Category: trip report

Louisville, however you say it, the "S" is silent

I cringe when I hear folks say Lewisville when referring to Kentucky’s largest city. Admittedly, not as bad as when they say Ell-ah-noise for the state of my birth. That “S” is also quite silent. As a child we made regular visits to Louisville, because my grandparents had retired to Corydon, IN a small town not far away. Growing up we called it Louie-ville. In college at UK, I learned to pronounce it as the natives do, Looavull.

I only lived in Louisville for a couple of years. However, it is a city of significant events in my life. Met my husband there (while we were living 4 hours apart on opposite sides of the commonwealth), got married there, and our kiddo was born in Louisville. All of which make it a city near and dear to my heart. So when I discovered we’d be going on a trip to Lexington (click here to read that one), I suggested we add a night here.

Spent most of our time wandering around downtown. Last I saw this city was in 2001 as I followed the moving van out of town. Hubby has been back on a couple of business trips, and was dying to show me the new (well, new to me) entertainment district on 4th Street. This downtown area runs roughly from the Convention Center south to the Seelbach Hotel (with the final block closed to traffic and under an open ended roof). Shops, restaurants, bars, lots and lots of bars and nightclubs, this is the hub of the city nightlife. As we walked through, crews were setting up a stage – no doubt for a band after that evening’s UofL vs. UC football game.

From the Fourth Street Live district we headed north towards the river. Passing the Humana Building. If you’ve ever wondered what Michael Graves designed before going to work for Target, this would be one example.
I’d forgotten how wide the Ohio River is at this point. Remarked that it is a wider river at Louisville than the Mississippi is at St Louis. Then remembered that is is the Ohio River that makes the Mighty Mississippi so mighty – when the two rivers join south of St. Louis, the Ohio is the larger of the two. Glad to see the Belle docked in her usual berth, looking as fine as always.

Got a kick out of these signs along the river edge.

Other notable sights, the new KFC Yum Center (where on December 31st the Cats will kick some Cardinal ass), Riverfront Park, Louisville Slugger Field ……….

……………and a bit of urban art – a chicken sculpture grouping that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.

The piece, or rather pieces, of urban art I was thrilled to discover was the bike racks. When I noticed the first one, I thought “how interesting, someone is using that art to lock their bike”….then I started noticing more bikes locked up to other pieces of sculpture. Finally noticed the plaque on the ground next to each.

This put me on a quest to find as may as possible. I’m sure I just scratched the surface, but here’s a few.

Ended our trip with a great anniversary dinner at Ruth’s Chris. This Ruth’s Chris has been the site of other celebrations….how perfect that this trip would take us back the weekend of our anniversary. The restaurant is on the top floor of Kaden Tower, and just happens to overlook Suburban Hospital, where kiddo was born. And gave a nice view of the skyline at sunset.
Driven to and from the restaurant by “Rasta Cab”, a charming taxi driver, who answers his phone with that name. Saved his number for a future trip. Which as with Lexington, need to make a point of not letting so much time pass between visits.

Back in the Bluegrass, or My Old Kentucky Home…..

While I now live 60 miles or so from where I grew up in  Illinois, I spent a significant portion of my life living in Kentucky. As I often told folks, I went to college at UK, and forgot to leave. After college I began my professional life in Lexington, a promotion sent me to Western Kentucky where I stayed for nearly a decade, then another promotion brought me to Louisville. Finally, it was a work related move that took us away from the Commonwealth in 2001. As fond as my memories are of the time in Kentucky, as much as I miss Derby festival and Keeneland, I haven’t been back since we moved. Until this past weekend…..

And what a weekend it was. Absolutely perfect time for a visit. Keeneland was in session. Kentucky was enjoying the Indian Summer we’ve had in Wisconsin. Weather really could not have been better. Cool mornings, sunny afternoons in the 70’s, evenings perfect for strolling outside. 

Lexington had just hosted the World Equestrian Games, and was looking her very best. Lots of revitalization of downtown. An installation of horse statues all around the city. 
A couple of my favorites were the Keeneland one outside the 5/3 Bank building (cleverly painted with images of the spring meet on one side and the fall meet on the other) and the Kentucky Theater one located by the new courthouses. That one really brought back memories of many a Friday night at midnight singing along to “Dammit Janet”, throwing toilet paper and toast dressed as Magenta.

