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Kentucky West - The River Corridor
We were heading for Louisville and Paducah along the Ohio River corridor, but taking our time, meandering from place to place as the mood struck us. Byways reveal the most delightful things, and Kentucky was no exception.
Our first surprise was in Burlington where Little Place Restaurant dishes up generous and cheap breakfasts. Spotting a lot of pickup trucks we decided the corner eatery was the place to be. Coons and possums were the topic of the day.
Rabbit Hash is located not far away, tucked in a cove on the bank of the Ohio River. Watch out for dogs having a nap in the middle of the road in this sleepy little place. There is an excellent general store and a eatery called Bowlegged Annie's Bar B.Q.
The crossroads community of Milton, like Rabbit Hash, is located in a cove on the Ohio River. Strike up a conversation and friendly folk will show you flood level marks on some of the buildings. 1937 and 1997 had particularly high water levels
Louisville, reminds me of a grand matron, comfortable with life and still full of vitality. Its great river history and horse heritage offers surprises of the nicest kind. After driving a few hours on byways then Blue Grass and Western Parkways to reach Louisville, dinner had to be special. Brasserie Deitrich, located in a renovated art Deco theater building got our nod. The kitchen is located "on stage". The audience is diners who are seated at tables on various levels where the original seating would have been located. The lobby has original terrazzo floors and a bar. Double doors open to a street patio. Food is well prepared and absolutely delicious.
Tradition is all! Next morning we were off to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. "Run for the Roses" has been a constant in Louisville for the past 128 years. After a tour of the track and museum, lunch was at the Derby Café. If you're up to it, try a mint julep. After all this is the place that they flow like water in May each year.
Graves at Churchill Downs mark the burial spot of several horses. Did you know that only the head for intelligence, the heart for courage and the hooves for speed are buried.
No visit to Louisville is complete without a look at the Louisville Slugger Museum, whose entrance is dominated by a 120 foot high, 68,000 pound giant baseball bat. This monument marks ‘home plate' for H & B, manufacturer of baseball bats for nearly one hundred years. The museum is an excellent tribute to baseball, its greatest hits and hitters.
In a completely different tact, we left horses and baseball and went to have a look at the Falls of the Ohio. A popular past-time is searching for fossils in the rocks of the falls during low water levels. "Locust Grove" the c1790's home of the William Croghan family caught our attention. The restored estate has an important connection with Lewis and Clark, adventurers to the Pacific Northwest. It is also reputed to be haunted.
A full day's exploration demands a good meal and there is none better than Portico at Caesar's Indiana. Granted this is not a Kentucky attraction but it is part of Louisville's draw. We did not cross into Indiana to gamble. We went to see the fantastic architectural props and visuals on the river boat Casino. As Roman history afficionados, this complex was a visual eye treat. There are a variety of restaurants to choose from at Caesars Indiana. If Portico is a bit up-scale for your budget, try the incredible Villa Buffet.
Day two started early with a tour of Louisville Stoneware. Since 1905 this company has been supplying quality products. Your great grandmother may have used their crockery pickling jars or butter churn. Today the pottery offers more than 3,000 items. Try your hand at decorating a piece which will be glazed, kiln fired and sent to you.
Breakfast was an entertainment. Lynn's Paradise Café is a zany eclectic eatery where anyone can contribute to the decor. Furniture is mismatched mid-century chrome dining sets. Plastic animals inhabit tables. Salt and pepper shakers are whimsical collectors items and are swapped by patrons on a regular basis. This is allowed as long as a set is left in place of the one taken. The principal art pieces during our visit were a pair of life-sized trousers made from tea bags and a huge outside mural executed with corn cobs. You'll find the place by its funky outdoor decor. Bring an appetite. Try their Nova Scotia omelette.
The Speed Gallery attracted our attention for the quality of its art collection that includes works of Rembrandt, Picasso, de Man, Monet, Chagall and Labille-Guiard. African art, native America art, an English Renaissance room and art of the ancient world also form part of their collection. Special guest exhibitions are mounted in changing exhibits galleries. Art Sparks, a creative family exploration area can grab one's attention for several hours.
