Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Hall So Grand

Whether it was the original intent of the first designers of that Grande Dame of the boundry waters to evoke a steamship or not, the effect of one is certainly achieved. The Grand Hotel rides the crest of the island like a cruise line coming into view on a tremendous green wave. She dominates the shoreline, and sets the scale for the rest of the buildings in the busy picturesque little village. Inside, the feeling continues, maintained by seemingly endless narrow hallways draped in gilt and ornament. Room after room reveals itself as you wander the levels, guided only by the lure of here, a sweep of staircase, there a beckoning door to yet another fantastically baroque interior. The end effect is quite dreamlike, and from the state of her inhabitants, a dream from which one would like never to wake.
When the happy traveler is informed that no motor vehicles are allowed on the island, his first thoughts might be, "And how am I to haul my valaise and my laptop and my garment bag, filled to the brim with formal clothes that have not seen the day since that last wedding I attended? Am I to be my own sherpa?" That was certainly the first concern that flickered across Mrs. H.'s brow two mornings ago, but with a wave of his hand, Mr. Hall summoned the shuttle to the ferry, who picked them up at the hotel in St. Ignace, and dropped them and their luggage at the dock. Bags were swiftly marked and whisked away, to appear later at the Hall's room at the Grand Hotel. The ferry ride was short and smooth; the weather was beautiful, even by the locals standards, and when the Halls rounded the bend in the bay and first spied the Grand Hotel on the hill, the entire occupants of the ferry seemed to gasp en masse. The Halls disembarked at the Shepler's dock, and proceeded, amidst the flurry of visitors and guests, to stroll up the avenues, out of the clash of cheap vendors and noise and northward towards the hotel. Mr. Hall snagged a horse-drawn taxi from the hotel, and they rode in solitary style up to the magnificent portico. A few quick steps up the stairs to the parlor, the feel of sea spray and clear breeze upon the face, and as they turned and viewed the harbor, it was clear the Halls had arrived.
Steamships and cruise lines have yet another thing in common with the Grand Hotel; a fascination with dining. There are three things the happy traveler is likely to be doing at any given moment: eating, finishing eating, or preparing to go to eat. The vista was so compelling that morning, the Hall's took their repast on the "world's longest porch". Then, after meandering about, they strolled over the grounds and partook of a bracer at the Jockey Club. Shortly later, they attended the tea in the parlor. A cursory examination of the day's schedule showed at least nine such dining events going on at the hotel at most points in the day and the Halls would have made every one if they could; it was their decided opinion that there was not a bad meal or even cup of coffee to be had in the house. Everything was perfect.
Sometime later in the afternoon, when the shadows grew longer and the horses seemed to move more slowly than before, the Halls retired to their suite to refresh themselves and dress for dinner. Though the dining hall could seat well over a thousand, the tables still maintained a sense of intimacy, and the service was leisurely and attentive. After dessert, the Halls, at this point stuffed to the gills, fairly rolled out of the dining room and landed in the library-themed wine bar. There, they encountered some other fellow sports enthusiasts, and wrapped in the glow of good company and blue cigar smoke, they digested their dinner and their day.

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