Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stella Visits The Tiki Hut!

Living in warm, tropical Florida weather doesn’t mean you can’t fully enjoy the Christmas spirit and I wanted to demonstrate this to my special house guest this week. Whose visiting you ask? Why none other than the infamous world traveler, Stella. For those who don't know, Stella is a little doll who has been traveling around blogland for the last year and I am just thrilled my good friend Sheila (aka Mrs. Magpie) of The Quintessential Magpie was able to bring her to Tampa Bay to spend a few days at The Hut. Stella left England on December 1, 2008 and you can follow or catch up on her adventures by visiting Lindsay at The Cross Stitch House.

Sister and I picked Stella up at the lawyer's office on Tuesday, no she's not in any trouble, there were just a few questions about her visitor status here in the United States. Stella's visa is just about to expire and after her visit here, she will return to Sheila's for a special outing and then head home to England.

The weather was beautiful upon Stella's arrival, with temps hovering at 80 degrees and almost non-existent humidity. Life is good.

Note: You may click on any images for a larger view.

Since we only had a few days, I wanted to share two of my passions with Stella. The first, as many of you know, is my love of all things vintage. I often post photos of vintage postcards and this one is from where we went as we started our day.

The Tampa Bay Hotel 1891

Now listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Hotel is home to the Henry B. Plant Museum (the founder of the Hotel) and is part of the campus of the University of Tampa. The museum is currently hosting its 28th Annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, recreating the opulent lifestyle of America's Gilded Age in the 1890s. The extravagant grandeur of a Victorian Christmas is displayed in magnificent rooms adorned with authentic Victorian-style decorations, elaborately trimmed trees, lush greenery, antique toys and imaginative ornaments. Come along as Stella and I share just some of the sights we encountered.

As we arrive, the magnificent architecture of
the Hotel is instantly recognizable.

You can see by the look on her face that Stella
is eager for our adventure to begin.

Stella offered her assistance in decorating
the mantel in the foyer.

Stepping into the Grand Hallway, we were greeted with beautiful music, period toys, wrapped gifts, Christmas stockings and Old Saint Nick. We took in the beauty of the gilded mirrors, statues, and furniture. In the late 1880's, Margaret and Henry Plant toured Europe and returned to Tampa with 41 rail cars filled with treasures and we were enthralled with their finds. What I would have given to have been on that buying trip with them!

You can walk right through the majority of the rooms and peek into others. Each was filled with treasures. Stella found this suitcase that she thinks will be perfect to carry all her goodies home to England later this month.

Antique and vintage clothing from La France, Jezabelle & Her Wandering Gypsies, and the private collection of Jill Wax are displayed throughout the museum. As was the custom of the era, the fashions are handmade with exquisite detail and feature natural fibers such as silk, cotton, linen and wool. The clothing for men, women, and children are accessorized with appropriate shoes, jewelry, hats, gloves, purses and other such adornments.

The Sports and Amusements Room (below on left) featured authentic golf, fishing and hunting ensembles from 1925 and I must say the decorations on the tree in this room were definitely amusing!

Stella called me over and she was very excited. She believes she has found her perfect vacation home and wants to meet with the realtor tomorrow.

The Parlor Suite Bedroom was one of the loveliest in the Hotel. The Victorian double bed is placed directly under a minaret. This serene nook, encircled by windows that overlooked the garden, is sure to have inspired sugarplum dreams. On display were a wide variety of provocative all-white Victorian undergarments such as camisoles, bloomers, cover ups and cotton teddies worn under Japanese silk kimonos; and the tree was decorated with antique trims including hand embroidered laces, crocheted garlands, silk ribbon and tatting.

Dressing appropriately was of the utmost importance in the Gilded Age. Guests arrived with trunks brimming with clothes, for each social event or activity required a special costume. Dressing "up" also showed respect for an occasion and was considered simple good manners.

I fell in love with this little traveling case, one side holds all your toiletries and the other side opened up to hold stamps, stationery and writing utensils.

The cobweb game was a Christmas favorite of many Victorian families. Each family member's name was written on paper and tied to the end of colored yarn. The long yarn was then woven in and about the room, over and under furniture. When you came to the end of your yarn, you discovered your Christmas present.

I turned from this display and didn't see Stella. I needn't have worried though, she had made a couple of new friends while I was taking pictures and they were real dolls.

While neither of us knew quite what to think of this fish above the Santa collection…

…we both agreed that this outfit was stunning!

