Off To The Races Pt. 2

Friday, February 28, 2014
Now for the next round of photos, which were captured outdoors where all the Kentucky Derby fun takes place. If only we had had fancy hats on and a mint julep in hand, we could have pretended the real deal was going on. 

Want to guess how tall Pat Day is?? I'll give you a hint, he stood just under five feet. (4'11"). And this statue of him stands at an even five inch to grow on, right?!

Above and below are the stalls the jockeys and their horses line up in right before the race begins. Typically, about 12 horses are allowed to race, but in the Kentucky Derby 20 horses compete for the title. 

Around the premises there are signs with the winning horse of every Kentucky Derby. In the case of Secretariat and several other horses, their signs are designated with gold coloring and a crown meaning they are Triple Crown winners, having won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. This is a huge honor and is a rarity. The last triple crown winner was in 1978. Maybe this year, that streak will be broken!

Churchill Downs is known around the world for its twin spires, symbolizing "the greatest two minutes in sports" (see below too). They were constructed in 1895, making them 119 years old. 

This is where the jockey's ride the horses in as the band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home", accompanied by the singing crowd. The walkway you see is made of from rubber tires to be a soft surface for the horses to walk on.

This is the winner's circle where the horse is adorned with the garland of red roses and the trophy is awarded.

This here is Millionaires Row, and an exclusive seat here is only offered by invitation and brings a whopping cost of $12,000 - $15,000. I think it's safe to say that I'll never sit there. However, the Queen of England did enjoy the Kentucky Derby from there in 2007.

Meet Puddin', the horse that lives on the grounds at Churchill Downs. He was quite the entertainer and loved having his picture taken. Such a ham. In the spring the other horse will return to the stables at Churchill Downs where they live until the winter months come around.

And Winston, we surely can't forget about this little guy who is 20 years old. Wouldn't have guessed that age, would you? If you ever get a chance to visit Louisville, Kentucky visit Churchill Downs. You won't regret it!

Off To The Races Pt. 1

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Churchill Downs was a must-see for me while we were in Kentucky last week. No, I've never been a horse person. In fact, I'm allergic to horses and learned that the hard way while on an hour trail ride through the woods. Let's just say my sister's question, "Were you hit in the face by a branch?" after we dismantled should best describe what my surprise allergic reaction looked like (puffy, red, watering eyes, a red, sneezing nose, etc). But, back to my desire to visit the place for horse races.

My grandparents raced horses, and while I wasn't around during that season of their life, I knew being at Churchill Downs would create a connection for me, at least I hoped it would. And that it did; I could see and take in the sights that they most likely experienced during their years involved in the sport. For me what I was most hoping to get out of the visit came to fruition and I walked away with an understanding  and respect for their love of the sport. 

There are the hats too. I kind of love fancy, playful hats. And I have a hankering to make it to a horse race at some point in my life, if only to wear one of the extravagant hats in a place where it is acceptable. 

Then there's the rich history. Churchill Downs has hosted the longest, consecutive sporting event in the world. That beats out the Olympics, ya'll. Since the first Kentucky Derby, 140 total this May, the race has never not been held, even through war and bad weather. Pretty, remarkable. As we toured the facility, I could feel the spirit of excitement that emanates in this place. You can easily imagine the thrill of raising and training a horse for three years until their chance of a glorious victory at the one and only Kentucky Derby. We were fortunate to watch a short movie at the end of the tour that depicted the life of a derby talk about getting chills. 

The Derby Museum, where we spent most of our time, was really well executed to give the museum-goer a real sense of what the Kentucky Derby is about. There was everything from hats to jockey uniforms all the way to horseshoes, a mock derby game (I beat Pete), and pretend betting (I beat Pete again, it was my lucky day). We had a lot of fun soaking in all the exhibits and getting into the derby spirit!

Part two of our Churchill Downs experience is coming tomorrow, and that will capture the beauty of the grand stands and the track. Be on the lookout!

Louisville Slugger

Monday, February 24, 2014
Outside of eating super well in Louisville (see here), we also got a chance to explore the area and check out landmarks, like the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and Churchill Downs. Today I'm sharing our time at the first of those two, the home of the Louisville Slugger. 

Husband and I turned into tourists on a Wednesday morning and explored downtown Louisville, stopping first to check out some pretty extraordinary baseball bats. We got to hang out with baseball greats like Babe Ruth (his wax figurine), trace our fingers over the signatures of baseball's finest, and my favorite, tour the factory. It's not enough to say that we were thoroughly impressed with the method/steps that go into making the official bat of Major League Baseball. The entire process, which starts in the forests of Pennsylvania, is really cool (for a lack of a better word). The precision machines whittle away at a wood cylinder and transform it into a baseball bat that goes on to make home-runs in the MLB. And if you're looking for a bat that's truly handmade, then there's a guy there that does that too with incredible technique and an eye for detail. The craftsmanship is out of this world and so much of the process, although done by machine, is meticulously inspected and stamped/branded by people. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos of the factory and the bats being made, so I recommend if you're every in Louisville that you visit this place. 

