahon. Her athleticism and shooting prowess left me in awe. I played goal attack and inspired by her play. They’ve recently placed a statue of her in Melbourne’s sporting precinct.

I became a member of Sharelle’s Melbourne netball club, The Melbourne Phoenix. Only two home games remained in the season, but I joined to attend the after-match functions, hoping to meet Sharelle.

I went to my first game on the 21st of July, where I introduced myself to Barry, who I’d conversed with to organise my membership. Most unlike me, but everything cascaded from there. It was worth any internal angst. Barry introduced me to his wife Sue, one player’s parents and three players, but not Sharelle. She was there, though, and I watched her play live.

A few days later, I toured a local gym and sports centre. I’d put on weight since breaking my ankle. The guy who gave me the tour seemed familiar, but it took me a few hours to work out where I’d seen him. He was at the Phoenix after-match function. What are the odds?

I joined a different gym, but was not wasting a potential netball contact. I walked to the gym to say I’d seen him at the match. He said he had a friend in the team. Which player? He didn’t say. I’d seen him chatting with Sharelle, so confident she was the friend. He said he’d say hello at the next match.

I became obsessed with netball and travelled to interstate away games to see extra games before the season ended. I visited Adelaide twice, where I had friends to catch up and stay with.

As the season reached an end, I wasn’t ready to lose netball, so looked into an international series I’d heard mentioned in July. In had three games between Australia and New Zealand in New Zealand. I’d left it too late with one game sold out and the remaining two only back row seats.

Do players get tickets for family and friends? Maybe my gym contact could help me get tickets. Brave. Throughout the walk, I contemplated aborting, but I strode through the gym door and asked. I lied and said I’d be in New Zealand anyway, so thought I’d attend the games to find sold out and wondered if his friend had access to tickets. To my surprise and embarrassment, he rang Sharelle. I was mortified. I meant if he remembered next time he saw her. To my relief, she didn’t answer, but he left a message for her to call back. At the end he said, “It’s urgent.” I was dying. It wasn’t urgent. But. Oh. My. Goodness. He was going to ask Sharelle McMahon to get me tickets. I couldn’t believe how the circumstances unfolded. Little coincidences adding up to this.

Three weeks later, still no word. I found an Australian team training session open to the public. Off I went. There was no one else there, embarrassing, but I overheard one conversation that made it worthwhile.

As the players stretched, I heard them chatting. They mentioned players’ tickets and who may be using theirs. Sharelle says, “A friend of a friend is going over and wants tickets. One for each match.”

Music to my ears. The tickets had been requested.

I am on Cloud 9. I’m on top of the world.

Sharelle commented she was unsure if the tickets were still wanted.

I wanted to jump up and say they were for me and yes, I still wanted them. [But I didn’t] I was smiling all the way home in the car. I was beaming!!!

I felt confident I’d get the tickets, booking flights three days later. I’d fly into Wellington and out of Christchurch on Qantas for $658.

Eight days later, on the 4th of October, I had heard nothing about the tickets, so walked to the gym. He rang her. This time she answered and confirmed I had the tickets.

I’m so happy!! Oh so happy! One ticket to each game, more if I wanted. I’m smiley, happy singing.

A month had passed, but it turned out in my favour. They’d be waiting for me at the venues.

I returned to the gym with a thank you gift of a small bottle of champagne. I bought Sharelle a pedicure gift voucher. The netball tickets cost $40 each, so I saved money even after spending $97 on presents.

Before departing, I looked at the netball ticket availability to discover seats available. I’d be mortified if the games weren’t sold out as that was the premise for requesting player tickets. I wouldn’t have asked if could buy them myself. But I don’t regret asking.

1:35 pm New Zealand Time. I’m on the plane… I didn’t get to bed till after 11 pm and the taxi booked for 5:40 am. Basically, I got no sleep. I just went to the toilet and my eyes are red and pretty bloodshot and my face is awful showing every blackhead, pimple, red mark, etc. Not at all in good shape to see Sharelle.

