Indiana’s Surprising Charms: The French Lick Resort

The French Lick Hotel

The French Lick Hotel – West Baden, Indiana

What a Wonderful World!

By Sarah Ivens

I nearly called this article ‘Weird and Wonderful’ for never have I stayed in a place so uniquely fascinating, bewildering and beguiling. Set off a leafy, twisty road in a hidden part of quiet Indiana, the French Lick Resort is as beautifully strange as it’s name.

As soon as I checked in at the enclave’s top notch hotel, West Baden, time stood still and I fell down the rabbit hole. Leaving modern cars, computers and cares outside, guests stumble into a gigantic glass atrium, the largest freestanding dome in the United States. A woman is playing the harp in one corner. A gigantic fireplace, big enough to hold 14ft logs, crackles in another. Clinking cups echo musically as an elegant English afternoon tea, complete with fine china and divine cakes, is served for the peckish. Pacing the ornate tiled floors are dapper looking gents clutching golf clubs, wearing big grins; while ladies doze on chaise longues under sparkling chandeliers, paperbacks resting in their hands.

There are no clocks, no televisions, no overbearing tour guides whipping people into action. Guests are left to be in the moment – or in 1902, when the resort first opened for business, with journalists of the day declaring it the eight wonder of the world.

The French Lick

The resort’s natural mineral water and spa baths were alleged to cure almost anything and had been drawing crowds to the area for 100 previous to that, but when the slick new owners started investing their fortunes at the turn of the 20th century, it soon became the place to be – a palace of parties Gatsby would have been proud of. Clark Gable loved it there, as did John Barrymore and Bing Crosby and from it’s opening to 1931, it ran like a dream. Amenities included a casino, a live theater and an opera.

Tomato juice was served for the first time ever at the hotel in 1917, invented by chef Louis Perrin when he ran out of orange juice and needed an alternative at breakfast for his demanding guests. When not dining, lucky guests had their choice of a natatorium, two golf courses, bicycling on a double-decked covered oval bicycle track that was the largest in the country, and horseback riding. To cater to their well-heeled clientele, the hotel even provided a bank, a stock brokerage and a trolley bus between amenities. Back then, the enchanting glass dome that had hypnotized me when I arrived was filled with palm trees and free range exotic birds.

Legend has it that today, at night, ghosts of depressed money men, not birds, have free roam of the atrium. According to locals, many of the country’s richest men were staying there, in bedrooms overlooking the lobby, the day of the Wall Street Crash in 1929, and decided to jump from their balconies rather than face financial ruin. The beautiful people were finished, and sadly two years later, so was the hotel.

But in the nineties, an Indiana local – who happened to have a few hundred million to spare – polished this sparkling gem back to life and turned it once again into a decadent resort fit for kings, queens… and Willie Nelson, who was a recent guest.

A Building with a View

An Enchanting Glass Dome Fit For a King… or a Traveling Band of English Misfits

Famous golf course architect Pete Dye designed his masterpiece and namesake course here in 2009, and it’s now a constant winner of top venue awards in golfing magazines and will play host to next hear’s Senior PGA Championship. The two spas, one at West Baden and one at French Lick, are homages to taste and tranquility, each possessing outdoor swimming pools, which provide perfect settings for a re-read of Tender Is The Night, and a cheeky swig of an Old Fashioned. The resort steakhouse, named 1875 after the year the Kentucky Derby first ran, is a haven of comfort food and worry-erasing wine, while supper up at the Pete Dye Mansion offers mouthwatering BBQ and sundaes overlooking rolling green hills and the 18th hole. Horse-drawn carriages can trot you back to your bed at night, or can deliver you to one of the many white rocking chairs lined up overlooking the fragrant English garden fountains, waiting to swing you to sleep at sunset.

The most remarkable thing about this decadent step back in time for me was remembering how to unwind properly. With patchy network reception and a plethora of old school pursuits to indulge in (anyone for billiards?), it was easy forget the mad dash of the world around me and slow down and relax. In my little slice of old Indiana, I found a new me. And I liked it.

