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Trip Report to Lexington Kentucky

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The Lexington (KY) Litmus Test-A Trip Report

My name is WhoKnew, and I’m a longtime lurker and an occasional poster. Almost all posts offer great advice and so you will not see a whole lot of advice here, just some information that I hope will help future visitors to this area. The length of our trip was from July 11 through July 14, 2005, including our travel time.

Background info:
My friend (S) and I have been good friends since grade school and we have often taken short weekend trips (2 hours of driving) to her parents’ condominium in Capitola, California. S has often talked about taking a trip to Europe (Ireland or Spain) and as I like to travel to Europe and Mr. WhoKnew can’t always get away, I thought traveling on a short US trip could be a sort of “acid test” to see if we were compatible enough for such longer trips. She chose Lexington, Kentucky because she wanted to see horse country. Now, I wouldn’t have picked July to travel to Lexington …..I was thinking cool weather places like Seattle WA or Vancouver BC….since neither of us can take the heat and humidity very well, but she “luvvs horsies” (this is a direct quote) and was firm in wanting this as her destination. Alrighty then. Fortunately, I’m pretty easy going as I like to go anywhere, so we bought our plane tickets, reserved our car and hotel room and off we went. The harbinger of things to come began with her phone call to her husband (who works in the sprint car racing industry and travels in the eastern part of the US) at 4:00 a.m. to inform him we were in the car on the way to the airport. Hmmmm…..

Flights:

All flights were on American Airlines. We flew out of our local airport to DFW, where we connected to Lexington. Flights were uneventful and I actually managed to sleep for an hour on the 2-hour flight to Dallas. S called her husband when we checked through security, again once we got to our gate, a third time just before we boarded our first flight, immediately upon deplaning at DFW, and again when we reached our connecting gate. We had time to find a Starbucks, get a coffee, and sit down when her phone rang. Her mother was calling to make sure we made it to DFW all right and was upset because S hadn’t called her to tell her we were OK. S can’t understand why I’m not calling all and sundry to let them know I’ve arrived OK. Well, first of all, I haven’t arrived at my final destination yet and I’m thinking what’s the point of calling to say the first leg went fine if we happen to crash on the second leg, second of all, my family doesn’t call at all unless there is a real problem (no news is good news) and third and last of all, I’m thinking it’s time S needs to cut the umbilical cord to her family as she is 40 years old. I’m just saying. Anyway.

Return flight from Lexington to DFW was fine. The segment from DFW to home was miserable. The dregs of Hurricane Dennis resulted in 3 hours of sitting on the runway in Dallas. Fortunately, I had just started a nice fat book and this kept me occupied.

Planes were full, service was lackluster. Beverages were free but you could have a “snack box” for $3.00. Ummm, no.

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    Rental Car:

    We rented from Budget for a total of $104.88 for three days. We had a nice little Pontiac Sunfire that got great gas mileage. S was a little peeved that I refused to drive it, since my name was not added as an additional driver on the rental agreement. Her philosophy of “who will know?” was met with “I’ll know, and if I’m driving and in an accident, I’ll be liable and it’s simply not worth it to tempt fate.” She really could not understand my rationale. We had a long discussion which I won’t go into but suffice it to say she drove the entire trip. In addition, just because I know some of you like consistency….yes, the cell phone continued to receive heavy use.

    Accommodations:

    We stayed at LaQuinta Inn, Lexington. Our rate for two double beds was $67.00 per night and it was worth every penny of it. This is not a compliment. I’ve stayed at La Quinta before and I’ve generally been satisfied with the hotel chain. My basic standards are cleanliness, quiet, and a location reasonably close to the areas we want to see. This hotel is old and in dire need of refurbishment. The toilet handle would fall off, and we never could get any one in to repair it. There was a suspicious yellow stain on S’s bedspread, and dirty handprints on the doors and walls. The continental breakfast consisted of such choices as cereal, bagels with cream cheese, yogurt, coffee, juice, tea or bananas or apples. They did have a waffle maker, but the rude morning desk clerk would abuse the hotel guests by practically screaming at them if they let their waffles overcook a little (the machine would beep when ready). I passed on waffle making. Breakfast ended at 9:00. The last morning a father and his 4-year-old son came in about 9:05 to get breakfast. The bagels were still out, but the cream cheese had already been put away. Dad asked the clerk if they could just have one so that he could fix his son a bagel. Rude clerk said, “We stop serving breakfast at 9:00”, turned, and walked away. And I thought hotels were all about customer service. I understand rules are rules, but how hard could it have been to accommodate a little boy that little bit? I’m just saying.

