Tag: Kentucky

A trip to paradise………

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.
And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away
–John Prine, Paradise
After 10 years away from Kentucky, I found myself once again back in the Bluegrass state for the second month in a row. The first trip is written into two blog posts – Lexington and Lousiville.

Ok, so maybe we weren’t in Muhlenberg county, but it was a trip back to Western Kentucky, a visit to Mammoth Cave along the Green River and a stop at Paradise along the way. Not the Paradise Mine referred to in John Prine’s song, but Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, in Louisville.

Last time we were at this fun and eclectic (not to mention yummy) restaurant was to celebrate Kiddo’s 1st birthday. He’s now 11. It’s been a while. First discovered when I was working for a wine & spirit distributor in Kentucky. Occasionally had lunches there with customers, or bites with co-workers when I was in town for a meeting. When we moved to Louisville, we discovered how great a place it is for brunch. Bobby Flay did a Throwdown with Lynn. (WTF, my second Bobby Flay mention in two days, and I’m seriously not *that* big of a fan)

Don’t let these pictures fool you. The place is usually packed. This was mid-morning on a Monday. Not exactly prime time. As we were leaving the lunch crowd was beginning to arrive. Love how every inch is decorated. Even the bathrooms! Fun touches (and puzzles on the tables). Kiddo and I enjoyed a nice game of Would you rather…

Kiddo, Mom and I had fun from the second we pulled in the parking lot, right through brunch and a trip to the gift shop. The gift shop seems to be an addition (to the building) since we moved from Kentucky. Kiddo couldn’t resist the fun Christmas hat.
After brunch we began the last leg of our drive to Nashville (this is the post on that part of the trip). Along the way we made a stop at Mammoth Cave. Kiddo has been asking to visit a cave…swears he’s never been to one. Doesn’t seem to remember that he did visit Mammoth Cave as an 8 month old in one of those baby pouches.Looks like they are re-modeling the Visitor’s Center. Mom hung out in the Mammoth Cave Hotel while Kiddo and I enjoyed the 2 hour “New Entrance” (new in 1921) tour.

The tour is marked as moderately strenuous due to about 500 steps. Pace was leisurely, but we were always going up or down steps or ramps. Kiddo was suitably impressed. Which makes me glad.I love visiting caves. Kiddo and I want to go back and do one of the longer spelunking tours – a bit of crawling and climbing and exploring.

Who woulda thought such unassuming entrances and exits would hide such natural wonder. If in the area, a must visit. Because despite what John Prine sang, Mr Peabody didn’t quite haul off all of Paradise!

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.
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