TRAVEL

Lunch at the Grand Hotel

Time for Lunch

Well, the gang’s all here and true to what I’d heard, the lunch buffet was really an event. The number of choices available was astounding. The service was gracious. It was a dream come true – sort of – and I am grateful to my family for the chance to have the experience.

Still, it wasn’t THE dream come true. Aside from that rocking chair moment, this wasn’t the Grand Hotel experience my mom had wished for me. Mom had come to the Grand Hotel on a bus tour called Great Hotels of the East with my sister and my aunt. They’d already stayed at Mohunk Mountain House and other amazing places. Stepping off the ferry, they’d boarded a horse drawn carriage and been welcomed at the front desk as guests, without paying a $10 fee and being handed a self-guided tour pamphlet. They stayed in the uniquely decorated guest rooms and were invited to the tea dances and the formal evening dinner. Most of all, there was nothing called COVID going on and the hotel was full to bursting with others who were enjoying all the Grand Hotel had to offer.

For Mom, this was the ultimate experience. Oh, she’d been to Europe on one of those 32-countries-in-16-days tours. She’d visited the British Isles. She’d been to Hawaii. She’d planned and enjoyed innumerable road trips, but she never had the opportunity to do the kinds of things I have done.

Her tours of England and Europe happened on a bus, shuffling through major tourist attractions with 60 or so people she would never see again. She never wandered Britain on her own, staying at bed and breakfast inns and taking her time on Cotswold backroads or seeing the Potteries with some locals she chatted up at a pub. She hadn’t stayed at the Mena House in the shadow of the Pyramids, sailed on the Nile or ridden a hantoor through Alexandria. She never attended a friend’s wedding in a German cathedral nor her nephew’s wedding in Cairo. She’d never taken a river cruise down the Nile or hurried through the streets of Budapest to make it back to the boat on time. She didn’t celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony on a luxury cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

The leap my mother made from working at the five & dime on the Square in McKinney TX to sitting on the porch at the Grand Hotel was pretty amazing. It was beyond her wildest dreams. She wanted so much for me to have the same moment she did at the Grand Hotel, but by the time I got there I’d ridden to the Pyramids on a camel, feasted in the Sinai, watched a ballet performance in the Schönbrunn Palace, had drinks at the Monaco Yacht Club as the guest of the CEO of Celebrity Cruise Lines and so much more.

Still, I didn’t do what she did at the Grand Hotel. I was just a visitor, not a guest. So while I can say I have been to the Grand Hotel, staying there will remain on my bucket list. I have no idea what will take me back, but there are many places and many experiences I never even had enough imagination to dream, until they actually happened to me, so I will keep the faith that there are more exciting things in my future than there have been in my past.

Come back next week. There are still adventures on Mackinaw Island. We’ll take a carriage ride around the island next.

TRAVEL

On Our Way to the Grand Hotel

An Exciting Day Begins

For years, it didn’t matter which exotic and exciting place I told my mother we were about to visit, her response was the same, “I sure wish you’d go to the Grand Hotel.” Well, when I woke up in the Marriot Courtyard Inn in Petoskey, Mom’s wish was about to come true.

I was up early like I always am and hit the shower, because we had tickets for the first Shepler Ferry Boat of the day. Then I went down to the cafe where I’d already scoped out the fact that they had Diet Dr Pepper. Returning to the room, I helped Bill get ready for the day, because we all had to report to the lobby at 7:30 AM sharp. Our ride on the ferry was without incident and we were soon on Mackinac Island.

Welcome to Mackinac Island

We made our way down the gangplank and onto the island. The one thing everyone knows about Mackinac Island is that there are no motorized vehicles allowed. Near the pier you can catch many types of horse drawn vehicles, but we opted to walk up the hill to the Grand Hotel.

What a charming place it was! My excitement was building with every step. I was nearing the place my mother had recommended to me for years on end.

Then suddenly the wait was over. I was at The Grand Hotel.

If you’ve never been, then be warned, you can’t just waltz in for a visit. There’s a $10 per person fee for everyone. And you can’t show up barefoot in your bikini. Proper dress is required. After 6PM men require a jacket and The Grand Hotel does not believe women should wear slacks. I guess we passed muster, because they gladly took our money and allowed us to take our self-guided tour of the grounds.

My mother had told me all about rules and for her sake I’d dressed up for our day on Mackinac, from my full brimmed sun-hat, to my floral dress, to my snazzy shoes, I was intent on making Mom proud.

The place has a huge visual impact, but I just couldn’t wait to get out on that long front porch and sit in one of their rocking chairs. Mom loved everything about The Grand Hotel but she loved those rocking chairs best of all. I finally planted myself in one and whispered to my mom, “Well, Ruth, I made it.”

Emotion swept over me in a way I never expected. Tears began to run down my face and my shoulders shook, from my sobs. I guess everyone else thought I was crazy, but Mom and I were having a moment.

The tears passed and the moment was over. I was ready for my self-guided tour. Bill and I headed one way and the rest of them headed in another. Here’s a sample of what we saw.

After walking around inside the hotel, we set out to see something of the grounds. Everything is immaculately maintained. I saw no leaf out of place, no paint beginning to peel and every single piece of grass seemed to be part of a large shag carpet. Here’s a few of those exterior shots, including our fellow travelers and us.

Our sweet nephew had arranged for us all to have the amazing buffet lunch. Soon it was time to make our way back to the dining room to be seated. I was really excited, because my mom had certainly been fond of the meals at The Grand Hotel. Come back next week and find out how it was.