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The Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island, Michigan
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 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 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.
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.
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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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.
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.