Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Coming Home: French Lick's Own Eloise

As a little girl, I couldn’t imagine a lifestyle that would be as fabulous as Eloise’s life at the Plaza Hotel. Just look at her. My six-year-old self was convinced that we were meant to be best friends.

But, unfortunately, Eloise was just a character in a book and her glamorous life at the Plaza was nothing more than something fun to dream about.

So you can imagine my excitement when I received an email from a man named Dale. He described that his wife, Carol, lived at French Lick Springs Hotel for a few years of her childhood during the late 1950s. He wanted to bring her back so she could revisit the hotel she once called home.

I had the chance to meet a real-life Eloise. The child inside of me couldn’t help but smile gleefully. 
Enter Carol, French Lick’s Eloise.

Carol's father delivers a birthday cake from the kitchen
Originally from Jackson, Michigan, Carol’s father was hired as a chef at French Lick during the time when the hotel was under the operation of Sheraton. Carol and her parents called room 2013 home – it was nestled in the spring wing right next to the elevators. 
Being one of the only children living at the hotel at the time, Carol soon determined that she had to make her own adventures.

“I’d ride the elevators for fun. At that time, there were elevator operators and I’d have them take me up and down the floors,” explained Carol. 
With an exceptionally good memory, Carol recalled the friends she made during her time here.

There was Rocky who worked in the laundry room right next to the kitchen. She’d pay a visit to her dad and then pop over and see Rocky. His family lived in a neighborhood right next to the hotel, and she vividly remembers playing with them on the nearby playground.

Then, there was Bruno – the pastry chef. Carol talked about Bruno fondly – remembering how he bought her very first strand of pearls.

“He had to have bought them from the shop just over there,” she said as she pointed to the space that now houses the Mercantile, just off the lobby.

Living at French Lick did have its slight downfalls though. 
Easter spent at the hotel
Carol recalled taking part in the hotel’s annual Easter egg hunt in the Mezzanine with the visiting children. She could participate in the hunt, but she was forbidden to find the prized golden egg. 

One of the first things she and Dale did upon arrival was walk up to the Mezzanine.

“For old time’s sake, I had to check for Easter eggs in the flower pots,” she said with a smile.

In true Eloise fashion, Carol was an extremely stylish child. Just check out some of her outfits. Her dresses were either hand-sewed by her mother or mailed to her from her aunts across the country.
I couldn’t let Carol leave without knowing what it was like to live the life that my inner-six-year-old always wanted – to call a beautiful hotel home.
“I never knew how unique it was until I was an adult,” Carol explained. “I never thought anything of it as a kid because that’s all I knew.”

For Carol, coming back to French Lick after all this time was a little nerve-wracking. It’s hard to know what to expect after so many years have passed.

But when Dale drove her up to the hotel, she described a peacefulness that washed over her.

“As soon as I saw those front steps, it just felt like I was coming home.”
Dale and Carol pose in front of the spring house
Chelsea Brinegar

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Fore" (x2) Reasons to Catch the Action of the Legends Championship

Looking for something to do August 15th – 17th? The best gig going is the second annual Legends Championship Tournament at French Lick Resort benefitting Riley Hospital for Children. Here are eight reasons why you should watch these lady linksters in action.  

Jane Blalock prepares for her next shot

Nancy Lopez signing autographs
Economics 101 – Going to watch match play is economical. By comparison, attending an NBA game with courtside seats could set you back in the neighborhood of a couple thousand dollars, but a grounds pass to The Legends Championship is just $10 per day or $25 for all three days. Buy the NBA ticket if you want, though good luck getting LeBron to say “hi” – or autograph your program.

