Category: United States

Arlington Strong

History classes in high school, and even in college, often, to me, were tedious exercises taught by some who just didn’t manage to bring the subject alive. It’s ironic, then, that I would be so engaged in the topic at…

The Oblivious Queens of Versailles

Visiting Versailles, the palace of French kings, and the Conciergerie, the prison where Queen Marie Antoinette spent her last days, one can’t help but wonder, How could it possibly have ended like this? Elements of the story do make sense: the queen seemed largely unschooled, her spouse weak, her home far removed from any squalor. But still. Her mother was the leader of Austria, she had family throughout Europe, advisors were aplenty. Could not one have said, quite forcefully, Cut back? Contrasting Marie Antoinette with Catherine the Great of Russia, one wonders how Catherine—also a foreigner (from Prussia), also married to a weak man—managed to take over a country and to lead, while Marie Antoinette stood by her man all the way to the guillotine. How could the queen of France possibly have been so obtuse?

An example of the extravagant decor of Versailles. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

An example of the extravagant decor of Versailles. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Interestingly, a documentary on another Versailles, the largest single-family home in the United States being constructed in Florida, is instructive on the happenings at the real one. The Sunshine State Versailles, being constructed by David and Jackie Siegel, is monstrously large and exorbitantly extravagant, just as the real one. Not owned by a king or even a politician, Florida Versailles is the apparent dream home of a time-share maven. Siegel’s company sells little bits of paradise to those who may not be able to afford it; he seemingly wants a bigger piece of paradise but also may not be able to swing the expense, according to Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary, The Queen of Versailles, which chronicles the Siegels’ marriage, their life, and the meltdown of their business after the 2008 financial crisis. They are forced to cut back, sort of. Private jets and limousines are out; rental cars are in. That Jackie Siegel doesn’t understand that Hertz doesn’t provide private drivers reminds viewers how oblivious even people from very humble roots can become.

Rather than waiting for a man to rescue her, Marie Antoinette might have taken a lesson from Catherine the Great. Photo of Versailles. Photo credit: V. Laino

Rather than waiting for a man to rescue her, Marie Antoinette might have taken a lesson from Catherine the Great. Photo of Versailles. Photo credit: V. Laino

Jackie Siegel is originally from Binghamton, NY, and from a seemingly very modest life. She is quite likable. She’s educated. She just can’t seem to cut back like she should. She claims she can’t afford a watch but hasn’t sold off her furs. She seems to think American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds should be used to help people like her. Like that long-ago queen of France, she’s too far removed from the real world around her. What she and Marie Antoinette should have done is taken a lesson from Catherine the Great: If your life, your marriage, your country aren’t going the way you want them to, don’t sit around and wait for your husband to fix it. Take charge.

©Lori Tripoli

Remember the Plaza?

Plaza Hotel Rose Club

The Rose Club at the Plaza Hotel provides a perfect refuge from a winter afternoon. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Plaza Hotel Rose Club ladies lounge

The ladies’ lounge at the Plaza Hotel’s Rose Club was surprisingly in disarray on a recent afternoon. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

After a carriage ride through Central Park, crossing 59th Street for a cocktail at the Plaza Hotel seemed a logical next step. There in the land of Eloise, though, the reality was not quite as perfect as my memories of the place. The Oak Bar is closed, the result of some apparent arrears in rent payments. (It should reopen in a couple of months, a concierge maintained. For now, padlocks remain on its doors. There’s a lawsuit.) The Palm Court just seemed crowded. Tea is okay in the Champagne Bar, but, really, I just wasn’t up for cocktails in the lobby.

Up to the Rose Club we went. The ambience was perfect for a wintry Saturday afternoon. Dark and paneled, the place offered refuge with nice lighting. My mistake was heading for the ladies’ lounge. Trash bins were overflowing and the place was a mess. The attendant just commented, “We’ve been busy.” Doing nothing, apparently.

I was soothed by our Irish coffees, which were perfect and overflowed with freshly whipped cream. Refrain from using the facilities, and you’ll be just fine.

© Lori Tripoli

The First Thanksgiving Was in Florida

Sitting on the patio of the golf clubhouse at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando and watching the pastel-clad golfers, their carts, and the sand traps, Florida’s dark history seems remote, a dream. Brutal Spanish explorers, Protestants killing Catholics,…

Survived the Apocalypse? Head to Disney

The Brawny Sherpa and I were more than grateful to head out of town after weathering Hurricane Sandy incredibly well—lost power for a few days, had only very minor damage to the purple bungalow, and temporarily hosted some of our…