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Friday, August 11, 2017

Our Big Kentucky Road Trip Part 2: Louisville

After we spent the first part of our morning at Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, we drove to Louisville.  I had originally planned to spend a day or two here and to even stay the night here.  But we didn't.  We ate lunch, stayed the afternoon and then headed to our hotel just across the river from Cincinnati.  I wanted a place more centrally located between the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter so that's why we did that.  But I honestly wish we could've spent more time in Louisville!  It surprised me.

First of all, there is SO MUCH TO DO here!  The city is also a lot bigger than I originally thought.  I guess I didn't peg Kentucky as having big cities.  I mean, it seemed like we just kept driving and driving and driving.  It's just very spread out.  And it's almost like there were several major divisions or areas within the city itself.  Our destination was the "museum row" area, which is downtown by the river.  As we entered Louisville, we saw the airport and then the Cardinals' football stadium and part of the University of Louisville campus.  Churchill Downs is located in this area, too, but we didn't visit there.  I know!  But, like I said yesterday, as long as we were gone, we still just didn't have time to see everything so we narrowed it down based on what we thought our children would enjoy most.  I've no doubt Churchill Downs is a "must see" in Louisville so we'll definitely do that next time.

We finally made it downtown and found a parking place.  Then we started walking.  I was definitely impressed with downtown Louisville!  The architecture was really beautiful, it was very clean and there were flowers and trees everywhere.  It was obvious that Louisvillians are very proud of their city.  I took a picture of this sign on the lamp post, and you'll understand why in a minute.   
We were pretty hungry by this point so the first thing we did was find a place to eat.  We almost missed this place.  It was tucked away on a side street off of the main street we were walking.  Seth just so happened to look over and see it.  Mussel & Burger Bar.  Yes, indeed.
The ambiance and decor here was on point.  And when they brought my sweet tea to the table in a mason jar, I knew they would do no wrong.  And I was right!  Ordering an appetizer for a family of five is tricky.  It's sometimes hard to find something everybody likes, particularly if you want to enjoy something "different" or even "regional."  And sometimes it might not be enough to share.  We went to an Italian place awhile back that had only four mozzarella sticks on that appetizer dish.  So we didn't get that.  Because we are a family of five.  Now, this one was tricky.  Because the appetizer menu just isn't your typical appetizer fare.  Which was totally fine with me.  But not for some other folks.  Seth chose the ground beef taquitos because he thought that might be something everyone would eat.  I would've chosen something different.  But I ended up being really glad I didn't do the choosing!

These were totally not what we expected, and yet, they exceeded our expectations.  The kids were THRILLED when these mini-taco looking things arrived at our table.  And I was thrilled with how they tasted!  So, so good!  I mean, I could've made a meal out of just these.  The pickled sweet peppers on top totally made them.  I was glad Ellie didn't want her peppers because I got to eat them!
Speaking of Ellie, she was so giddy about this!  That girl has never met a taco she didn't like!
Two sisters eating two little tacos.
Now, yall know I'm not a big meat eater.  At all.  I wasn't interested in mussels.  So a burger it was.  They had a veggie burger that sounded divine.  But you know what else?  They also had a "southern belle" burger on the menu.  Here's how the menu describes it:  fried green tomatoes, remoulade sauce, pimento cheese, pretzel bun.  sweet potato fries with smoked pineapple dipping sauce.

Yes, ma'am.  SIGN ME UP.
I mean, LOOK AT THIS.  Mercy!  It's like all the yummy southern things on a bun!  Immediately after I took this picture, I deconstructed this burger and ate it with a knife and fork.  Yes, I did.  Oh, and that smoked pineapple dipping sauce on those sweet potato fries?  Well, I need to come up with my own recipe for that!
This was definitely not your ordinary burger place.  It was so. much. MORE!  Everybody enjoyed their lunch!  Oh, and just in case you're wondering . . . Seth had the CEO Burger with gruyere cheese, truffle aioli, caramelized onions, arugula and oven roasted tomatoes.

Then we walked down the street to our next stop.  I mean, see what I mean about downtown Louisville?!  There are these lovely little sitting nooks on almost every corner. 
And then we arrived!  The Louisville Slugger Museum!  Is this not the coolest?  Too bad my picture taking skills are so mediocre.  I tried to get a shot of the entire length of the bat, but instead of making my people continue standing there while I went across the street to try it, I just gave up.  The bat is 120-feet tall and an exact replica of Babe Ruth's slugger.
We've been to a lot of museums, many of them top notch.  This one?  Well, it definitely ranks at the top of the top!  I mean, this is probably the best of the best.  It was so well done, and everyone enjoyed it.  Even my girls who aren't interested in baseball at all.
The first thing we did was take a factory tour.  You aren't allowed to use your camera during the tour so this is the last one I took before we actually entered the factory.  It really was a fascinating process and so neat to watch the bats being made.  Each year, 40,000 trees are used to make these bats but only 10% of the logs are of good enough quality to craft a major league bat!  But, no worries.  They don't go tromping through the forest cutting down all of these trees.  Most of them have already fallen.
After the tour, we explored all of the exhibits.  This museum was very interactive.  Here you can pitch the ball, and it records the speed of your pitch.  Mason's highest speed was around 45 MPH or so, if I remember correctly.


