We apologize for the absence of pictures in this trip report.  Once we locate our French Lick photos, we’ll post a gallery.  Check out www.frenchlick.com in the meantime.

This was our first trip to French Lick (to celebrate Hilary’s birthday) and we had a wonderful time.  The drive from St. Louis was between 4.5 and 5 hours, though the last part (i.e. non-Interstate) seems much longer than it is.  The West Baden Springs Hotel is, simply put, stunning.  It is beautiful, elegant and transports you to another time.  We splurged on a room overlooking the lobby; we could hear live piano music while lounging on the bed or enjoying champagne.

The room was large and very nicely appointed.  It had a wet bar, minibar, robes, slippers, comfortable king bed, flat panel TV, separate soaking tub and ample shower, cordless phone and photos of the hotel in its heyday.  Hilary would have been very happy to hang out in the room all weekend, popping downstairs for the occasional drink, meal or spa treatment.

For dinner, we split a cheeseburger at Ballard’s in the lobby.  It was good and they had blue cheese olives for our martinis — always a plus.

We took the free resort shuttle to the casino, which is just down the road and adjacent to the French Lick Springs Hotel.  We liked the casino although there is only one video poker bar.  They have a nice array of slots and table games.

On our first night a band was playing on the stage right behind the video poker bar.  This meant it was load and crowded.  We played video poker with no wins and Hilary played slots with no wins, but Lyndon did well at craps.  The cocktail service on the floor was not great, but was better at the tables.

On the wall of the walkway between the casino and the French Lick Springs Hotel there are photos of all the Kentucky Derby winners, with the exception of Aristides. His photo is in their signature restaurant, 1875 — the year of the first Derby and Aristides’ win. (We had dinner here on a business trip about a year later; the food was good but not excellent.)  Hilary also looked at the shops here, which were closed our first night but were discovered to be excellent the next day.

We do not know the exact schedule for the next couple of days, since our notes were not comprehensive. We do know we hit the Spa at West Baden on Saturday; it was top-notch and really, really relaxing. Large, well-appointed, comfortable — with excellent treatments.  We did not partake of the more traditional “springs” water treatments, as they were only offered at the Spa at the Frenck Lick Springs Hotel.

The shops at West Baden are small but very nice.  Hilary purchased a bracelet she wears quite often, along with some fantastic hand cream.  We spent time reading in the incredibly comfortable lobby chairs and had a very nice meal at Sinclair’s.

We also tried out the local winery/Italian restaurant on Sunday for lunch before heading out of town. (There was free transportation from the hotel.) The wine was not great, but not awful, either.  We were pleasantly surprised by the tasty, fresh Italian dishes.

Since this trip, we’ve returned to French Lick twice and had excellent experiences both times.  We suggest a visit in the spring; the grounds are lovely when in full bloom. We are hoping to return for a weekend in 2012.