Fortunately my husband is the type who closely reads our credit card bill because he happened upon a $100 charge for a hotel we didn’t stay at in Eureka Springs over Memorial Day Weekend. And fortunately I held onto an email from the hotel with my email cancellation, which was made about a week before our visit. That said, it still took more effort than it should have to resolve the issue – I had to call the hotel three times before I finally reached the right person who gave me a rather feeble excuse and no noticeable apology but did agree to refund my credit card – and you can bet I’ll be looking at my next credit card bill to make sure that refund was duly made.
Category Archives: arkansas
We drove some backroads home from Eureka Spring, Arkansas yesterday – starting about 10 miles east in the town of Berryville, which turned out to be more down-on-its-luck than my guidebook suggested. Couldn’t help notice the huge and bustling Wal-Mart on the edge of town – a distinct contrast to the struggling town square business district. And couldn’t help but remember that Bentonville, which we visited Saturday, is the unusual small town that has clearly benefited economically from Wal-Mart – and that’s because it’s not a typical small town but a company town, Wal-Mart’s company town no less. I can’t fault Wal-Mart for wanting to make its company town look like the perfect American small town, squeaky clean with landscaped gardens and well-kept businesses, but it’s a tad ironic considering the company’s reported disastrous effect on so many other small rural communities, where it has been accused of helping to shutter local businesses and suck the life out of many a downtown. (For details on the “Wal-Mart Effect” see: advocate.nyc.gov/news/2011-01-11/new-study-wal-mart-means-fewer-jobs-less-small-businesses-more-burden-taxpayers)
I don’t recall seeing this issue addressed at the Wal-Mart Visitor Center in Bentonville – although the center’s displays were more interesting than I expected. (I was impressed and moved by the display recalling Wal-Mart’s aid to the Gulf Coast post-Hurricane Katrina.) One more question came to mind in downtown Bentonville – why so many law offices? Granted the town square is dominated by the county courthouse but still…Are they all fighting the good fight for Wal-Mart?
As for the Crystal Bridges Museum, while there, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to the Wal-Mart heiress who opened it for sharing her stunning American art collection and vision, free of charge, with us little people. But again, later, I did start to think a bit about the irony of this high-brow, high-culture palace being funded by the profits of a company whose stores are anything but high-brow, high culture; a company that has not always treated or paid its employees well, and whose overall contribution to our economy, culture, and society is debatable. High-culture largesse is nothing new for corporate titans but sometimes its hard to decide whether what they give outweighs what they take, or have taken.
I hardly recognized Eureka Springs. It was so packed with tourists on this holiday weekend that it was hard to detect its charm. The last time I was here, about 24 years ago, it was in december and the place was deserted. Fortunately we were reminded why we like this place after we left downtown with it’s touristy shops and loud motorcycles . Walking along upper spring street past the lovely Victorian cottages with their long porches and gardens full of hydrangea, hollyhocks,roses and lilies; past stone grottos, steep curving lanes, dense woods; past the strange old 1886 crescent hotel, where we relaxed in white rocking chairs on the balcony overlooking the wooded mountains, I remembered the strange charm of this old town in northwest Arkansas. We are staying in an old motor court in a residential neighborhood. We have our very own one room cottage covered with small jagged rocks. Hence the name — rock garden cabins. Our neighbors are 90 year old newlyweds. No joke. We had a good lunch at the mud street cafe and excellent BBQ ribs at bubba’s and also enjoyed a visit to thorn crown chapel. A stunning glass-walled chapel deep in the woods that was part of the inspiration for the architecture at crystal bridges.
We were not disappointed by crystal springs museum here. We were bowled over. It is not like any museum I have been to. The museum is a series of dramatic copper,stone, wood and glass buildings built over a ravine deep in the woods.Everything about it is impressive. The architecture, modernAmerican art collection, the stunning landscaped trails adorned with sculpture and gardens, the gorgeous museum restaurant with sophisticated but affordable food, the innovative children’s area (which we adults learned from too). Did I mention it’s all free, including the shuttle that took us from a nearby park to the museum’s dramatic entrance –a tower with a wide view of the museum’s spread out grounds. The collection is varied, impressive and beautifully displayed in well laid out spaces. I saw both familiar and unfamiliar artists work.
