A while back I wrote a post about Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, also known as “The Somewhere in Time Hotel.” I had every intention of visiting there, someday, but never dreamed it would happen as quickly, or as magically, as it did.
To celebrate turning 40, my best friend Stefania and I cooked up a wacky road trip that included driving a Ford Mustang up to the Michigan peninsula and a visit pilgrimage to the setting for the time traveling romance movie, Somewhere in Time, which starred Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer. Fun idea, but who would sponsor a thing like that?
Turns out Ford was willing to let us drive their car, and Grand Hotel was willing to put the two of us up for two nights! All we had to do was get to Detroit to start the adventure. Oh, and pay for gas. No such thing as a (totally) free ride.
Journey Back in Time, or Just a Journey – You Decide
A quick 20 minute ferry rides gets you from the mainland to Mackinac Island, where it really does seem like time stood still. There are no cars on the island, so we caught a horse drawn “taxi” up the gentle hill to the hotel.
Walking into the lobby, the feeling of going back in time stays with you. But at the same time, it’s a thoroughly modern feeling resort, with every kind of store or service you could want. It’s just packaged in a slightly more genteel manner.
For example, there is a tea shop just off the lobby where you check in. It’s charming and quaint, and lends itself to afternoon tea which you perhaps have in a china tea cup and enjoy at a table in the gallery-like long hallway. Or you can get a latte to go, just like at Starbucks.
That’s one of the nice things about Grand Hotel — you can control you level of escapism.
This was the biggest surprise of the trip. The incredibly generous people at Grand Hotel put us each in our own First Lady Suite — the ones designed by famous interior decorator Carleton Varney, in consultation with the actual First Ladies after whom they are named.
I was handed the key to the Rosalynn Carter Suite, which featured “Georgia Peach” walls, a romantic faux canopy, and a most impressive star design on the carpet. Best of all, I had my own private deck, overlooking Mackinac Bridge, the Straits of Mackinac, and the mansion-like “cottages” that line the neighboring streets.
Stefania’s room was equally awesome, the Jacqueline Kennedy Suite! The room featured blue and white stripes, a lot of fringe and several photos of Jackie. It’s a fan’s paradise.
Somewhere in Time Suite
Picking our favorite room is impossible, they are both so luxurious and beautiful. But if we were forced to choose, the Jackie suite would win just because it was two doors down from the Somewhere in Time suite.
We knew which one was the Somewhere in Time suite because there is a name plate over the door. But we would have been able to tell anyway, because the walls outside the room are covered with paintings by Miss McKenna herself, Jane Seymour. I had no idea she had that kind of artist talent!
Just to make it even better, we got a tour of the room from Bob Tagatz, the Grand Hotel concierge, official historian and chief blogger. It was pretty exciting! He told us stories about when the cast was filming at the hotel, although he was unable to confirm my long-held suspicion that Christopher Reeve and Ms. Seymour had a passionate affair during the production.
Don’t take my word for it, watch the movie yourself — housekeeping will bring you a copy to watch in your room during your stay!
The Dining Room
One of the neat things about Grand Hotel is that it’s an inclusive property, meaning that breakfast and dinner are included in most packages. And it is so worth it!
Dinner is the more formal affair, with “evening attire” required for guests in all areas of the hotel, but specifically for dinner. It’s an event! It was really fun to get dressed up to go eat, and to see all of the other guests at their scrubbed up best. Particularly sweet were the big families in their Sunday best. One four or five year old little girl stopped us in the hallway to show us her pretty dress. We complimented her on the excellent twirly skirt, and smiled when we saw her later on, showing off for another guest.
The food is sort of “High Resort” — a bit formal, with indulgent ingredients like foie gras and truffles, and maybe just a bit heavy on the salt.
Booze note: wine is not included in the packages, so be prepared to sign the cost of your bottle/cocktail up to your room.
Things to Do
The weather was gorgeous the weekend we visited, so it was all about the outdoor activities. Far and away the most popular thing to do is rent a bike, either at the hotel Tennis shop, or at various locations down in the village. We took a leisurely ride around the island, with a stop for hotdogs and french fries at the halfway point. The whole trip — which is nice and flat, no sweaty hills! — took less than two hours. Remember the sunscreen, and watch out for dive bombing seagulls at the hotdog place!
Seriously, Don’t Tip. Don’t Even Try. No. Just Stop.
You know how some places say, “No tips” but you still do it, and sometimes the staff lets you? Not here. After the first awkward interaction we didn’t even try again. Relax and enjoy not having to figure out if you should be palming $2 or $5 or a 20. You’re on vacation!
Also, empty your pockets of change before you get to the hotel, or your vacation could end precipitously, with you suddenly transported back to your home at a moment’s notice. (It’s a joke/reference to the defining plot point in Somewhere in Time, oh, just watch it already!)
Cat Lincoln #1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9
Grand Hotel #3
Stefania Pomponi Butler #7, 8