Tag Archives: Kentucky

Wigwam Village #2 – Historic Roadside Motel Preserves Classic Americana near Mammoth Cave National Park

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I’d be writing a post about our stay in Wigwam Village #2.   I felt uneasy about the unobscured cultural appropriation.  However, within minutes of meeting one of the new owners, my doubts fell away.  He easily brought up the topic and began educating us about what the original inventor/entrepreneur, Frank Redford, got right as well as what he got wrong with his roadside venture. 

A short drive from Mammoth Cave National Park, Wigwam Village #2 is the type of Americana you’d expect to find along Route 66.  In fact, although the first two villages were built in this southern Kentucky community, the only other remaining villages are actually along Route 66: the #6 in Holbrook, Arizona and the #7 in San Bernardino, California.

Turning off of Highway 31W, you’re welcomed by the newly restored neon sign that invites you to “Eat and Sleep in a Wigwam.”  (Among the things Redford got wrong was his preference for calling the structures wigwams instead of teepees.  What he got right was creating a sense of community among overnight guests!)

The owner met us at the office and invited us to sit on the porch while he shared a short history of the wigwams and answered our questions.  Other guests joined us as they arrived as well as a man who stopped by looking for souvenirs.  Learning the history at check-in really helped us to appreciate the details during our stay.  We were also immediately struck by the passion that the new owners are bringing to its renovation!

Cozy wigwam #14 provided a great night’s sleep.  The original bed, chair and vanity table took us back to 1937.  Luckily, the new mattress helped us sleep in the modern age!  A heater quickly warmed up the space and there is an air conditioner for summer.  The shower surprised us with great water pressure, lots of hot water and a drain that works.  Taking a close look at the red and white tiled floor and the red wall tile designs gave us an appreciation for the detail that went into the original construction.  

Encircled by the teepees is a large communal play area with fire pits and a playground that encourages fireside conversation just as it happened 80 plus years ago.  There’s also a grill area and lighted picnic pavilion with tables.

The largest teepee sits in front by the neon sign.  Currently closed, it formerly housed a lunch counter and gift shop.  The new owners plan to renovate it and open it as a coffee shop.  Can’t wait to return for a latte!!!

More to know…

To read more about the history and architecture of the village, go to their website at Historic Wigwam Village or look here for the information they provide in each guest room.

For authentic New York style pizza, try Cave City Pizza.  In Horse Cave, Farmwald’s Dutch Bakery and Restaurant makes light, yeast doughnuts … caramel glazed, cream-filled, jelly-filled and more! 

The boardwalk loop trail at Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk is perfect for an above ground stroll in Mammoth Cave NP.

Cultural Alchemy in Louisville, Kentucky

Cultural alchemy…The magical process of transformation through combination.  We thrive in this place of being in and between cultures.  Food traditions from Asia and the Caribbean along with some musical dashes from around the world enriched the southern culture of Louisville during our 24 hour visit.

The food offerings in a locale often provide the most transparent expression of cultural alchemy.  During our visit to Louisville, we sampled three distinct restaurants with dishes and drinks rooted in long embraced traditions.

Frankfort Avenue’s District 6 combines Vietnamese flavors and techniques with local ingredients.

La Bodeguita de Mima in Nulu welcomes with a lively ambiance and an authentic Cuban menu.  “Every culture has an affectionate name for the matriarch of the family. Mawmaw, Nonna, Yai-yai, and in Cuban culture it is MIMA. This restaurant is our letter to Mima!”

Home to its namesake sandwich, the hot brown, The Brown Hotel remains a Kentucky cultural icon…pure southern charm.

Music created in different landscapes also transforms when combined.  Pink Martini’s performance at the Brown Theatre provided our impetus for visiting Louisville.  Our first “almost post-pandemic” concert!  Pink Martini embraces this musical mash-up of cultures.  Their songs in Spanish, Croatian, Japanese, Farsi or 20+ other languages link everyone together in the shared struggles and celebrations of life.

More to know…
Louisville is the US city with the second largest population of Cuban immigrants per capita outside of Florida. Read about it here.

Quill’s has various locations around town to enjoy coffee in a relaxing setting. Great lattes and chai lattes!

