Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Romantic Stay at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Driving up to (Acme, MI) Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
     I am a Michigander mother of three and I love traveling in my home state.  There are so many things to do here in the big mitten.  I've often wanted to just pick up and drive along the coast to see where it might take me, maybe to one of the many Michigan resorts.  The skies are usually a gorgeous shade of blue and the air is filled with the sweet scent of the towering trees.  We are surrounded by lakes on three sides so sometimes the weather can be quite unpredictable.  A little planning can go a long way.  We always keep a few rain ponchos in the mini van in case of rain.  I should blog about our nightmarish family camping trip to Paradise, MI sometime very soon.  I was seven months pregnant and we woke up at 2 am floating in our sleeping bags!
     My husband and I were in need of some time alone.  Near the end of August (on a Tuesday) we decided to take a kid free trip.  We traveled just a little ways north from Grand Rapids to the Traverse City area.  We had reservations at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for a romantic two night stay.
     After being married for almost 10 years we have come to realize that once in a while it is important to just be alone together.  I did have a breakdown moment of crying and missing the kids but we had so much fun up north, it was worth being away for a few days.  Getting away from our cramped home was no problem for us and we found tons to do up by the resort.  Our drive up was relaxing and the views were epic.  I can only imagine how gorgeous everything must be as the trees turn their colors for fall.
       Once we reached our destination we were in awe of the sheer prominence of the 17 floor resort tower.  The reflective glass windows of the building brought the stunning views around the resort up into them.  In its own way, the whole building just blended right into its natural surroundings. 
     We found a parking space fairly easily, the lots are large and there is definitely plenty of room for even the busiest of times.  There is valet parking but we opted to just park our vehicle and walk in by ourselves. 
      When we walked inside we found ourselves in a very large lobby.  The front desk employees had a welcoming smile to greet us with and we felt at home right away.  We were checked in and given our room key then directed as to how we would find our room.  There is a little bar to grab a drink and plenty of seating to lounge.  I noticed a cascading waterfall wall over by the bar, the sound of it lightly echoed.  The neutral color tones gave me a relaxing vibe right off.  If you walk further into the resort you will find many shops including Dylan's Candy Bar where the kids are sure to get a good sugar rush.  Candy and shopping was the last thing on my mind, I just couldn't wait to take in the beautiful lake we were so close to.
     The tower elevator nearest the lobby was glass so we could see outside as we were taken up to our room's floor.  I felt a bit woozy from my slight fear of elevators but I made it to our floor without too much stress.  Once we got off of the elevator we noticed conveniently located beverage and ice machines on the way to our room.  Our room was down a short hall and we used our key card to enter.  I loved how warm and inviting the room colors were.  The interior decorating felt very up to date and fresh.  As soon as I stepped in the room I ran and practically flew up onto the bed.  The mattress was so perfectly plush.  During our stay my husband and I slept the best we have in years.   I wish I could take the bed home with me!  Our full bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and shower was absolutely enormous.  I immediately made plans to take a long bubble bath and wished I had brought a small jar candle.  There was a tiny bit of dust here and there but overall the room felt very clean and well cared for.  The curtains were the heavy type that you could use to blackout the entire room, especially handy for those who love to sleep in.  We even had a lovely balcony to step out and enjoy the rolling hills of the golf green.  After spending several minutes on the balcony I turned around to go back in and that's when panic set in.  I suddenly realized the whole balcony was covered in spider webs!  There were about 20 spiders hanging out there.  I have a terrible fear of spiders so it took all I had to walk back into our room.  I think the resort should spray something to keep the spiders away!  We didn't go back out on the balcony for the rest of our stay but it was a great view from inside the slider door window.

