Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Onward to Lovely Louisville

We planned to pick up our rental car and visit Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Art Museum before exiting Nashville, but we hit a few snags. Despite calling my credit card company in advance to notify them of our travel plans, my credit card was declined. Then my phone lit up with a fraud alert from my credit card company. Standing at the car rental desk, I called the credit card company and said aloud all sorts of passwords and private information for anyone in earshot to hear. The nice lady at the fraud alert center told us to try the card again. The very patient lady at the car rental desk tried the card again. Still declined. After a brief hold, the nice lady at the fraud alert center told us to try the card again. The very patient lady at the car rental desk tried the card again. Still declined. Then the car rental system shut my credit card out for 48 hours after the third decline. Then we tried my debit card. New verse, repeat the chorus, fraud alert, declined. Finally we put the transaction on one of Chad's business credit cards with no problem, but with an hour and a half lost from our schedule.

While still in Nashville I looked forward to seeing the Jaume Plensa outdoor sculptures and installations at Cheekwood after seeing a few of his works at the Frist. I regret that we didn't regroup/calm ourselves after ninety minutes of wrangling fraud alerts and go to Cheekwood as planned. Our nerves were frazzled and we were ready to be on our way to Louisville, thinking we wanted to avoid rush hour with the three hour trip ahead. Little did we know that there was way more nerve-frazzling to endure on I-65. 

Chad's friend, Ed, forewarned us of the speed traps along I-65, but he didn't have the psychic abilities to warn us about all of the construction and abrupt lane closures along I-65 North. At one point in the construction chaos, I-65 reduced from three lanes to two lanes, then the two lanes split for about ten miles divided by concrete barriers with no shoulders. Posted speed limits dropped to 45 miles per hour in the constructions zones which meant most locals drove about 70 miles per hour. I did the white-knuckled driving in our rented crossover vehicle (a.k.a. less convenient mini-van). I did speed and broke the posted speed limit, but I swear it was just so we didn't get run over, rammed or have shots fired at the vehicle. I also got to witness my first ever eighteen-wheeler tire blowout! A giant tire flew through the air and bounced along the roadway before snapping into a long, angry flopping serpent. I steered off to the shoulder, which thankfully reappeared for a few miles amidst the construction. The car behind me also steered to the shoulder, then whipped around our car after passing the flying steel belted radial projectile. I barely slowed, much less stopped, and got right back onto the road too, because the shoulder ended again and the concrete barriers were back. I hate I-65 North. I made Chad do the rest of the driving in and around Louisville. 

Our first stop in Louisville was Whole Foods Market. We needed some healthy salads real bad. When traveling, I find that most restaurants regard making healthy salads either too challenging or too unpopular. I love Whole Foods salad bar in almost any city. We sat in Whole Foods at a booth and ate our salads, chugging water, waiting for my blood pressure to drop back to normal after the harrowing drive. 

Chad drove to our hotel in downtown Louisville, 21c museum hotel. Wow! What an amazing concept! There was art everywhere, including red plastic penguin sculptures that migrated around the interior and exterior of the hotel, a three-story-tall gilded copy of Michelangelo's David sculpture out front, light bulb panels with infinity mirrors in the elevator, a mini smoke ring garden in a courtyard, paintings, photos, installations and even original cut paper art in our room! It took us two separate explorations just to see all of the massive exhibit spaces at 21c museum hotel. A channel on the hotel TVs shows short art programs. Our king-size deluxe room was spacious, comfortable and well-appointed with free WiFi. This place is definitely in my top five of hotels I've stayed in worldwide. My one complaint: the tiny refrigerator in our room was full of mini-bar items. I need somewhere to stash my own drinks and the inevitable leftovers from huge restaurant portions. I don't want the overpriced mini-bar mess.

lovely artwork & requisite mint julep cups in our Louisville 21c hotel room

After getting settled in our room, we walked around downtown and saw so many museums, arts facilities and sports arenas! We watched the sun set over the Ohio River at the Louisville Waterfront Park, complete with steamboats on the near horizon. Then we wandered through the pretty East Plaza fountains and water features. On the West Plaza lawn of The Kentucky Center we stumbled upon an outdoor showing of the movie "The Princess Bride" to a crowd of maybe 100 people on a Friday night. I marveled at the charmingly manageable lack of congestion all over downtown Louisville. (When outdoor movies are shown in Austin on the lawn of The Long Center on Wednesday nights, there are usually thousands of people vying for space. Yes, there is a running theme that I am weary of the crowds in Austin.)

Repeal by Aaron Wheeler, part of Gallopalooza in Louisville, KY

We spotted several Gallopalooza sculptures while exploring Louisville. Gallopalooza horse, horse on bourbon barrel and mint julep sculptures are customized by local artists and appear throughout the Louisville area as a way to bolster local artists and improve tourism in the area. (Austin did a version of this several years ago with big guitar statues, many of which can now be seen at baggage claim carousel 3 in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.)

big guitar art in Austin airport

Our first night in Louisville we dined at the 21c hotel restaurant, Proof on Main. Disclaimer: I'm no foodie. The restaurant was expensive, but overall delicious with inventive dishes. Our patient server helped me find vegetarian options. My advice: skip the oily "blistered green beans" side dish. For dessert Chad and I loved the "chocolate goo cake". The mixed drinks were fantastic. One of the restaurant managers visited our table and made recommendations for other places to visit in Louisville. We actually went to two of the four recommended places and loved both. (More on that later.)

After dinner we took the elevator up to our room. No designated driver or taxi needed. 

Check back soon for tales from "The Bourbon Trail". Be advised: I do not like bourbon, but Chad does.