(June 22-23, 2014)
My second stay at the Grandview Bed & Breakfast confirmed: It’s not just the windmill spinning above the 1906 William Watt House that makes it special.
After winding your way through the charming small town of Mount Dora, about 25 miles northwest of Orlando, you will have no trouble spying the two-story Grandview, on a corner lot of more than an acre only a few blocks from the downtown shopping district.
This time, I chose to stay in the Country French Room, which is quite large and decorated with Parisian prints and blue-and-white covers on a queen-sized bed.
The French doors on the bathroom were the highlight for me – I am crazy for French doors. The bathroom was originally a walk-in closet. It was redone in 2005, but still looks brand new, with a white vanity topped by a stylish shell mirror and little pineapple lamps perched on either side.
When you step out of the shower, sunlight streams in from a big window that looks down on the front yard. What a glorious way to start the day!
On my first visit to the Grandview I stayed across the hall in the spacious Charleston Room, with a trio of windows offering a wonderful view of the backyard pool. The Charleston is a good choice for those who want to relax in a long, hot bath in the home’s original tub.
In addition to three rooms in the main house, the Grandview offers a separate handicapped-accessible room and a two-story, two-room cottage on the same property, with the windmill on top.
After I arrived and settled into the Country French Room, the inn’s owners, Gordie and Patti Johnston, served wine and appetizers on the back porch, overlooking the saltwater pool, and I had a chance to chat with the other guests.
More importantly, I had time to talk to the innkeepers about where to eat, shop and have fun. I told Gordie and Patti I was planning to eat that night at Mount Dora Brewing and the Rocking Rabbit Brewery, and they confirmed that it was a wise choice, favored by the locals. My sister raves about the Goblin Market restaurant, which they also recommended, but it was closed that night, a Sunday.
I had read a fascinating story about the Rocking Rabbit’s origin in “Florida Breweries,” by Gerard Walen, a former colleague of mine at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The brewery owner, Jeff Herbst, was originally a wood carver; now he not only runs the brewery and adjoining café, but sings and plays guitar in the house band.
I had a delicious salmon dinner at the Rocking Rabbit and the band was very entertaining. Members of the staff, including the bartender and waitress, took turns singing. Of course, I had to sample a craft beer. I’m no beer expert, but my Beauclaire Blonde went down easy.
After a restful night back at the Grandview, I awakened to a full breakfast of cheese quiche, bacon, sausage, biscuit and potatoes, all served on blue-and-white china in the cozy dining room.
At a B&B, the details separate the best from the merely average, at least for me. And Gordie and Patti Johnston seem to agree: I noted, for example, the tiny glass shell hanging from the ceiling fan in my room and the Tommy Bahama toiletries in the bathroom. These innkeepers take the time to make their guests feel at home in their home.
On this visit, I unfortunately had little time to sample the many pleasures of Mount Dora — to ride on the wood-burning steam locomotive or tour the chain of lakes on a canal cruise. I did stop by one shop highly recommended – again, by my sister. Matamo Designs is filled with delightful home furnishings, home décor, paintings and unusual gifts. It turned out to be the shop I had discovered and loved on my first visit!
On the way out of town, I stopped for a quick tour of another bed-and-breakfast, the Mount Dora Historic Inn. It’s an intimate property, with only four rooms, and even closer to downtown than the Grandview. The Historic Inn would be a good option for a couple who like a small, quiet B&B or a group of travelers looking to take over an entire inn.
A short history lesson: The town of Mount Dora was named after Lake Dora, which federal surveyors in the mid-1800s had named for Dora Ann Drawdy. “Mount” reflected the town’s elevation, 184 feet above sea level, considered high for Florida.
I’d say a two- or three-night visit to Mount Dora is a must for bed-and-breakfast fans, and shoppers.
(Note: As always, I accepted no money or other compensation in exchange for writing this review, and did not reveal my intentions to the innkeepers.)