R.O.I. – The return on your ticket investment is greater than any other sport. Football, baseball and basketball lack in the “minutes of action per dollar” category with approximately 12 minutes of actual action in an entire game. Providing that each shot lasts roughly five seconds and a golfer shoots par – that equals 12 minutes of action each round!
Take a sneak-peek – Seize a rare opportunity to explore the latest golf equipment you’ve been dying to try without paying the equivalent of the gross national product of a developing country to do so. Walk the course and see how the pros play it – an invaluable lesson prior to calling your foursome and setting a date.
Get a little fresh air – The Pete Dye Course at French Lick is built on the second highest point in the entire state of Indiana and generously shares a 30-40 mile panoramic view in all directions. Carved out of a hilltop in the Hoosier National Forest, this is “the best” nature has to offer and sure beats the recycled air of an indoor sports stadium on a sunny day in August.
Family-friendly event
Get a move on – Walking the golf course alongside the greatest names to ever play the game is a real workout. This is what qualifies golf as a sport and its players as athletes. There might be some IcyHot in your future, but if 75 year-old Joanne Carner can do it, so can you.
Quality time – Slather on the sunscreen and take your favorite little duffer to see how the big kids do it. Nothing grows the game like sparking someone’s interest from a young age. Introduce them to Ashtyn Brown, a good role model and a real up and comer in the sport – someone to follow until she plays in The Legends and beyond.

Lisolette Neumann thanks the volunteers
Proximity to greatness – Probably the absolute most-cool thing about seeing golf in person is how up close and personal you can get with the players. Sure you might be able to see the ball better with a view from the La-Z-Boy in front of the TV, but you’ll miss out on everything else. These competitors can do so much more than hit a little ball into a cup. Jan Stephenson is very engaging, funny even. And you just might get a “John Hancock” or two.

Shop ‘til you drop – Plenty of golf specific paraphernalia to browse, try-on and purchase. You’ll find everything from custom golf-themed art to jewelry, apparel and more. What a great way to remember your trip to see The Legends Championship at French Lick Resort.

For tickets to this year’s event, contact our reservations representatives at 888-936-9360 or visit our the website

Kristie Smith

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Get a Kick Out of FootGolf

 Roberto Ballestrini
Father of North American FootGolf
French Lick Resort is out in front of the newest sports craze:  FootGolf!“It’s basically golf with a soccer ball,” says the father of North American FootGolf, Roberto Ballestrini.  “Instead of clubs you use your foot. What could be easier and more fun than that?!”

I spent a recent morning with Roberto and our Director of Golf Operations, Dave Harner, on our 9-hole Valley Links course.  Roberto’s enthusiasm is infectious.  He even got head groundskeeper John Parker to willingly buy into the idea of digging 21-inch wide holes in his beloved turf. 

“If it gets more people, more families, out here enjoying the course; I’m all for it.”A FootGolf hole looks a regular golf hole, complete with flag, only bigger.  “21 inches lets the soccer ball drop into the hole even with the flag in it,” says Roberto.  “That way a FootGolfer can play the game alone without someone tending the pin.” 

But far and away, it’s been families swarming the FootGolf course here at the resort.  You can hear them laughing as they make their way up and down the fairways. 
The FootGolf holes themselves are not on the green.  They’re typically located to the side of the fairway near the green.  “We can have FootGolfers and regular golfers out on the course at the same time.  The rules and courtesies of both games are the same,” says Harner.  “So far they’ve co-existed beautifully.”  (Serious golfers also have two legendary 18-hole courses to play at French Lick Resort.)The FootGolf tees on Valley Links are closer to the hole than most of the golf tee areas. 

Theoretically, most people can’t kick a soccer ball as far as most golfers drive a golf ball.  (They obviously haven’t seen me tee off.)  You would think a soccer player would have a decided edge over a golfer in a FootGolf challenge.  Not so fast says Roberto, who loves both games:  “The soccer player is used to playing on a flat pitch (field) and kicking to teammates, always in motion.  He might kick it further but there’s more to this game.  The golfer trains to go at a stationary target, learns how to read the roll of the terrain, and think about where he wants the ball to stop.”  Good points!  But first and foremost, it’s just plain fun.So who would you give the edge to in a round of family FootGolf?  Reserve your tee time at Valley Links during your next visit and settle it on the fairway.

Check out our our video story on FootGolf
Steve Rondinaro

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From Fierce Competitors to Close Friends; Legends Championship 2014

Lorie Kane (left) with runnr-up Laurie Rinker
Competition is human nature. It can be a friendly rivalry like the Cats versus Cards, Boiler Makers versus Hoosiers or Buckeyes versus Wolverines; or it can be hard-core, like Jimmy Connors versus John McEnroe. The women on The Legends Tour know a thing or two about competition and it wasn’t always friendly. In the days when they were on the LPGA circuit, playing each other was not a walk on the course. It was serious business.

