Friday, March 05, 2010

Guest Blogger - Debra Parmley

Originally Lucy and I had planned for me to write about the romantic anniversary trip my husband and I took to Hot Springs, AR last weekend. But as I write this, I just have to chuckle. Because a writer never really stops being a writer even when celebrating an anniversary.

Hot Springs is a lovely place to visit and one of my favorite places to stay is the historic Arlington Hotel and Spa, which has hosted grand balls and social events since 1875. So many famous actors, sports legends, dignitaries, politicians and gangsters have stayed in the hotel, bathed in the bath house and danced to jazz late into the evening. But perhaps one of the most famous is Al Capone. When he stayed at the Arlington he would rent the entire fourth floor and his room was number 442, a suite. You can stay in his room for a special fee and it was out of our price range, but we were able to stay in room 431. I was thrilled! Especially as I had already decided before we arrived that I wanted to set one of my romance novels here. The town has such a unique history and the more I learn about it, the more fascinated I become.

We drove over from Memphis on Friday, checked in and were lucky enough to get right in for a bath and massage at the Arlington. This is a unique experience. First you rest in a hot mineral bath just as they did back when the baths began. The water coming out of the tap is 104 degrees. While in the tub your bath attendant will give you hot mineral water to drink and before you get out, will scrub your back with a loofah. You’re then given the option of a dry sauna, which I skipped. Next you are wrapped in a sheet and taken to a bench type chair where your arms and legs are wrapped with hot towels. A cold towel is placed over your forehead to help cool you down and you are given ice water to drink. Then the towels are removed and you are taken to a shower with multiple sprays. You dry off then are wrapped in a sheet and wait for your massage therapist. Massages are Swedish style. It was the perfect way to start the weekend. There is nothing more relaxing. Here where the writer part started to creep in. I was sitting in the bath with nothing at all in my head other than thinking how good it felt when suddenly I knew that one of the people in my novel would be murdered. In fact murdered in the bath. Yes, I know I was supposed to be thinking romantic thoughts about our anniversary weekend, but this is the way this writers mind works. And I don’t know how many other writers would agree with me on this, but there’s just something about a bath that brings out these creative voila moments.

Well, once we were rested from our spa treatments, we dressed for dinner and went down for the Friday night seafood buffet that the Arlington is known for. They have the seafood flown in and it really is delicious. Following dinner we went to the lobby to listen to live jazz and to dance. Local swing dancers came out to dance, adding to the atmosphere. Not so different from the 1020’s really as the hotel today is much like it was when it was rebuilt in 1924 after the fire of 1923.

The lobby of the Arlington is unique and even more unusual they have Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac in the middle of the lobby, on loan from the museum. He had someone buy the car for him, and then had a foundry install quarter inch thick boiler plat panels all around the soft top. He had one inch thick glass installed in the windows, windshield and rear window. The rear window was hinged so it could fold down to shoot out of. And because the Chicago police had painted their Cadillac’s green and black, Capone had his painted the same colors. I was tickled by the fact that the trunk is actually a trunk!

Why did Capone have this special car? Well, on March 27, 1927, Chicago gang leader Vincent Drucci attempted to assassinate Capone with a shotgun during his stay in Hot Springs. Capone survived and when Drucci returned to Chicago police killed him. From then on, Capone would travel in Hot Springs in his armored Cadillac. This is just one of the many legends of Hot Springs.

On Saturday we also were celebrating hubby’s birthday and went to the horse races at Oaklawn Park. This too is something of a tradition in Hot Springs as the first race at Oaklawn was in 1905. The Park was closed for a time when legislation forced it to shut down, but today the races are off and running. It’s great fun to hear the horses thundering down the track. Saturday night we had a lovely dinner at Belle Arte , an Italian restaurant which has live piano music and is quite a romantic setting.
Sunday we visited the Gangster museum and learned about The Hatterie, right next door which was owned by the local madam and had our photo taken with a statue of Al Capone. I stayed behind after the tour and had a chance to hold a Tommy gun and have it explained to me. Of course by then plenty of ideas for my story were rumbling around in my head. On the drive home I was already jotting things down in my notebook and thinking of when I could return and absorb more of the atmosphere and the history while writing the novel.

Of course this only touches on a few of the things you can do in Hot Springs and it truly is a fun and romantic place to visit with your sweetheart.

Lucy, thank you for inviting me to be a guest blogger! It’s been fun!

Make-Believe Mondays, interviewing authors every week since 2005


Lucy Monroe said...

Hey, Debra! Thanks so much for coming by today. So, a book about depression era gangsters? :) Tom and I love the local hot springs, the baths & wraps are pretty wonderful. Happy memory sigh...

Debra Parmley said...

Thanks, Lucy! I was thrilled you invited me to guest blog and it's fun being able to share my travels with our readers. I used to work as an independent travel consultant and travel is still one of my favorite topics.

Yes, I am certainly going to have to write that 1920's love story. The next trip I take there this summer will be pure research.

Hmm I wonder how many people live near some hot springs and how many of them there are in the world? Such a wonderful and healthy thing to do for yourself. There's nothing quite like it!

Amy said...

It sounds like a great anniversary trip. Thanks for sharing

Lady_Graeye said...

Hi Debra! Nice blog. It sounds like a great anniversary trip. What anniversay was it for you and the hubby? I live about hours north of there. I love your description of your travels. Please tell me why your drink warm/hot water while you soak instead of cold. I know it's a silly question, I'm just curious. Thanks!

Debra Parmley said...

Hi Amy! It was quite lovely and you're welcome. Thank you for commenting. :-)

Debra Parmley said...

Hello Lady Graeye!

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I enjoy writing about travel and if I didn't write romance I'd probably be a travel writer.

It was our 29th. I married straight out of high school. If you're that close, it would be a lovely trip for you.

Oh there are no silly questions so ask away! My bath attendant explained that drinking the hot water raises your internal temperature to go along with your bath raising your outer temperature. I suspect that drinking the hot mineral water is probably good for you. My great grandmother lived to be 106 and she drank hot water with lemon every single day. Said it kept her pipes clear. She was such a character!

Anonymous said...

It seems that you have a great time, Debra. I hope that your next anniversary will be better than this year! :)

Susan said...

Now I know another place I need to visit!