Louisville, Kentucky Part 1

Colonialism in the 21st century is still very relevant, and present here in the United States. Though today it may not be to the severe degree of a hostile takeover of a small village, for example, we still show signs of colonialism through our participation in and encouragement of being tourists. I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a town that I would not consider to be a “tourist destination.” Tucson, Arizona is surrounded in natural beauty and rich in food and culture, but our triple degree summers keep the tourists away most of the year. It has a charming hybrid feeling of being a big city and a small town at the same time. And when we do come across tourists, we greet them with enthusiasm and excitement (at least I do). Usually I begin a conversation with a tourist with, “Have you tried a Sonoran hot dog yet?!”

Louisville, Kentucky struck me with the same charm. Though it’s obviously a big city, it had an adorably welcoming appeal to it from the locals who were eager to share their ways with my friend and me. On my first evening in Louisville, I went to the Troll Pub Under the Bridge (because I’m a nerd and appreciate mythological creature references and yes, the restaurant was actually under a bridge).

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The server came up to our table.

Me: Um… I’m just going to tell you now. We’re not from here.

Server: (smiles) That’s okay!

Me: Okay then. So… how big is a “hot brown”?

Server: It’s actually a pretty good-sized serving.

Me: (gestures to my friend) So the two of us could probably split it?

Server: Definitely.

Me: Great. We’ll take a hot brown. Next question, how do we order bourbon without sounding like we’re tourists?

By the time we finished our sinfully delicious hot brown, and our bourbon mixed drinks (OMG they put bourbon in their Bloody Marys instead of vodka, it’s appropriately called a Bloody Derby), the server returned to our table and explained that since we were visiting we should participate in the “Urban Bourbon Tour.” He then gave us each an “Urban Bourbon Tour Passport” which we were to get stamped at participating restaurants. 6 stamps = free t-shirt. Challenge accepted.

Because locals don’t seem to participate in the “Urban Bourbon Tour” each time we asked for a stamp in our passports we really were branding ourselves with great big signs across our foreheads that said, “WE’RE NOT FROM HERE!”

“So, where are you from?” we were asked countless times. We’d explain we were from Arizona. “What brings you to Kentucky?” My friend and I would give each other a glance that asked, “Do you want to tell them or should I?”

Me: We are on a quest- to visit all 50 states.

Kentuckian: Oh so Kentucky is your last one then?

Me: Well… I still have 30 states after this.

Kentuckian: Really? So you picked Kentucky before 30 other states?

We had this conversation over and over again throughout the weekend. Why was this so surprising to them? Tourists? On a weekend other than the Derby? With no other motives besides just wanting to visit? For fun? How can it be?

My experiences and conversations with the locals of Louisville moved beyond colonialism. Rather than feeling like we were the “other,” the locals made us feel like we belonged there. They begged to tell us about Louisville’s history and gave us suggestions on what we should do and see. They are so proud of their local culture and were more than happy to share it with us, which really made this trip so memorable.

So, besides conversing with locals, eating a hot brown, and delving into a little Kentucky bourbon, what else did we do over a holiday weekend in Louisville? Stay tuned for Louisville, Kentucky Part 2 coming soon!

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6 thoughts on “Louisville, Kentucky Part 1

  1. Mariah,

    I just love your blogs. I feel like a pompous ass because I think I referenced Kentucky as a place not really having any desire to visit other than to also say I’ve been there. I want to visit all 50 states as well…you sure have a lot on me! I have only been to…nine. New York will barely be my tenth 🙂 Trips to all the states could even just be a weekend getaway – they don’t have to be a week-long vacation. I don’t know much about Kentucky but your post gave me interest to visit. I may just steal your idea 😉 By the way – what IS a hot big/hot brown? Never heard of it but from your picture it looks delicious.

    In November on my way home from Minneapolis, I was eavesdropping on a conversation from passengers next to me in line waiting to board the plane (I know eavesdropping is rude but when I travel I always wonder where people are going/coming from. I always imagine they have these amazing travelling stories). A mom and her teen daughter were talking with a man on business. They struck up the usual “what are you traveling to Phoenix for?” conversation. The man was returning home from a business trip, and the woman and her daughter were visiting friends on a four-day vacation. I thought, like your server, “Who on earth would consider visiting Phoenix for ‘vacation?'” It’s so funny because they probably would have thought the same of me as I sulked in line having to leave beautiful Minnesota in the fall to return to the brown, boring desert (I also heard them say they love Phoenix and are tired of the cold – I’m the opposite). The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I always wonder what it’s like being a tourist to Phoenix. I wonder if I had grown up in a place like Minneapolis, would I would fall in love with Arizona the way people who aren’t from here do? Even as a native Arizonan, I enjoy it for certain reasons but often feel trapped and want to be anywhere but.

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    1. Hi @steppiekins! Stephanie- a hot brown is an open faced turkey sandwich on Texas toast. It’s smothered in cheese and baked in a skillet. Total southern comfort and is so delicious!

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  2. Hi Mariah,
    Your stylistic writing choices are wonderful and definitely catch me as a reader. I love the mixture between your writing – some narrative blended nicely with some academic references along the way + fitting pictures to complement the writing. I like that this entry focuses on Lousiville, Kentucky as it is a place that is unchartered for me, so I like to read more about it and when you take the blog and start talking about food, I am all ears. The use of dialogue between you and the food server and then you and the Kentuckian is a refreshing format. Lastly, your title “Louisville, Kentucky Part 1” is very fitting for the piece – not too original but fitting nonetheless. Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep on writing because I want to read again.

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  3. Hi Mariah,

    How fun! A troll-under-the-bridge restaurant sounds like my idea of a great place. And I don’t know what the hot brown is, but I can see that I would eat it and be happy 🙂 This is a great post for the sense of place and the contrast between how we react when visited and when visiting.

    I was lucky enough to drive through Kentucky a few times; it is absolutely beautiful. It’s nice to hear that the people there are nice, too.

    The only suggestion I have is that you could tie in the readings a bit more.

    – Claire

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  4. Part one has my interest. The pictures add a lot, as does the dialogue. But your voice is the star. You’re engaging, and your enthusiasm for travel comes across in your prose.

    I have driven through Louisville a few times (and gotten lost once while trying to find my way back to the interstate) and I’ve applied to teach at a private school there (got a very sincere “go to hell” letter). I’m glad to hear that the city has a hospitable vibe. I also like that you compared it to your home, Tucson–a city I have visited a few times and enjoyed.

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  5. Mariah,

    Great post! The vivid imagery you presented made me feel as if I was actually in London at a restaurant “under the bridge” having a glass of bourbon. One of my friends spent some time in Kentucky for work, and initially he loved it, but he came back because he was homesick. He said everyone there was very hospitable and friendly.

    Great imagery, I look forward to seeing further posts from you

    Steven

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