Jane Blalock hugs Donna Caponi
According to Legends Hall of Famer JanStephenson, “Back then, we never stopped long enough to smell the roses. Now we can and we do.” During last year’s inaugural Legends Tour Championship at French Lick Resort, we saw first-hand how well the ladies get along these days. They traveled together and socialized at the many events held as part of the championship festivities.

Laura Davies & Liselotte Neumann

 Solheim Cup team captain Lisolette Neumann said, “It’s so fun for all of us to get together. We’re all still competitive.” Now, they are more “golfing buddies” than opponents. The ladies still want to win, but they stop to have some fun while chasing victory.

& Jean Bartholomew
The Legends Tour, created in part by former PGA player Jane Blalock, so that women 45 and older could compete with other skilled professionals and continue winning accolades and prize money. The Legends Tour “keeps our dream alive. We still have competitive spirits,” according to World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley. “[The Legends Tour], also allows us to go back to communities and thank people for their support and encouragement. It’s a wonderful way of continuing the butterflies we had back in the day.” She continued, “I was so single-minded and yet [the tour] has given me a second chance to get to know a lot of wonderful women I didn’t take the time to get to know because I was [focused on] beating them.”
Rosie Jones & Ashlyn Brown
Ashtyn is two-time cancer survivor and the honorary starter.
Not only are the ladies returning to communities that supported them in previous competitions, they now have the opportunity to give back to those communities by donating a portion of event proceeds to worthy charities around the country. This year’s event will benefit Riley Hospital Foundation in Indianapolis.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Resort to Call Their Own

The Schuler clan on the steps of the French Lick Springs Hotel
According to Laura Schuler Shade, “the memories that we have made at French Lick Resort are priceless.” The five Schuler children, like many, grew up with loving parents who supported them through the roller coaster of skinned knees, team tryouts and the heartbreak of first loves. Family always came first in their household and that was evident in photographs they took through the years – often at French Lick Resort. The Schuler clan began visiting when their vacations to far-away locations with three daughters, two sons and their growing families became increasingly impractical. It seems, for the Schulers and other families that the resort is the perfect place to unwind, unplug and reconnect with one another. 

Allen & Janet Schuler
in 1875: The Steakhouse
Each December for the past several years, Allen and Janet Schuler have been organizing their family’s annual Fourth of July weekend sojourn. Allen did most of the planning. His love of the property inspired him to share it with his employees and his family. With a loosely scheduled itinerary the family always has a blast. Play is the order of the day, whether the men are in the casino or the kids are at the KidsFest playground. Live music on the veranda, swimming pools, bowling and pizza really tucker out even the youngest “Schuler.”

The only formal activity on the schedule is when all 14 adults and 17 children converge on the silver room in 1875: The Steakhouse. While the extremely well-behaved children (as noted by resort staff) enjoy themselves, the adults have their conversations and inside jokes to keep themselves and long-time servers David and Mimi amused. David speaks very highly of the Schulers. “They have a great sense of humor and really are wonderful. They include us in conversations and treat us like family.” David and Tom O’Connor, Food & Beverage Manager at 1875 could not say enough nice things about the Schuler family and Allen in particular.
It’s that welcoming atmosphere that keeps guests like the Schulers coming back year after year. Our bell staff, servers, housekeeping and front desk folks see tens of thousands of people yearly but they easily remember returning visitors by name. The memories made by resort guests are memories made for the employees as well.
The Schuler family is
featured in our Summer newsletter

Shades’ children have been to French Lick so many times with their grandparents that they refer to the resort as “mamaw and papaw’s French Lick.” They definitely have Allen’s love for the resort. The kids even play “French Lick” like other children play house or grocery store. “We are looking forward to [visiting again],” said Shade, “but it will be difficult because dad will only be with us in spirit.” Allen made sure this year’s July 4th reservations were made before he passed away in January.

What an amazing legacy Allen Schuler has left his children and the resort. We are honored that he loved the property so much that we became a part of the fabric of his family’s story and they a part of ours.

