A VERY Detailed Account of My Latest Trip to The Biltmore.
I had on my calendar to take my dog with me on a trip to The Biltmore (North Carolina) and possibly stay at one of the dog friendly hotels closest to it, but on Monday, as I was NEEDING an escape from the daily drudgery, I decided to leave her at home with the cats and take off MYSELF.
It took me about 4-hours just to ready the house and myself – mostly the house – for a spontaneous departure. I even swept the garage and mowed some of the back yard, not on a moon mowing day, but just for her comfort. See what I mean?
I had to clean the kitchen just to FIND the kitchen in order to get all the food prepped for what I was hoping was a 2-night getaway.
Then I have to prep the back yard for her so that she doesn’t run out into the garage just as I’m leaving, so enough food and treats and peanut butter to occupy her as I sneak away.
FINALLY got enough food for all the animals laid out, got me packed and FINALLY got on the road as doggie was digging into her peanut butter buffet.
GEEZZZUSSSS. It’s A LOT OF WORK just getting out of the fkn house! Or flippenzee, I use fuck too much, I’m smart enough to find a more clever word and save fuck for when fuck is needed – not like Tommy Lee uses it. -LOL.
Then there is the DRIVING. I was determined to take my time, not be in a rush, not care if I MADE IT to The Biltmore by a certain time – or at all. I could very well have slept somewhere close and then gone in on Tuesday. But I did make it. More on that later.
I don’t know what is wrong with people – truck driving people to be exact – but inevitably they will be in the right lane driving behind another semi and all is calm, until I begin to approach on the left, at a normal pace, and RIGHT AS I GET CLOSE TO THEIR BUMPER, they suddenly SWING over into the left lane trying to pass the big semi before I can. FUCKERS. Yep, right place for that word now.
It makes for a very trying, tedious, and dangerous drive. And this car has no auto-speed control or adaptive speed so I have to be hyper-diligent for all SIX HOURS – which is what leads to the travel exhaustion.
So I DO make it to The Inn. I have no idea what time it is, and didn’t want to look or know. It’s TIME OFF, remember. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t call ahead – I didn’t want to look at the phone and see the time. Plus I didn’t want to give a cc over the phone. Instead I wanted to wing-it and just show up and see what was available … thinking, “It’s Monday, not Saturday, I should be in luck.” And no problem if I couldn’t get a room there, I could do the Village Hotel or even stay off property, maybe at the nice one across the street. But they did have a room. The snag was getting it.
At first I asked for a ‘concierge level’ room, which they call “Chateau Tier”. I remembered one of my stays was that and they had a special room with hors d'oeuvres and champagne and drinks that I enjoyed. Well, THIS TIME it’s different. Still the room, but inside are only non-alcoholic drinks and cheap, greasy chip snacks and candy bars. A disappointment. Plus, he tells me that it’s only from 4:00-7:00 and they deliver it to your room. Well, at first I thought, sure, why not, I was still in time, it was 6:30, but then the rules changed and when I asked the concierge and she said it was from 4-5 or something like that. Why was I at the concierge before getting my room booked? Because the man at the front desk said there was no room for me at dinner tonight. “We book up MONTHS in advance.” uh-hum. Really? MONTHS??? Ok, so where does this weary traveler EAT at this “4-star” resort, then??? I had to go to the concierge to book that, and that’s when I learned that the Chateau Tier wasn’t worth the trouble. You get free valet, which I don’t want because I don’t like other people in my car. You get a free bottle of wine – which wine? I don’t want that either because I will be buying my own, the one’s I like, later. And I began to get the inclination that what they would deliver to the room would be 3 bites of something and not much else. Sadly, I passed on “Chateau Tier” today.
PS – As I am writing this, I think of how you want your spontaneous getaway from daily drudgery to be met with open welcoming arms, and how this was becoming more of an obstacle course of ‘no we can’t’ than ‘of course we can'. No doorman this evening either. PPS: Ms. "Vanities" does not want to open her own door to a 4-star destination experience.
So back to trying to get this room booked.
Chateau Tier was nixed. So, now, what do you HAVE available for two nights? His reply … “nothing”. I was perplexed. Again, I chose to escape not on a Friday for the busy weekend, but on a Monday, through what I was hoping was Wednesday. Typically, the slowest time of the week.
“You don’t have ANY rooms for two nights?” “What if I took this room tonight, and switched to a different one tomorrow?” Shouldn’t HE have presented me that option? Or even the other one that I had to think of which was “Or move to the Village Hotel tomorrow?”.
At this point, I was draining fast and needed to at the very least get SOMETHING for tonight, and get on to my dinner reservation so I could actually rest and begin my ‘vacation’ – or as close as I have come to one since 2019.