Marin, California: Straus Home Ranch

Straus Home Ranch

Straus Home Ranch

This once-sleepy stretch of the California coastal highway –  just north of San Francisco in West Marin – has become a hotbed of innovation in artisan / organic / sustainable food and farmland conservation movements also chronicled in the recent, excellent documentary film, Rebels with a Cause – featuring interviews with the Straus family matriarch, Ellen Straus, who co-founded MALT, the nation’s first agricultural land trust.

Food on the home ranch

Food on the home ranch

“Years ago, my siblings and I launched Straus Family Creamery – the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi – which is owned by our older brother. Now, separately, my two sisters (Vivien and Miriam) and I have renovated our family’s Civil War-era home into a vacation rental,” says Michael Straus of Straus Home Ranch. Alas – and now the rental is on the market for those to feel a little closer to the excellent Straus family brand (complete with recyclable glass bottles and farm raised milk).

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

We think it’s a perfect home-base for exploring the artisan cheese revolution (assisted, of course, by the iPhone app created by Vivien,, kayaking on Tomales Bay, hiking in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, or simply escaping to what Michael likes to think of as the “Lost Coast of West Marin”.

  • Overnight: $500 / night

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

A View of Carmel-by-the-sea

A View of Carmel-by-the-sea

It’s no secret that September and October offer the best weather months of the year in Carmel-by-the-Sea with average highs of 72 degrees.  Add Indian Summer conditions to a sizzling lineup of food, wine and film festivals, and there is even more incentive for travelers to visit Carmel this fall as most events are within walking distance of the village’s more than 40 charming lodging properties.

Here’s a closer look at the festivals scheduled in Carmel during September and October so that you can get out and get in on the fun:

  • Taste of Carmel (Oct. 2-5).  Fresh from last year’s successful 25th anniversary, Taste of Carmel has announced a big expansion for 2014. Typically held for one evening, the event – presented by the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and Union Bank – will now be held over four days.  Festivities will begin with “The Royal Bash” on Thursday evening, Oct. 2, which will feature dozens of area restaurants and wineries offering food and wine, as well as live music, at the Carmel Mission Courtyard.  The event’s expansion will be evident beginning the next day with a food tour in downtown Carmel and a bicycle tour through Carmel Valley wineries.  Other Taste of Carmel highlights include a Winemaker Dinner, Dessert and Wine Tasting Lunch and several auctions.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 800.550.4333 or 831.624.2522 or visit

Carmel Plaza Courtyard

Carmel Plaza Courtyard

  • Carmel International Film Festival (Oct. 15-19). From an opening night concert, screenings of independent award-winning films, art shows, wine tastings and gallery crawls, to parties with filmmakers, composers and artists, it’s little surprise why the fourth annual event (formerly known as Carmel Art & Film Festival) attracts a diverse group of attendees and filmmakers.  More than 125 films will be screened over five days in unique venues, including Sunset Cultural Center, Golden Bough Theater, Cherry Center for the Arts, Carmel Youth Center Theater, Carmel Youth Center Auditorium, Carmel High School Performing Art Center, Carmel Beach, Devendorf Park, 13th Avenue Beach, Carmel City Hall, as well as multiple galleries and wineries.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit or call 831.625.3700.
  • Days and Nights Festival (Sept. 25-28).  Founded and curated by Philip Glass, the festival returns with four days of performances at Carmel’s Sunset Cultural Center and in Big Sur.  Sunset Center highlights include the airing of a film, “Icarus At The Edge of Time,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27; and an evening of music and spoken word, “Ira Glass: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host,” at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28.  For the festival’s complete schedule and more details, or to purchase tickets, visit or call 831.626.3340.
  • Carmel Mission Fiesta (Sept. 28).  This year will mark its 50th year of the Fiesta, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28.  Located on the beautiful grounds of the Carmel Mission, the Fiesta will feature a barbecue, drinks, live music, arts and crafts, and games for children.  For more information, call 831.624.8322

Carmel hotels are some of the finest

Carmel hotels are some of the finest

It’s also never been easier to get to Carmel. Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), a 10-minute drive from downtown Carmel, has recently added direct flights to and from San Diego.  Other direct flight routes include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

From its incomparable white-sand beach to many choices of distinctive meeting venues and lodging properties, Carmel-by-the-Sea has it all.

