Fair Skin, Strong Heart


Rest, revive, renew on the porch of The Grand Hotel.- www.tangledpasta.net
Rest, revive, renew on the porch of The Grand Hotel.- http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

The long-awaited vacation finally came to pass. Two years of no summer vacation had taken a toll. Last summer’s thwarted trip to Kentucky’s thoroughbred horse and whiskey trails was due to my egregious back issues that resulted in my staying home ingesting copious amounts of prescription pain pills. All the pain, plus more in other forms, had only whetted the appetite for this summer’s holiday. This summer’s vacation sounded grand, in part because I indulged in staying at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, one of my favorite places. At The Grand, the tenor is as relaxed or as active as one chooses. High Tea, mandatory dressing up for dinner with men and boys in suits or sports jackets, and women and girls in dresses or skirts, dining in the elegant Salle a Manger with its five-course dinner menu, overlooking the world’s longest porch and the Straits of Mackinac, is a sublime experience. After dinner dancing in The Terrace Room to a live jazz band helps work off The Grand Pecan Ball dessert.

I quickly adapted to The Grand’s rhythm. What I didn’t adapt to was the oppressive heat and humidity like I had never experienced in previous stays up north in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In fact, I opted for revisiting The Grand because the weather appealed more than that of Charleston, NC’s in August. Even wearing a long-sleeved linen shirt and straw hat I got sunburned on the ferry ride from St. Ignace to the island. After purchasing SPF 50 sunscreen, I ventured out in the 90 degree heat with its 97 percent humidity for a walk along the shore. My apparel choices were Capri pants topped with a long-sleeved white shirt and my stylish, yet practical straw boater hat. I returned to The Grand resembling Sebastian the Lobster from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Generous amounts of lotion applied to the affected areas, which were many, helped, sort of. Still, I refused to let sunburn sabotage my vacation.

In an effort to avoid further sun, I stuck to The Grand, which is filled with boutiques, art galleries, events, and a new retro-ice creamery [I highly recommend the root beer float]. There is even now The Grand Sushi [very tasty] next door to The Grand’s Gatehouse eatery at the foot of The Grand’s hill. Rocking away while reading in the white rocker on The Grand’s Porch, and ordering a drink from The Geranium Bar relaxed me. My heart felt lighter than it had in the past year. More High Tea and champagne, listening to one of the harpists from the Ginger and Spice Duo, dressing for dinner, dancing the night away after dinner all combined to make the days pass much too quickly.

Meandering through Petoskey on the return trip, exploring the Serendipity Boutique and the Horizon Bookstore and Cafe in Cadillac, deciding to dine at the Clam Lake Brewery, enjoying the lakefront, and staying the night in Cadillac, helped soothe the sad heart that had bid adieu to The Grand Hotel. Upon last night’s late return home, after looking at myself in the mirror, I realized I had sun poisoning. This explained the fever, chills, nausea, and overall weird feeling I had. In spite of the pain and discomfort, I would not have exchanged the days at The Grand Hotel for anything. Dreams of The Grand next autumn warm my heart and strengthen my resolve. Bring on the aloe vera gel and ibuprofen to heal my fair skin!

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.