Updated: Aug 14, 2022
The world changed in February of 2020 in a way from which it may never fully recover. Within days of the discovery of Covid-19, supermarket shelves were emptied and people started hoarding cleaning supplies, disinfectants. toilet paper, and food staples. People started dying, hospital beds, started filling, and soon getting out of the house was a thing of the past. As treatments were developed and vaccines became approved, things slowly started to open up. On April 1, 2021 my husband and I were officially fully vaccinated and on a plane to Kentucky.
Kentucky you ask? Why Kentucky?
It is not a typical tourist destination. I have never been to Kentucky. It is in the middle of the United States. It is not densely populated. It was not in a red zone, and it still had social distancing and a mask mandate in place... at least sort of.
We left for Newark Airport and were surprised to see how many people were also flying. If it hadn’t been for the wearing of masks by most people, it would be hard to believe that we were still in a pandemic. The airport was quite crowded and when it came time to board the distance between passengers was more like 1ft than 6ft as posted. I am glad to have been vaccinated, if for no other reason than peace of mind. At that point it was “forget American express, don’t leave home without a vax.
Our flight connected in Detroit. The good news, the airport was nowhere near as crowded as Newark and we had no trouble keeping our distance from people. The bad news is the number of Covid-19 cases in Michigan was the largest per capita in the country which explained a lot.
As we left the Louisville airport terminal and walked towards our rental car we were greeted with the sounds of bluegrass music. Hello Kentucky.
We started our trip with a 3 day stay just outside of Louisville, in a town called Simpsonville a short ride from the city. We selected this for the ease of parking our car at night.
After we checked it was off for dinner at Petty Boys Seafood Bar & Grill in Simpsonville. While we can’t eat the same way every night, fries with fried fish and fried veggies, it was “down home cookin’, there was live entertainment and it was quite good.
I had the crab cake burger with a side of fried okra and my husband had the fried catfish with a side of mac and cheese and a side of onion rings. Yummy but not the healthiest thing on the planet. Kombucha and avocado toast? Um, I don’t think you’ll find that here. The bluegrass music was an added bonus. With the exception of the hockey puck hush puppies it was a tasty treat. These might have been made from the actual corn cob, but I digress. Also, if you are from the New York City area and ask for seltzer. no one will know what you are talking about. I tried asking for soda water and they still had no clue. Eventually I was given either tonic water or quinine or something else. Fortunately the tap water was good. Unfortunately Petty's has since permanently closed.
Day 2 - our 1st full day in Kentucky
Upon arrival at the hotel we were advised that breakfast had been adversely impacted by Covid. However, we were in luck as there had been an upgrade the day before and Bob’s Big Boy Microwavable sausage patties were now on the menu. Yipee. Undaunted, we headed towards the Highlands section of Louisville. Alas, the flat tire light blinked insistently on the dashboard and so we headed to the airport car rental instead. There, it was explained that since it was very cold at night, a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit, that the tire was actually ok and the cold caused the light to go on. Go figure. And so we went back on the road and made it to the Highlands and the street art. The area had really cute stores and a hipster vibe. Definitely recommend this area.
After leaving the Highlands we went to find Millionaire’s row and Historic Old Louisville.
With its steep roof, turret, gables, balcony, and irregularly sized windows this home is a splendid example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture
A giant Louisville Slugger drew us to the baseball museum and bat factory. If you plan to go inside you need to make reservations either early in the morning or the day before online or you might not get in. Of course, we know that now but...
The Kentucky Derby is “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and scattered throughout Louisville are fiberglass horses.
Kentucky is synonymous with Bourbon and tours are offered all along the Bourbon Trail.
Moving on to Butcher-town, we decided to try Naïve, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant. They were between lunch and dinner when we wandered up. Fortunately, there was a brewery across the street to keep us occupied until dinner. At the Ten20 Craft Brewery, my favorite was the stout, my husband’s was the IPA. Although the pilsner and red ale were pretty good too. Alcohol permits do seem to be easy to come by judging by the number of distilleries, breweries and purveyors of adult beverages in the state.
Unfortunately, we started to attack our meal before we photographed it so there is a little bit missing. We enjoyed the fresh air atmosphere and great meal at Naive.
My husband was quite happy with his LambBurger and side of asparagus soup. I luuuved my veggie burger with a side of broccolini. Naive Restaurant was one of the few places at which we had the opportunity to eat greens. Afterwards, we enjoyed a peaceful postprandial promenade passing pleasantly through a district with the PETA perturbing name of Butcher-town. Formerly a busy meat packing area, only one lone slaughterhouse remains today.
And then to Nulu.
We had heard that the Big Four Bridge was a neat little hike, and it was. This pedestrian bridge at one time was used as a rail line across the Ohio River from Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana. We drove to the Jeffersonville side, parked the car in the lot by the bridge and strolled across in the company of a few early morning joggers and power walkers.
Once around the park and then back across...
From a distance we could see something colorful and so we walked towards it. About 15 minutes later we came upon this water tank.
“Underwater eyes sprout from a plant in a vignette mural created by Wilfred Sieg III on the water tower in Jeffersonville's Arts & Cultural District”
Later, we headed off on another street art quest and found some fine examples in the Shelby Gardens area. (“off on” seems like an oxymoron, and “headed off” sounds like a Butchertown phrase, but I digress)
On the road for about 40 minutes to the On the road for about 40 minutes to the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
According to Danbo''s Fairytale, "While the Weather got Better", the dragon's skull is a symbol of strength so that the pregnant mother's baby would grow.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Clermont, Kentucky
Little Elina | This young forest giant loves playing with rocks. Here she is "building" the outline of a feather, a sign of good luck.
Under construction are homes for fairies.
Craving another vegan meal we opted to have an early dinner at VGrit, a vegan restaurant and brewery in Germantown.
My carnivorous husband took a chance with the Steakhouse Mac, a seasoned toasted panko, vegan steak strips, caramelized onions, A1 drizzle on a bed of vegan mac and cheese. This was aided by “It takes a Village” IPA beer with its hint of grapefruit. I had the Cheeseburger Mac which was a combination of vegan sausage, special sauce, crispy onions, chives, pickles on a bed of vegan mac and cheese. Both meals were certified delicious. I would love to go back to try the rest of the menu. The portions were large so I got to enjoy some of mine the next day.
On to the zoo to see the wild lights. Unfortunately we arrived to find the zoo had sold out its Covid allocation of tickets. Again we didn’t book online. BIG MISTAKE, BIG…
No worries, another place on our list was 5 minutes from the zoo. Although it was not as spectacular as the light show had promised to be, the Beargrass Creek Nature Preserve was a really beautiful place. We saw small birds, deer and a variety of trees in a 2.5 mile hike. Hiking shoes are recommended but not necessary.
On our fourth day in Kentucky we left Louisville and headed towards Slade.
As luck would have it, we realized both front tires on our rental were bald, which kinda explained that light. and so we had to go back to the airport again and exchange our car.
First stop: Lexington
One of the many murals by street artist duo Herakut, Jasmin Siddiqui (Hera) and Falk Lehmann (Akut).
On the way we wanted to visit Barrel House Distilling, one of Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries with the hopes of purchasing one of their legendary bottles of bourbon.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 for Slade Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Dawson Springs, Hopkinsville Area, the 1st Lincoln Memorial, Southern Indiana and more.
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