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FlickR album of these photos   Part 2: Detroit to Toronto    

2022: Chicago to Toronto via all 5 Great Lakes

1. From Chicago to Detroit

Earlier in 2022 we had cruised the Norwegian Coast to see the Northern Lights, but by counting that as last year's holiday postponed we felt that we could treat ourselves to another big holiday this year. Back in 2014 we had had a wonderful holiday in North America, cruising from New York to Montreal, so we decided to re-visit that part of the world again. We found a company - American Queen Voyages - who ran a cruise that visited all 5 of the US Great Lakes, and booked a 2-week holiday through their UK agents Light Blue Travel

Preparations for the holiday seemed to involve an endless succession of on-line forms for the shipping company, the airline, the UK Government, the US Government, and the Canadian Government, but eventually after a really good flight with British Airways we arrived in Chicago.


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Chicago, Illinois
Detroit (Looking across to Canada)
Cleveland, Ohio

Chicago ...

Problems began as soon as we reached Chicago. The car which had been booked to collect us from the Airport had not turned up; the car company was decidedly unhelpful so it was up to us to find a way to get from the Airport to our Hotel. Being unwilling to travel by train with all our luggage, we looked for a cab, but there were none to be seen. Apparently it is always virtually impossible to get a cab from O'Hare Airport into Chicago on a Friday afternoon, but on the weekend of the Independence Day celebrations there was absolutely no hope of finding one; luckily a driver who had just delivered some people to the airport, was on the lookout for a return fare and said he could take us (for a HUGE price) and we got into his car - only just a little bit worried about whether he was a legitimate operator. Luckily he was indeed legitimate, and was very helpful; his driving style through the traffic was to say the least rather enthusiastic, more akin to a gangster getaway drive than a limousine or taxi, but it got us to the Hotel in a record-breaking time.

Our Hotel room was very comfortable, and soon we were in their Irish bar having a drink to relax. The server recommended that we should try the Pizza at Lou Malnati's which was only a few minutes walk away; it was a good recommendation, and probably the best pizza I have ever eaten!

The following day we went on a couple of tours of the City. After a leisurely stroll through the nearby park, the first was a river trip, advertised as an 'Architectural Tour' which was really interesting. We got to see most of the city from the water, and the guide was excellent, being at the same time very witty and extremely knowledgeable. Land is the most valuable commodity in Chicago, which is why there are so many skyscrapers - as well as various other building tricks that save land area.


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The river in Chicago was very busy
Our boat-trip took us past the Trump Tower
The Wrigley building celebrated 4th July with a giant flag
This skyscraper on a narrow strip between river and railway, spreads out to overhang them both,
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All the bridges in Chicago are lift-bridges; this is one of the oldest examples
Many bridges feature elegant bridge-keeper's houses
This double-decker bridge carries both road and railway
Debbie on the platform of a Chicago subway station

In the evening we went on a 'Gangster Tour' where we learned all about the activities of Chicago's famous gangsters of the Prohibition era, including Al Capone and John Dillinger, and visited the places where they had lived (and died!). The guide emphasised how lawless the city had been back then (adding that it was easy to get a drink during Prohibition because there were more Speak-easy establishments then than there are licensed bars today) but I am not sure that the comparison makes sense. On our ride to the Hotel we had heard the car radio  reporting that a policeman had died after being shot when he attended a domestic dispute that morning, and warning people to keep their car doors locked because the spate of car-jacking continued; and the next day the TV in our room informed us that there had been 27 separate shooting incidents over the previous 24 hours in Chicago; if you add to that the fact that a lone gunman went crazy during the 4th July parade and shot over 30 people from a rooftop, it hardly paints a picture of a safe law-abiding city!


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A trio of notorious gangsters
This mural marks the spot where John Dillinger was gunned down in 1934
A quote from John Dillinger. He controlled the Northern part of the city while Al Capone controlled the South.

Lake 1: Michigan

The pier at Chicago could not accommodate our ship because it was busy hosting the Independence Day celebrations, so a coach took us to Milwaukee where the ship awaited us. The ship was just fabulous, and we were very pleased with our cabin which, despite being one of the cheapest because it was on the lowest deck, was as big as any other except for the suites and was extremely comfortable.. After we had boarded, the Captain informed everybody that we would be staying in the harbour to watch the 4th July firework display. The display was absolutely fantastic to watch as it took place from 3 barges which were moored nearby in the harbour;  we had a better view than the crowds on land who had reportedly paid up to $400 for their seats!

There were a lot of small boats in the harbour, and we could not set sail until they had all dispersed, but unfortunately one skipper had fallen asleep at anchor so the Captain had to call the Coastguard to wake him up and move him.