I gave up on him when he told me, in addition to NOT getting to stay for 2-nights, I was NOT getting dinner at the hotel that night. Not, the restaurant is full, but we could seat you in the lounge or bar or ANYTHING that resembled trying to work something out for his hopeful guest. Oh, yeah, I also need to mention that he had to ‘go behind the desk’ and disappear to a room behind the wall to chat with someone about this room booking. Several times.
That’s when I went to find food via the concierge. We got a reservation booked for 8:00 at The Bistro. “Phew. Well, at least THAT’S done.”
Then I went back to the front desk and tried again, this time with a new person – no make that two new people. One black girl with a foreign accent and a younger white girl with dark hair. Something tells me that between the three of them they knew about a ¼ of what they should know to run a front desk. Maybe the black girl worked at a hotel once but it seemed apparent that none of them had ever worked for a 4-star establishment before. Enter more road blocks.
I had started working with the white girl, but it seemed like she was like a deer in headlights so the black girl jumped in to assist. We FINALLY got a room booked – one that I wanted – a room with a bathtub. Another “Phew”. But when I told her about being a Passholder (and the discount) instead of being honest with me and saying “Sorry, I don’t know how to add a discount, but I will get it on your account by morning.”, or something similar, she looked at me and said with all confidence, “Because YOU didn’t book via the phone reservation line, WE can’t put the discount on your room.” WHAT??? Give me a break, kid. I know BS when I hear it. And you could of come up with a FAR better line than basically the guest is at fault for not ‘booking right’. Today, after many conversations which took up my limited vacation time, I know that YOU DON’T BOOK WITH THEIR FRONT DESK. Gee-whiz. I’ve never not known a hotel whose front desk didn’t and couldn’t book a room for a guest.
Oh, and where is my welcome glass of Biltmore champagne? The Sandpearl in Clearwater offers that – even a cheaper version – and since I lived through SIX-HOURS dodging semi-trucks that were intent on killing me, I think I deserved a welcome glass of SOMETHING.
But, finally, I have a room for the night and a relaxing dinner to look forward to --- and I don’t have to DRIVE anymore today. I am thankful that at least one thing still works, and that’s the transportation from Inn to Village. But, even that has changed.
Glad to say that BEING on the estate is still a wonderful, soul-nurturing experience. It’s still beautiful and I love that creek that glides with you as you meander your way from the front gatehouse. “Aaahhh”. I’m back!
Getting to The Village, and stepping off the new smaller bus, onto the gorgeous Village area with winery and flowers and beauty everywhere set the mood back on track. The weather was perfect (another reason I picked Tuesday to be my Biltmore day), and I was warmly greeted at The Bistro. They sat me at my preferred type of table and surprisingly I remembered my waitress, Julie, and she remembered me, too!!! Wow. That’s impressive! We had a lovely chat and I was reminded of what the right kind of service looks like and feels like. It’s Julie. Just cordial and convivial enough without being pushy or too much. You know she’s there when you need something – and she’s there with a kind smile. I asked her if guests request her table because that is what I think I will do next time. [If there is to be a next time.] :-(
Dinner was just what I expected from my many visits there … wonderful! I started off with a glass of Biltmore champagne, ordered the brie and saw something I’ve only seen in France: skate! I had to have that again since my first experience with it in France was incredible. “Let’s see how they do it here.”
My exploration has begun, and I’m getting happy again!
Julie says “Oh, skate … I think we only have one left. Let me grab it for you!”
I like keeping the menu to have something to read while I eat. I like the descriptors and seeing what wine is on offer. And I saw that the brie came with a seasonal fruit so I asked Julie which one and she said I think it’s raspberries. “Oh, goodie.” But when the brie came, there was no fruit. “Hmmm. Where’s the seasonal fruit?”, and, “This doesn’t look like what is on the menu.” It’s good, more like a brie fondue - with what I assume were other cheeses mixed in, because most of the time brie is served sliced whole and this didn’t smell much like brie. “Did they ‘water it down’ because they ran out of brie?”. This is not what you want your diners thinking.
Then the skate came. While excited to try it again, this time fried and deboned, the same thought occurred, “Hmm ….. my plate looks a bit empty.” It was the fried skate with ½ of a fennel. That’s it. No other sides. Nothing.
Obviously, I enjoyed what I ate – and drank, including the Gewürztraminer that I chose to go with the skate. Yum. It was perfect!
No dessert tonight. I looked at what the other diners ordered, and it was just too much cream. With the brie already, I need to moderate how much dairy I do if I don’t want to suffer tomorrow (and for the next few days!).