We next entered the elegant Gentlemen's Writing and Reading Room, which is the most authentic room in the entire Hotel. The furniture, artwork, wainscoting and intricate molding are original. In this majestic space, gentlemen tended to their daily correspondence, read the latest news and conducted business. The door to the left of the fireplace once opened onto stairs leading to the Rathskeller, a basement area where the Hotel bar, billiard room, hair dressing rooms and other spa services were located.

As you can see, Stella was enjoying a conversation with the gentleman seated at the desk.

Pipes, cigars, cigarettes, cigar boxes and vintage smoking paraphernalia along with bowties decorated the Christmas tree and mantel in this room.

"Come along Stella, I don't think women are actually allowed in this room."

The next doorway led to a special exhibit, Tarpon Tales and Sport Fishing in Early Florida. This vintage postcard was in one of the cases, it reads, A 735 pound Dolphin.

Before you say anything, you may not know that the Killer Whale (Orcinus orca), commonly referred to as the Orca is the largest species of the dolphin family. It is commonly mistaken as a species of whale.

As I looked at all the memorabilia on display, Stella landed herself a big one!

Seems Stella is really into the whole idea of fishing and if you compare her boots to the waders worn by these women shore surfing, you can see she is dressed for the event.

Stella did find herself in a bit of bind

and had to be rescued from jaws!

Feeling a little devilish, Stella continued to get herself into sticky predicaments and I had to reprimand her again to behave, "Stella, get out of that tree, you are not an ornament!"

She quickly fell into line and as we wandered a bit more, we looked down one of the hallways and saw the gardener was coming in with yet another tree to decorate.

Did I tell you there are over 100 trees on display throughout the Hotel? This includes 67 miniatures and one that stood over 15-feet tall. Each was decorated very uniquely, but my favorite was the Hanky Angel Tree, with over 100 antique handkerchiefs made to look like angels and was displayed in the Parlor Music Room. I became so enthralled with this beautiful harp, I failed to capture a photo of the tree.

Oh well, it gives me even more of a reason to return next year.

Stella, always making friends, ended up having her picture taken with someone very special at this time of year.

We had spent three and a half hours in the museum and had taken well over 200 pictures, so we happily retired to the veranda to rest.

Our hostess treated us to hot spiced apple cider and ginger cookies. We sat and relaxed as dusk approached and contemplated what we would do the next day.


The next morning we arose, had our coffee and a bit of breakfast and then proceeded to our final destination before Stella had to leave to return to Mrs. Magpie's home. I was very excited about our plans for the day, for we were going to my favorite place in the world,

The Beach!

You can't come to Florida without partaking in our winter sunshine and pristine beaches. We headed down to Indian Rocks Beach, stopping to pick up a few essentials for Stella.

Stella found out that sunscreen lotion is a must here in Florida. I would be remiss in my hostess duties if I let her return home with a nasty sunburn.

Stella loved her new sunglasses!

Stella had a great time building this sandcastle with me and insisted on having her picture taken.

Fannie, my kitchen Flamingo, met us down on the beach and showed Stella this beautiful seashell.

Stella: "Okay Shellbelle, I've had a great time at The Hut, but I'm anxious to get back to Mrs. Magpie's, I hear she has something wonderful planned for us to do. I loved the museum and the beach is extraordinary, thank you so much for having me and I look forward to returning in the near future. Perhaps I'll bring Lindsay with me on my next visit!"

So as the sun sets, we bid adieu to my new little friend, Stella and I hope that all of you have enjoyed reading about our time together as much as we enjoyed our visit with each other. If you ever make it to Florida, or just need to feel some warmth this winter, be sure to stop by The Hut, where the sun is always shining and the beach is just a click away.

For history buffs: The Tampa Bay Hotel served as headquarters for the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Henry Plant arranged to make Tampa the port of embarkation for the war in Cuba, and to use his railroad and steamships to transport over 30,000 troops. While they awaited orders, a number of well-known officers made the Hotel their temporary home. Theodore Roosevelt and his cavalry troop, the Rough Riders, camped about a mile from the hotel, but in the evening Teddy would go to the hotel to visit his wife. As a result of its role in the war, the Tampa Bay Hotel, now home to the Henry B. Plant Museum, is a National Historic Landmark.

Update: I just had to come back and post one more photo. This advertisement from "back in the day" encourages folks to visit The Tampa Bay Hotel for A Golden Christmas. If you ever find yourself in Florida for the holidays, be sure to include the Victorian Christmas Stroll in your travel plans and see for yourself how delightful this museum is at this magical time of the year. People have been visiting the Hotel for over a hundred years and in the words of Henry B. Plant,

"My house is yours'!
And there is no better time to be here

than at Christmas!"

15 Thoughtful Comments:

Unknown said...