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We were picked up by this two-horse coach on Mackinac Island
One of our horses had a fine moustache!
We transferred to a larger, three-horse coach
Debbie (in her new sweatshirt) makes friends with the horses

After a restful day's cruising, which helped us to get over our jet-lag, the following day saw us arrive at Mackinac Island (pronounced 'Mackinaw') which is particularly noted for its lack of vehicular traffic. Apparently in 1898 the first car to arrive on the island made a noise and frightened the horses, so motor cars were promptly banned and still remain so. Instead there are horse-drawn carriages and coaches, horse-drawn taxis, and a horse-drawn hearse. They do however now have a motorised fire engine and ambulance. We were well prepared for warm weather but it was actually quite chilly on the Island, which gave Debbie the excuse to buy a very nice sweatshirt as a souvenir.


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The Island's only hearse is of course horse-drawn
This fire engine is now obsolete
A Surrey with a Fringe on Top, perhaps?
Look out Debbie, he's behind you!

Transferring to a larger 3-horse carriage we continued our tour of the Island, paying an all-too-brief visit to their interesting old fort which had been built in Canada and then moved to the Island, and then had changed hands 3 times during the war of 1812 including once when the British commander took one look at the American troops and promptly surrendered!


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The American Soldier on guard duty was unsure whether to let us Brits enter the fort
The fort is fascinating, basically remaining as it was in 1812
The cannon was aimed at our ship!
We knew the Grand Hotel was a bit posh when we read this notice.

We ended our tour of Mackinac Island at its incredibly elegant 19th century 'Grand Hotel' ,which boasts the world's longest porch. It has always been a popular holiday destination for celebrities including many US Presidents, and has been  used as a film set for many classic Hollywood movies.


Grand Hotel


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Outside the hotel's porch
One of the hotel's horse-drawn taxis
Another of the hotel's taxis

We chose to walk back to the ship, rather than wait for a horse-taxi, which gave us the opportunity to visit a charming little church that we passed, as well as to browse the many home-made fudge emporia and over-priced souvenir shops on the Main Street.


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We visited a very pretty little church
With beautiful stained-glass windows
The end of the island is marked by one of the traditional North American lighthouses

Lake 2: Superior

The next morning we passed through Soo locks up to Lake Superior, where we spent just a few minutes (so that we could say we'd been there) before returning back down to the city of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan (as opposed to the city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, for one-half of the city is in the US and one half is in Canada, separated by the river but joined by a bridge). As we were docking we were passed by one of the biggest ships that I have ever seen; this was a St Lawrence freighter the James L Barker which is over 1000ft long! And over 1000 miles from the sea too. Our ship was docked next to one of its predecessors, the Valley Camp, which at only 500 ft long was declared obsolete and turned into a museum.


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This Great-Lakes trader is over 1000 ft long
Its predecessor at only 500 ft long was declared obsolete and turned into a museum
Sault Ste Marie has this impressive old (1898) hydroelectric plant
Looking across from Sault Ste Marie (Michigan) to Sault Ste Marie (Ontario)

Lake 3: Huron

We had expected our ship to head southwards from here but instead we headed eastwards along the North Passage into Canada and along to Manitoulin Island, which is the worlds biggest freshwater island and home to three separate Native American (First Nation) communities. After a few minutes we had seen the whole of the town of Little Current, the principal town of the Island, so we went for a delightful lakeside woodlands walk before returning to the ship for a light lunch and the afternoon excursion to the Cultural Centre of the Ojibwe tribe.


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Afternoon tea on the ship was very elegant
Another traditional  lighthouse shows the way to Manitoulin Island
I loved the decoration on this Canadian ferry
This church was built in the crater that was left when its predecessor was destroyed by a gas explosion

We very much enjoyed our visit to the beautifully simple little Catholic church there - whose service sheets were printed in both English and Ojibwe languages - and the main Cultural centre where after presentations on their history and culture we went outside to watch an amazing demonstration of traditional drumming and dancing. In the first video below here, you will see that one of the women is wearing a traditional 'Jingle Dress' which is associated with healing-dances of Ojibwe medicine.


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The troupe of Ojibwe dancers comes onto the stage - PLAY VIDEO - watch for the 'Jingle Dress'
One of the women dancers
This magnificent fellow was a really enthusiastic dancer - PLAY VIDEO
All their outfits were specacular

Now it was time for us to head southwards through beautiful scenery back to the United States and Detroit.



Sunset over Lake Huron



FlickR album of these photos   Part 2: Detroit to Toronto  
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