At least I’ve got my disaster done with for this trip. I arrived at the airport with no passport. It did not occur to me even once. I could not believe it. Luckily, I rang Rebecca, and she had my car and spare car keys to be able to drive straight out to the airport. I arranged for an e-Tag over the phone as soon as I hung up from Rebecca. Pretty easy really. Lucky I was early. The taxi cost $50. It was nowhere near that last time. I think I got duped. I couldn’t even see a meter. I wasn’t going to argue at 6:00 am. I’m totally exhausted. Hopefully, I can sleep well tonight. I need to be bright and chirpy for tomorrow night.

To this day, I am flabbergasted I forgot my passport. New Zealand’s not a separate country. It’s part of Australia, right? Oops. It didn’t feel like overseas travel. Hence the forgotten passport. I was lucky I knew where my passport lived to tell my flatmate Rebecca and explain my spare car keys’ whereabouts. Rebecca didn’t have a car, but she’d used mine during the four months I couldn’t drive because of my ankle injury. Being early allowed time for Rebecca to drive to the airport via the toll road shortcut, and leave time to check in. If I’d driven myself to the airport, there wouldn’t have been sufficient time to drive home and return. I paid $50 for a taxi and my car still drove to the airport. But it worked out in the end. How stupid did I feel, though? My memory says I realised the instant I walked through the airport doors from the taxi. I did not make the check-in line. It’s as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday.

While waiting for my passport, I exchanged Australian dollars into New Zealand dollars. $1000 Australian became $1141 New Zealand. I love making money out of an exchange.

My 8:10 am flight had three and a half hours of flying time, but with Wellington three hours ahead, I arrived at 3:00 pm local time.

I caught a shuttle from the airport, dropped my bags at the hostel after paying $40 for a two-night stay, and explored Wellington. I bought “lunch” in a kiwi fruit, an apple and a banana, eating said fruit as I walked to the cable car. It transported me to a vantage point, affording a panoramic view of the city and the water. I wandered the streets taking photos, but I have lost the photos. Frustrating.

While returning to the hostel, I had McDonald’s for dinner and made a supermarket supply run. As usual, I bought a weird collection. The receipt has faded but with a well-placed torchlight I deciphered extra apples, bananas and kiwi fruit; tinned apricots; apple juice; Ribena; tinned corn and spaghetti; a bagel; a muffin; and pop tarts for $17.70.

Total spend came to $80. Plus the taxi and tolls.

***

This next story on Mackinac Island is absolutely amazing. It was a great weekend and I’m really glad that something as simple as a childhood favourite movie could bring me an experience like I had that weekend. So enjoy this story, but also go back to the book, or read the book, where you’ll get the full story from start to finish because it was a wonderful weekend. 

29th October (1999) Mackinac Island, Michigan, USA

This weekend involved extensive planning. One of my favourite childhood movies was Somewhere In Time, starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer. The romance, the time travel, the costumes, what’s not to love? I discovered a Somewhere In Time fan club with a yearly gathering at the hotel from the movie. I joined the club to learn more. At $769 for a single, I considered it too expensive.

I advertised in the club newsletter for someone to share the double cost with me at $435 each. A woman called Sue from Indianapolis got in touch and we made arrangements. We met on the day after planning via snail mail.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, in Lake Huron, Michigan, is stupendous. The hotel’s so prominent it can be seen from the mainland; a stretch of white in the distance with a distinctive cupola.

A horse and carriage greeted us at the ferry as our hotel transfer. It would have been quicker to walk, but a treat I relished. No motorised vehicles are allowed on the island except those used by emergency services. Horse and carriages were the norm or walking or cycling.

The Grand Hotel was resplendent in its size and Victorian majesty. At the time, it was the world’s largest summer hotel. It retains its record for the world’s longest porch, creating a masterpiece of white Victorian grandeur. The porch overlooks gardens and the water beyond.

Our baggage made its own way. We were early, so unsure what to do, check in-wise. We walked the red carpet into the parlour, as in the movie. Exquisite. I couldn’t believe I was there. A couple of people already wore period clothing, which made me jealous. I wanted to dress in authentic clothing. How magical to be dressed up the entire weekend. Sue was a period dressmaker and brought me a dress for Saturday night. With the movie set in 1912, the women’s clothing could be spectacular. And how often does the opportunity to be transported to another era present itself?

