Staying at Grand Hotel is a bit like embarking upon an ocean cruise. You do take a ferry to reach the island, then walk a distance to register.
Then you have to find your room. It’s a little more difficult than you might think. First, the carpeting has geranium patterns. I kept wanting to just stop and stare.
This particular pattern is actually in the Lobby Level. We’re starting our tour in the Parlor Level.
There are comfortable chairs for you to sit and chat with friends.
Those red chairs look comfy, don’t they?
Hotel staff are in savvy green coats and black trousers. They are extraordinarily friendly and helpful.
This bright green and red seating area is just outside of the Terrace Room. You’re looking at the main doors on the Parlor Level; the white stairs lead to the first floor of rooms.
To your immediate left is the Audobon Wine Bar and stairs down to the Lobby Level.
To your right is an Art Gallery, the Business Center, and the Theatre. That’s the direction we’re heading in next.
On your way to the Theatre, there are old phone booths. You can still sit down and make a phone call today – either with a house phone, or your cell phone. Just be sure to close the door so your call is private.
The theatre is cotton candy pink and white, and has beautiful brass chandeliers.
Closing Of The Grand Lecture
The Theatre reminded me of a sophisticated circus tent. One of the most enjoyable events of my stay was listening to hotel historian and concierge Bob Tagatz give his annual “Closing Of The Grand” lecture. He shared a lot of facts and figures about the 2017 season, plus some of the funnier questions received by the hotel concierge.
One guest asked if the water went all around the island.
(I’m pausing here for you to let that one sink in.)
Someone else asked, “Who leads the self-guided tours?”
(Pausing again as you’re shaking your head in disbelief.)
A longer story arose from a guest who wanted a whale watching tour arranged. Tagatz replied that that would be difficult because there are no whales in the Great Lakes. The guest was upset and asked, “Why are there no whales- where did they go?” Holding back laughter, Tagatz replied, “There are no whales because the sharks ate them.” The guest was appalled and walked away.
And if you’re confused, there are no sharks in the Great Lakes, either.
Tagatz also told a story about getting stopped by the island police. He’d just ended a long day and was headed home on his bicycle.
To get to town from Grand Hotel, you have guide your bike safely down the steep Cadotte Avenue. The police often wait at the bottom of the hill and speed check bikes. Sometimes riders are clocked at 30-40 miles per hour.
Tagatz didn’t say how fast he was going, but did admit to being mortified at being stopped. But what really bothered him? Not the ticket, but the fact that other Grand employees were also headed home, and saw him being pulled over. No doubt he heard about that incident for years.
Take the red stairs down from the Parlor Level to reach the Lobby Level. This is where you find the registration desk, the children’s activity area, Astor’s Salon, and several stores.
The public areas of the Lobby is where those self-guided tours start in the summer season (spot E in the lower right corner of the map below.)
There is more geranium-themed carpet, and a casual atmosphere. This photo is just outside of Carleton’s Tea Store that offers light lunch and dessert. Many walls in the Lobby Level display photos and other memorabilia from the hotel’s 130-year history
Here’s a view from near the East entrance.
Even the access to the elevator that lead to my room on the fourth floor was elaborately decorated. Just passing by, you wouldn’t even know there was an elevator here.
You could visit each shop, but we’re late for dinner. Let’s go back up to the Parlor Level and the Main Dining Room.
Grand Hotel Main Dining Room
When you check into Grand Hotel, you receive a card that serves as your “ticket” to enter the various dining establishments. And the king of them all is the main dining room on the parlor level.
Here is a 360 degree view from right outside the main dining room doors. But you and me, we’re going inside – and straight through to the other side of the long dining room to a table for two in the Pontiac Room.
The entrance. This is where you show your ticket, and await the host who will guide you to your seat.
Once inside, the wonder begins.
And I do mean opulent decorating.
The final night of the 2017, there was a jazz trio playing throughout dinner. And your table? In a room at the far end of the dining room.
The place setting. I hope you’ve brused up on your manners, and especially what forks, spoons, and knives to use for this or that.
A cup with geranium awaits coffee or tea.
And out at the closing buffet, hundreds of matching plates await diners.
The fruit and vegetable table is ready for you to build a salad.
And the seafood table is ready, too.
Did somebody say desserts?
Yes, I ate my fill of all of it: roast beef, shrimp, smoked salmon, chocolate, and then more chocolate. I listened as one of the wait staff talked to another guest that he was leaving for home in Jamaica the next day, and hoped to be back next summer; one of the things I love about dining alone is those overheard conversations.
I visited with a couple from Clinton Township. They’d stopped at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Restort in Mount Pleasant on their way North, stayed overnight at Grand, and were on their way to another casino in St. Ignance.
Then, fully stuffed, I slowly walked my way back through the main dining room. The Jazz band played God Bless America, the Grand’s quintessential end of the evening song, and many guests sang along.
I walked to my room, amazed at the lovely day and evening I’d had. I couldn’t help but think how exclusive the Grand seemed to be – and yet so accessible and friendly. Years ago I never dreamed I’d be able to stay here, yet here I was. And it was already almost ending.
After a refreshing sleep and hot shower, I had a simple buffet breakfast, then walked to the dock. I caught another Shepler’s Ferry to the mainland, and headed home.