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!
While absentmindedly munching on Lotus Biscoff cookies and contorting our legs between backpacks and underseat space, we must not be the first travelers to dream of a more refined flight experience. Imagine three course meals, doting flight attendants and ample seats with legroom to spare! These dreams happily came to life when a long layover at JFK Airport allowed us to visit the newly opened TWA Hotel.
The Eero Saarinen designed TWA Flight Center opened in 1962. After TWA’s sale to American Airlines in 2001, the terminal sat vacant for several years. Luckily, visionaries proposed a hotel which began construction in 2016 and opened in May 2019.
At JFK, we took the AirTrain to Terminal Five. When we stepped off of the train, there were red arrows for the TWA Hotel on the floor and we easily followed them out of the building, across the street and down to the hotel.
The futuristic exterior and the contours of the lobby beckoned us to explore. On the first floor we discovered the reception area and a small museum with Jet Age displays. There’s also the stylish Sunken Lounge with its chili-pepper red carpet and booths as well as the original split-flap departure board. Here it’s easy to imagine that you’re having a cocktail and chatting with Frank Sinatra or Audrey Hepburn during your layover.
A hallway exhibit a short walk past the lounge displays colorful posters by David Klein. His illustrations beautifully showcased TWA’s destinations around the world.
Climbing the luxuriously curved staircases, the second floor led us to several restaurants but we weren’t quite ready to eat yet. Instead, we decided to play awhile at the photo booth and whimsical Twister room. Closeby, a curated walk through TWA uniforms over the years amused us with its mid-century fashion and interesting tidbits about flight attendant job perks and requirements in those days.
Walking through one of the red-carpeted tubes, we discovered a small area that recreates Saarinen’s studio with his drafting table and plans for the building’s design. For some reason, there is also a recreated living room. It was fun to see the furniture, lamps and games. We especially liked the original Barbie house and furniture made of cardboard…not plastic!
After exploring inside, we ventured out to the tarmac to board the restored Lockheed Constellation named Connie. Inside its chicly designed interior is a groovy bar that serves vintage-inspired cocktails. This is light-years beyond Lotus Biscoff cookies and bottled water! Now that we’ve had a taste of refined air travel, we can dream of a day where we’re back in the Jet Age!
A visa meeting at Chicago’s Spanish consulate provided us with the perfect excuse for a quick trip to the Windy City, which could have been better described as sultry and sticky during the hours we were there. We reserved an AirBnB in Chinatown since we’d never explored that area of the city. A stroll down the heart of the neighborhood on South Wentworth Avenue left us searching for a quiet place to sit with a latte and chai tea. We found the perfect respite at TBaar. Although it’s a chain, the atmosphere was relaxing and it was fun to watch the servers roll out ice cream to make interesting Sundaes. Later, we arrived just in time to get a seat without reservations at Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings. While waiting for our order of dumplings we were enthralled to watch their video that showed the origins of everything from their porcelain dinnerware to the light fixtures as well as how they locally sourced their ingredients. The dumplings didn’t disappoint!
After dinner, the cooler early evening temps made it the right time to visit Millenium Park. An outdoor movie was playing for a huge audience spread out on blankets and lawn chairs while enjoying picnics with family and friends. Some were even watching the movie! Next, we joined the crowd at Crown Fountain to watch kids from toddlers to teens drench themselves in the water…always watchful for when the large streams of water would pour from the digital faces towering above.
The following morning, after being amazed at the continually moving line for coffee at Starbucks (and an almost non-moving line at the consulate!), we took a people-watching jaunt along the Riverwalk. On the lookout for a museum we hadn’t yet visited, we settled on the National Museum of Mexican Art. Although its smaller size with only three galleries could be seen as a negative, it was actually relaxing to not feel rushed. It’s the perfect size to enjoy art without committing to a whole day at a museum. (And, it’s free!)