We found Somewhere in Time (SIT) registration downstairs. You could pick up the weekend program; sign up for activities; buy souvenirs; enter a raffle for a Grand Hotel music box playing Rachmaninoff; join INSITE (International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts); buy CDs of music inspired by the movie; and look at books on historical clothes and Maude Adams, on whom Elise McKenna was based. Elise is the character played by Jane Seymour. It was over crowded making me torn between soaking it in and running away.

Despite being early, we attempted to check in to find our room available. We were at the back on the ground floor for the sold-out event. Three hundred and forty-three rooms, occupied by SIT enthusiasts. Others stayed off site and came in for the events. Our price included food and horrified when I heard off-site guests paid $70 to join dinner at the hotel, not including any drinks. Yikes!

I delighted in our room. The photos show chintz, which wouldn’t pass muster in a historic hotel now, but I thought my luxury historic dreams had come true. We each had a double bed, complete with four posts and a floral material canopy, which matched the wallpaper. I was ecstatic with sleeping under a canopy that nothing else mattered. Despite the plush decor, I didn’t sleep well over the weekend because of a busy mind about returning to Australia.

After settling in, we walked into town, discovering the old buildings and quaint shops. I acquired a Christmas ornament depicting the Grand Hotel.

We bought lunch completing an expensive but worth it day.

I returned to the hotel before Sue to partake in the activities. I toured the hotel kitchens, who use 210,000 pieces of cutlery and crockery per day. Their dishwashers have conveyor belts.

I attended a slide show by the movie’s cinematographer showing film techniques used in the movie with stories. Izzy Mankofsky told entertaining tales. They held an INSITE member’s meeting, then time to dress for dinner. I relished dressing for an occasion.

I didn’t see Sue from leaving her in town until dressing for dinner. We joined the cocktail reception together, but once she had her drink, she disappeared. I was self-conscious by myself, in a short blue dress; the shortest I have ever worn. I found a seat. Someone else sat, and we talked. She invited me to join them for dinner. I was relieved. Sue later joined us.

We had a table of eight. Clark, Darlene, Maureen, Julie, Rosslyn, Peter, Sue and me. We got along and made plans to eat together the next night. It worked out in the end.

Dinner contained five courses with at least three choices. My choices:

Appetiser: fruit cocktail (melon balls).

Soup: mushroom.

Salad: I skipped.

Main: roast veal.

Dessert: white chocolate mousse cake.

I drank a cola and later presented with a bill for it. I had no money with me. Clark paid the check. Thank goodness. I assumed drinks were included–at least soft drinks. The main reason I had no money was I didn’t have an evening bag to carry it. I noted I’d have to buy one.

After dinner, we watched SIT. The studio spent over $10,000 for a never-before-seen print and gave it to Jo Addie, the Editor of INSITE. I’d never seen the movie on the big screen. It made for goosepimply moments, and I fought back tears multiple times. I loved every second. I’m glad I hadn’t watched it before coming. It meant more after not seeing it for years.

I peeked in on the dancing, wishing I had someone to dance with. Without a key, I waited for Sue but never found her. I presumed she’d returned to the room. I knocked three times before she opened the door. She’d felt unwell and gone to bed. I woke her. Sorry. Another repercussion of not having an evening bag. I’m a mess fashion-wise.

***

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you found something interesting or something that made you smile or laugh or inspired you to travel somewhere in the world. Next week, it is the November chapter. Now, of course, November is only a half chapter because it started in the first book and I’ll be finishing it in the second book.

Being just a short chapter, I’m only doing one episode because there’s not enough material to do two episodes when it’s six individual dates. It’s only from the 1st to the 6th of November. 

So next week will be a bit different. And don’t forget, you can go to the website and check out the photos from trips that we’ve talked about today and every other week. And you can go to the website to find places to buy the book if you haven’t already done so. So there’s the two books, 365 dates of travel: The first six months and The SECOND six months, which is what we’ve been discussing over the last few weeks. Have a look at the photos, listen to the podcast, read the book and you get the full picture. And that website is franheapwriter.com. So go check that out. 

And don’t forget, if you have been enjoying this podcast, you can subscribe on whatever podcast platform you are listening on, so do that. That way, I know you’re coming back. And don’t forget to get in touch. If you have any comments, you can find contact details on the website and underneath the transcripts, you can comment under there or contact me through the website. Email fran@franheapwriter.com

I’ll leave it there and I will speak to you next week. And until then, I will wish you an interesting day.

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