Leave it to me to write a (sort of) travel blog from a trip I took two years ago. I’m a slow mover, I am, and I see no problem with it, by gum. Think of this post as a too-short aged bourbon. Maybe I should have waited six, seven years…like my always forthcoming China book. Daaaaang, you just got served, Jill.———————
About two years ago, I was at the Museum of the American Cocktail here in New Orleans (which I highly recommend if you’re visiting). I picked up a copy of Imbibe magazine that was dedicated to the best places to drink in the South (this included cocktails AND coffee, so I had to). I discovered there was an entire festival dedicated to bourbon (of course there is. this should not be surprising.) I decided that this would be my trip for the year, before I quit a job that afforded me travel time, money to do so, and a little bit of paid time off. My last solo hurrah (I love a good solo hurrah), if you will. So, come September way back in 2011, I boarded ye olde Southwest air bus and (eventually) made it to Louisville where I picked up my car and checked in at the Seelbach.
A word about the Seelbach: This is a beautiful old hotel in downtown Louisville that has been absorbed by the monster that is Hilton Hotels & Resorts. While I appreciate that the building has retained most of its charm, F. Scott Fitzgeraldyness, ghosts, and grandeur, I do not appreciate paying $200+ a night to stay in a tiny room where they charge for internet. I stayed at the Seelbach one night and then jumped ship for the Ramada (further from the center of town, but internet is free. it was the principal of the thing.) If you go to Louisville, definitely stop by the hotel though, if only to visit The Old Seelbach bar.
The next morning, me and Mr. Crab got up, lazed around a bit, and headed out to explore. I had no real plans other than getting some coffee first, then wandering around the city. My trusty Imbibe magazine told me to head to Quills in the Highlands area of Louisville, an area filled with bars, shops, and other things the kids are into. Though the shop was definitely “hip” (and I know that word is played out and some of you hate it, but it was pert dang hip), I didn’t feel unwelcome or judged. Coffee was above average (on the non-chain specialty scale) and the pastry was right there with it. I spent probably an hour there on my laptop since this was before I had my smart phone. I would recommend Quills due to the simple fact that it was relaxed and had good coffee. You really can’t (and probably shouldn’t) expect more than that from any beverage provider.
A clean, well-lighted place.After that, I just drove down Baxter Ave, which turns into Bardstown Rd. I was looking for a bookstore. I had no idea if there was a bookstore down that way and forgot to look it up, but LO AND BEHOLD, books. Weird. A+ for that, Louisville.
Armed with a map and a couple “things to do” books, I went back to the Seelbach to re-group. And by re-group, I mean drink.
So, that is the The Old Seelbach Bar’s bourbon selection. Yeah, I know. Being pretty green in the world of bourbon (I liked Maker’s, a lot, I knew that), I gave up and just asked the bartender for recommendations. That’s when he gave me the manna from heaven that is Van Winkle (12 year). I was in love, and forevermore on a quest. In my little notebook, I merely wrote, “Van Winkle 12yr – smooooooth” with about five stars after it. Only one other bourbon came close to the warm happiness that came over me at that moment (more on that one later). Of course, little did I know at the time that this magical elixir was so hard to find and purchase (and that I would come to revere and love it even more for that). NO MATTER! I was sitting at a bar that F. Scott Fitzgerald might have visited, with days to spare and no one to answer to but a blue plastic crab. I was one happy Pappy (AHA! See what I did there.)
After some weird Kentucky bar food (I won’t even go into it) and a bourbon, I decided to walk around downtown a bit. There is a decidedly Midwest air to the city. I felt like I was back in Topeka a few times, a Topeka that didn’t let its downtown die and a Louisville that used its river as a feature rather than an afterthought. Of course, living with the Mississippi in your backyard, does make the Ohio elicit a rather, “Huh.” response, but there you go. Nothing much to report other than White Castle isn’t as good as I remember it and Louisville seems pretty proud of the past, but more so about the corporate present.
For dinner that evening, I went to 732 Social (also recommended by Imbibe). I would link that, but the restaurant actually no longer exists, which is a shame, because I had a fabulous meal and bourbon cocktail there. It was part of the whole Urban Bourbon Trail, however, and I applaud this marketing effort. I did not get my passport stamped at any of the locations however, so no t-shirt for me.
And thus ends days 1 and a half. I know, I know, try and be patient for this rip-roaring tale of solo hurrah!