I could ramble on and on about our visit because it was just that fascinating, but I think I'll let the pictures share some of our memories instead!

^^The world's largest baseball bat sits outside of the museum/factory and leans against its neighboring building. This bat was a monster!^^

^^Husband is such a fun sport and the camera loves him.^^

Our time in the museum was well spent and we soaked up a lot of knowledge about how a bat is made. I think husband is now pining over the lathes used and wishing he could get his hands on one. At least we walked away with little momentos, two tiny baseball bats that the museum gifted each of us at the close of our tour. You can see husband kissing it in an above photo. And now, I'm craving summertime and a baseball game! Take me out to the ballgame...

Eating Well In Louisville

Thursday, February 20, 2014
Louisville has been a ton of fun. But, before I get into all our adventures, I have to start with the pronunciation of our current location, which I have been learning while here. It's not LOO-ee-vil, like all those outside of the state tend to pronounce it (me included). No, indeed it is pronounced LOO-ih-vuhl with some southern charm. And I think we've gotten the hang of it during our visit, and now sound like we've lived here always (okay, not quite, but we can pretend).

Now on to what this post is all about, our sustenance for the week. Husband and I have undoubtedly eaten well during our time in Kentucky. So much so that it's going to be the biggest thing I miss about being here (seriously, it's that good!). Lucky for us, we have an insider pointing us in all the right directions for the best spots to grab a bite. Our family friend, who lives in Louisville with his wife, gave us the heads up for some must-visit restaurants and we can't be more thankful for his insight. You know how it is, there are the touristy places that stand out, but it's always the small dives and less known places that are usually the greatest. Yay for knowing the best kept secrets!

We've done more than eat for the past three days, don't worry. But, that post is for later. And right now it's all about some food. Which, for us started at Mussel & Burger Bar (or here) for lunch. And my word, was it a tasty lunch of the most unique, and mouth-watering burgers. Secretly, I loved husband's BBB burger; it was like an entire breakfast in one bite of your burger and that's just incredible. And the sweet and spicy calamari was out of this world delicious! The atmosphere was a favorite of mine that included chalkboards, paper table "cloths", and mason jars for beverages (yes!). It was very much a fancy casual, very much my kind design. So between the food and the vibe I'm thinking we need to go back. Hmm we do have the rest of today and tomorrow left...

Quills Coffee was our next stop. This quaint little coffee shop kept us cozy and warm from the torrential rain on Monday. We spent a little over two hours in the nook of the coffee shop; Husband and our family friend chatted about work, while I blogged and got my own business taken care of. My favorite part of this particular place, you may ask? It was the foam art that the extremely talented barista so carefully created atop my hazelnut, caramel latte. I hated to drink it away, but I sure wasn't going to not enjoy a fresh cup of fancy joe. 

Tuesday was a combination of pizza and sushi. Husband and I split a white pizza for lunch; if you haven't ever tried one, I completely recommend it. And to drink...a peach frozen lemonade (phenomenal), because there's just something wonderful about a frozen beverage to pair with a steaming hot pizza slice.
By Tuesday night, we still hadn't faded on our excitement for new food selections and eating out. So sushi it was at Oishii Sushi. Oh my word, it was amazing and super fresh. Husband and I have had a hard time finding great sushi lately, but this dinner ended that streak. The best way I can describe it, was to say that it was like eating sushi silk. That's how smooth and fresh it was. I'm telling you, I could rave for days about this place and the quality of their food.

And just when we thought the food couldn't get better, Wednesday came around and Wild Eggs was on the agenda for a late breakfast.I think the pictures say it all. I'm trying to talk husband into going tomorrow morning. So unless Einstein Bros Bagels win out, maybe just maybe we'll make our second visit in the a.m. Anyone out there have thought's on Einstein's...we've never been and we're curious if it's something we should discover.

For dinner we wound up at the Old Spaghetti Factory, which was all about the ambiance. The building was adorned with stain glass and featured an old world charm. Eating dinner in a transformed trolley was the highlight of dinner for me. (no pictures of the beautiful architecture, unfortunately)

Simple is good too, and that's how we decided what to do for lunch today. At the North End Cafe, we felt relaxed surrouned by exposed brick and light-filled windows. Our meals were easy, a cobb salad for me and another hamburger for husband (he was just getting his fill). We've got dinner tonight and three meals left tomorrow until we head back to sweet Virginia. I wonder what else our taste buds will be enjoying for the rest of our trip?! If you have any suggestions, please share and leave a comment below!