Exploring a little more of Arkansas
We set off after breakfast to find out what the Arkansas countryside looks like. Eventually, we found it, once we were out beyond the suburbs which seemed to go on forever,
Not many folks seem to live out in the sticks with only the occasional home hidden deep in the trees. Every so often, we’d pass a large complex which on closer look, usually turned out to be a church. These would appear to be the hub of the community down here.
About an hour and a half from Little Rock, we began to see larger, more elegant town houses along the side of the road.
We were approaching the resort of Hot Springs.
We’d not heard of the place before, but here we found ourselves in a large, turn of the century spa town, reminiscent of the grand European spa towns like Baden Baden or Karlovy Vary.
Except, sadly, this Hot Springs never quite made it. Hit by the great depression, by fire and flood a couple of years later (not to mention the gangsters) and in the 1950s the dreams of those who developed it all crumbled.
But on Central Avenue, the remaining bathhouses are now owned and preserved by the National Park Service, so our first port of call was to the Visitor Centre.
We resisted the lure of the bathtub, preferring not to even attempt to recreate the postcard.
But having equipped ourselves with a map and a guide, we made our way along Bathhouse Row. First up, with the smart blue awnings is the one remaining, traditional working bath, the Buckstaff Bath.
A few were queuing inside for the full treatment – we chose to forego the experience and continued along the row.
Next up was the Ozark Bath House, now a cultural centre and closed whilst we were there today.
The Quapaw Bath is now a modern spa having been renovated and updated, then right next door is the Fordyce Bath, owned by the National Park and now turned into a visitor center and museum. We were glad to find a bath house we could look around at last!
We began in the Women’s cooling room – starting right at the end of the bathing experience, really.
Each room was well explained with a picture of how it would have looked in the 1920s, when it was buzzing with activity.
The bathhall was a room filled with individual cubicles where ladies would bathe, attended by women dressed in nurse-like uniforms.
Following her relaxing bath, a lady would be guided to the needle shower – quite an operation by the looks.
We loved all the shiny pipes and plumbing paraphernalia – so very much of its time.
But when we saw the steam cabinet, we all thought back to comic books and people sitting and steaming.
Like this – but hotter!
So the ladies had their own part of the bathhouse, but it wasn’t anything like as lavishly decorated as the gentleman’s area.
They enjoyed a stained glass ceiling with cavorting mermaids and half naked women…
Mind you, there were some fierce looking water jets too.
Mind you, some of the “gentlemen” who frequented the place probably deserved a good jet of water at the very least.
Now we’d seen what goes on in these bathhouses then, we felt quite confident to visit the last one on the street, the Superior Baths and spend an hour or so there.
Now a microbrewery and bistro, we could enjoy some lunch and a spot of people watching there!
Suitably refreshed, we wandered a little further to see the Arlington Hotel, rebuilt in a different spot having burned down in the early days of the resort.
We then crossed the road and wandered back to the car along the “other” side of the street, past the tacky gift shops, the waxworks museum, the gangster museum and so on.
Spotting the information panel telling of the dodgy characters who frequented these buildings, I waited a little whilst a woman pootled around in front of it. I was fairly certain she knew I was trying to take a picture of the panel…the more so when she sat down on her walking frame right in front of it. You know, so few people make it onto the pages of my blog – but she was so determined that I allowed it. Just once.
And that was that for Hot Springs. Well, almost…we made a short stop at Chicos whilst we were there and made one of those peculiar transactions where the top I chose became cheaper by the minute. We still can’t quite work out how we could buy a $59 top and two items costing $79 and $49 respectively for a total of $93. I love shopping here!
My Hero’s birthday today, too, so we celebrated at Damgoode Pies here in Little Rock this evening, where he enjoyed the last portion of peanut butter pie on the house!