In addition to horses, the Bluegrass State is known for Bourbon. All the major bourbon distilleries are located in central Kentucky – the area from Lexington to Louisville – now known as the Kentucky Bourbon trail. One of the oldest distilleries, which also happens to make my favorite bourbon, Woodford Reserve, is the Labrot and Graham distillery. I love the drive to visit Woodford Reserve  – first passing famous sights like Calumet Farm and Keeneland, then traveling down a typical bluegrass horse farm lane to this picturesque distillery. On site you’ll find  the visitor’s center containing exhibits on bourbon, a small deli and a nice gift shop. Woodford also has a meeting/catering center, and hosts special brunches on Saturdays during Keeneland

The informative tours feature charming, southern accented guides, and a sample of this excellent bourbon at the end. If planning a trip to Woodford and Keeneland in the same day (which we did), the 10am tour is perfect; allowing ample time to make it to the track before the 1st race. 

Keeneland is a horse racing track like no other. Located on Hwy 60 just west of Lexington, it is only open for races in April and October. It just drips with southern charm and Lexington’s strong thoroughbred tradition (speaking of which, not sure I like the announcer calling races, preferred the silence of the past). We were fortunate to be seated in the Keeneland box just behind the winners circle. Delighted to discover that, yes, the Blue Moon Barbecue on the 3rd floor terrace serves my beloved Blue Moon beer. Enjoyed trying to teach the couple of guys in our group who’d never been to the track how to read the form, place bets. Reminded once again that a horse race handicapper I am not. Cashed tickets in the majority of races, but didn’t even break even. Smiled when handed a white parasol by the box attendant to block the sun.

Many of the sights in downtown Lexington are as I remember: Rupp Arena, Triangle Park’s fountains, Victorian Square, Cheapside Bar.  Others are not. Dudley’s Restaurant, a former employer and the place that set me on my current career path, has moved from South Hill to Short Street. Owner, Debbie Long did an incredible job of renovating the space. One of the biggest highlights of the trip was dinner at Dudley’s – providing an opportunity to catch up with both Debbie, and dear friend Ann who I met long ago while working at Dudley’s. Alfalfa, the campus staple for brunch, has moved to Main Street. There’s a new courthouse area, and many, many new bars and restaurants. Hope to get back there soon and explore some more.
The visit to Lexington was too short. Really wished we’d stayed for the football game. Seeing UK finally beat South Carolina in person would have been sweet. But we planned an evening in Louisville also……which will be another post.

My kinda town…………

I started the summer with the intention to once again chronicle Chicago’s street planting. Knew I’d be in the city at least once a month. The plan started strong the first week of June, when I spent an enjoyable hour or two with MrBrownThumb wandering the Lurie Garden and the other public spaces between Michigan Avenue and Columbus drive. The salvia at the Lurie Garden was stunning, the annual/tropical beds along Michigan Avenue were recently planted as was the Art on the Farm potager garden.

I was back the first week of July. Took tons of pictures, but never got around to downloading the pictures from camera to computer. Back again the first weekend of August for the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The annual/tropical beds wre now well developed, the Lurie Garden had shifted to coneflowers, and the Art on the Farm garden was ready for harvest. However, the weekend turned into an electronics nightmare. Started with dropping my phone in, uh, water at the race expo, then lost my camera not once but twice. Unfortunately, only recovered it once. Gone were the July and August planting updates (and sadly, shots of cool “destruction” along Wacker at the Transformers 3 film set). It did give me an excuse to get one of those cool new waterproof cameras, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5, but that’s another story.

 There was one more trip to end the summer. My favorite trip of them all…Labor Day weekend in the city with the boys (hubby and son). The weather was perfect for exploring the city. We rode down from Milwaukee via Amtrak; dropped our bags off at the hotel, and began our city adventure with a river and lake cruise using the Wendella line. Someday I’ll do the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, but first wanted to introduce kiddo to Wendella. I remember doing this tour with my Girl Scout troop – at about the same age. Sill a great tour.

