by Petula Brown
As a frequent traveler and transplant from the East Coast, I’m often drawn to major metropolitan areas. Although renowned for impressive attractions and activities for any interest, the bustling crowds and traffic snarls in urban centers means serenity can be in short supply. Fortunately for Michiganders, a tranquil getaway doesn’t require a boarding pass, or transcontinental travel, but just a few miles drive west on US-23 to Livingston County. Brighton’s Canterbury Chateau weaves together cozy interiors and relaxing amenities, with a touch of the tropics, into an accessible escape from the daily grind. By smartly balancing Victorian charm with modern touches, this bed and breakfast provides a welcome respite. Combined with many local recreational activities available in the Brighton area, visitors can enjoy a restful weekend while exploring nearby attractions.
Appreciating the aura of Canterbury requires an understanding of its history and also it’s Innkeeper, Jan Henry. With experience as an elementary school teacher and counselor, Jan has a nurturing and supportive approach to serving Canterbury guests. During her educational career, she always fostered an interest in establishing a bed and breakfast. With her husband, Bob, Jan decided to build the property between downtown Brighton and the Brighton Recreation Area. Everything from the winding staircase to the outdoor landscaping is the realization of a vision cultivated by years of contemplation and research. As the Chateau celebrates its 18th anniversary in 2018, Jan continues to refine the property to meet and exceed guest expectations. Jan’s hands-on approach to property management is a refreshing change of pace from more corporate-driven accommodations.
Surveying the exterior from Brighton Road, Canterbury has a stately presence that distinguishes it from nearby properties. Meticulous landscaping demonstrates Jan’s attention to detail. Modern touches within Canterbury include Pandora music, electric fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs in every room. These amenities enhance the traditional interiors. Three of the rooms (Canterbury, Chateau, and Turret) set an ethereal mood with canopy arrangements, floral accents, and greenery placement that enliven the space. In contrast, the Oak Point room, in the basement, has a man cave feel. The neutral earth tones and plaid accents, combined with access to a pool table, kitchen, and mega-screen television in the adjacent room is an ideal space for socializing or watching favorite sporting events, movies, or shows. Each room has its own television, but strategic ceiling placement means the technology doesn’t compete with the room’s ambiance. With space to accommodate eight guests comfortably, the entire Chateau could be reserved for a couples’ weekend, ladies getaway, guys’ respite, or intimate family reunion.
However, Canterbury is much more than its impressive rooms and their amenities. Guests are greeted to a shoeless environment and provided with casual slipper gifts that become keepsakes from their stay. Midday arrivals can partake in afternoon coffee hour to socialize with Jan, meet other guests, or decompress from their travels. Outdoor seating allows guests to admire the natural beauty that surrounds the property. A well-stocked library provides an escape from inclement weather via magazines and board games. A tropical flair comes in the form of the resident parrots, Onyx and BJ. Both spend the day perched between the living room and kitchen areas chatting away with each other and with guests. In the evenings, they silently retire in Jan’s quarters. Guests can enhance their stay with on-site massage services provided by Brighton-based Dolphin Energetics Massage. After a restful night’s sleep, a morning repast comes in the form of a five-course breakfast prepared by Jan. Described as “awesome”, “delicious” and “scrumptious” by guests, Jan can accommodate dietary needs with advance notice and makes distinct offerings in tune with seasonal ingredients.
Though guests could spend their entire time in the Chateau, Brighton offers options for both naturalists and urbanites to explore during their visit. A walkable downtown has many unique retailers and numerous dining locales (Ciao Amici’s, Burroughs Roadhouse, and Stillwater Grill have been noted by Chateau guests). Downtown also hosts seasonal festivals, including summer food and arts celebrations, an autumn Jazz/BBQ event, and winter holiday activities. For a more rustic experience, the Brighton Recreation Area, with over 5,000 acres, provides a variety of adventures. During the warm seasons, trail lovers have horseback, hiking, and biking options while water lovers enjoy the beach, fishing, or boating - and everyone can meet at nearby camp sites for overnight stays. Prefer more frosty activities? Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing await winter lovers.
With so much to offer, and its proximity to Ann Arbor, Canterbury is a popular accommodation option during holidays and Michigan football game days, but visitors from across the country, as well as many repeat guests, are a testament to the Chateau’s appeal, far beyond Michiganders. Innkeeper Jan describes the Chateau as a “quiet, relaxing space” that welcomes guests looking for a place to rest and recharge. While categorized as a bed and breakfast by the tourism industry, Canterbury Chateau is much more to its guests. It can be a place to renew oneself, reconnect with loved ones, or establish new relationships. Canterbury provides the canvas for visitors to create the experience they want. Canterbury’s guest book illustrates how guests have received their experiences. As described by one visitor, “What a delight it was spending the night here. A luxuriously comfortable treat – the perfect respite for weary travelers. My daughter and I feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Beauty in every detail – as charming and gracious as the hostess!”