Sunday, September 29, 2013

Autumn in the Air

     Why is it that I always love changing things for the season, but I am so ready to put it away just a few weeks later? Right now, I love all things fall...but it won't be long before all the colors and pumpkins will be driving me crazy!

     It really takes very little to change the look and feel of your home. I found this pillow (I only use one on my sofa) and throw at TJMaxx last weekend for about $35 total. I loved some of the season's pillows at Pottery Barn, but this one has color and texture and was only $19.99.
     You can see that someone thinks that all things soft and cozy belong to her. It wouldn't make much sense for me to invest much in anything that is within her reach.
Little bits of fall are tucked all over the house.
Soon, I will add touches of Halloween.

If you missed the wreath tutorial,
you can find it here.


     The bittersweet came in my last bouquet delivered from the area organic farmer. It was very green and the berries were closed. I let it sit for about 2 weeks and they popped open and dried into this beautiful sign of fall.
I am joining Marty @ A Stroll Thru Life for
Inspire Me Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesdays

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hidden in the Midwest-Part 2

     This post is part 2 of our visit to French Lick/West Baden, Indiana. You can read about the French Lick Hotel here, in part 1. Today I will show you around the other hotel, West Baden Springs Hotel. Built as the Mile Lick Hotel in 1855, it was also (like the French Lick Resort) built because people traveled to the area for the mineral springs. The name was changed later and reflected Baden, a famous mineral spa in Europe. Before a fire in 1901 that destroyed West Baden Springs, it housed a casino, an opera house, a 2 level pony and bicycle track and a baseball field. Owned by Lee W. Sinclair (you still see the name Sinclair many places in the area), the hotel was rebuilt after the fire to be his dream hotel.
     When you enter the hotel, this is what you see. I couldn't begin to get a picture that truly shows how large this atrium is. Sinclair wanted it to be the largest dome in the world and to look like a grand European spa. It reopened in 1902 with a 200 foot atrium. After Sinclair died, his daughter and her husband took over the hotel until they drained their finances and sold the hotel in 1923 to Ed Ballard for a million dollars. The hotel lost all business after the stock market crash of 1929 and Ballard eventually sold it for 1 dollar to the Jesuits in 1934. They removed many of the elegant touches and buildings. The seminary known as West Baden College operated until 1964 and sold in 1966 after the seminary closed. It was then purchased by a couple who donated it to Northwood Institute, a private college, which operated in West Baden until 1983. It was after that time, the hotel sold once again and sat empty, falling into ruin.

The fireplace could burn 14 foot logs

     There were attempts to keep up the empty building over the years, but it wasn't until May of 1994, when the hotel was sold to Minnesota Investment Partners for $500,00 that things started to look up. Grand Casinos, Inc., an investor in the purchase, optioned the hotel from MIP. The Cook Group, Inc., a global medical device manufacturing company, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, stepped in to preserve both French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel.  Both hotels and their grounds received a multi-million dollar renovation returning them to the grandeur of the days of Sinclair and uniting them as one resort. In 2006, French Lick Springs Hotel reopened after an extensive renovation and in 2007 the West Baden Springs Hotel opened it's doors once again.
This photo show how the inside looked during the renovation.
The hallway to the spa.

Indoor pool-taken from the spa.

One of the many ornate fixtures in the atrium.

The library.

The details in the flooring.

Stained glass doors, everywhere.

Some of the original china.

The building in the background is empty now.
 It once held a bowling alley,
billiard room and a rumored illegal casino.

The small cemetery where some of the Jesuits who died
while in residence are buried.

This is the original Mineral Spring at West Baden.
Like French Lick, the sulfur smell is very strong.

Packaging of the original Pluto Water from French Lick.

The sunken garden.
The baseball field had an old-fashioned baseball game.
     I think it is obvious why the West Baden Springs Resort is considered a bit more upscale than the French Lick Resort. The prices are a little higher, the atmosphere is very quiet and almost isolated. I was afraid that I would be sorry that we chose French Lick, but I wasn't. This hotel is certainly a "must see" as it is breathtaking and the history is so interesting. It also has truly beautiful grounds. The two hotels are so close to each other and with a shuttle that goes back and forth, you really have the advantage of both hotels, no matter where you decide to stay.
     We loved almost everything about our 3 days in French Lick. We will certainly go back, but we will be a little more prepared. We struggled with the food choices. The towns of French Lick/West Baden are small with very little to offer. The resorts and the winery are wonderful, but other than that...unless you drive to another town, you won't find many places to eat. The hotels have several restaurants, which many people would be perfectly happy with. They both have upscale restaurants, with dinner prices around $150 and up for two people without beverages. The reviews for these are not that great and the menu choices weren't very interesting to us. So, even though we took "dressy" clothes, we decided we simply weren't interested in them enough to spend that kind of money. The other restaurants in the hotels are much less expensive, but served what I called a cross between T.G.I. Fridays and Buffalo Wild Wings. It was bar food in various locations. If you like pizza, burgers, meatloaf and will be perfectly happy. If you like food that is more interesting and made with fresh, local will feel like we did. The winery food was great, but it isn't open for dinner or on Mondays. There is a little place that has sandwiches and bakery items that is rated number one for the area and it was also good, but not open for dinner. I found the restaurants to be the only thing that was a disappointment at these gorgeous resorts.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hidden in the Midwest-Part 1