    I would not recommend this hotel based on the lack of cleanliness and the rudeness of the staff. Location is good, and there is a Cracker Barrel restaurant next door, but those are about the only good things I can say about it.

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    Dining

    Breakfasts: Neither of us is much into breakfasts and so we made do with the continental breakfast, taking it back to eat in the relative calm of our room (exception being the damned cell phone).

    Lunch: We ate at Joe Bologna’s (120 West Maxwell, ph 859-252-4933). I had an iced tea and ½ of an Italian Sub (very good!) with fries for $7.31. S had a ½ Stromboli sandwich with a pasta salad and iced tea. Our tour guide at the Mary Todd Lincoln House recommended this.
    We also ate at Buddy’s Bar and Grill (854 High Street, ph 859-335-1283, buddysbarandgrill.com) recommended by the same tour guide. I had an iced tea and their chicken salad sandwich with homemade potato curls (thinner than a potato chip and very crispy-they were delicious) for $9.54. I liked their menu as it is categorized by price range. So if you only had $7 to spend on your entrée all you had to do was look at that column, instead of searching through the entire menu for an affordable meal.

    We ate at A Family Affair the day we went to Perryville. It’s located right on the side of US 127 in Salvisa, Kentucky and is easy to miss. Can’t exactly tell you where (help fellow Fodorites!) but we were told of it by someone in Versailles, Kentucky. Don’t be put off by the appearance (inside or out). I had an excellent chicken breast sandwich, an astronomically huge mound of fries and an iced tea for the whopping sum of $5.01. The ladies working there will call you “hon.”

    Dinner:
    Ramsey’s (we ate at the one on High Street). I had a BBQ’d chicken breast, with sides of fried green tomatoes (my first---I could get used to these, yummy!), some kind of fried apple rings, green beans, a beer, and a piece of to-die-for lemon meringue pie (the kind with the meringue browned nicely all over) for $16.63. This was my most expensive meal of the trip and it was all good.

    Billy’s BBQ (sorry I don’t have the address) I had their dinner special for $7.39. A huge portion of pulled pork, a side of black-eyed peas (I could eat these everyday), green beans, corn bread. I added a beer and with tax and tip, it was still less than $10.00

    Cracker Barrel (crackerbarrel.com for locations) We ate here for our last night. I had chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and green beans (yes, I love green beans!). This meal comes with a choice of 3 veggie sides (apparently macaroni and cheese is considered a veggie), but I knew I didn’t have room to even attempt to eat a 3rd choice and just asked them to forego it. Total was $9.53.

    All of our lunches and dinners with the exception of Cracker Barrel were based on the advice of asking locals where they would go to eat and I’ll certainly keep doing this on future trips as all their recommendations were spot on. I’m glad I was only there for 3 ½ days; the waistbands of my capris were getting to be a bit worrisome and I had visions of being as broad as I was tall if my eating in this manner were to continue.

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    What we saw and where we went

    We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and picked up a downtown map and some brochures. We also each purchased a ticket for $10.00 which will get you into 4 historic homes in the area (Mary Todd Lincoln House, Ashland, The John Hunt Morgan House and Waveland). Going to at least two of these homes puts you ahead had you purchased admissions individually($7.00 admission to each house). We only managed to see two, but I’d recommend buying these if you thought you’d go to more than one historic home.

    Tuesday:
    Mary Todd Lincoln House (Abe Lincoln slept here!). Interesting facts about a much misunderstood First Lady. S’s cell phone rang during this tour and she was rude enough to actually answer it and carry on a conversation. Why this surprised me I don’t know. I pretended I didn’t know her.

