Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Carleton’s Grand Party

Personal or Promotion

Oct
03
2011

Mid-September

The Grand Hotel

Mackinac Island, Michigan

View upon our arrival to The Grand

View upon our arrival to The Grand

Recently I was invited to attend the Family and Friends weekend of none other than, Mr. Color himself, the famed interior designer, Carleton Varney. The lovely weekend took place at one of Varney’s vibrant bastions of glamour, the famed Grand Hotel on Michigan’s charming Mackinac Island. My husband, son and I took the requisite two flights from New York and then a short, 20-minute ferry over to the quaint island where transportation is restricted to on foot, bicycle or get this; a horse-drawn carriage.

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The facade of the hotel

The facade of the hotel

The Grand’s horse-drawn carriages are particularly attractive, driven by red jacketed, top hat-donning men, ensuring a stately entrance to the massive, 19th-century hotel.  This was my first visit to Mackinac Island, a popular summer retreat for mid-westerners, and had only heard snippets of its history and topography, though its lore as being car-free was rather profound.  Upon arrival we shuffled into our carriage and were delighted by the sights outside our small windows.

The view from the top of the hill above The Grand

The view from the top of the hill down to The Grand

The crystal clear lake resembled Caribbean-esque colors and the grass was  particularly vibrant shade of green, and oh so manicured. The main street of the island is chock-a-block with Fudge Shops (seriously, lots of Fudge) and despite the island’s devout traditionalism with regards to transportation, Main Street does boast a Starbucks. The most appealing store for us was the small outfitter store which carried popular name brand sportswear like Patagonia, Arc’teryx and North Face. Of course, this is most likely due to Norther Michigan’s considerable chill and the draw of warm fleece products.

Main Street

Main Street

Our favorite leisure activity was biking the relatively, flat 7-mile route around the island. We rented two bikes and a comfortable baby stroller for the back and for less than $50, enjoyed a 2-hour bike ride (with a few stops in between to snack and skip rocks) with some of the most spectacular scenery.  The evergreen trees alongside the smooth, clear lake were a spectacular sight, especially with the slight bite to the air. We were blessed with sunshine and an amenable toddler, allowing us to take in the surroundings with total relaxation and appreciation.

The vivid greens and blues of Mackinac Island

The vivid greens and blues of Mackinac Island

Our other favorite, okay my favorite, activity over the weekend was actually the reason I was invited to come along – a book signing. Friday evening, Carleton gathered a few of his author friends (Barbara Eden, Edwina Sandys) alongside him and we signed and sold books in the name of the local library. It was a fabulous event, complete with cocktails and nibbles, plus a raffle where some of Carleton’s enviable linens and fabrics were the prizes.

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My lovely post

My lovely post

Alongside the estimable Carleton Varney

Alongside the estimable Carleton Varney

As you can imagine, Mr. Color, Carleton’s wonderful book, sold out very quickly. I was lucky to sell plenty as well, no doubt, due to my prime seating next to the guest of honor himself. The event was a tremendous success and much credit is due to the superb organization by Mimi Cunningham, a member of the family whom owns and operates the historic Grand Hotel. Below is a picture of my turn at reading out the winning ticket for the raffle.

Reading out Xavier's winning ticket

Reading out Xavier's winning ticket

Beyond the public events and obvious beauty of the property, the weekend was a wonderful success in that I met wonderful, generous people. Carleton had gathered a truly astounding group in his honor and it was a privilege to not only be among them, but to have the pleasure of spending time with each of them.

Thank you Carleton, Susan and Brinsley for including me and my family on such an unforgettable adventure and to Mr. & Mrs. Musser at the Grand Hotel, for being such gracious hosts! We hope to return soon.

Posted in: Personal or Promotion

Published by Meg, Monday, October 3, 2011 No Comments

A Hideaways Signing on Nantucket

Travel Tips

Jul
13
2011

July 4th Weekend

Over our Nation’s birthday, I was fortunate enough to have a signing on one of my favorite islands of all time; Nantucket. I want to thank the wonderful people at Nantucket Bookworks for hosting me and putting together a truly wonderful and incredibly generous signing. And then, for keeping my books in the windows throughout the weekend!

Discussing a specific Hideaway in England with a guest

Discussing a specific Hideaway in England with a guest

I loved being there and hope to come back often. Here are some more photos of the evening.

Good Friends and Fans

Good Friends and Fans

Chatting up passerbys

Chatting up passerbys

Posted in: Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Wednesday, July 13, 2011 No Comments

How to choose the right hotel for you

Travel Tips

May
13
2011

The trick to finding the right Hotel, and better yet, the right room!

Selecting the hotel for your next travel destination is too often a source of stress. Heck, you’re going on vacation, shouldn’t it be fun from planning to end? With so many options and multiple sites offering visitor feedback (like Trip Advisor), the decision process behind ‘which hotel’ and moreover, ‘which room’ can feel like the never-ending merry-go-round. Of course, this is what motivated me originally to write my Hideaways books and select specific rooms at each destination.

One of my favorite guestrooms of all time - the ground level suite at Villa Mangiacane in Tuscany

One of my favorite guestrooms of all time – the ground level suite at Villa Mangiacane in Tuscany

Lately I’ve been working with clients through my work with Jetsetter and my own business, Friend of a Friend Consulting, to choose the best hotel. For Friend of a Friend clients,  I created a specific questionnaire that helps me better understand their distinct travel style.  So far it has been very helpful. In similar vein, I recently came across two websites that employ similarly targeted methods to help people refine the search. I tried them both and found them quite interesting, if not inspiring.

The homepage of CheckYourRoom.com

The homepage of CheckYourRoom.com

The first is www.CheckYourRoom.com, which allows you to pick your hotel through a personality quiz. I liken it to YM Magazine meets Hotels.com, plus the questions are hardly nail-biters, making the quiz rather painless VolumePills and dare I say, fun. I must admit that I wholeheartedly agree with its output for me: Romantic Rooms, and was somewhat intrigued by the suggested rooms.

A suite in Megeve, France that came up under my profile

A suite in Megeve, France that came up under my profile

They seem to be geographically focused only on Europe and namely Italy and France. I would be curious to speak with one of their “Room Concierges” though, which apparently pull from a database of 10,000 rooms. Hmm…Stay tuned for that report.

Hotel Haiku's Homepage. Click on the hotels to read the Haiku

Hotel Haiku’s Homepage. Click on the hotels to read the Haiku

The second site, Hotel Haiku, was mentioned today on my favorite hotel-junkie site; Hotelchatter.com and is certainly the more amusing of the two, though perhaps a bit less user-friendly (er, useful). Written by Garri Raynor, each listing features a five or seven line Haiku along with a large, often beautiful, photo of the property. A click takes you to the property’s website. And that’s it. There’s no booking agent or any property details, just Raynor’s favor for Japanese poetry.  Nevertheless, it is interesting and it does offer a new way of how one can look to connect to their hotel choice beyond stock photography and random opinions of strangers found online.

Whenever creativity comes into the hotel selection process, I tend to champion it! So, thank you Hotel Haiku for being out there and keeping us hotel-goers inspired.

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Posted in: Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Friday, May 13, 2011 No Comments

about meg

About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.