And, of course, the great Mickey Mantle.  There were so many great visuals and opportunities for picture taking.
Of course, he had to have a picture here.  So close this year!
Behind Mason is one of my favorite parts of the museum.  It's a simulation of a 95 MPH fast ball being pitched at you.  So you stand at the plate (obviously it's behind a net), and you watch the screen as the pitcher winds up.  And then he throws the ball, and the ball actually shoots out from the wall and comes straight at you.  Let's just say I'd never want to be standing across from the pitcher's mound WITHOUT a net in between me and there! It was rather intense.

Speaking of stunning displays and interactive opportunities, this is another really neat one.  You can choose a bat, one that was really used in a game by the players, and have your picture taken with it.
Mason chose Jeff Bagwell because he was an Astro, and that's Mason's favorite team.  He's one of the ones I remember very well.  I used to watch a lot of Braves games back in the day.
And then he chose Derek Jeter's bat.  I'm not sure why?  But I guess most boys these days probably would.
You can sit on a bench in the "dug out."  Oh, and those little mini bats?  Those are "free" to everyone who tours the factory.
I can't believe I didn't get a picture of it, but Mason did purchase the real deal Louisville Slugger from the gift shop.  It's not something he'll be using during a game though.  We've already "put it up."  And on the way out we got one more picture.
So remember the very first picture in this post, the one with the light post?  If you read the banner, it says, "Home of the hot brown."  Y'all, there was absolutely no way I was coming to Louisville without eating a hot brown at The Brown Hotel!  I blame that on my mother.  You see, she has subscribed to Southern Living magazine for as long as I can remember.  Years and years and years.  And, of course, I do, too.  So the one thing I've always associated with Kentucky from a culinary standpoint is the hot brown.  You can find it at a lot of the restaurants and cafes across Kentucky.  But I wanted the original.  I've no idea how many time The Brown has been featured in Southern Living.  But they can thank that magazine for our patronage that day!
There are several restaurants in the hotel, but we decided to eat in the lobby bar area.  I mean, we'd just not too long ago eaten those humongous burgers.  But, again, we weren't staying in Louisville and needed to head north so I told Seth we just HAD to.  Isn't the lobby gorgeous?!
And this is the infamous hot brown!  This is actually HALF of the hot brown!  I ordered one and explained to our waiter that Seth and I were going to share it.  He was kind enough to halve the order for us before it even came to our table.  So what is a hot brown?  It's a thick slab of Texas toast topped with thickly sliced turkey breast, bacon and tomatoes, all slathered in a rich Mornay sauce.   
When we sat down at our table, Mason whispered to me that he really didn't think we should be here.  White table clothes, elegant stemware and flatware, rich draperies and fabrics everywhere.  It really was a grand place, particularly through the eyes of the children.  I told him it would be just fine but that it was also important to use very good manners.

We had so much great conversation and good laughter around this table!  I mean, we eat together, even if it's just the kids and me, at the table every single day for breakfast, lunch and supper.  We have lots of conversation at our own table at home.  But I found myself thinking that the conversation here was different, so carefree, so unencumbered by the work of the day and other responsibilities.  It was a sweet time. 
Now.  Since we'd eaten not too long ago, nobody was really hungry.  But, we're always in the mood for ice cream!  So the kids ordered ice cream.  But when they brought it out, it was definitely not your ordinary ice cream.  It was fancy ice cream!  Everybody was excited!


And here's the other half of my hot brown.  I'm telling you, the thing is HUGE and definitely enough for two people to share, even if you're hungry!
And there was one more thing I just HAD to order.  Derby Pie!  Me, oh, my was this thing ever delicious!  Unfortunately, we had to share it amongst the five of us.  Because I really wanted to eat the whole thing all by myself.
And that was our afternoon in Louisville.  I really wish we could've stayed longer and explored the city more.  But we headed up towards Cincinnati where we stayed in a hotel for the night.  I really think this particular day at Abe Lincoln's memorial and in Louisville was one of my favorite during our trip.  But, there's still more!  The next day we visited the Creation Museum.

One more thing.  Remember yesterday when I was talking about our little hike in Mammoth Cave National Park and Seth's comment to Hannah Kate during her little melt down?  He told her that sometimes it "feels good to hurt," meaning the kind of hurt after a strenuous workout.  I told you to remember that.

What I didn't mention was Seth's near face plant on the way up the 56 steps to Abraham Lincoln's birthplace memorial earlier in the day.  Our tour guide had already given everyone strict instructions about not running up those stairs because she didn't want anyone to trip and fall and get hurt.  We had to remind the children several times during those 56 steps.  Seth goes bee-bopping on up to the top, and he's the one who gets tripped up and nearly hits the concrete.  He blamed it on the flip flops.

So while we were sitting at the beautiful Brown Hotel enjoying our hot brown, ice cream and derby pie, Seth remarks, "My big toe is sore."  I have to say that Seth has had all sorts of ailments with his toes lately!  So I asked him why his toe was sore.  I'd forgotten about the incident that morning.  He's all like, "Well, don't you remember I stubbed my toe this morning on those steps?"  No, I didn't realize you stubbed your toe.  

And then Hannah Kate, all sweetly and innocently and very seriously looks at her daddy and comments, "Why, dad, sometimes it feels good to hurt a little bit.  That's what you told me yesterday."

I. died. 
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