I left The Bistro mellow and happy and funnily enough the same Inn guests who rode down with me (or me with them!) walked up having finished their dinner at The Village Social! We had a lovely chat (and post-COVID you know how meaningful that is). I asked about their dinner. They liked it, but said they were disappointed that there were only 3 entrees. “What??? THREE? WHY?” was my reply. The Village Social has been one of my favorite eating spots, especially the she-crab bisque. Finger’s crossed they are not ‘going downhill’ as so many of my favorite eating spots have done.
I didn’t want to go straight to my room yet, I wanted to feel like I was still part of the party, so I went to the bar and ordered a fancy cocktail. I didn’t have a lot of time for this ‘vacation’ but it needed to feel like one, all the same. Cocktail was yum. Something Chai. Would of had more but more people came in and I’m still slightly concerned about virus spread so I took my drink outside to enjoy what was a gorgeous night. I bet this would have been a great place to see the moon eclipse!
Got to my room – which was lovely and all I expected (of course there is an exception … I don’t like the old-age décor. It’s too heavy and BEIGE. It doesn’t feel as classy as it feels OLD (am I at The French Lick Resort?). But given what I am seeing as cutbacks and slimming down the budget doesn’t look ripe for a redo anytime soon. I liked the original French Country décor. I wish I could find the pics I took of it back then. Did we even have digital cameras then???
Tried sleeping. Mattress, fine. Cool temps, fine. How do you work the thermostat? Oh, I bet it’s a super-fancy one where you wave your hand to open the screen. Got it. Now how do I keep the fan on? I left in too much of a rush to remember to pack my noise fan. Shoot. [NOTE to hotels: place a ‘how to’ card in the room.]
Fell asleep and woke up thinking it was morning. Nope. Only 2:30 in the morning. Not yet. Tossed and turned and woke up again (for a bathroom break). Went back to sleep. FINALLY resting. Dreams were so much FUN! Woke up for the last time and it was still too early for me, 7:30, but if you want to get ready and checkout by 11:00 you better get up now. I like to drink coffee and take my leisurely time. A new addition is a Nespresso maker in the room - delizioso! Don’t really like ‘getting dressed’ for breakfast, but I had enough time to have my leisurely morning and then get dressed, packed, and ready for the day … and breakfast before 11:00.
Breakfast is in the fancy dining room downstairs. I asked for a seat with a beautiful view (instead of wherever he was heading. - lol). Got it! Lovely waitress came around to see what I wanted to drink. “Do you have Bloody Mary’s?” “YES”. But they also had more good brunch drinks and I chose the Bellini – with peach schnapps. YUM!
Hit one teeny-tiny snafu when the (sorry I don’t know a better name for this position), but ‘water girl’ came by and used the – what I hear ALL THE TIME – “just one?” moniker. Uh-oh. I’ve already had about 4 espressos and didn’t keep my mellow for long. “Do I give her ‘the talk’?” Yep, it slipped out. “No, I am NOT ‘just one’. I am ‘party of one’ or ‘table for one’ (or some other way to NOT make me feel like I am the solo weirdo in a sea of (expletive) couples!). As soon as I said it I felt bad. This girl didn’t mean to insult you, and you probably made her feel awkward which wasn’t what I intended. But it is one of my biggest restaurant pet-peeves, and sadly one I have to hear faarrr too often. It perturbs me. “Oh, and let’s sit you in the CENTER of the room of diners who are in groups of TWO or more”!! (OK. That wasn’t this time, but is typical of my experiences as a ‘soloist’.) Whoopsie.
Back to brunch.
Happily, it was a BUFFET! I love buffets! And the food was delicious. No where in keeping with any dietary pickiness that I usually try to follow … cheese in abundance, plenty of breakfast meats, neither of which I eat. I did my best to stick to my dietary protocol, while still exploring all the delights. No meat. Picked through the cheese to get to the veggies in the scrambled eggs. A VERY delicious (cheese) grits – not like Mom’s(!), but delectable! A sumptuous hash brown casserole. And grabbed a croissant to dip in honey for ‘dessert’! -LOL.
The bill. Mom and I have been to many 4-star resorts and we know the deal. You know it’s going to be overpriced. She would only have coffee, toast and eggs, and pay $25.00 for it. With my drink and the buffet, of which I had one plate of because I still had lunch to look forward to – and that she-crab soup which is worth the drive – with ‘tip’ (why a tip for a buffet?) - it was $50. Yikes. But you know it going in. The ‘water girl’ and I wished each other a good day. I departed full and happy.
Now I’m off for my Biltmore vacation day! It’s Me and Monet all the way.