Kiddo has come to love walking around the city and on this trip we also introduced him to using public transportation, the el, the subway, city buses.

He’d seen a story on Travel Channel about a place in Wicker Park called “I Cream”. This was his must see of the trip. Very cool concept – pick your own flavors, colors, add-ins and they add it to the ice cream or frozen yogurt base. The liquid, not to the already frozen ice cream. Then use liquid nitrogen to make your creation in front of your eyes. Loved it.

Had to introduce kiddo to Chicago at night. Both walking around the streets and hitting a performance by the Blue Man Group. A visit to the fire station at Illinois and Dearborn was a pleasant surprise, the friendly firefighters not only are great city ambassadors, but let kiddo climb in the trucks.
The clear skies made a trip up to the Willis Tower a must see. We weren’t the only ones with that idea. Nearly 90 minute wait. Strongly recommend pre-purchasing the City Pass if you plan on doing two or more museums plus either John Hancock or Willis Tower. Not only will you either break even or save $$$, you get a fastpass to the top. The new glass cubes that stick out of the observation deck are a bit freaky. But of course we had to try them.
A weekend in Chicago wouldn’t be complete without brunch at our favorite place – Yolk. We originally discovered the N. Wells St location on a trip for kiddo’s gymnastic meet at UI-C. On our half marathon weekend, we stumbled upon the S. Michigan Ave. Location. That was the one we hit this trip (love the orange bread french toast!). Also gave us a chance to visit the torsos across the street – where kiddo did a pretty good imitation of the sculpture..

Spent our last afternoon at the Museum of Science and Industry. A childhood favorite of mine, and now my son’s. Spent quite a bit of time in the Smart House exhibit.

Hit the coal mine first to avoid the crowds – and ended up with a three person, personal tour, saw the Hubble movie at the Imax, found the Poop to Power exhibit amusing, the submarine tour well worth the extra charge, and the interactive screens are tons of fun.

All and all a great family weekend. Had a slight melancholy moment as we entered Union Station to take the Amtrak back to Milwaukee. My foursquare check-in said, “And with this summer comes to a close”.

Of course with every closed door, God opens a window…… know we’ll have more adventures ahead.

Rocky Mountain High, part 2….taking time to smell the flowers

The Saturday departure date of my recent trip to Denver allowed me to sneak in a little garden time amid all the beer, breweries and Great American Beer festival. Part one of this trip report focused on all that, this part is all about the Denver Botanic Garden.

I’ve followed (and purchased) the books by Lauren Springer for some time – beginning with The Undaunted Garden. (And find it fitting that she married another one of my favorite garden authors, Scott Ogden, and together have a company called Plant Driven Design). The interest in Lauren’s writing introduced me to the Denver Botanic Garden, which has held a spot on my must visit list for far too long.

Really far too long. What a delightful and inspiring garden. The current special exhibit is an installation of Henry Moore sculptures placed throughout the space. (Click on any of these images to bring them up in a larger format)

Shortly after entering the garden, I was wow-ed by the long double perennial/mixed border allee. Just stunned.

I could have spent hours in just this area, which made even more special by the sound of music flowing from the private event (looked and sounded like an Indian wedding)  in the formal garden just past this area.

This wasn’t the only spot within the gardens set up for a private event. The South African Plaza was set with chairs, and had signs warning it would be closed later in the day. Tho’ it was the containers that caught my eye here.

Another intriguing aspect of the gardens is the use of water, often combined with sculpture. The water forms a mirror like surface, reflecting the sculpture, adding depth to the space.
Additional areas highlighted more perennials, annuals, edibles, woodland/shade plants, roses, water-wise plants, a Japanese garden, and in the Asian garden a flowing pebble walkway echoing the small stream which ran next to it. 
And of course, the flowers….beckoning both the bees and me. A great garden one I hope to visit again soon, to explore further.

Rocky Mountain High or I’m only here for the beer………

Until now, Denver has only been a place I’ve passed through between airport and ski slope. While I’m pretty sure I visited the actual city as a child, I haven’t had an opportunity to explore the area as an adult. Recently returned from a work related trip out there which among other things included brewery tours and time at the Great American Beer Festival (yes, I do love my job).