    Lexington Cemetery We visited the tomb of Henry Clay, and the gravesites of John Hunt Morgan and the Todd family. It’s lovely just to wander around and look at all the old gravestones. The oldest I found was dated 1723. As a native Californian, it can be astounding to see and feel the history that we just don’t really have out West to the degree that the eastern half of the U.S. has.

    Small self-guided walking tour around Gratz Park We parked near the John Hunt Morgan House and walked around the area with a brochure listing several historic homes in the area, along with Translvania University(established, umm, a long time ago). It was hot and humid and S didn’t really want to walk anywhere and so poked along, complaining about how hot and humid it was.

    Wednesday:
    Kentucky Horse Park After all, this is why S wanted to come to Kentucky. While I found it interesting (Man O’War is buried here), I came away not overly impressed, but I suspect that could have been due to the fact that it rained steadily throughout the morning, and the center had scaled back or cancelled some of the events they had planned. Now, I do like horses (and in fact my only mode of transportation as a kid was by horse if I wanted to get from one place to another, as we lived in the country with no form of public transportation) and this is a great place to go if you do not know a thing about horses, but for experienced horse people it might be found a little lacking. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just me, the rain, and that damned cell phone belonging to S. I think it was about $7.00 to get in with a $2 off coupon picked up from the Visitor’s Center.

    Perryville Battlefield I’m a huge history buff and so I really looked forward to this site. We took a scenic route to get there, through the fascinating looking town of Midway( I wanted to stop but S didn’t). We arrived early afternoon. For $2.50 they have a great little museum of just this battle. Approximately 16,000 Confederate troops and another 24,000 Union troops battled in October 1862. Over 8,000 were killed in this, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. I emerged to find S in the gift shop with a perplexed looking museum volunteer, S happily chatting away about the “ambiance” she felt when she visited “Aquamatic” last year during her honeymoon(her in-laws live near Richmond, Virginia). It(Perryville) is now a State Park and each October they stage a full reenactment (less the bullets and real dead bodies, just to clarify). They have a walking trail you can take to several key spots, with information plaques. The three hours I spent wasn’t nearly enough. I would highly recommend spending an entire day if the weather is nice. They have a picnic area, and the walking trail, so bring a picnic lunch and walking shoes. It was raining pretty steadily while we were there; there is a small gravel road that you can drive on to take you to a few of the key places. S drove and stayed in car while I happily tromped around in the rain. This was one of the highlights of my trip. Most notably, for whatever reason, that damned cell phone couldn’t get any reception in this area….for 3 whole hours! Woohoo! I am still wondering if that poor museum guide is still mentally listing all the Civil War battles in his head trying to find Aquamatic…….

    Thursday
    Ashland This was the estate of Henry Clay, a great Kentucky statesman and known as the “Great Compromiser”. He won his party’s nomination for President and failed in his election bid all 3 times, but is also credited with helping to keep a very fragile and fragmented young country from falling completely apart. Very fascinating insight into someone I had never really heard too much about.

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    Conclusion

    I liked Lexington. The people were polite and friendly(hotel clerks excepted), prices were inexpensive. The rolling hills are beautiful. People kept apologizing for how dry and parched everything was (they were 7 inches below normal rainfall), but I come from desert like California so I thought everything was a lovely and lush green.

    I’m glad I took the trip. I’m glad it was a short trip. Any longer and I may have committed cellphoneicide. I acknowledge that S and I have different travel styles…I suspect she has complained to her family that I tried to walk her to death, and that I am hardhearted and cruel for not calling my family on my cell phone to give them minute by minute updates. (Ok, I confess, I called twice, once to let Mr WhoKnew know that I arrived safely at the hotel and give my room number, and the second time to let him know our flight home was delayed for 3 hours.).