We also poked around the very spiffy town square, including the Walmart visitors center, disguised as an old five and dime. It’s where Sam Walton’s first store was and we were surprised to find the displays interesting. Dinner was at aq chicken in Springdale, full of photos of bill Clinton from his chicken eating days. We are staying at a refreshingly nice microtel, a major step up from the awful days inn we stayed at last night in butler,mo. Also had good frozen custard at Andy’s down the road in Rogers,Ark. Oddly, there is another one in Evanston,Illinois where our son goes to college. Anyway, this is my first post via iPad. Cool. And we had a really nice 22nd anniversary today.
Arkansas? Yes. Arkansas. I’m surprised by how surprised my fellow Iowans seem that we’re going to Arkansas for Memorial Day weekend (and to mark our 22nd wedding anniversary). True, it is a long drive for a three day weekend – about 6.5 hours to Bentonville. (Bentonville? Yes. Bentonville). But we like road trips and stopping along the way at whatever grabs our attention. And we like Arkansas. We haven’t been there in over, um, 22 years, come to think of it, but Eureka Springs (where we’ll be staying on Sunday night) is a pretty old Ozarks resort town with old hippies and avid Christians, as I recall.
We’re staying overnight at bare bones motel in Butler, Mo; then driving to Bentonville on Saturday, where we’ll visit the new Crystal Springs, a new American art museum created by a Wal-Mart heiress that’s designed by Moshe Safdie. (The museum showcases a reportedly impressive art collection and also has a sculpture garden and nature trails that wind through 120 acres of forests, gardens and ponds.) We’ll eat at AQ (“Arkansas Quality”) Chicken in nearby Springdale/
On Sunday we’ll explore Eureka Springs and splurge on non-motel accommodations, staying at Rock Cottage Gardens, a spruced up former motor court. Dinner options include Gaskins Cabin (for steak) or Ermillios or DeVito’s (Italian.) Several restaurants aren’t open on Sunday including Bubba’s which looks like it has good bbq. Not sure if Mud Street Cafe is open.
We may also stop in Joplin, Mo. en route to see how the city is recovering from the horrendous tornado that leveled a large part of the city a year ago. (We’ve been driving for several years through Greensburg, Ks. and watching it rebuild after a tornado several years ago.)
So this isn’t technically open for tourists in Bentonville, but the house owned by the director of Crystal Bridges – the new museum of American art founded by a Walton heiress – sounds definitely worth a drive-by, if I can find it when we visit Bentonville in late May. There’s a story about the house in the April 1st NYTimes’ Sunday T Magazine and it looks fantastic – a glass and limestone-brick home designed in 1954 by Cecil Stanfield, the same “Modernist” architect, the Times reports, who gave a “Jetsons”-esque touch to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa (which I’ve visited twice – when Oral was holed up in his “prayer tower” during the late 1980s. Wonder if the architect designed the tower – or the strange sculpture of giant clasped hands nearby on the campus).
My eyes are blurry after looking at so much floral wallpaper, flowery bedspreads, dark heavy drapery, thick overstuffed couches, beds adorned with stuffed bears and walls with garish art, after searching online for a bed and breakfast to stay at in Eureka Springs. A hotel may be the way to go. I found several more low-key even hip options in “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America” which I picked up at a used book sale last summer in Southampton, N.Y. I figure if they’ve got good art, they’re worth staying at (I am, after all, the daughter of art gallery owners.) I’ve reserved a room at the Basin Park Hotel (much cheaper rates if you do online although you can’t guarantee you’ll get a nice view or quiet room online.) Other options include the Cottage Inn and the New Orleans Hotel.
So far, the best b&b options, decor-wise, appear to be Rock Creek Gardens – a cool old motor court motel with the outside walls made of dozens of small rocks – and inside relatively low-key tasteful decor; or 11 Singleton House, which I’ve read is also fairly low-key and run by a very knowledgeable local. I also spoke to the operator of 11 Singleton who books other B&Bs in town – and is a great resource for travel in the area – and she has put me on her list for a “maybe” single night stay during Memorial Day weekend. (Most proprietors, not surprisingly, want to book all three or at least two of the nights; She also said that people aren’t booking ahead as much as they used to – could it be in part because some places don’t allow cancellation without a penalty fee?) The Treehouse cottages – newly built wood tree houses in actual trees – also look pretty cool although again, I’d appreciate more low-key furnishings, but they’re all booked. Book a one night stay on memorial day weekend may also be a challenge.