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Echo Garrett

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Where to Stay: The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear, Alabama

The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama

Photograph courtesy of Art Meripol/The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa

I’d long been curious about the Grand Hotel. My husband visited as a boy and has fond memories of it. One story in particular stands out. Back in the day, guests dressed for dinner, and my husband—then seven—was not prepared. He had a suit and tie but nothing to wear on his feet besides purple tennis shoes. Thankfully, his grandmother knew what to do.

“Walk behind me, and keep your feet tucked under my gown,” she said, much to his amusement.

Today, the rules are a bit more relaxed (guests no longer dress for dinner), but the Grand Hotel’s remarkable history endures. Since opening in 1847, the resort has served as a Civil War hospital, hosted training operations during World War II, and welcomed such illustrious guests as Dolly Parton and President Jimmy Carter. So fascinating are the tales behind the resort, it employs a historian, who gives daily tours of the 550-acre property overlooking Mobile Bay.

But the Grand Hotel has an eye on the future. In 2018, it debuted the results of a $34 million renovation that updated the conference center, spa, and all 405 guestrooms and suites. Six new restaurants and lounges were added, and significant upgrades were made to the resort’s golf courses.

I don’t play golf, but I am an unapologetic connoisseur of spas, so when I visited, I was eager to check out some of the available services. I had a relaxing massage and full-body exfoliation. I also sipped Champagne and luxuriated in an elongated hot tub, all the while feeling pampered to the max.

Alternatively, I could have spent the afternoon fishing, using a supplied pole and bait. If I’d caught anything, a chef at Southern Roots, one of the hotel’s restaurants, would have prepared it for me. As it was, I ordered the benne-crusted grouper, served with greens, glazed turnips, and a tomato conserve. The menu was peppered with ingredients that were locally caught or produced, including produce grown in the hotel’s immaculate garden.

As I looked around the dining room, it was fun to imagine my husband in a similar space so many years ago. The formalities that tripped up a young boy are gone now. And I certainly didn’t see anyone in a floor-length gown. But those sorts of details aren’t what made the Grand Hotel so grand; what has always mattered is how the place makes you feel. And at the Grand Hotel, no matter who you are—a president or a seven-year-old boy—you feel like royalty.

One Grand Boulevard, Point Clear, Alabama 36564 • (251) 928-9201 • grand1847.com

While You’re There

Hone your drink-making skills at the resort’s Beverage Academy. Led by the hotel’s beverage manager, the class takes place one Friday a month. In April, the focus is gin; May’s class is dedicated to wine; and June’s subject is scotch.

This article appears in our Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Southbound.

Destination: Franklin, Tennessee

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Franklin, Tennessee
Photograph by Joe Buglewicz

Twenty miles south of Nashville, Franklin’s downtown is lined with boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and specialty shops, with scarcely a chain store in sight. It’s so quaint, in fact, that it was voted “Greatest Southern Town” by the readers of Garden & Gun. Franklin is also a mecca for history buffs, thanks partly to Robert Hicks’s 2005 bestseller The Widow of the South, which tells the story of Carrie McGavock, a Civil War hero who tended the wounded during the Battle of Franklin.

Franklin, Tennessee
Moonshine Hill

Photograph by Brenda Walker

Where to stay
Moonshine Hill, in nearby artsy Leiper’s Fork, is a hillbilly-opulent cabin that can sleep five. Guests have the run of 22 acres—including a fanciful tree house—located near the Natchez Trace. From $350. Craftsman-style Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast, built in 1905, is a 15-minute walk from downtown Franklin. From $155, 866-794-8178.

Franklin, Tennessee
Platter from Puckett’s

Photograph by Amy Whidby

Where to eat
For comfort food and live music, head to Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant. Or tuck into surf and turf at the romantic Cork & Cow. Try local specialty hot chicken at Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish.

What else to do
Catch a show at the renovated Franklin Theatre, circa 1937. Or attend one of Franklin’s many festivals, like the Irish celebration in March. In spring, Carnton Plantation blooms with heirloom daffodils.

Franklin, Tennessee
Photograph by David Braud

Souvenir
Make your own keepsake at Franklin Glassblowing Studio. Owner Jose Santisteban offers individual or group lessons.

Taste of history
Learn about families caught in the crossfire of one of the bloodiest battles on U.S. soil at properties managed by the Battle of Franklin Trust. Visit McGavock’s Carnton Plantation as well as the battlefield itself. Nearby Lotz House still bears battle scars.

Tip
Author Robert Hicks offers private tours of the historic sites. For info, contact his manager, Violet Cieri, at 615-279-0108 or at tourswithrobert@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared in our February 2016 issue.

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