First stop was the town of Golden, home of the Coors Brewery, the world’s largest brewing facility. Located just west of Denver along the foothills of the mountains, Golden has a charming little downtown with shops, cafes, and farmer’s market. The Colorado School of Mines is located in Golden – was a bit surprised by the size of the campus. 

I was taken with the biking culture evident here – and around the area. In a visit to a recently relocated colleague’s home on Lookout Mountain, I was impressed by the number (dozens, really, several dozen) of road cyclists we passed – climbing up the mountain. Also noticed a couple of large groups of mountain bikers on off-road trails along the way. This was a Wednesday night – these were not just casual weekend riders. This interest was reflected in a number of bike shops in town, numerous bike racks along the streets, and at least one manufacturer, Yeti, based there. An old poster in a  storefront caught my eye – looks like my kinda event!

Our group had a behind the scenes tour of the Coors brewery.

One thing I wasn’t aware of was that they malt their own barley here. I’ve visited several other breweries, but have never seen the malting process (first soaking, then basically sprouting, and finally baking the barley in a kiln to the desired toast).

Blue Moon lover that I am, I had a smile when our guide pointed out the cart of ingredients in the Brew House….the orange zest and coriander for the Blue Moon recipe. He said you don’t always see them brewing Blue Moon here…must have been doing it special in honor of my visit! 😉 Tasting the beer fresh from the tanks was also kinda cool.

The scenery all around the brewery and Golden was stunning. Though I apparently was too distracted by the beer, to get many landscape pictures.

All that touring works up an appetite, and The Buckhorn Exchange not only provided a tasty, filling lunch, but plenty of local charm. Originally opening in 1893, it holds Colorado state liquor license number 1. The original owner rode with Sitting Bull, learned to scout with Buffalo Bill Cody, and hunted with Teddy Roosevelt. Based on the decor, it appears he was an *avid* hunter, indeed.

Having toured the world’s largest brewery complex, it was time to visit a much smaller brewery – The Sandlot at Coors Field. Blue Moon originated here 15 years ago (did you know I love Blue Moon?) The GABF Brewers and Judges reception was taking place, allowing us full access to the facility (did I mention I love my job?)

And I thought tasting Coors Banquet fresh from the tanks was special…how about hanging in the basement of The Sandlot with the brewer tapping the tanks for us to enjoy. A pint from a batch of Blue Moon, a pint of their limited edition Oktoberfest style….. Unfortunately, Chardonnay Blonde, a gold medal winner at this year’s GABF wasn’t on tap, so to speak.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was the Great American Beer Festival. Attended two sessions, Thursday and Friday night. Enjoyed Thursday night the best. Seemed a bit more civil, folks actually there to taste the beer. Friday night was more like folks there to drink the beer. Thousands of varieties, hundred of brewers. 1oz samples. Which go down easy. Really easy. And are often higher alcohol content than what the average beer drinker is used to consuming. Let’s just say you see folks who didn’t take this factor into consideration. But for the most part, it’s a relaxed, casual gathering of beer lovers. My kinda event.

The silent disco was a scream. And if you dropped your tasting cup, the crowd gave you a scream. Every style of beer imaginable was represented – some really great ones, some really odd ones, a few average run of the mill ones, and some, well, not so great. But the majority a treat to try.

I was somewhat fascinated by this looooong line of folks. What beer were they waiting to try???? Hmm, let me follow the line to the front…Oh, food, the American Cheese Society. Got it. And if you didn’t know that beer went great with food, you might want to read my post on it.

In the midst of all the scrambling to find the best beers to try, this sign from Brew Dogs of Colorado made me stop and smile.
Denver’s downtown is a pedestrian friendly pleasure to visit. The 16th Avenue Mall is the center of activity. Found the pianos placed along the mall to be a fun touch (ah, the wonderful climate of little rain and no humidity makes things like this possible)

Did make it to one other spot on Saturday morning before flying home. One of the botanic gardens I’ve always wanted to visit. Took hundreds of pictures there (none of you are surprised, right?). Will cover that in a future post. We’ll leave this one focused on the beer. Speaking of which, all this writing has made me a tad thirsty. Anyone want to join me for a Blue Moon?

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