J. Graham's in the historic Cambereley Brown Hotel is a great place for breakfast, lunch or supper. The property is a c1920's hotel with gorgeous ceilings, artwork and furniture that is sympathetically maintained.
Before you leave Louisville drop into the Science Center and IMAX Theater which is creatively housed in a heritage building in Louisville's main area.
To get from Louisville to Paducah you can meander along #60 or take 31E to Bardstown then the Blue Grass and Western Parkways. Bardstown, the second oldest city in the state is advertised as the bourbon capital of the world. The community has a wonderfully preserved main street, but that was not the reason for our visit. We wanted to see "Federal Hall", the Georgian manor that inspired Stephen Foster to write "My Old Kentucky Home".
Down the road Dawson Springs, a little jewel of a community awaits discovery. Dawson Springs was once a Mecca for people who came to "take the water" One of the most enjoyable attractions today is a boat tour on the Tidewater River. Sit back, relax and ask questions of the knowledgeable guides. This understated excursion is a wonderful introduction to the flora and fauna of Kentucky as Tidewater River is a preserve of limestone cliffs, native flowers, animals and a wide variety of birds. Once the home of major league spring training games, Dawson Springs has reconstructed a great turn-of-century ball park.
A rock is a rock, isn't it? You will never look at rocks in the same light again after a visit to the Clement Mineral Collection in Marion. Thousands of Fluorite crystal specimens make up an extensive collection, envied even by the Smithsonian. Marion is also the home of Paula's China Shop. People travel from around the world, and stay on premises, to learn this exacting Victorian art. Patrons choose from a variety of classes and delicate china pieces that are imported from France, Spain and Germany.
Like all communities along the river Paducah, at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, is protected by flood walls. These necessary concrete barriers have been turned into an art gallery par excellence with a score of gorgeous murals. Vibrant downtown Paducah is embraced on its riverside by walls of colourful "person-painted" vistas of history. Find accommodation in the downtown area, park your car and enjoy a wide variety of attractions and amenities in the heritage area.
The Museum of the American Quilters Society ties beautifully into the flood wall art work with its extensive collection of colourful quilts, both new and old. People of the "sewing persuasion" take several hours to tour this state-of-the-art facility.
We dined at Whaler's Catch a stone's throw from the museum then took an evening carriage ride around Paducah's historic district, past restored buildings and the murals. What a great way to end a busy day.
Downtown Paducah is "happening place". From May through October a Saturday night "After Dinner" program of live music, dancing and entertainments is presented on the street. There are also many excellent special events and festivals held during the year.
The showpiece and center of attention in downtown Paducah is the central Market House. The c1905 building houses the Yeister Art Center, William Clark Market House Museum. One of the most innovative uses for the building is the air-conditioned Market House Theater. Check out Peppermills and Market Square Coffee Co. for a light meal or delicious pastry, baked on-premises.
Head down river from Paducah to Wickliffe Mounds strategically located the wooded bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Begun c800 A.D. possibly by the Mississippian Indians who were known as "Mound Buildings", this unique site is an ongoing research project. There is a sadness about Wickliffe, containing as it does a burial mound for more than two hundred people. Skeletons and artifacts in the burial area are not real but represent those unearthed and what was buried with them. Before your tour, be sure to take in the introductory presentation which explains more fully what you will see on the grounds.
Both the Ohio and Tennessee rivers join the Mississippi in western Kentucky so no trip down the river corridor would be complete without a visit to the high bluffs of Columbus-Belmont State Park for a view of the mighty Mississippi as it rolls on to the Gulf of Mexico.
IF YOU GO:
Louisville, KY, 40101
Louisville, KY, 40202
Elizabeth, Indiana 47117
Louisville, KY, 40208
Louisville, KY, 40204
Louisville, KY, 40204
P.O. Box 1540
Bardstown, KY, 40004-0323
Paducah, KY, 42001
Wickliffe, KY, 42087
Marion, KY, 42064
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