We will all miss you Allen!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fine Art Enhances Spa at French Lick

Much like the treatments themselves, art stimulates and energizes the senses

Spa Managing Partner/
Artist Kris Gebhardt
The Beaux Arts architecture of the early 1900s French Lick Springs Hotel is a thing of beauty— very classic in presentation. So imagine the surprise when Managing Partner, Kris Gebhardt, suggested that a gritty exhibit of large-scale contemporary pieces grace the walls at the Spa. 
“The exhibit is not for everyone,” said artist KrisGebhardt, who created the collection with wife and business partner Angela Gebhardt. “But when you think about it, it really does make sense. The spa is about health obviously and we like to promote fitness. This show is very physical in stature. All of our pieces feature strength and beauty, but it’s not sugar-coated; it’s knocked around a bit just like life. We paint a lot of reality on our canvases. Even in its roughest form, you can still see the integration of strength and beauty.”
New exhibition on display in the Spa at French Lick
Kris, a published author, fitness expert and fine art photographer, laments that his work has changed over the years. Art is now his outlet for promoting whole body awareness. “It’s more subliminal than my books; people will leave here definitely thinking about their bodies.” 
Water inspired abstract by Angela Gebhardt
Angela’s contemporary abstracts are inspired by water while her sketch and figure paintings, monumental in scope and scale, integrate bold and surreal messages woven within each piece. The couple’s artistic efforts and passion for the human form will bring a BIG presence to The Spa at French Lick. The rotating exhibit, reminiscent of their shows in Miami and New York, will run thru Labor Day 2014.

The duo, who were first charged with remodeling the century-old spa during a $560 million dollar restoration and development project, is in a unique position as both spa designers and now, the artists showing in the spa. So does the juxtaposition of modern art in an inherently formal hotel cause a moment for pause? Not at all, says Kris. “The oversized pieces with bold messages seem to marry the past with the present in the elegantly- appointed spa.”
Kris began his artistic journey while touring galleries in Europe with singer-songwriter (and accomplished painter) John Mellencamp in the mid-90s. Angela began painting in her youth, but lost contact with her brush to build a business. The brush continued to call her, and after selling her business, she gave in fully to her artistic endeavors. Angela is also “the muse” for hundreds of Kris’ photographs that have been published all over the world. In fact, it was a figure photograph of Angela that caught the attention and inspired the new iPhone App FOTOMUSE, now sold worldwide through iTunes.  


About Kris & Angela Gebhardt

The author of five books, including “OVERHAUL: Reinvent, Remake, and Rebuild Yourself” (GCI PRESS ISBN1-891947-06-0), Kris has been officially recognized by Senator Richard Lugar, and named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” business performers for 2003 by IBJ magazine. He has coached many high-profile clients including rock stars, billionaires, supermodels and fortune 500 CEOs. He also trained the cast of the Tony and Emmy Award-winning Broadway Show, “Blast!”

Kris Gebhardt and his wife, Angela are the brains and the force behind the award-winning Spas at French Lick Resort and three fitness facilities.

Dyan Duncan

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

West Baden Lifestyle: You Deserve to be Spoiled

 When you spend 75% of your time traveling for your job, it can quickly become a nuisance.

Joe Kallal

Just ask Joe Kallal. An avid golfer, Kallal is even dreading an upcoming business trip to Vegas that includes golf. “Everything in Vegas is a hassle; we have to be shuttled off the strip just to play golf. After security checkpoints, layovers and huge hotel complexes, the last thing I want to do is get on a bus just to play a round of golf.”

That’s why Joe and his buddies think French Lick Resort is the ultimate man-cation destination. “I have earned the right to be spoiled,” joked Kallal. Spoiled to him is being able to fly by private plane straight into the French Lick Airport, being picked up by hotel staff and being on the Pete Dye Course, with beer-in-hand, in less time than it would have taken him to fly commercially  from his home in Raleigh, NC.

French Lick Airport
With the West Baden Springs Hotel as their “base of operations,” the guys can golf all they want on the prestigious Pete Dye Course and the historic, but equally challenging, Donald Ross Course; visit the High Limits area at the French Lick Casino, grab a massage and eat til their hearts content at any one of the resort’s dozen dining venues. The guys particularly enjoy the exclusivity of Table One, an in-kitchen chef’s table with Versace dinnerware and personal attention from Chef Ethan Smith.
Has your mind drifted off to planning your own golf getaway? Our Concierge can make arrangements with the French Lick Airport, or even help you charter a plane for a larger group. Grab your clubs and be here before you know it!

Pete Dye Course at French Lick

West Baden Springs Hotel