    I simply cannot travel with a woman who in one afternoon either called or received 18 phone calls in a span of about 3 hours. I counted. And these were not titillating conversations, but more along the lines of “we’re just getting out of the car, we’re in the parking garage, and we are walking towards the entrance.” She had at least two arguments by phone with her husband, each hanging up on the other and calling back to squabble some more. It’s difficult to ooh and aah at something with your travel partner when she is talking on the phone with someone else. The shared experience is basically lost. I’d have done just as well traveling alone. (And yes, on the second afternoon, I explained to her that the phone was very distracting, and could she maybe limit the phone calls to 3 or 4 a day. I was very polite about it, and trying to compromise without inconveniencing her too much. She refused.)

    She is more of a “I want to put up my feet and relax” and “I want to go shop at the mall” type of person. I’m more of a “let’s go here, let’s go there, I’m not here to shop at the mall” type of person. I like to walk a lot and she’s exhausted walking from the car to the horse park entrance. I’m a researcher and she’s a fly by the seat of her pants person. She asked if Daniel Boone was important in the area because she kept seeing all these signs referring to him. This drove me crazy. I’m sure I drove her crazy at times. I’m glad I found that out now.
    If I traveled to this area again, I would probably spend a few more days and travel to the surrounding areas such as Frankfort, Louisville, and even into the neighboring states, if time permitted. Cities are close to each other and driving times are short. I think Lexington would be great for a day to two days at the most if planned correctly and this would give ample time for seeing more of the State, which I think I really would have enjoyed.

    Happy travels!

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    very smart to find out the differences now - you don't want to find yourself on the top level of the Eiffel Tower and getting ready to push her off (or at the very least throwing her cell phone off)! :)

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    Thanks for the report whoknew. I enjoyed the read. I've not spent time in Lexington. Though I don't "luvs horsies" I'm sure I would find it interesting. I'll have to try to make it some day. Especially since I'm familiar with Dan'l Boone. :-)

    Sounds like you did things exactly right as far as a check-out trip with a travel companion.

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    Thank you for the report; it was great. I love Kentucky and am pleased when other people "discover" it. We had a great picnic at Perryville battlefield once. Not to many preserved battlefields in Kentucky. Near there is Pleasant Hill Shaker Village which I bet you would have liked and Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg which is also historically interesting.

    I believe people could spend 2 weeks just in Kentucky for vacation and still not see everything. We're from Southern Ohio and we go to Kentucky for long weekends a lot and never tire of it.

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    Thanks for the great trip report. This is an area I'd like to visit, so I'll be saving the information. I, too, have a friend who is hard to travel with. I love her to death, but we have two very different ideas of what a great vacation is.

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    Thanks for taking me down memory lane. Central Kentucky is a gorgeous place. I'm sorry you didn't have a chance to go to Shakertown, since you were so close. Also, Woodford County (Versailles) is quintessential horse country. I've read that the upcoming Cameron Crowe movie "Elizabethtown" with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst(spelling?) was partially filmed there. Unfortunately, many people don't know that Kentucky is a beautiful state but think that most Kentuckians are barefoot hillbillies smoking corn cob pipes. Thanks for warning folks not to stay at the LaQuinta. It is one of the oldest and dumpiest LaQuintas in the country. A better choice would have been the Griffin Gate Marriott (often offered on Priceline) or the Embassy Suites. Enjoyed your trip report.

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    Thanks for the report, sorry you had to have "S" along w/you. Next time go west towards Louisville & Land Between the Lakes, & leave "S" at home. I'm thinking you could have used a stop at one of the distilleries...

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    Thanks everyone for your replies (and empathy about "S").

    radiofanatic: I seriously considering grabbing the phone and pitching it into the Kentucky River when we drove over it on the way to Perryville. Great minds think alike!

    Shaker Village was on my list of things I wanted to see. I'm sorry I missed it.

    Although I'm not a drinker of hard liquor, I was seriously tempted to buy a box (nay, several) boxes of whiskey filled chocolates. A distillery tour was looking pretty good too, SAnParis.

    I'm sure glad I found out now that S and I can't take a long trip together(I hate to think of that looonnnng plane ride home from Europe in a seat next to her if things did not go well). I think I'll stick with Mr whoknew as a travel companion, and go solo when he's not available.



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