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Three Bridges Trail in Carter Caves State Park (KY)

We took advantage of 40 degrees and blue skies to hike in Carter Caves State Park.  This park is an hour northeast of Natural Bridge State Park and the Red River Gorge area.  (See our previous post about these areas here.) It shares many of the outstanding rock features of these other parks.  However, while the other parks are more well known and have more visitors, Carter Caves allowed us to have the trail almost to ourselves.

Although Mammoth Cave National Park in southern Kentucky is home to the longest cave system known in the world, Carter County has the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky.  We decided to skip the subterranean features this time and enjoy a sunny, crisp hike.  We chose the easy/moderate 3.5 mile Three Bridges Trail.  Although this trail doesn’t take you far from the center of the park, you walk through three natural bridges.  This trail also takes you to the rappelling and rock climbing area which is available by permit.  

We parked in the Welcome Center where we picked up a map.  The trailhead was across the main road and up a few stairs.  We decided to walk the loop trail counterclockwise in order to save the largest bridge for last.  Red trail markers painted on trees helped us to easily navigate and stay on the trail which was usually leaf covered.  

Kentucky’s limestone outcroppings, forests and lakes make for a pretty fabulous place to ride out a pandemic.  Happy trails!

Giant Trolls and Shakers

We are continuing to explore more cultural fusion in some of our favorite Kentucky places.

While walking through the knobs and meadows thirty miles south of Louisville, we’re greeted by trolls from Danish lore.  Artist Thomas Dambo from Denmark created the troll family of Mama Loumari, Little Nis and Little Elina using recycled and repurposed materials.  The three giants in Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest are part of an installation with currently more than forty trolls around the world.  (There is even a troll map to see the locations.) 

To learn more about Dambo’s project and to see photos of his other trolls, read this National Geographic article.

While hiking to find the wooden giants, we also encountered an edible garden, honey bee and bird houses, lakes and an exhibit about Kentucky women suffragists. 

About an hour and 15 minutes east from Bernheim is Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The Shakers were 19th century America’s largest communal society.  Originating in England in 1747, the group sailed for the United States in 1774 and  established various communities such as this one, founded in 1808.  When visiting, you can feel yourself welcomed into the Shakers’ peaceful life that was based upon sustainability and simplicity.

The cool October evening included watching the full moon rise around a crackling fire pit. Chris Sullivan, one of our favorite local musicians, not only played guitar and sang but also shared his personal connection to each song. 

Our outdoor dinner could not have been more comforting…a Kentucky hot brown that was authentic with oven roasted turkey breast,  applewood bacon, slow roasted tomatoes and a smoked gouda mornay sauce yet also spiced up with the use of jalepeño bread.

We stayed in the East Family Dwelling which welcomed us with a delightfully comfortable bed, Keurig coffee and first floor living areas that we had to ourselves for relaxing and reading.

And…other fun and curious sights caught our attention.

Although there is only one active Shaker community that remains in Maine (with two elderly members), their belief in freedom from prejudice, pursuit of simplicity and pride in craftsmanship can continue to be a guide for all of us.

Red River Gorge – Natural Bridge (KY)

As the pandemic continues, we are still appreciating the beauty of the world.  We are just enjoying it closer to home.  Today we traveled east to the Natural BridgeRed River Gorge area, a world-famous climbing destination with sandstone arches and towering cliffs.  This park in the small town of Slade is home to its own unique cultural mix… Appalachian roots meets climbing hip.

Our first stop was the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop.  We were here a few years ago when it was a typical small-town grocery-coffee-souvenir shop.  Today, it’s been transformed into a can’t miss cafe serving regional coffee from Kentucky Mountain Coffee Company and others. Beside coffee, you can enjoy homemade baked goods, vegan wraps and seasonal cocktails.  We ordered a grilled cheese with a local beer cheese, a BLT, and a latte.   Everything was freshly prepared and delicious! The service was fast and provided by servers who appeared to be climbers earning their keep in order to climb during off-hours.

Grateful for wild spaces that provide retreat from the busyness of our daily lives.  Places where we can breathe deeply and be restored.  Places where we can notice the dampness, the reflections and the smells surrounding us.  Places that transport us to simpler times.