Word travels fast in small towns.
By day three of our visit, we were already bumping into locals we had met on days one and two. Later, as we walked once again up Kelsey to our hotel, we met up with the archives librarian, who was out walking her dog. We assured her that all was well. Even the cashier at the Northern, the only grocery in town, knew us on sight by day three. It was there, in line to buy some apple juice, that we were treated to the latest local gossip — one of the local park rangers yup, by now we knew who she was had sadly lost her dog to a polar bear.
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Though we looked for him all over town, hoping to get a short interview, we kept missing him by a hair. Many of the other locals work two or three jobs, as well.
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Karla is just one example. Like many of the other Churchillians, she moved here from Winnipeg. Now she works as the local probation officer; other days she works as a bartender and a waitress. But when you stayed the next day, I knew you were tourists.
We were introduced to several people already there, some who worked for the town government staff of 30 ; others who just come to Churchill during the summer and polar bear season, then move south to Winnipeg to wait out the winter. Over drinks, they talked of life in Churchill — snowy landscapes, room to breathe, polar bears and star-filled nights.
And, lamented one of the local girls, very FEW available men. By the time the sun had finally gone down, around 10 p. It seemed a shame to leave just as we had gotten to know people. Then, as a final parting gift from this northern land, eerie lights appeared in the sky as we trudged sadly back down Kelsey. The green and white lines of the Northern Lights danced in waves, and then moved slowly across the sky before gradually disappearing.
It seemed a fitting end to our evening. But just as we were leaving for the airport, we got a phone call. It was the mayor! He had heard from someone last night that we were looking for him.
During the Cold War, he said, the Americans had a base here. But they eventually moved out and the Canadian military moved in. Then in , the military pulled out altogether, leaving a handful of locals and hundreds of polar bears. And that was just fine. Our jewels are the beluga whales, the polar bears and the Northern Lights. The three guys, shaved heads, broad shoulders and fearsome faces, saw us struggling with our phone to try to find a place to stay on the Internet and decided to help us.
Ignoring our fake cappuccinos, we explained to the men in 2-word sentences what our problem was. Our personal Schwarzeneggers got up immediately. They took us to a hotel, not designated as such, and patiently waited for everything to be arranged with the owner.
Try that in Saigon or Gambia. The room not only had a roof, somebody had actually put in an effort to decorate it. It had a bed with swirled metal at both ends and a carmine lamp that matched the color of the curtains. Normally I would avoid a place with anything more decorative than a bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling, thinking it was not in my price range, but for lack of hostels, we had no choice.
With our luggage safely stored in the room, we were ready for our expedition into Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia. With more than 74, inhabitants, Bitola is situated in the deep south of the Republic of Macedonia, a country very few people know exists, let alone visit. The few foreigners that do come to Macedonia go to Ohrid, lured there by the low prices and the big lake. The travel industry needed a new, cheap destination and thus created one. It has all the elements a tourist could want: mountains, lake, sun and ice cream.
In Ohrid, there is no Balkan feel and, despite being next to Greece, no classic grandeur.
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The gray apartment blocks from the communist era have a soft focus layer. There are no edges, no broken streets, no balconies filled with the laundry of every day human life. When I travel I want to visit places that make my heart beat faster, that are not just decor for an average movie about an average town. Bitola meets my expectations with mouthwatering contrasts: A freshly painted facade with pilasters stands opposite un-plastered concrete.
Casino ads scream at the people near a pedestaled hero on a horse. There is a mosque at the end of a neo-classical street. Well made-up ladies lounge over a cocktail on a terrace and unshaven men sit on a bench in the park, their over-washed t-shirts rolled up over their tummies. In life, he had a similar job to you. Is this connecting with anyone? I nodded yes mutely, feeling a combination of wonder, confusion, hope, and a twinge of self-consciousness at being addressed in front of a crowd.
My paternal grandfather, a man as large as she had described, was a journalist as a young man, a similar position to the one I had just started a few months prior. He passed away five years ago. Did I just receive a communication from my dead grandfather? Is that possible?
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From the moment we arrived in the line of cars waiting to enter the gates, I was struck by a certain energy of the place. From the arched antique sign at the entrance that beamed all the wonder and hope of turn of the century America, to the perfectly manicured and maintained gardens spread out ahead of me, something was different here. We received our large, glossy programs at the gate house, included in our gate fee, so I paged through it while my friend found parking.
Even at am. Not only did it feel like I was wandering through a town straight out of the Victorian period, each home seemed to have its own personality. Some were adorned with Tibetan prayer flags, some with fairies and mushrooms, and even one that was decorated like a gingerbread house.
They were so charming. It seemed like every third house had a sign up for the registered Medium residing there, and several porches contained tearful people pondering their recent readings. Although strange to see, I supposed this fact spoke to the power of the mediums living there to connect with and move their clients. After exploring the cemetery and fairy trail, a wooded trail featuring displays of bedazzled fairy houses, we ventured back down to the Library to catch a video presentation about Lily Dale.
Upon our entering the prestigious-looking building, I was shown downstairs by the librarian, an extremely warm and welcoming young woman with neon hair, to a comfortable room where a crowd of others had gathered waiting for the film to start. The woman seated next to me struck up a conversation, and told me about how she was here attempting gain closure after the loss of her husband, a seemingly common goal for visitors of Lily Dale. The film explained a bit about the history of the town and what it was here for, it was vital to filling myself in on the information most people seemed to know already.
After the video ended, I was pretty hungry, so we walked down the road to an open air pagoda with a line that although quick moving, managed to maintain its length throughout the day, for lunch.
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I grabbed a bowl of garlic soup and a sandwich with turkey, cream cheese and pepper jelly, and we ate at a picnic table in the gorgeous lake side park. We continued to check out some of the other free attractions after we ate. The museum held a display of slate writings that the curator explained were mysteriously written on the slates while they were pressed together around a piece of chalk.
We arrived at the collection of wooden benches in the forest facing a stump with a set of stairs attached to it and found our seats. A few moments later, a well-dressed but otherwise ordinary-looking woman approached the stump and began to address the audience. After a hymn to raise energy, she began addressing members of the audience with short messages from dead loved ones.
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It was interesting, if not a bit voyeuristic, to see people lay their emotions bare in front of complete strangers. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when she walked over to my part of the audience, pointed to me and asked if she could speak to me for a moment. How did she do that? I had never even considered speaking to a medium before. As we pulled back into my friends driveway she asked what I thought. Clip, clop, clip clop.
They climb lazily up the hill toward Grand Hotel perched high above the village overlooking the Straits of Mackinac.
In , there were wood framed hotels; today only a handful of these iconic Victorian beauties remain. The magnificent family-owned Grand Hotel with its legendary foot colonial porch—the longest in the world—is one. As it has been during its year history, the award-winning Grand Hotel is a summer-only retreat open from early May until end of October. New York designer Carleton Varney made wide use of his trademark vibrant colors, floral patterns and bold contrasts. The result is stunning over-the-top elegance. Of the guest rooms, no two rooms are alike!
Seven U. I loved seeing how Varney decorated each room so differently, so lovely, so romantic! The hotel hosts a Somewhere in Time weekend every year in October when guests come in period costumes ready to party like it was A certain gentility permeates throughout the hotel, in keeping with Old World traditions that never left. One of these is dressing for dinner in the Main Dining Room.
Men are expected to wear coats and ties; women should be in dresses or nice pants. This created an unexpected dilemma for my companion who forgot to pack his sport coat. No worries.
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