We flew to St. Louis and reminded ourselves why we haven’t done much flying on this trip. Everything went pretty much to plan but as always with flying you spend so much time waiting around that you lose pretty much a whole day no matter how short the flight. We did meet a lovely couple from Nashville though (Derrick and Jamie) in the queue to check-in. We exchanged numbers and hope to meet up down the track as we plan to be in Nashville within a week or so.
We got in late to St. Louis and so didn’t see too much the first night but awoke on Memorial Day keen to explore. On first impressions it seems as though everyone has left the city for the weekend, that is except for the cafe we had planned to go to (Roosters, all things eggs). After 40 minutes we got our table and had some scrambled eggs with various accompaniments. There was a big baseball game on today between the Cardinals and Yankees which a lot of people seemed dressed for. After breakfast we wandered down to the Gateway Arch, a massive structure rising 630 feet above the ground besides the Mississippi and which you can ride in with a viewing platform at the top. This, along with our cafe, proved to be popular and deterred by the line for the ride we had a look around the museum instead. The museum is housed underground beneath the Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and details events in American history from the times of early Native American relationships through to 1900. There is a particularly interesting piece about the peace medals handed to native tribes in lieu of treaties and also a detailed timeline from 1800 to 1900 on American history. It helped to fill in a few gaps in our knowledge.
We had word of a Rib-Fest taking place downtown so of course we had to take a look. There were basically three stalls to buy your ribs from here, all award winners but I opted for the Chicago BBQ team and was not disappointed, they were delicious. There weren’t many people around, it was raining on and off which most likely put people off eating ribs in the open air.
Trying to find somewhere in St. Louis to have dinner and a bit of buzz I went out to explore Laclede Landing, an old historical district. The only thing historic are the cobbled streets and brick buildings, as they are now home to various Irish Bars and chain restaurants. I walked on and found where most of the people of St. Louis were spending their Memorial Day, at the baseball. The stadium here, Busch Stadium, is in an entertainment complex with bars across the road and big screens showing the game in the open. I grabbed a drink and watched a bit before walking back to the hotel. For dinner, with not much to choose from we just bought some food from the supermarket to eat on our bed in our hotel room. I managed to find a local speciality as well – frozen custard, which was as delicious as it sounds.
Now, the next day, after over 2 months of ‘backpacking’ we hadn’t actually walked that far with our backpacks on. So, rather than get a cab or bus to the Greyhound station we decided to walk the short distance (30 mins). It taught us that we still need to dump more stuff before we get to Central and South America! Anyway, we arrived hot and sweaty for our bus ride with an interesting group of people. It was kind of like being on a school trip with everyone yapping about ‘me’. We got to Louisville late at night after an 8 hour bus ride with several stops at fast food chains. Lucky for us we had thought ahead and brought along supplies to keep us full otherwise we might have succumbed to the delights of ‘Wendy’s’ or ‘Denny’s’. There was only one altercation on the bus which is probably to be expected on this mode of transport. There is definitely a type of person that catches the Greyhound, we are now one of them.
Our accommodation in Louisville is gorgeous, a classic Kentuckian house I believe (sorry, forgot to take a photo). We have a room and bathroom all to ourselves and we are staying near to Frankfort Street and Bardstown where there are cafes and bars of sorts. We didn’t see much other than from the cab the first night here so we did some exploring the next day. We wandered off in search of some breakfast down Frankfort Street and realised that as most people drive everywhere the concept of a ‘strip’ of cafes and bars is a little drawn out here. So, we walked a fair distance before we found somewhere still serving breakfast (North Star Cafe) and it was well worth the walk – Kirsty tucked into some pancakes and I had smoked-trout hash with eggs.
Once full we walked in the direction of downtown seeing what we could on the way. There wasn’t much to capture our imagination until we got to Main Street in Downtown where we stopped for a Mint Julep at ‘Doc Crow’s’. This is a great restaurant and bar, all the fayre is Southern Smokehouse style which means ribs, pulled pork and seafood. The drinks were fantastic and just the job for cooling us down in this heat and humidity. The thing to do here is hunt out Bourbon which we set off to do. We went to a couple of bars over town – ‘Ramsi’s’ and later on ‘St Charles Exchange’ for a cocktail and ‘flights’ of Bourbon Whiskey (basically a tasting paddle). They are certainly proud of their Whisky here but for a city so steeped in alcohol history and tradition it is strange that the bars are so few and far between and most if not all of them are bars in restaurants or in hotels. The bartender at ‘Doc Crow’s’ had told us of Waterfront Wednesdays, a once a month free concert down by the banks of the Ohio River so we checked that out after wandering a bit around Bardstown (the ‘hipster’ district, apparently). It seems as though most of the town was there, it was nice balmy evening and we caught the tail-end of one band before the ‘Broken Spurs’ belting some out. Once they were done that’s when we had one final cocktail at the ‘St Charles Exchange’ before cabbing it back to our lovely abode.
I picked up a money off coupon for the Muhammad Ali museum so the nest day we explored this amazing space. It’s a multimedia exhibition of Ali’s life and philosophy with videos, soundbites and stuff to look at. It was a very inspirational setup profiling this person who has led an extraordinary life. I am not really into boxing but you don’t have to be to get something out of this. Taking longer than we thought around this museum we stepped out into the heat of St. Louis in the afternoon which meant that the bars would be open so we headed to the Old Seelbach, a hotel bar in the downtown Hilton, which legend has it supplied F. Scott Fitzgerald with some inspiration for the grandeur for The Great Gatsby. One ‘Old-Fashioned’ later and we went to the Makers Mark bar which of course peddles Makers Mark Bourbon. It was happy hour so we had a couple there and then on to the Haymarket, seemingly the only bar in St. Louis that is neither part of a restaurant or hotel. There I had another tasting flight of Bourbon. All great whiskeys, most people here are so passionate about their Bourbon – America’s national drink as we learned the next day. We also stopped in the Garage and Silver Dollar on the way home. By this point we had visited at least the six bars required for a free t-shirt which we picked up from the visitors centre the next day.
An inevitable late start meant that we didn’t get to the Buffalo Trace Distillery till about 2pm the next day. This is about an hours drive from St. Louis and something we would do on the way to Nashville. We had picked up another hire car for the next 12 days, travelling down towards New Orleans. Buffalo Trace is the longest running distillery in America, having a license to produce medicinal whiskey even during prohibition, and they offer free tours taking you around the grounds to get a view of how things are done there. It was an informative tour around a picturesque site. The name Buffalo Trace comes from the pioneers moving out West following the tracks the Buffalo had laid as they migrate in search of food and water. The next stop on our way to Nashville was Bardstown, voted ‘America’s most beautiful small town’ and it is clear to see why with buildings dating front the early 1800’s lining the streets. It was late in the day so we didn’t stop for long, wanting to get to Nashville at a reasonable hour. We were blessed with the turning back of time by one hour though as we crossed another time zone. We got to Nashville around 7pm, dropped into our AirBnB host, picked up a key and went out for a ‘fancy’ burger at a place called the Pharmacy. Apparently a very popular place with a line for those wanted a table. We were happy to sit at the bar though to get in and out quick.