1:00 :: I did the Van Gogh exhibit and while ‘nice’ enough, I’m not a Van Gogh fan … frankly, I’m really only a Monet fan, and was actually looking forward to not missing this one. I had high hopes of cleaning out the gift store. I’m so much of a fan, I’ve been to Giverny twice! Sitting there I found the non-Monet stuff boring, but when his part came on I was moved to tears. I LOVE HIS WORK!!!!!
Stopped by the gift store and all I found were cheap tchotchkes. Pity. You missed an opportunity there.
I had driven from the Inn to Monet with the sole purpose of having my car so I could put those Monet items in it and not be bothered with lugging them around via trolley.
I left my car there and took the transport to the Chateau in order to visit the larger gift shop in search of Biltmore t-shirts. I like wearing them in my town to show I’m a “Biltmore Babe” (Trademark! If I find this on a T-shirt one day, you will owe me money.). But, again, here we are not being fulfilled. Didn’t find one T-shirt that looked fit to wear. Where did the gray ones I bought before go??? Now the artwork is … what’s the word? … old lady looking? Busy and confusing? And, let’s be honest, the fabric is cheaper than a Dollar store. It already looks like it’s falling apart. Why spend $30 bucks on a shirt that will unravel on the first wash?
What is going on here?
Where is my classy Biltmore???
I DID find ONE shirt – albeit flimsy and not in my favorite gray color – at the gift shop at The Inn, so I grabbed it, but again with a snafu. There were only small shirts hanging so I asked if they had one in my size. She said she would check stock in the back, but typically they only have what’s hanging in the store. Cited ‘shipping issues’. Voila! She found one for me!
It’s getting later in the afternoon and I’ve accomplished most of what I came here for … Monet, Blooms … and now I need to eat. Knowing how busy it is, I made a reservation at The Stables.
It was a 30-minute wait, so that’s when I visited the shops … drank some wine … had a fun conversation with a couple of 80-year old gents who were livelier than me … and then realized, “What if there is nothing on the menu you want to eat?” so I walked down to check the menu. Nope, nothing looked that appealing, so I asked if I could cx the res. “No problem.” with a smile!
Do I want ice cream?
Can’t see the flavors for the crowd standing in line. Too many people. I’ll pass.
I’m getting tired.
I think I’ll grab the shuttle before I have to wait 30 more mins for it. Go back to my car and get lunch at my favorite place, The Village Social … and that she-crab soup!!!!!!!
Snafu number … what … how many is it now?
In the middle of needing to eat something luxurious and relaxing, I also need to check my wine club selection … what to do first? Ok. Go get your name on the list and if you have to wait long, you can organize your wine stuff first; or eat now and wine later?
I’m noticing how vacant this area is. “Hmmm, I guess I timed it just right. Most visitors have eaten and gone on to the house or gardens now. Goodie.”
I see an older couple sitting outside.
They are the ONLY people I see.
THIS is not normal for the Biltmore.
I do see a sign that says the Social is open for lunch until 3:30, and luckily, I have arrived in the nick of time, with minutes to spare!
I open the door.
Not a soul to be seen in the entire place.
“This is strange.” What’s going on???
I went outside and spoke to the couple sitting there waiting on their daughter … waiting to go in and eat lunch. “They’re CLOSED. Sign inside says not opening again until 7:30 tomorrow morning.”
So I go inside the winery expecting to find some luxuries as a Wine Club member. NOPE. That’s gone, too.
I asked why is the restaurant closed. “Staffing issues.” “COVID”.
So why wasn’t The Bistro opened up for lunch if the Social couldn’t open because of staffing issues??? SOMETHING should have been open.
This is getting worrying.
This is not the Biltmore I have known and LOVED since the 1990’s.
I had to ask, “Is the Biltmore going to be sold like the Grove Park was?”
I ‘carried on’ at the winery and did my best to find some way to sample what was set to be in my next wine club shipment … or just get it now, if possible.
That in itself was tough.
“No. We don’t have the Wine Club Member Lounge anymore …. COVID.”
“No. Tasting is by appointment and it’s full for today.”
“No. We don’t have any way for you to sample what’s in that shipment.”
I ask, “What about the wine area across the walkway outside?”
After getting more and more “NO” options I gave up and went over there thinking I might find wine and food.
She tried to help me but could not even find a brochure.
They ship in June. It’s May 17th.
DOES NO ONE KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS NEXT WINE SHIPMENT?
Others tried to help connect me with the people who might know, but they were not on site – totally unavailable.
Yikes. I’m losing all patience and hope. And I’m more tired than ever because I still haven’t had lunch and the ONLY option is Cedric’s. I don’t really like the food there, it’s too heavy. Plus, if that’s the ONLY place to eat right now then it’s probably fully booked already.