Meet Me in St. Louis?

By Sarah Ivens Moffett 

Four Seasons St. Louis Room

Four Seasons St. Louis Room

The Missouri city that Judy Garland warbled theatrically about is cursed and blessed by its location. As central as central can be, smack down in the middle of the oft-overlooked ‘flyover states’, St. Louis is an urban hotch potch of better days, enveloped in a sweet charm and the charismatic traditions that makes it something special.

The Four Seasons St. Louis is simply the smartest place to be in the entire city, a jolt of electric style in this industrial hub. We were blessed to base ourselves here, in a nook of the mighty Mississippi, for three days of family fun. Indeed, fun! A business hotel in a serious city was shockingly kid-friendly.

Traveling with a toddler is rarely easy but check-in was soothed by the appearance of a toy trolley trundling past the welcome smiles to William, 3. He was allowed to choose one toy from the bevy of delights, a tradition he somehow continued every morning (he knows how to sweet talk a pretty receptionist, despite his limited vocabulary), while we got our keys and the lowdown.

Four Seasons St. Louis Spa

Four Seasons St. Louis Spa

After hurriedly unpacking, we ravenous rabble headed downstairs to Cielo for an incredible meal on the patio overlooking the pools and cabanas, brought to us by the recently poached chef of Venice’s Hotel Danieli, Gian Nicola Colucci. Eight storeys above the St. Louis skyline at sunset, the simple yet elegant Italian cuisine used the finest local ingredients for the Italian maestro’s reinvented takes on Italian classics – flavours rooted in the familiar with a fresh twist. We gorged hungrily on an octopus carpaccio with chickpea, arugula, cherry tomato and pickled red chilli pepper; bruschetta; panzarotti with three cheeses and ham; and the plumpest, tastiest sea scallops ever bitten. William was spoilt with the most fragrant spaghetti marinara ever created, and an ice cream sundae decorated with all manner of fresh-baked Willy Wonka-esque delights from the pastry chef. We rolled out of the restaurant and across the lobby, filled to the brim with scrumptiousness.

Best Hotels for KidsWe regretted eating so much when we returned to our room to find a delicious miniature Gateway Arch made out of chocolate, marshmallows and Rice Krispies. Of course, we could have ignored it till the morning but, being on holiday, we decided to get into our dream cloud of a bed en masse and coo our way through the city’s iconic landmark.

Of course, The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial – real or confectionary – is worth the trip alone. Colloquially known as The Gateway Arch it offers a view of 30 miles in every direction and 200 years of American history. It is truly the most breathtaking monument I’ve ever seen and I’m not easily pleased. Seriously, our hotel room had a fabulous view of this patriotic semi-circle and it was hard to shut the door on it and venture out. Yes, yes – it’s just a 630ft high silver rainbow, right? Well yes and no – you expect to see a gaggle of Leprechauns to be digging for treasure at the end of it but it’s more than that…

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch

It’s a shining, glimmering, looping pumped-up overlord, celebrating St. Louis’ role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse nearby. I’m not even American and I felt like chanting “U S A, USA! America, hell yeah!” every time I caught a glance at it. The museum smuggled underneath it is full of tales of heroes, cowboys, wild animals and visionaries – and the gift shop offers just about every deliciously tacky memento your kitsch heart could desire. Ah, just what I needed – Gateway Arch sweatpants in aqua.

Admittedly, gawping at a giant sculpture wasn’t enough to keep my kids entertained for a whole weekend. Was there more to St.Louis than a stellar hotel and a giant arch? Yes, too much.  For a start, who knew that the ice cream cone was invented in the city? Proud of this sweet historical facts, Ted Drewe’s has been fattening up the in-the-know locals with homemade delights such as All Shook Up – a combination of peanut butter cookie and bananas mixed with frozen custard – since 1929. My family got a cone each and sat in silence for five minutes as our taste buds drifted to heaven. If I’m ever on death row, Ted Drewe’s will be part of my last meal request. It’s worth committing murder for.

