Category: United States

An Unlikely Way to Spend a Weekend: A Visit to Horse Country

  Items not prone to appear on my life list of things to do are: Living in a small town Going to a horse show Liking both But this past weekend found me at North Salem, N.Y.’s Old Salem Farm…

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Three Inns I Always Want to Return to

Some places stick in your memory even decades after you’ve been there. There’s magic in their atmosphere, or good fairies floating in their mirrors, or memorable scents in their soaps that bring serenity on a visit. No matter how far…

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If Only All Truck Stops Were as Good for You as Bedford’s

Continuing my attempts to time travel, I stopped by Truck in Bedford Village, N.Y. on a hot, humid, too-bright-to-be-experienced-outside Sunday afternoon. Honestly, I wasn’t there for the healthful food—and there is plenty of that—but for the Mexican Cokes, margaritas, and…

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Traveling to Remember

Sitting at an outdoor café three blocks from the Rome Termini one morning 24 years ago waiting for my friend Julie to arrive, I had no appreciation of the folly of our planning. In the days before cell phones, all…

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Without Plans in Chi-Town

After more than enough days sitting in a beige conference room somewhere in the city, I decided that a  weekend of a great void would be more than alluring. All I knew was that we’d stay over in Chicago; we…

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Secure reservations before heading to the Green Zebra in Chicago. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Secure reservations before heading to the Green Zebra in Chicago. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

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Chicago: On Being a Veg-Head in a Town Full of Beef

Judging from my casual perusal of various restaurant menus during my most recent work trip to the Windy City, Chicago foodies remain dedicated to meat. At most of the places I visited, there’d be a nod to the vegetarian set,…

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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…

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Something Different for Date Night: Wine, Cheese & Howling with Wolves

The last time I’d visited the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y., I’d been in the company of a pack of Cub Scouts. As fun as that was, having a bit of wine with people more my contemporaries on…

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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

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