I give up.
I leave empty handed and for the first time EVER since the 1990’s, I will leave The Biltmore SAD.
Not sad because I don’t want to leave, but sad because I feel the place shrinking.
This has always been a place of ABUNDANCE. Wealth. Prestige.
Not scrimping like a war year.
But that is how it felt today.
PS – ALL of this was just in ONE day!
Should I have just stayed at home?
Do I take a LONG pause on visiting again? Is three years long enough to see if they get back on their feet again --- or is this the beginning of the END?
THAT is what this repeat guest left with.
No welcome bevvie
Chateau tier pales in comparison to what it was
No to 2 nights
No to dining at the Inn
No passholder discount
May 18, 2022
The OMNI Louisville
Friday, August 13, 2021
"A Very Long Review."
My friend said it best: It's not as luxury as they want you to think.
You know that feeling when you’re about to ‘go out’? SO EXCITED! A brief change of pace and lifestyle. That’s how my invite to come to LOU was. A chance to change out of my feral lifestyle and put on a DRESS and MAKEUP and experience civilized life in the BIG CITY again – after a LONG absence.
The drive there was FAR more tedious than I had anticipated. People weren’t even driving the speed limit on the left side of a two-lane interstate. I had wanted to put on my adaptive cruise and cruise my way down the road, but that was impossible. And it was making me mad. I wanted to arrive at the hotel in time to enjoy it before having to get ready to meet my friend. More specifically, enjoy the POOL, which looked very inviting from the website, with a fabulous view of the city. Have a good cocktail, a cool swim, and prep myself for my brief ‘stay-cation’.
Luckily, I did find spots en route where I could speed far more than I needed to, and I must have made up time because I arrived to check in right on ‘schedule’. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t schedule a fun outing, but it happens.
But this is where my ‘excited to be among the civilized in the big city’ fantasy hit a snag.
Well, it happened before I ever left. I had gone online to book the hotel and had signed up for the rewards program for any goodies once I arrived. But only ten minutes after booking I looked again AND THE PRICE HAD GONE DOWN BY ABOUT HALF! I was offended. How unfair. I made a note of what their own website was charging, only minutes after my non-refundable booking, and was going to address this with the person when I checked in.
I opted for the valet parking ($37!), and that person took my luggage and rolled it inside, but said it would be another person who would take this to my room. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled anywhere and I stood there confused as to how he would know the luggage sitting there was mine since there was no ticket issued. But I left the bell area and walked to the front desk area where the first person told me that she was logging out to go on break or lunch or whatever and to move down to the next clerk.
This clerk and I began to have ‘issues’ right away when I told her about the drastic fee change RIGHT AFTER my booking. I won’t go into all the details, but at one time she accused me of video taping her because while I was looking at my phone to read my notes the camera part faced her. I asked if she was getting aggressive with me. This was not the welcome I had excitedly looked forward to when booking a “4-star” hotel. “Uh-oh. Have I made a mistake? Should I have stayed elsewhere?”
After our ‘row’ things calmed down a bit and we were able to get my room fee lowered slightly (no where near the latest advertised price, but at this point something was better than nothing). On the plus-side, she did put me in a quiet room with a good view and tub (Room 1428). But it was a rough start getting there. PS – things like this don’t happen in real 4-star hotels. I remembered how much I detest Corporate BS. And, it’s everywhere. Totally ruins the experience.
Then it was ‘I wonder where my luggage is?”. I figured that once I check in, something would flag their system, and perhaps the bellman would come up to the room, and I didn’t have to stand around waiting for him. --- It was a long wait, and I got bored wasting precious pool time, so I went to my room with hopes that he’d be up soon after. But it was disconcerting not knowing where my things were or when they would be brought to the room. We are having a bumpy start to this trip.
He did arrive and that part went smoothly.
And, I had time to go to the pool. A plus.
Having just that little bit of time in the pool and Jacuzzi, enjoying light conversation with interesting people from other places, set me back on track to enjoying my 24-hour getaway. It started feeling like a vacation again. Yay! I needed this!
My friends and I were going to the James Taylor and Jackson Browne concert, with dinner at Seviche beforehand. Both were good times. Then we came back to the hotel for a nightcap and we discovered something I didn’t know was there: a speakeasy! Make that a speakeasy with a BOWLING ALLEY! What a cute and interesting find!
