Hot Springs, Arkansas
Don and I started our 22-day road trip with a stay in this fabulous historic hotel!
A Grand Place, in 1924!
This hotel is enormous. When it was built in 1924, (Replacing 2 others from 1875 and 1892!) it had 560 rooms.
Now there are about 500 rooms and suites. It's the largest hotel in Arkansas.
We climbed the front steps, walked across the veranda and came through the front doors, into this grand space.
It was fun to imagine socialites and celebrities of the past coming through these doors. Even though Barbara Streisand and Tony Bennett might have good memories of this place, I'm afraid the dated furniture and carpets might not lure them back in this day and age.
At night, it all looked a little more pleasant from the second floor mezzanine. You could still smell the popcorn from the lobby/bar, near the colorful mural.
We took advantage of the complimentary popcorn in the early evening and enjoyed it with drinks, on the veranda. So did the sad looking woman who sat on a nearby bench. I had the feeling that she comes daily, for free popcorn. Hot Springs has some interesting characters.
Hotels always get big points from me when they have curious things to play with. The mineral water fountain was pretty fun... even if you had to drink warm water!
The mailbox and elevators were mighty impressive. I imagined Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton and Bush rumbling up inside one of these, when they stayed. But I read later that these were installed in 1969. The originals required an elevator operator.
We didn't dine in Arlington's Venetian Restaurant, but it looked like it must have been quite the place with the grand piano and chandeliers.
I'm afraid I didn't see a single diner on that Sunday night.
My Kind of Staircase!
We definitely tried out the staircase, which took us down to the basement. I wonder how many different feet over the years, wore down those marble stairs?
Maybe they should install a nice, cushioned pit at the bottom, for all the people who admire the lovely railing but don't use it. I have a feeling that a ride down the banister would have been slow, compared to sailing over those smooth, rounded steps.
We almost got to know our 7th floor neighbors very well. We we messed with their door for about 5 minutes before realizing our key went to a different room.
Our room wasn't even close to Al Capone's favorite room, 442. He used to book the entire floor for his body guards and other VIPs.
Our room was actually pretty darn good, for $89.00! We wanted one of the historic rooms, and they happened to be cheaper.
Although, maybe we could have afforded the top dollar room, at this hotel. The bathroom was pretty small and cramped with only a shower. Too bad, since I could have soaked in mineral water, if we'd had a tub!
Room With a View
Our window looked down on the very lush hill and park below.
In the morning there was glowing sunshine, on the old Army/Navy Hospital, which is now a Rehabilitation Center.
I'm sure this pool area was quite the thing, when it was first built. The entrance to the pool is on the 7th floor... which is odd.
There were 2 levels of pools. One had a slight water feature that spilled into the other. There was also a hot tub and lots of Astroturf. Don thought about doing some laps, but decided against it.
From the hotel you could go lots of directions. From the pool you could hike up some stone steps to a sitting area, or continue up on some amazing trails.
Across the street, (as seen from the raised pool area) we found some very good food. We tried the Pancake Shop and Rolanda's, with a great chef from Ecuador.
Near Bathhouse Row
Best of all, we could just stroll down Bathhouse Row, from the hotel. You can see the twin towers in the photo.
What an amazing history to this town, where people came to soak in the healing mineral waters! I wish we'd had time to experience that as well, but we absorbed plenty in the moist air!
If we'd made use of the baths, I'm sure that would be the notable part of our stay. But even without a visit to the spa or a soak in a mineral bath, we still felt this incredible vibe, of what Hot Springs once was.
The Arlington and the nearby parks, baths and buildings, were all a part of our stay. There is no separating the hotel from the curious town that surrounds it. What a interesting place!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!