Only after returning home from a long weekend in Louisville did I realize just how much I needed it.
My girlfriend Jill notified me months ago that she’d be traveling from New York to Louisville, Kentucky for a work conference, and that I should join her. As the only two remaining childless honeys in our hometown friend group, we’d periodically discussed traveling together – mostly how we really need to make a plan and follow through on it. We both love to travel, and it made so much sense for us to meet someplace for a girls weekend. For one reason or another, we hadn’t made it happen until now.
I considered the offer to join her in Kentucky for a long time – knowing I wanted to go for it, but with planning the October England/Scotland trip, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the commitment of another vacation until after returning home. I get so easily overwhelmed these days at the ripe age of 36, so when it comes to planning travel, I have to take it one at a time.
After my coworker confirmed she would not cause me physical harm if I took two more days off even though I just got back from a week away in England, I booked my flights about two weeks prior to the trip and finally committed to the long weekend of catching up over some great food and exploring more of Louisville. This would be my second trip to Louisville; the first in 2014 with my mom, which I wrote about here.
Leading up to my departure, I did a quick bit of research on some hot spots that I added to the itinerary. Included were Please and Thank You (coffee shop), The Comfy Cow (ice cream), Marks Feed Store (bbq). Not included were any bourbon distilleries, and now I wonder if that’s against the rules of visiting Kentucky even for a girl who cannot handle brown liquor? We would end up a Whiskey Bar twice – once for drinks (Jill tried one of the bourbon cocktails!) and once for food – which I consider close enough.
Since Jill was there for a work conference, we would have lunches & dinners & evenings together, and while she was attending conference sessions, I would either sleep in or go wandering and exploring on my own. This turned out to be a wonderful arrangement since I could scope out an area and plan to meetup or return once Jill was finished with conference for the day. I had time to be in my own thoughts, and do whatever I truly wanted to do without influence, paired with time spent together to talk and laugh and shop and eat and gossip.
Well, Louisville, you really stole my heart. The weather was cold and certainly crisp, but I was bundled up for it. During the weekend, someone said to me how it was the most underrated US city and I completely agree. November was perfectly enjoyable, but I could just imagine all the outdoor activities and liveliness that comes from summers & early Fall there.
On the Friday, I wandered over to an area called NuLu, a short walk from the Fourth Street Downtown area, and never wanted to ever leave again. There were cozy coffee shops, restaurants, quirky retail boutiques, a macaron shop! And the most adorable plant shop in which I looked but did not touch or buy, which has only meant death to all previous plants to come under my care and supervision. There is little else I need in life than every corner of NuLu.
I stopped into Please and Thank You, since it was on my list, ate some oatmeal and drank up a hot tea while noticing a hair salon across the street that caught my eye. Hmmm, that’s interesting. I need my hair cut. Maybe this place has some openings. Why not do something nice like get my hair done while on this weekend getaway?! I did what everyone with a smartphone would do (right? this is what we do in the 21st century) and hopped onto yelp to see what kinds of reviews the general public of Yelp had to say about Cobalt. It was clear that it had only recently opened up, which would be in my favor if that meant they weren’t fully booked out for six months. I went for it, and made a same-day afternoon appointment with Aubry who would be the lucky one to cut A LOT of length and weight off my hair, and I adored her so much that upon leaving my haircut appointment, I booked another appointment to return and get it colored the next morning. This is the part where I was going to say spontaneously getting a new hairstyle while on away on a trip can be the best thing ever. But then I fear vacation hair can also sometimes go very wrong, so you’ll have to read the yelp reviews and decide for yourself if it’s worth the risk.
Aubry and everyone else we encountered in Louisville LOVED to chat, which felt so incredibly welcoming and friendly. The overall kind vibe of the city was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Aubry warned me that Kentuckians will talk to anyone with or without a pulse, anytime. For years I’ve said my opinion is that people on the East Coast of the US are more outwardly chatty and friendly than the West Coast. A long weekend in Louisville further confirmed this, and I’ve been West for so long that the friendliness still tends to catch me by surprise. Oh, right, you are truly interested in what I’m up to today!
After THE haircut, Jill met up with me for macarons and dinner at Feast BBQ over in NuLu. It was one of those places where you order at the counter, wait 45 minutes until you are on the verge of hanger, then they deliver your food at the table on a silver cookie sheet looking tray. We barely got to the counter before a gentleman chimed in with a “it’s bbq, it’s the same options no matter where you go” while listening to us try to figure out what exactly we should order. That comment turned into a conversation about restaurants in Central NY and Seattle, both where he’s frequented for work (later we would find out he works for the FAA). I am always so genuinely surprised and delighted when someone knows places in Central New York. I mean, you know little old Cazenovia? He sure did. He had a hat on that said something about aviation, so after we ordered and sat down at a table, I said to Jill “I feel like he does some secret government shit.” I was greatly intrigued. He was at Feast by himself, grabbing dinner just like us. I was curious and wanted to talk with him more, and decided to ask him to join us at our table for dinner.
Our new friend would proceed to tell us that he worked for the FAA, and for two and a half hours we talked about everything from the Air Traffic Controller Biographical Questionnaire, to his (and every pilot friend of his) favorite place to eat near the SeaTac airport. I could have stayed talking to him for hours, he was such an interesting man in his late 60s with so many experiences to talk about. I left dinner with my new haircut and the largest grin on my face from the greatest day spent getting to know some rad Kentuckians, Skip and Aubry. All we learned was his first name, and I regret not taking a photo with him or getting his number to meet for dinner next time he flew to Seattle. I hope our paths cross again, and knowing this crazy small world we live in, it might just happen. I’ll just hang out at Sharps BBQ every so often in the hopes he will show up. Not joking. Maybe the servers there know him by name?
It had been a year and a half since I had taken a solo flight, and my getaway to Louisville reminded me how refreshing it is to treat myself to a long weekend away by myself or meeting a friend/family member. Weeks & months go by and it gets easy to plan all the trips with Andrew since we are finally now on the same work schedules. The memories from my weekend in Louisville and this post will be a wonderful reminder of how important it is to get away for some Mary time & girlfriend time with someone who’s known me for most of my life. I deserve it. We all do, if we truly need it and can make it happen. Thank you, Jill, for the invite and company.
Louisville: I will see you again.