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Friday, May 28, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Eighth Wonder of the World

BlogTrotting Together has now been officially renamed Field Trip Fridays -- so please consider joining us on Fridays for a little carnival. We'll let you know the post topic early in the week. Then, on Fridays, you publish your post and link to it here on BlogTrotting.

This week's topic is "Who knew?" where we asked you to blog about an interesting, even surprising, spot you've happened upon in your travels near and far. I'm MEP from Not to brag . . . and BlogTrotting and here's my contribution:

I had a "Who knew?" experience last November when my high school friends and I planned a girls weekend. We needed a spot within comfortable driving distance from Cincinnati (where they live) and Chicago (where I live) and chose Indiana. Where else? There is a beautiful old hotel and (new) casino in French Lick, IN. (Yes, the town and resort are really named "French Lick.") There is an even more beautiful old hotel right next door in West Baden Springs, IN.

I do not want to offend anyone who lives in this area, but my impression as I drove toward the West Baden Springs Hotel was that it was in the middle of nowhere. My father-in-law warned me several times to watch vigilantly for deer during the last twenty miles of my drive. I was driving on dark and winding roads, past trees and a few houses and became worried that I had to be going the wrong way when all of sudden I saw an archway entrance, beautiful lights, and an amazing old building. I met up with my friends under a 2oo foot domed atrium -- sometimes dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world" -- inside one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen (and I've seen a few, NTB).

The West Baden Springs Hotel was gorgeous and, even better, has an amazing history that involves springs with healing powers, wealth and opulence, architectural feats, wartime health care, flatulence, higher education, Jesuits, abandonment and decay, and a total triumph of persistence, vision, and generosity that resulted in the hotel's amazing restoration and renovation. I'd fill in the gaps of the hotel's history for you except that I want you to go there, to see it, and to take the historical tour. Seriously, I loved the tour. I eat that stuff up.

My friends and I were visiting during a unseasonably warm November weekend. We walked from our hotel at West Baden to its partner property, the larger hotel/casino/convention center at French Lick. Together, the properties offer eating, gambling, shopping, walking, golfing, spa-going, and more. We mostly took advantage of the eating and the chance to catch up in a beautiful place. It was a special weekend with my oldest friends in the world made more special by the thrill of being in such a beautiful place with such a rich history, an unexpected (for me, at least) gem in "the middle of nowhere" (again, just an expression, not trying to slight this part of Indiana).

I'd happily visit again with friends and/or family and children.

I'm not a fancy photographer, but here are a few shots of this little corner of the world.

A glimpse of the atrium and the amazing dome from the French Lick Resort's website.

Italian tile work in lobby featured above. The hotel also has Indiana limestone, a Rookwood Pottery fireplace, specially crafted stained glass windows, and other amazing details.

Look, my friends are as enthralled by the historical tour as I was!
(They had no idea I took this picture -- sorry for posting it, girls!)

One of the springs (now covered).

Site of former Lover's Lane where guests walked after taking their cures.
Trust me, you really need to hear about this spot on the tour.
Outside view of the dome.

The hotel had a front porch! I love a good front porch.

See, what a gem of a place, right? Who knew?! (Obviously, lots of people for many years, but I was not one of them until this past year. My loss!)

Okay, so please link up your own "Who knew?" post below. If you don't have time for a post, how about leaving a comment describing one of your own "Who knew?" travel experiences.


  1. I entered a post ia ctually recently wrote-it fit perfectly! I happened upon this website before visiting New York about trapeze classes and knew I had to take one!

  2. P.S. This is a fabulous idea!

  3. What a great place. The atrium is amazing!
    The name French Lick made me curious - Wikipedia tells me that is was a French trading outpost with a salt lick nearby. Weird name, here we come. LOL (I'm a librarian, I must research stuff...it's something of an occupational hazard).
    I love the Field Trip Friday idea!

  4. I have seen so many signs for French Lick, and never gave it a second thought; now I'm intrigued!

    I'm sorry to say that I can't think of a "Who Knew" kind of place that I have visited :( My creative juices are not flowing this morning...

  5. It seems there are hotels like this scattered around the US. Unrelated, of course. The architectural firm I used to work for designed some buildings for one in West Virginia. Just like this one, it was in the middle of nowhere, but situated over a spring renowned for its healing properties. It is a 5 star, amazing place. I never got to make a trip out, but saw tons of pictures. It would definitely qualify as a Who Knew.

    Great post!

    PS - Where does the name French Lick come from?

  6. The picture of your fascinated friends is really a selling point. ha ha. We are planning a girls trip right now and I am wondering if everyone would be up for the journey to good old French Lick. (I believe Larry Bird hails from French Lick, BTW.) I'm intrigued by the lovers lane.

  7. Great idea and wonderful post!

  8. Awesome post! French Lick isn't that far from me -- my inlaws used to go every year, and that was before the beautiful renovation. Maybe I'll have to put it on my list as a weekend away!