     Once we got settled into our room we drove out to Traverse City.  The drive was short, maybe 15 minutes.  We had been told good things about North Peak Brewing Company and their restaurant.  My husband and I both love a good beer so it was a must to visit.  You can read my full review of North Peak and it's sister brewery Jolly Pumpkin.
     The next morning I was surprised to find out that breakfast went until 11 am!  It was a happy surprise for sure and we took full advantage of it by sleeping in.
     There are three restaurants to choose from for your meals.  For both of our breakfasts we chose to dine at the Sweetwater American Bistro.  The menu selection was small but it had enough variety to satisfy any palate.  I particularly enjoyed the cornflake crusted french toast and fresh fruit.  The fruit was obviously very carefully picked because it was at its most perfect ripeness.  I loved the crunch of the french toast's exterior and how the soft interior easily soaked up the syrup I drenched it in.  My husband's favorite item was the smoked salmon benedict.  He shared a little nibble with me and I loved the salty salmon with the tangy hollandaise sauce. We were both slightly sad that the buffet wasn't an everyday event.  The waitress told us that they only put it out if the resort has a certain amount of guests.  The atmosphere of the bistro was calming, once again going with the overall relaxing theme of the resort.
      That same morning we hopped into the car and drove over to the Sara Hardy's Farmers Market.  Everyone had some amazing fresh produce and there were a few vendors that were selling fresh bread.  We had plans for a beach campfire lunch so we chose some sweet peppers and onions plus a loaf of fresh sourdough bread.  I had a package of Johnsonville chicken sausage I'd purchased at the local grocery store in the cooler.  Grilled veggies and sausage go great together!
      We drove over to a little beach that the Traverse City Visitors Bureau had told us about.  It wasn't too far from the city and we had an amazing view plus few people to contend with for a spot.  My husband got right to work lighting our campfire.  We found several places along the road that were selling wood bundles for around $4.  We had remembered our long sausage roasting stick and we both love the smoky flavor you get from cooking over fiery coals.
      The water was too cold to take a swim but I didn't mind.  All I wanted to do was soak in the warm sunshine, breathe in the freshest air and daydream while looking out over the blue-green waves.  Sitting there in my chair was probably one of the most relaxing things I had done in a long time.  Lake Michigan is like free therapy.  I wanted to just bottle it up and bring it home!  Our grilled lunch was fabulous and I highly recommend taking the time to do the same if you visit the area.
     Once we were finished relaxing at the beach we headed on back to the resort.  We had two massage appointments waiting for us.  I noticed the pools and athletic courts as we walked by.  The spa was gorgeous and the staff was very cordial.  We were greeted and sent down a flight of curving stairs.  Down there we were greeted by another staff person who handed us each a big fluffy robe, slippers and locker key.  She directed us to our locker rooms where we would change out of our street clothes.
     I was wowed by the luxurious decor of the women's locker room.  The showers all had curtains and the lockers seemed somewhat private.  There was even a small sauna that I noticed a few women walking into.  After putting my robe on I was met by the massage therapists who would be doing our couple's massage.  They were very friendly and made us both feel comfortable.  We were lead down a dimly lit hall to the room that held the double tables we would be using.  The therapists left us for a minute so that we could get situated on the warm tables.  I loved that they used such warm tables which in turn heated the sheet and blanket we were covered with.
     Once the massage began I completely melted.  I believe they used cherry infused oil because I noticed the sweet scent of cherries.  We had a total of 50 minutes of the best massage we've ever had.  I've gotten a lot of massages but this was by far the best.  Words cannot describe how I felt after they were done kneading my tired muscles.
     After the massage we almost couldn't peel ourselves from the tables but we had to because dinner that night was going to be special.  We both took showers in the locker rooms and I was happy to see there were dispensers of body wash, shampoo and conditioner readily available in ever shower stall.  There was even a basket of razors, combs and a few other toiletries that one might forget to carry with her.  Once we were dressed we walked out into the sitting room to enjoy some hot tea and homemade granola.  The granola was to die for!  I need that recipe.  Being able to just lounge by the fireplace was the perfect end to our relaxing spa experience.
     The last business of the night was our reservation for two at the Aerie Restaurant & Lounge.  Just from reading the menu I knew we were in for a culinary treat of epic proportions.  The Aerie is located on the 16th floor of the tower.  I had been reading the menu almost every night as if it were a good bed time story.  I wanted to be familiar and prepared but nothing could have prepared me for the dinner we consumed!
      The ambiance was romantic and the views breathtaking.  The restaurant was so elegant, definitely worth getting dressed up for.  Our meal for two took place right in front of a window overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay.  I believe our reservations were for seven pm.  Seven was definitely the perfect time to dine and enjoy the view while the sun began to set over the bay.  We were thinking of getting dessert but by the time we had eaten our three course meal we were too stuffed to venture any further.  The next several photos after the lighting and views are nothing short of food porn.
Soft shell crab with béarnaise cilantro emulsion for his appetizer.  Perfection on a plate!
Spanish cataluña short ribs garnished with sautéed langoustine for my starter.  The langoustine was a bit overdone for my taste but this was still excellent.
Thai duck breast with jicama salad, cilantro, orange thai dressing, apple and jalapeno. (half eaten)
Gratin of onion soup garlic crostini and gruyere cheese.  A bit difficult to eat but extremely tasty!

Fustini's chipotle infused olive oil plus blackberry balsamic and a bread assortment which included asiago, cherry herb and brown raisin walnut.
  This was so good we barely snapped a photo before it was all gone.
Seafood paella valenciana lobster tail, shrimp, mussels, clams, fresh fish, rich lobster broth saffron rice with pork belly and chorizo, served with a glass of sangria.  I was a bit jealous because my husband let me have a bite which made me want another bite LOL.  A Phenomenal dish for sure!
I was in such a steak kind of mood and they couldn't have cooked mine more perfectly.  I like my beef rare to medium rare.  Maytag blue cheese crusted filet with yukon gold mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and port wine reduction.  The port wine reduction was the best part.  I felt like the carrots needed a bit more time in the pot (if parboiled which I'm assuming they are) because mine were a bit on the hard crunchy side for my taste.  This plate was so divine, words can barely describe it.
     Just as our heavenly meal came to an end so did the day.  My husband held my hand in his as we peered out of the window to watch the sun slowly slip away below the bay.  We went back to our room to retire for the night.  Once again I slept like a baby.
     The next morning we had another fabulous breakfast at the Sweetwater American Bistro.  It was Thursday and our last day in the Traverse City area.  We packed our bags and said farewell to our room.  It had been such an amazing stay that we will never forget.  On our way to check out I noticed all the awards that the resort had received.  They are well deserved!  I just found out the other day that they have gotten yet another award.  The Smart Meetings 2012 Platinum Choice Award.  The award highlights the best of the best hotels and Convention & Visitors Bureaus that consistently go above and beyond expectations.  They were 1 of 125 properties in North America to earn the award.  A huge congrats to them for their achievement!  We will be back again someday.  This is a great spot for a Michigan family vacation.

Links
Website: http://www.grandtraverseresort.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrandTraverseResort
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GTResort

Aerie Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

This post was written by me on behalf of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.  All opinions are 100% my own.  {Mama Nibbles full disclosure}
    



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