My friend and I had one cocktail, and then a load of wedding guests came in and it got a bit too loud, so we called it a night. Went back to the room for a very good night’s sleep. The beds were comfy as were the linens. The TV was a bit confusing, tho. And, also weird, was the fact that while I HAD a room phone … there was no phone attached to it. Yeah, I didn’t get that, either. Something that looked like a phone SHOULD have been in the room was there and hooked up, but the actual phone part wasn’t there anymore. (???) I had questions, like how to use the streaming services, or hey, I’d actually like more than two creamers for tomorrow’s coffee, but didn’t know how to get answers without using my cell and trying to reach the front desk from there. Again, a true 4-star hotel doesn’t let little things like this slip.
The furniture in the room has a little pull tag that says “18 Established 1778 Louisville Kentucky”. I don't know what 18 means. I love the artwork above the bed - it’s an aerial photo of somebody's property but I don't know who's. That’s a bit strange. It doesn’t look like Churchill Downs, or anything recognizable. Odd.
I set my air conditioning to 60 on high fan and I think it’s having some trouble keeping up with my coolness needs. But it is working and I didn’t sleep hot. Just seems like it’s having some trouble actually being 60 degrees --- or even 65.
The next morning, I wanted coffee. I always want coffee first thing, but I don’t like having to get dressed to leave the room to go out for coffee. The do have a mini-fridge, but sadly, I forgot to bring any almond milk, so it was go out in public for coffee, or try the crappy in-room coffee (which brings up other ‘issues’ like why do hotels insist on keeping those single-serve PLASTIC coffees with 'not real food' coffee mates? Irritating that at home I try to reduce, reuse, recycle and it's just a thimble of water on an inferno. Whereas THEY could actually make a dent.).
Another thing that’s a bit confusing is there are exit signs on your floor but they don't lead to the elevator necessarily, just the stairs. It would be nice if there was directional signage leading to the elevator instead of just many exit signs pointing to various ways down the stairs (and when you're on the 14th floor that's a lot of stairs).
Another “and it’s not even 9:00 am” issue is that there's no place to go for coffee. Let me rephrase that to “in the hotel”. But that's not really true either. If you take a nice (long but attractive) stroll down to this very interesting market there is a Heine Brothers (which is my friend's favorite coffee) and a place to get crêpes and all kinds of interesting food ... and if you stand in line to get your “dirty chai” which is chai tea with a shot of espresso (it sounded weird and I wanted to try it) and once you get through the line you're told you can't charge to the room because they're not connected to the hotel. Well they ARE connected to the hotel because I just left my room and didn't have to go outside to access this Market! It looks like it's where hotel guests go to get their coffee in the morning and their breakfast and maybe snacks for lunch, etc. because I can't find any other place in this alleged “4-star hotel” for a nice cup of coffee. And in the room we have those dastardly plastic individual pots which are not Earth friendly and the very crappy (not actually a real food) Coffee-Mate. And since I forgot to bring my almond milk I guess I'm stuck with that or hike back to the room to grab my credit card and make the two-mile trip down to the market and wait in line again. I didn't even see any place to sit and eat and drink once you buy this food so I'm quite confused this morning. And if you can’t tell, pissed-off, for not the first time here.
Since the dining options were limited and possibly zero (at this point I’ve lost interest in the hunt), I searched for an interesting place to eat on my way out of the big city. Found an interesting Brunch in Shelbyville and made an 11:00 am reservation.
Time to pack up and check-out of the OMNI Louisville.
Typically, I’m not one to go over a bill. Don’t even bother ‘checking-out’, I just leave. But this time there was the option to check-out from the TV, so I thought I’d do that. Boy, I’m glad I did. There were so many charges from the “Pin + Proof” speakeasy that I decided to stop by the reservation desk to investigate. Remember, my friend and I only had one drink each. (And mine was so shallow a pour it was pitiful.). Another reason to feel ripped off.
But before leaving the room I had to use my cell phone to call and hopefully get the right person to help me with my bags. I waited and waited and they never showed up. The housekeeping guy checked on me because I had my door ajar, but I got tired of waiting for the bellman, and had my Brunch reservation, so I dragged my belongings to the elevator and through the lobby. Yes things fell along the way. Still pissed. Still NOT 4-star.
The first lady who I encountered – my “welcome hostess” – was still at the front desk. I think the OMNI only has 5 people working there and they have to work 24/7. This could be the problem. They did have one other clerk and the three of us worked out that the bar had charged me twice. And charged for their own TIP (and a different service charge, and another fee for who knows what else). (This is me shaking my head, “tisk-tisk”.). The drinks were not cheap – but the pour was. (another tisk-tisk). Of course it being Sunday, the accounting office was closed. She told me they would send this for their review Monday. I’m thinking … ‘yeah, and how many days will it take to see a credit back on my card???’.
It had been at least 20-minutes since I had called for my car. Luckily, with the time it took to get the bill figured out, I walked out the door to my newly arriving car. FINALLY something goes right. Nobody got a tip because no one did ‘Jack Schitt’ for me.