Rhonda, this post was FABULOUS! I love it! I'm out the door, but I am coming back to read it again. Loved every word and every picture. Looks like Stella is having an absolute blast on the West Coast! I knew she would with you as her hostess! :-)



Lillian Robinson said...

I hope Stella loved the vintage clothes as much as I did! She was probably more at home with the old dolls. How cute!

Reminds me of a friends pink flamingos. They came up missing from his lawn. He received pictures of them on the beach. Later, after touring the south, they turned up in his local bar! The locals will long remember Sammy's flamingos, as will you remember Stella!

Lindsay-ann said...

Hi Rhonda
THANK YOU so much for taking little Stella to visit this amazing hotel. I absolutely LOVED this post. I am so jealous of Stella. I would so love to go there myself one day. The Christmas decorations there were really beautiful especially the trees. I loved the idea of the game with the yarn and presents at the end. I really enjoyed hearing about the history of the place too. Thanks so much for that. Stella looked to be really enjoying the beach. I will definately get her to bring me with her next time, now she knows her way around and has made so many friends!
Sending you my very best wishes for Christmas.

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

Loved the tour. Lucky Stella. I didn't know that life as a doll can be so adventurous! There is quite a bit of Gilded Age in Newport, RI, near where I live..., several mansions, but not quite as grand as this amazing hotel!

Anonymous said...

LOL! You are out of control! :)

Hope Stella enjoyed the tour as much as I did.

Sierra said...

The Victorian Christmas Stroll looks so lovely, I loved the tour through your photos! I don't know if I ever mentioned this to you or not, but I actually grew up in a Victorian home. I'll have to post a picture on my blog sometime soon. Thanks for your sweet comment, I never bore of your blog either and thanks for entering into the giveaway.

Also, love your new friend Stella and glad she got a proper tour of the FL beach, she is so adorable! Glad you enjoyed your time with your friend too, hot cider and cocoa sounds so delicious!

Sue said...

I'm not having much time for reading (I miss it too) but I was watching for this post. How wonderful it all looks. I'm really surprised you didn't get thrown out for letting Stella touch things! This looks like such an amazing place and you made it so funny with your guest.

I think I may be glad I put in that one sweater...tomorrow isn't looking too great, is it?


Kristen said...

This is so fun!!
When I was younger, my friends and I found a small wooden gnome in a chalet we rented one year during a little weekend getaway. We named him Norm and from then on, he went on trips with all of us. Norm has been to Japan, Florida, Mexico, all over Europe and throughout the US!!

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Beautiful pics, beautiful tour! Stella looks like she had the time of her life! Cindy

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Hi, Rhonda, this post is truly wonderful, and I loved seeing the hotel decked out in its finery. I have visited there before but not at Christmas. I will have to make it a point to see their decorations at some point. Your tour was just perfect!

Loved Stella at the beach. She had on some mighty cool sunglasses. Loved them! LOL!

I am whipped from everything today. think I will turn in now. Again, this was a LOT of fun. Thank you for sharing...


Sheila :-)

Life on the Edge said...

This was such a wonderful post and what a great adventure for Stella! She really loves shopping and seeing places like this. I especially loved the pictures of her on the beach and the little bottle of suntan lotion! I'm so glad she is someplace warm right now. I had her visiting with me this summer in Ohio and we had so much fun with her!

Life on the Edge

Kat said...

Wonderful post Rhonda! Looks like Stella had an amazing adventure. The hotel is just gorgeous. Your shot of that grand building with the beautiful blue sky just epitomizes Old Florida. The quality of light there really is special. Loved reading about the hotel, can you imagine 41 rail cars full of goodies? Wow, what a sight that must have been. Hope you have a wonderful weekend curled up by the fire. Kathy

Anonymous said...

I am happy that Stella was smart and used suntan lotion! It looks like you showed her a wonderful time on her visit.

Joyce said...

Stella sure likes to get around to the best places in town when she is not sunning with her new sunglasses which are too cute:) I love all the hotel photos and would love to visit one day with my husband. Merry Christmas to you and Stella.

Anonymous said...

Rhonda I had a fun day with Stella and you, the Plant Museum was truly amazing. Sorry I missed the beach outing.
Have fun Stella on your next adventure.

Love, Sis

I love the beach and everything that goes with it! I love the waves lapping at my feet. I love the feel of the sand between my toes. I love the roar of the Pacific and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Let's talk about beaches around the world, bonfires, building sandcastles, swaying palm trees, flamingos, clambakes, sunrises and sunsets. If it's tropical, it fits this blog!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Go to the Beach in Style!