Thursday, June 25, 2009

Truly Beautiful - The Grand Hotel

My Dad got back from a vacation at the Grand Hotel in Michigan a couple of weeks ago. I have been working through his photos (cropping and color correcting) for about a week now and each photo reminds me of just how beautiful the Grand Hotel is.

We all got a special treat two years ago when we took a big family vacation for my Dad’s 70th birthday. I was so taken with the place that I long to go back and love to see photos of it.

My sister and I first sent my parents to the Grand Hotel for a vacation when we found out how stressed my Mom had become after years of caring for our grandmother who suffered from alzheimer’s. James thought of the place because he had been there once on a vacation with his Dad and he knows how much my family enjoys movies. The hotel was the setting of an old 1980’s film called Somewhere In Time. If you haven’t seen it, check it out - it’s a GOOD film. Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour - very fun and the hotel is gorgeous! After that one trip, my Dad was hooked and this vacation makes 5 trips to the Grand Hotel for him!

The Grand Hotel was built in the 1800’s on Mackinac Island, Mi. The island is very beautiful and has been well preserved because they do not allow any cars! It feels like a step back in time and I think that adds to it’s charm. The island is not too large and has one main shopping area so most things you would want to see or do are easily reached by walking - and a beautiful walk it is! Some people ride horses and there are horse drawn carriages that you can catch like a taxi.

Of course the hotel offers beautiful carriages that can become very fancy.

Many locals ride bicycles which can also be rented for the day.

It creates an amazing atmosphere of quiet and rhythmic clip-clopping of hooves, fresh air (except for the occasional horse smell) and a relaxed environment. Perfect for a simple vacation. To add to the fresh air, Mackinac is known for their fudge and lilacs!

I love lilacs!

They are not very common in Texas, but I did grow up with the most beautiful purple lilac bush in our backyard. It would bloom once a year and I would go to that bush and just stand over it and inhale! It is by far the sweetest most wonderful flower smell there is! I was amazed at the lilacs on Mackinac Island when we visited. They were just starting to bloom and the island smelled like heaven! But what amazed me was to find they were lilac TREES, not bushes!

These beautiful trees (that might remind you of our Crepe Myrtles in size and color) were so heavily laidened with blooms that they almost drooped. I could not smell them enough!

So, I guess you could say the Island is a memorable experience for the senses - sweet smells of chocolate and lilacs, clip-clop of horse hooves, the beautiful sites of a tree and flower covered island with a very old-world feel and the feel of cool breezes from the lake. And taste - well, if you don’t get full on the fudge, the Grand Hotel offers a menu to die for at breakfast and dinner!

To me there is so much to enjoy about the hotel. All my growing up, we stayed at the occasional Best Western or Holiday Inn on family vacations. I’ve always felt that a hotel is where you sleep and that’s all. Simple rooms and no reason to stay there a moment more than necessary. Anyway - the point of most vacations is to go and see, not sit in a stuffy old hotel room watching bad tv. Not so with the Grand Hotel!

To start, you have to take a ferry or private plane to the island. It is a beautiful ride with much to see and as the island comes into view you instantly notice the large Grand Hotel.

As the island grows closer, you can sense just how large the hotel is. Once on the island, as a guest of the Hotel, you climb into a beautiful horse drawn carriage that slowly winds through the town, house lined streets and up to the road leading to the hotel.

Everything about it is Grand!

The road is wide and lined with trees as you come around the curve and get the first glimpse of the Hotel, it should take your breath away!

I am a detail person - I love little touches and things that could be left out but when present make something all the better. The Grand Hotel is full of those things. There is just an air about the place.

Flowers are colorful and routinely changed, employees are uniformed to the 9’s and everyone is polite and professional. The Hotel is exclusive - if you are not staying you can’t visit unless you have dinner reservations or come for a paid tour. So, from the moment you step off the carriage, you know you are special. The logo of the hotel is a carriage and that or their “G” can be seen everywhere. Even the outdoor ashtrays have the G stamped in the sand! Once in the room, the logo is stamped into the first piece of toilet paper, folded neatly, their towels say the Grand Hotel, there are soaps and toiletries, chocolates on your pillow and the covers are turned down, a satin cloth for your shoes, peppermint sticks by the just goes on and on. The hotel also has a signature flower - the Geranium. You will see them on the grand porch, in flowerpots, in the custom carpet pattern and other various places - and everything smells of Geraniums, even the soap!

Walk every floor of the hotel and you will feel like you are in a museum. There are photos and artwork that range from old and foreign movie posters to historical photos and letters about the island and the hotel.

And because of the fame it gained from the movie, there are some items and photos from Somewhere In Time. Including the hat Christopher Reeve wore.

The artwork and paintings are lovely and just the size of the place is impressive. The lobby area goes on and on with plenty of chairs and couches to relax.

The front porch was in the Guiness book of world records for it’s size and it is lined with white rocking chairs and American Flags. As if that is not enough, there is a beautiful garden/lawn that you can look down on from the porch and a wonderful view of the lake and a light house. Each step is a picture postcard waiting to be made!

Dining there is an experience. Breakfast is a generous buffet or you can order off the menu - several styles of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and french bread, fruit, cereals and pastries. Dinner is a 5 course meal and you have 4-5 options to choose for each course. All very fancy and very delicious served by mostly Jamacian wait staff that comes to the island each year for training and experience. And on your way out the door, a doorman presents a serving platter stacked high with gold wrapped chocolates (with the carriage printed on the wrapper).

All this to the weather grows hotter and you get an itch to travel or go on a unique vacation, consider the Grand Hotel. There is no place else quite like it and everyone should go at least once! Maybe one day we’ll get back there ourselves.

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