Now for the short answer:
I am not impressed with the OMNI Louisville.
The World's Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism.
July 30, 2021, a Friday.
I had seen the ventriloquist museum, Vent Haven, on the news, and kept it in my mind as a place to visit, especially after I found out this unique place was in Kentucky - about 90-mins from Lexington.
Vent Haven Museum
33 West Maple Avenue
Fort Mitchell, KY 41011
This is a not-for-profit ONE OF A KIND museum. They are by appointment and the Curator/Director, Lisa Sweasy, is very nice and easy to deal with. I set my day for Friday and my time at 2:00.
It was, as I expected, like going to someone's house who opened a museum, where the curator lives in Mr. Berger’s main house (the original owner and developer of the museum) and there are out buildings that he created and that is where the museum items are. There are no public restrooms. (A concern for me, but there is a lovely Mercedes Benz dealership at the corner, if you need a pit-stop!).
I’m VERY glad I picked a date in July because I learned that they will close early this season, in August, to begin TEARING DOWN the original buildings in order to build a new center. This saddens me greatly. Part of the charm IS that you are in the buildings the creator created: its history. I think this is a BAD idea and wish they would reconsider their decision. Currently, there are beautiful gardens and walking paths around the 1923 structures and even a sweet black cat in residence. What they see as ‘progress’ I see as destruction of a man’s dream (and hard work).
The museum tour takes about an hour, and it is interesting, even for someone who isn’t at all ‘into’ ventriloquism (that’s me). I suggest you go - and go NOW as not to miss the original historical vibe!
Continuing on my Grand Tour of Northern KY and Cincinnati.
I had already pre-searched what to do and where to go, and my day kept pretty much ‘to schedule’ (which is hilarious since I like to think I’m spontaneous. But it’s better to be slightly prepared than to sit in a parking lot with no idea of what to do next. Am I getting old? Yep.)
Next on the list (and because of time) was to jet up to just north of Cincinnati and check out the “Heritage Village Museum” (which closes at 5:00)
11500 Lebanon Road
Sharonville, Ohio 45241
From my laptop travel research I was imagining a “Shaker Village” type of place [shakervillageky.org], but possibly even more elaborate, with people in costume wandering the village and lots of historical activities going on, considering their website slogan: Experience the rural simplicity of small town life as it was in Ohio during the 1800s, and the accompanying photo, but sadly, it was only slightly “Shakertown-like” (of course, Shakertown isn’t like it used to be either! They’ve gotten very corporate and have ruined the sacredness of what used to be a very special place. Yoga? Really, guys?).
When you drive in you are entering Sharon Woods Park, but the Museum isn’t actually a part of this park, even though it is surrounded by it. Strange. Plus, you have to pay a fee to enter Sharon Woods Park. Of course, I wiggled my way out of that since I got there at 4:00 and the Museum closed at 5:00.
When I finally found the Heritage Village area I began walking around to see if this was something – or nothing. Worth my time, or not? Then a man in costume started walking in my direction, so I figured it was about payment to ‘enter’ the outside-only buildings. I was right. But it was only $3.00, and even frugal me didn’t think that was too bad.
This gentleman was a guide, and even though I missed the ‘tour’ he told me lots about the place. It’s a bit odd, tho. They have a selection of historic buildings, but NONE of them ever stood on this property. So it’s a park of historic buildings set in a park that it’s not a part of … and neither are the buildings??? Yes, strange.
I had a snoop inside the main building where the gift shop was and again, thought it was strange that the pictures of people hanging in this house had nothing to do with the house they were hanging in. Is there a theme here?
They were setting up for a dinner where a person dresses up like a famous historical figure and gives stories about their life and times. Luckily, it was sold out. ;-) I could imagine being very bored and stuck there for far too long. But for local people looking for something to do, it’s probably fine, and frankly, something I would do to pass the time if I lived in the area.
The walk around is down one path and back – not a circle – at least not a circle I could find. They have about a dozen buildings and the self-guided brochure tells you more about each one. It sits by a lake and creek and you can hear a small waterfall.
Would I say I was “WOW’d” by the experience? No. Nice enough, and glad I was there during one of our rare less humid days, so that helped. The standouts for me were seeing an original McAlpin’s huge cast iron clock that once stood in front of the store in downtown Cincinnati. Lexington also had McAlpin’s and I actually worked at one during the beginning stage of my career – I did facials in their salon! I was also intrigued by one of the buildings in particular – one that I thought was made of a French-looking stone, but was in fact WOOD cut and painted to look like stone! How clever.