     For many years we had talked about visiting French Lick, Indiana. My parents had been there several times, the hotels looked amazing and the history surrounding them sounded very interesting to us. It is less than 3 hours from our home and this week, we finally made the trip. Hint: We went for 2 nights (Sun., Mon.) to take advantage of our first senior (ugh) rate. They offer an over 55 package that includes $55 to spend in the hotel along with a reduced room price. Today I will show you the French Lick Resort, where we stayed. My next post will give you a tour of the West Baden resort, the sister hotel, located a mile away with a shuttle between the 2. The first thing we saw was the beautiful front porch of our hotel. We spent quite a bit of time out here, rocking and people watching.

     Entering the lobby, I realized that the pictures I had seen did not do it justice. Originally built in 1845 by Dr. William Boles, the hotel was built to bring people from the surrounding area to partake of the water from the sulfur springs that were on the grounds. The water was said to have miracle powers and people drank it, bathed in it and were convinced it healed all ills. After a fire, various expansions and several owners, the mayor of Indianapolis, Tom Taggart, bought the property in 1901 and turned it into an international, elegant destination that was visited by many of the rich and famous of that time.

     The guest list (and pictures currently on the walls) show visits by Clark Gable, Joe Louis, Bing Crosby, the Trumans, Elizabeth Taylor, the Reagans, Joe and Rose Kennedy and many others. It was also here, in 1917, that tomato juice was created and first served.

This picture was taken from inside the hotel
out into the courtyard area.
The grounds at both hotels are beautiful.

     We had a first floor room, by request. They were extremely nice to us from the moment we got out the car. The training of the staff is obvious as each person greets you warmly and offers to help in any way. Our room was lovely. It is a little smaller than newer hotels, but not at all too small. The furnishings are all new and updated, but hints of the past do show in the details. The crown molding in the room was gorgeous, the bathroom was large and had huge window sills (reminded me of an old school window) and the doors to the room still had the space where the transom window had once been.

I was surprised by how wide the hallways are.
You don't see that in today's hotels.

The indoor pool was gorgeous.

The outdoor pool was smaller, but still very nice.

I found this part of the hotel very interesting.
You could walk through a tunnel where
the walls were the original
foundation of the hotel.

At the end of the tunnel,
was this tiny 6 lane bowling alley.
You had to know the old school
way of keeping score to play here.
     The Pluto Spring Water is what made the French Lick Resort famous. Today, they have a beautiful spa with many elegant services. One of the things you can do is soak in a tub of the famous mineral water.
     This is the original Pluto Water Spring. Inside you can see words along the upper rim. It says, "While here take our Mineral Baths. What nature won't, Pluto will. America's Greatest Laxative." You can certainly smell the sulfur in the water when you get anywhere near this spring.
     As you can see from the pictures, much of the building looks to me like an old hospital from the outside. It is very bland in some places and then there are surprises like the gilded roof on this part of the building. The inside is entirely different.

I loved finding wonderful architectural
surprises as we wandered around the hotel.
     This hotel also has a relatively new casino attached to it as well as a convention center. The casino was fun (it had a smoke free room) and even though we are not big spenders at all, it provided some fun entertainment each evening. There is also a winery that is part of the resort. It is located near the West Baden hotel and we went there for a late lunch when we arrived on Sunday.
     The winery is in an old factory and while I have certainly seen prettier buildings, the inside was quite nice. The restaurant serves Italian food and everything we saw leaving the kitchen looked great. I sampled a few of the wines and they were delicious.

     We ordered a pizza and it was perfect. In fact, it was the best food we had the entire three days. I will talk more about the food in the next post. Suffice it to say that there had to be a down side...right? There are several shops in the hotel with everything from upscale clothing, candy, gifts and jewelry. You never really need to leave the property. I can only imagine how beautiful this hotel must be when it is decorated for Christmas. We are looking forward to going back on a weekend when there are more activities going on and music in several locations. It was nice to be there during the week though, it was quiet and not crowded. Another plus was that being there on a senior rate, we were just about the youngest people there!