Sunday 5 May 2013

Mammoth Caves National Park

On our way back to Nashville from Louisville, we stopped by the Mammoth Caves to see what else, but the the mammoth-sized caves!

Mammoth Caves National Park is over 400 miles long and is the world's longest cave system.  Taking a cave tour will lead you 200 feet below the Earth where you'll find miles of stalagmites and stalactites and waterfalls during rains. Apart of the Green River in south central Kentucky and established in 1941 as a national park, Mammoth was definitely a highlight of the Kentucky Derby trip! Who knew?

Taking the New Entrance Tour at Mammoth Caves - gorgeous!

Saturday 4 May 2013

Kentucky Derby Tips and Hats!

Though the 139th Kentucky Derby was one of the rainiest in history, the experience was worth the good time as it was one of those must-do-once-in-your-lifetime-opportunities, such as attending Mardi Gras or celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square.

Here are the top 7 ways we prepared for and experienced the Derby:

1) Make hats

Fashion is not as important to any sporting event as it is to the Kentucky Derby.  When it comes to hats, the bigger, the better.  Making a hat is truly the way to go for the creative ones out there!

The before shot of my Derby hat vs. the after!

Some fabulous hat sightings of the Derby.  If your head tilts though, doesn't that mean the hat is too big?

2) CouchSurf

Hotels are way too expensive during this weekend.  We flew into Nashville, rented a car for the 3-hour drive into Louisville, and CouchSurfed with a friendly masseuist.  She also greeted us with home-baked goods for the weekend.  Total cost per person of flight, travel, and accomodations from Boston to Louisville for the weekend? Just $323 for one of the most expensive weekends in the country!
3) Bring a raincoat

This one caught us by surprise!  It usually rains a bit every year, but this year it was pouring.  You can be chic (like Evie) or overly-prepared (like me), but it is a good idea to have something weather-proof as wearing plastic ponchos are no fun.

Beautiful hats and beautiful dresses? Maybe under that plastic poncho...

Clearly the Ghostsbusters costume is the best rain coat of them all!

4) Eat a turkey leg

$12 for the best goodness and deliciousness you've had in your life.

I was more than happy for the turkey leg and mint julep

5) Drink a mint julep for $12 each

You get to keep the glass cups as souvenirs (which are usually $6 a pop).  Worth it as every year, the cups change and the drink is a Derby staple.

6) Bet on the horses

Though this seems like a no-brainer, it can be too easy to get caught in the infield enjoying the sights and sounds of everything.  Though I bet $5 for our CouchSuring host for Overanalyze to win it all, you can also make "across-the-board" bets (meaning a horse will place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) which I did for Charming Kitten on behalf of another friend.  Though neither horse placed, it's a rush to cheer for your horse during the "greatest two minutes in history."

Horse sighting is exciting (and rare) from the infield!

7) Use the shuttles or reserve a taxi

Thousands of people trying to leave at the same time makes getting home difficult.  We walked for a good thirty minutes before finding a taxi, but using the shuttles to get to your car would have costed just $10.  We made a rookie mistake.

Overall, glad we did the Derby and glad to have checked it off the bucket list!

Friday 3 May 2013

Diamond Caverns and a Nice Welcome into Louisville

Kentucky Derby here we come!  With a 5:15am departure from the house, Evie Goryshina and I had a long day of travel ahead of us.  Since flying from Boston directly to Louisville would have costed $500+ for the weekend of the Derby, we decided to fly into Nashville and make the 3-hour drive for only $273.  With Evie scoring a weekend rental with Hertz for only $70, it was well worth it!

Upon entering the Hertz car, we blasted country music as we headed to the nearest McDonald's for EggMcMuffins (this truly was going to be a southern roadtrip!).  As Evie had to take a work phone during a pitstop (she's a lawyer), I found a brochure for the Diamond Caverns, half-mile caves that are 70 feet below the Earth, just a few miles away. We had to stop by and see the thousands of formations decorating chambers!

Diamond Caverns, 70m below the Earth!

Some more pit stops came about at Donna Sharp's House of Quilts (I am a sucker for billboard ads) and Sonic's for hot dogs and fries.

Stitched and quilted fabrics from Donna Sharp's House of Quilts - gorgeous!

Upon arrival in Louisville, our CouchSurfing host, Amelia, had prepared Derby Pie and lemon poppy cookies for our weekend before we did a quick driving tour of the city. We headed to Mark's Feed Store arguably the best BBQ in Louisville.

Surprisingly, the sides (baked apple, sweet potato fries, and chicken pasta salad) were better than the main courses (brisket)! I also have fried pickles for the first time - not too shabby!

The green-ness of Louisville!

Happily eating BBQ at Mark's Feed Store 

 Amelia soon took us contra-dancing (think square dancing, but more energetic and a workout!) at a local church venue. Though Evie swears she hates dancing, I saw a smile on her face! 

Evie claims she hates dancing - I beg to differ!

The night ended with a quick stop to 21c voted #1 hotel in the South by Conde Nast Traveler.  The 21c Museum is North America’s first museum dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting the art of the 21st century.  Very fancy I must say!

The 21c Museum

Good welcome into Louisville - looking forward to the Derby tomorrow!