top of page
  • Writer's pictureKimberly OLeary

A lingering Spring, a mingling of family, a challenging history - and a river runs through it: Louisville, Kentucky at precisely the right time of year

When we arrived in Louisville Kentucky six weeks ago, you could see through the trees, tiny little buds on the branches, and daffodils were blooming but little else.

In the past two months, we’ve seen the budding and blooming of Bradford Pear trees (an invasive species, but really pretty), tulips, redbuds, dogwoods, azaleas, lilacs, roses, and irises. The green leaves on trees and bushes are now thick and abundant, and the contrasting colors of the blooming flowers are vibrant and bright.  There is no doubt that this is a beautiful city.

I was born in Louisville in 1958, and my extended family all lived here.  My Grandmother, whom I adored, was born here in 1909 and lived here her entire life of 87 years.  The coursing Ohio River flows on the city’s northern border, separating Kentucky from Indiana.  I lived most of my childhood in Evansville, Indiana – a few hours down the river – and with my family crossed that river many times.  I lived in Louisville as a young child, in and near my grandparents’ home there.  I spent several summers in that home as well.  But, despite many visits to family over the years, I have never lived here as an adult. 

Paul and I decided to spend three months living here leading to our daughter’s wedding at the end of May; the wedding will take place in the family homestead, now occupied by my aunt and uncle (and site of 2 other weddings - my grandparents in 1932 and my aunt and uncle in 1971). Three months would give us a chance to visit family and help navigate the many tasks related to the upcoming wedding.  And, it would allow us to experience the city as adults.

What have we done here?  We’ve driven all over the city.  So many places remind me of people I’ve loved.  I can feel the walk from our family homestead to the little neighborhood park and the other family who lived on "our” street.  We frequently pass the  Douglass Loop in the Highlands, where my Grandmother recounted stories of taking the streetcar to the end of the line (the “loop” being where the streetcar turned around).  We walk to Muth Candy Shop where we buy Grandmother’s favorite candy, Modjeskas, and exquisite bourbon balls.  We visit Hadley Pottery, just down the street from where we’re staying, where, during my childhood,  we made numerous trips to buy dishes, including, in my mid-twenties, Paul’s and my first wedding dishes.  We are constantly driving by places where my loved ones used to live, or go to school, or work. 

We’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants.  Louisville is definitely a “foodie” town now.  Yes, I can still get a good Hot Brown when I want it, but Louisville is all about fusion cuisine these days. I can’t list every place we’ve eaten, but here are a few stand-outs.  Chik’n & Mi - a great ramen and “Asian-style fried chicken” restaurant is a block away, and the ramen tastes great even to our palates that still taste 3 months worth of food in Japan last fall.  We were told by our waiter that the chefs are a couple who met in culinary school – she is from Laos and he is from Texas.  Café Lou Lou is a restaurant which celebrates the history of connection between the French roots of both New Orleans and Louisville.  A different restaurant, The Cafe on Brent, is an inviting space with good food; we saw a live jazz show there one night and had breakfast there another day. Caffe Classico is another good, small restaurant with live music. We’ve eaten at several pizza places – Boombozz, D’Orio’s, Café Lupo.  We’ve had terrific Mexican food, especially at Noche, which is located inside a beautiful old (deconsecrated) church and La Katrina, across the foot bridge in Indiana, which has fabulous fish tacos.  We ate at Pig Beach, a barbeque restaurant on the river, and Feast, another BBQ place on Market Street. We dined at the Captain’s Quarters on River Road, a seafood restaurant. Hamburgers at Grind in Nulu. We have southern breakfasts at the Morning Fork, a few blocks from our place, and Biscuit Belly on Main St., and coffee at Hotel Marty and Heine Bros.

We’ve explored small grocery spots for local foods.  Lotsa Pasta, which has homemade pasta and sauces, quiches, Italian cookies, and local favorites such as benedictine and olive-nut cream cheeses, is a favorite place to pick up ingredients for dinner at home.  Rainbow Blossom is a good grocery for buying vegetarian, vegan, & other local food, and Kingsley has a good meat counter. There is a Kroger less than a mile away. We buy wine at an amazing wine shop, Total Wines and More, with a huge selection of good wine and other spirits. Maya Bagels, a locally owned small business, makes terrific bagels and serves Peet's coffee.

Paul bought an e-bike from a great shop, E-bikes, on Bardstown Road, near the Douglass Loop. The folks there were extremely knowledgeable and very helpful.

We have resumed walking.  After settling into our apartment on the 2d and 3rd stories of a restored older home, we began exploring the neighborhood. We had spent most of our time indoors in the Michigan winter, and it feels good to walk again.  We can walk to coffee shops and restaurants in our neighborhood.  We can walk a little farther out to restaurants and shops in Nulu and Butchertown.  We have walked, twice, a 6-mile round-trip across the river into Jeffersonville.  There is a nice walkway from our house to the river, and along the river. The Botanical Gardens – a bit small but lovely – is a ten-minute walk from our place. Having said that, Louisville is very much a car-oriented city. While it has beautiful parks, they are sprawled around the city (many designed by Frederick Law Olmstead), and are not the kind of parks where people pass through on their way walking from one place to another, like you find in cities this size in other parts of the world. There are bike paths, but they are hit or miss. There are buses, but no light rail or subways or trams to hop on and off with ease.