Dating to the 1860s, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery includes many architectural gems from those times and the free tours offered take in the 1885 Clydesdale stable (complete with the gorgeous horses made famous in the Budweiser Super Bowl ads) and the historic 1892 Brew House. You’ll be offered three cups of different in-house brews on the tour, so take a cab from your hotel to partake freely. And if you like what you sample, stop off in the new, stylish Biergarten, which celebrates Bud’s German heritage by serving beer flights and Brats to suit all tastes, before leaving with copious amounts of frothy merchandise. O’Doul’s beach towel anyone?

You can walk off the beer and ice cream calories at The St. Louis Zoo, home to a children’s zoo and over 11,400 exotic animals. Many of the animals are rare and endangered, and represent 810 different species from every major continent of the world. And it’s free! Yes, it won’t cost you a bean to get monkeys to entertain your own little monkeys in St. Louis, a relief for all cash-strapped parentals. The kids will love it, even if the whiff of wildlife can be overpowering on a hot day.

And anyway, you can return straightaway to the Four Seasons, head to your en suite and wash off any animal house fragrance in a gigantic tub, bubbled up with L’Occitane products; or head to the spa for a rejuvenating, nostril-neutralizing massage, topped off with a chill in the gigantic steam room. Or you could just open your curtains as wide as you can, sink into your fluffy bed, and watch the sun sink somewhere over the rainbow and into the Mississippi.

Glamping with The Ultimate Travelling Camp

India Glamping

I like a good adventure like the next person, but these days I’m more glamp and less camp. So, whenever I come across a great glamp group, I have to spread the word.

Enter: The Ultimate Travelling Camp which brings glamping to remote parts of India so travelers can safely go places where the infrastructure is inadequate or non-existent.  In fact, it’s the first truly mobile luxury camps in India covering a calendar of destinations and festivals!

Here’s what they offer:

*3 Regions: Ladakh, Adawdh, and Nagaland

*4 Camps: Chamba Camp, Thiksey (Ladakh), Kotwara Camp, Terai and Suheli Camp, Dudhwa (Awadh), and Kohima Camp, Nagaland (Nagaland)

This allows adventurers to experience the many moods of exotic India with its dramatic landscapes, mountains, deserts, jungles and unexplored countryside. Relax in individually designed tents, with en-suite bathrooms, private decks, crisp linen and the services of your very own butler. Enjoy delicious family recipes, hear stories from specialists and guest “travelogists” over fire-lit evenings, and immerse yourself in the magic of India. The Ultimate Travelling Camp can also be customized for special occasions.

So, check out these trips below and tell ’em we sent ya!

June 15 to September 30, 2014


Watch the sunset from Shanti Stupa overlooking the old city of Leh
Join the monks for a magical early morning prayer ceremony at  Thiksey Monastery
Indulge in a picnic lunch in a picturesque setting
Witness the traditional fanfare of a Ladakhi polo match
Kotwara: November 15, 2014 to March 31, 2015
Dudhwa: January 1 to March 3, 2015

Highlights for Kotwara
Visit the 400 year old frog temple in Oel
Have a Gala dinner at the Palace of Raja Muzaffar Ali
Enjoy sufi meditation and music
Spend some time viewing Raja Muzaffar Ali’s films
Relish high tea by the lake
Try the famed Awadhi dishes

Highlights for Dudhwa
Search for the one-horned rhino and elusive tiger by jeep and elephant safaris
Visit the local Dudhwa tribe, the ‘Tharus’ and watch them skillfully weave
Enjoy rural music and dance
Explore the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary
Relish a picnic breakfast in the depths of the jungle

December 1 to December 7, 2014

Revel in the excitement of the
Hornbill Festival watching local tribes performing cultural displays
Watch indigenous games such as ‘chilli eating contests’ and ‘greased bamboo pole climbing’
Have a drink by the campfire followed by a feast skillfully created by our Chef
Listen to rich folklore at Phesema Village
Visit the beautiful Kohima War cemetery

