DH & I have been trying to find a long weekend to visit the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas since 2007 when it opened. When we found ourselves in the unusual situation of having no children or grandchildren to entertain this Christmas, we packed our bags and headed out. We had four potential sites to see: the new Crystal Bridges Art Museum; the Presidential Library; the spas in Hot Springs; and possibly a diamond mine.
We'd made nary a reservation and after traveling 100s of miles on Christmas day, found Waffle House to be the only place open for a meal. We booked a room for two nights and then did a bit of evening sightseeing, orienting to the city that straddles the Arkansas River. It was wonderful because the weather was fair, the city was dressed up for the holidays, and the streets were quiet and empty.
We strolled across the bridge to the Clinton Library the morning of the 26th and spent several hours touring the exhibits (Lego sculptures, anyone?). We lunched on Cajun food at the Flying Fish, then spent the afternoon exploring the National Park exhibit across the street from historic Central High School. DH & I were born the year of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. We would still have been toddlers the year that federal troops escorted the Little Rock Nine to classes for the entirety of the 1957-1958 school year. While the Clinton Library explored history that DH & I remember, the Central High facility opened our eyes to how hard won many civil rights in our country have been. We rounded out our first afternoon by exploring a couple of thrift stores, driving by the State Capitol, as well as the Occupy Little Rock encampment. Smoke puffed out of a smokestack in one of these tents on the rainy afternoon.
The following morning we visited Hot Springs, Arkansas. At the turn of the last century, a lively spa culture thrived here. Today the National Park Service maintains a row of seven bath houses, two of which remain in operation as baths. Most of the photos in the video were taken at the Fordyce, which has been restored to its original glory. At the Buckstaff, we inquired about a couples bath, but were told that in the interests of historical accuracy this was not a possibility. The waiting list was so much longer for women that we opted not to take a bath. The Quapaw Baths & Spa, by contrast offer a full range of mineral baths and massages. Our time was so short that we window-shopped, toured the trails and a lookout point, filled a jug with the free mineral waters and headed back to our room for a soak in the hotel spa.
Our return trip took us through some of the bayous and hollows of Arkansas where the views were incredible. To me, time seemed to move palpably slower. In a women's room in Buena Vista, Arkansas, I bought the packet of Horny Goat Weed you see in the video--a .50 souvenir. We're talking about a return trip this summer. The Crystal Bridges Museum is so new that viewing any of the art required a reservation (Read what the New York Times had to say about this important new museum:here.) Perhaps we'll take our grandsons to the one location in the states where the public can mine for diamonds and KEEP what they find. Look what one lucky couple found.
One of my favorite forms of reading is historical travel writing. Imagine my surprise to find that one of these favorite authors, Pico Iyer, who lives in Japan, had also visited Little Rock in the past year and noted its surprising charms.
My capsule wardrobe for the trip included two pair of jeans, sweaters, 1 flannel shirt, a plaid blazer, my moccasins, my roper boots, and a swim suit. This is how I looked AFTER we arrived home.
If anyone is interesting in a very doable capsule wardrobe challenge, check out The Small Fabric of My Life's event February 20-24.