I went looking for the lodge that I kept seeing signs for and thought it would have a restaurant so I could relax and enjoy a nice meal, but I never could find it, so I sat in their parking lot refreshing myself with the sandwich I brought, wondering where to go next. Then I remembered another ‘to do’ that I had pre-researched: Butterflies of Bali at the Krohn Conservatory [1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams]. So, from my phone in the car I checked to see how their ticket sales were going for the evening and it said 6:00 ONE AVAILABLE – so I grabbed it and headed that way!
I’ve been to the Krohn Conservatory before, so I figured I’d see nothing new, but hanging out in a room full of butterflies sounded unique.
It was pretty neat. They had all sorts of butterflies, of all sizes and colors. I took tons of photos and tried to get one to land on the paper they hand out for guests to use instead of their grubby human fingers. No one would hop on my landing pad. So I just walked around in wonder of their beauty. Then after a good 30-mins or so, I sat down to observe and wouldn’t you know, one landed right ON MY HEAD! :D Then another one came and landed on my shoulder. Then another one on my back! I had become the Butterfly Queen! And watching the kids get so excited, added to my excitement. So cute. I really enjoyed the butterfly experience!
After you CAREFULLY leave the butterfly room, there was another area with educational booths set up and manned by volunteers. One of the tables had food from Bali and Indonesia and contained one of my favorite hunts: DURIAN fruit! I was watching Anthony Bourdain [RIP] and he was in Indonesia eating durian and he LOVED it, so I decided to track it down in KY – or find a supplier somewhere. And I DID! I called my friend in Louisville and typical him, he knew about durian already and knew who sold it. I even got my Mom to try it one time! It tastes like a sweet custard, but is known for its SMELL. I have never thought it smelled bad, but apparently some people can’t stand it and it’s banned from buses and airports.
From their parking lot, I went back to the map to find a NICE place for dinner – one where I could sit down and be served and get a nice cocktail or wine. Harder than it sounds when you don’t know the area.
Google wasn’t much help tonight. And I was getting tired, so I pointed my way out of Cincy and toward Florence, KY (I know how to get home once I’m on the interstate!). The first restaurant that popped up sounded just like my kind of place. It’s name is a fun pun and the reviews were great. (PS – I’m beginning to wonder how true all these great reviews are.).
It’s called Afishonados, which sounded so interesting and upscale (fish pun?) but it was a MESS. An Anthony Bourdain kind of place - a wack-a-doodle mess. The people coming out of the mall were worse than the WalMart people, if you can believe that. "Upscale" it WAS NOT. When you walk in you have a nice looking bar to your left and a kitschy cabinet filled with fake designer bags on your right. The 'waitress?' had on these amazingly bright colored 7" PLATFORM shoes (yes, really) and some odd looking mini-skirt getup with correspondingly odd hair and she looked like a cheap whore - a Russian cheap whore. The sign in the bathroom stall, as you sat there reading it, reminded you that this bathroom was for CUSTOMERS ONLY, but he'd let you use it if you'd clean up after yourself and not make a mess of it ... and that HE'D “BE WATCHING”. It actually said that on the paper flyer he took the time to write, print out, and stick on the stall door. And, you know what, I bet he WAS watching. Creepy.
NOTE TO SELF :: Florence Mall "Y'all" is a SHITHOLE.
Google had a hard time telling me where this place was, and perhaps that was for a reason. "Hey, N., you REALLY don't want to go here anyway!".
But it adds to the color of the story, don't it! ;D
Luckily, I was able to find a different restaurant, this one is called “KOPAN” - a Korean/Japanese restaurant. Located in a bland looking strip mall, it was surprisingly good. I had kimchi dumplings which we're good and soft shell crab fried instead of sautéed. Also good. I didn't drink anything besides water because I was very thirsty and they didn't have anything that sounded interesting.
After that meal I wanted what I always want: ICE CREAM. Being so close to Cincy I expected lots of Graeter’s around, but Florence apparently is too far ‘south’ for them. Note to Graeter’s :: add some stores in Northern KY. G.maps led me to a Baskin-Robbins and I got there with only a minute to spare! Chocolate peanut butter on a CHOCOLATE DIPPED cake cone, please!!
I love eating ice cream on a cone and driving … once you get all your stuff put back in order: credit card, seat belt, napkins ….
I’m always "home by 10:00 N." – and nearly made it, but I think my stopping for gas put me 12 mins shy. Not bad for a day out tho.
I thought I’d spend the night up there, and SPA maybe, but I can never find a place that isn’t downtown and I try to avoid congested areas as much as possible. But it was good to get home and be in my own sheets instead of some sterile hotel. It was enough of a getaway – a 10-hour tour! :D
July 30, 2021