Six Senses Yogic Program

Six Senses

Six Senses

With the increased demand for authentic and millennia-old healing practices that deliver the optimum body and mind balance, Six Senses Spas is launching a series of yogic programs. Discover Yoga and Yogic Detox are now available at all spas at Six Senses resorts as well as select Six Senses partner spas. In the third quarter of 2014, Yogic Sleep will also be incorporated into the Six Senses Spa Yogic Program series. I’m not sure what that means, but I have a feeling it doesn’t involve headstands in bed…

Six Senses Oman

Six Senses Oman

We love Six Senses and yoga, so this brand wide initiative really showcases the commitment of Six Senses Spas to delivering holistic, yet result-driven programs, which bring together the expertise and skills of in-house yoga masters with the healing properties of the surrounding environment. While the core elements of yogic programs are similar across every Six Senses Spa, they will be delivered in the individual spa’s unique location and enhanced with a dash of local charm to deliver optimum results. Above, you can see guests gettin’ all yogi in Oman!

Starting at: $210 for nights of Discover Yoga (not including specific room rates)


Melbourne: Art Hotels, Beer Hall Drinks, and Jazz

Melbourne's Jazz Festival (c)

Melbourne’s Jazz Festival (c)

Most people don’t know that Melbourne is well voted, time and time again, as one of the world’s most livable cities. With it’s impressive calendar of high profile events throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (May 30 – June 8, 2014), Melbourne International Film Festival (July 31 – August 17, 2014) Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (November 4, 2014), and the Australian Open Tennis Championships (January 19 – February 1, 2015), it’s also the gateway to regional Victoria, with her deserts, alpine ski resorts, mighty rivers, great lakes, wildlife, and unparalleled spectacle known as the Great Ocean Road. At the same time, art and design groups are flourishing, alongside Melbourne’s natural beauty.


For example, luxury boutique hotel group, Art Series Hotels is bringing their well-known art inspired concept to regional and urban cities around Australia in a compact & affordable way. First stop, Bendigo – the regional hub of art and culture – and the perfect location for the first studio inspired hotel.

Artist Mark Schaller, today regarded as one of Australia’s strongest mid career artists with his expressionistic, vigorous style, will join the fold. A founding member of the renowned Roar studios in the early 1980’s, his paintings and prints that have been acquired by major institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria. He’s the real deal.

And… we love the idea of the art studio hotel. No, we actually live for it. A hotel is the best possible location for an experience filled with art and design. To not simply to stay in a location, but to experience the vision and emotion of each designated artist while also on vacation. That is at least one meaning in life. If not the best one.

PS. The second Art Series Studio, Larwill Studio will open in Parkville, Melbourne in December.



If that’s not reason enough to check out Melbourne, you also have their unique dining and cocktail scene. We hear Adam D’Sylva’s Tonka is a throwback to his Indian and Italian heritage, featuring cocktails including the Darjeeling Fizz, Tonka Lassi and Miguel’s Milk Punch, while Cookie combines Thai food with its mantra of being a Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco to create the perfect environment to dine, flirt, sip and reminisce. The walls are adorned with murals and artwork from Melbourne artists, and the popular ‘kiss wall’ eventuated of its own accord and is now covered with scores of lipstick kisses amassed over the years.



Sounds pretty good to me.

For more information on things to do, places to go, and sights to see in Melbourne, click the link to for Travel Victoria’s website.

We also liked the list of Melbourne’s hot Jazz clubs on the blog, According to their blog, they said to check out, among others:

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, a Melbourne institution known for late night jams and dubbed by Lonely Planet as “the world’s best jazz club”. Located in a back alley off Little Lonsdale Street, the club has been around for more than 20 years.

25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Uptown Jazz Café, hidden up an unassuming set of stairs on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, there’s live music four nights a week and the stage is graced by a renowned list of local and international acts. There’s also a solid Japanese restaurant downstairs if you want to grab a bite prior.

177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy