Podcast #185 — Notes on Louisville; Changing Mask Mandates

Skeleton in Louisville taproom

Having Fun in Louisville!

As the great American philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast” and in this episode, we talk about the rapid changes in hotel service, and in-flight mask mandates. Then I go into detail about our recent trip to Louisville, complete with recommendations for food and drink. All this and more – click here to download the podcast file, go up to the Subscribe section in the top menu bar to subscribe on your favorite site, or listen right here by clicking on the arrow on the player.

Here is the transcript of TravelCommons podcast #185:

Since The Last Episode

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • Coming to you from the TravelCommons studio in Chicago, Illinois a couple of weeks after hanging out in Brooklyn for what maybe I should call a longer weekend — Thursday to Tuesday — rather than a long weekend, which traditionally was the 3 days, Friday to Sunday, when I was growing up, but now with telecommuting feels like it’s gone to 3½ – 4, Thursday noon to Sunday. 
  • I always have stayed in Manhattan on my trips to New York, so I decided to change it up this time. Rather than run the usual play — cycling through corporate codes on hotel websites to find something reasonable in midtown Manhattan — we posted up at an Airbnb in the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn. And instead of threading through crowds on Madison Avenue to find a quick bite, we wandered down the much emptier sidewalks, maybe dodging a work-from-home dad following his daughter on a bike, and walked into a local butcher shop, G Esposito & Sons, to get a couple of sandwiches. Which turned into a 10-minute conversation with the owner — not sure if it was G himself or one of the Esposito sons — about his wife’s favorite sandwich, how he screwed up his Ash Wednesday fast right at breakfast, and pointing in the case to the sausage his wife was making sausage for dinner that night. Definitely a change from my usual Midtown lunch experiences.
  • And that’s kinda what I wanted to get with this stay, the chance to dig into Brooklyn a bit by staying there; walking the neighborhoods; trying places like Esposito’s and Caputo’s Bakery just down Court St where we grabbed bread and pastries; places you probably wouldn’t journey to, but places you’d absolutely duck into if you were walking by. I used to do this when I’d do every-week trips to San Francisco or New Orleans. I wouldn’t stay in the same place every week. Instead, I’d move around. In San Francisco, I’d stay on Nob Hill one week, maybe SoMa the next week, and then maybe down the 101 in San Mateo for a change of scenery… and restaurants. I wouldn’t come out of it an expert in the city, but I’d come away with a lot more experiences, more of a feel of the city than if I’d stayed in the same place for 6 or 8 weeks straight.
  • And that’s what we got out of this weekend, a little better feel for Brooklyn. And part of that feel I picked up pretty quick — cash is still king in Brooklyn, at least in Cobble Hill. These old-school Italian places — cash only, though they do make space in the back of the shop for an ATM, just in case you find yourself a little short.
  • Bridge Music — SP*ANK Vox by Loveshadow (c) copyright 2010 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://ccmixter.org/files/Loveshadow/26219

Following Up

  • Following up on my recent rants about US hotel housekeeping cutbacks, Jim McDonough hit me up on Twitter with his most recent experience
    • “We stayed at the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach on Maui late January/early February. The deal was “room cleaned on checkout”. However, we noticed the trash was being emptied (or someone was stealing it) while we were out. Apparently, the Monday after our arrival, they had resumed daily cleaning — but forgot to tell us.”
  • Jim, thanks for that. You’d think they’d want to take credit for the service upgrade — or at least prevent you thinking someone was breaking into your room
  • Long-time friend, long-time listener, first-time caller Laura Wotycha texted me about her recent experience with travel inflation
    • “Having found myself with 3 unexpected days off from work, I decided to head south for some sun and a Vitamin D top-up at my favorite, favorite, favorite resort, the outstanding JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando. I’m all about the most beautiful (grown-up) lazy river and handsome pool boys who come right over when you flip your flag up on your lounge chair. But the number was huge — twice the decent sized number I paid last May for my birthday weekend.
    • “So instead, I headed a bit east, to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to a much more reasonably priced Hyatt resort in Cambridge, MD. It was freaking ridiculously beautiful! Saved money on the flight as well as on the room, some of which I promptly dropped on multiple platters of Chesapeake Bay oysters.”
  • Laura, I’m glad it all worked out for you. The Eastern Shore is its own world, and a fun place to explore before the summer crowds hit. I understand the attraction of flipping up the flag for an instant cocktail in the Florida sun, but I’ll take those oysters with a cold beer every time.
  • In the last episode, I said “No one sees an end in site for in-flight masking”. And 2 weeks later, the UK ditches its remaining COVID travel restrictions. Heathrow airport then drops mandatory masking; UK-based airlines BA, Virgin Atlantic, Tui, and EasyJet drop mask rules where they can — mostly within the UK (except for Scotland), and to Denmark, Iceland, Gibraltar, Hungary, and the Caribbean. Then KLM announces they’ll stop enforcing in-flight masking even though it’s still a legal Dutch requirement. And now this week, US airline CEOs and  Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants’ union are calling for the end of the US mask mandate. In the words of the great American philosopher Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast”

    The US CEOs have said this before. The Southwest flight attendants are a new voice, and they have a point. The mask mandate impacts them more than anyone day-in, day-out —  they’re the ones having to enforce it and, let’s face it, that wasn’t in the job description when they took the job. Indeed, a Tui flight attendant tweeted out “First flight done without a mask and it was an absolute dream .. Happy passengers .. Happy crew”  The March extension of the US mandate was only a month — from March 18 to April 18 — the shortest extension I can recall. Right now, the CDC is supposed to be working on a “revised policy framework” for mask mandates on public transport. In spite of being a lousy forecaster, I’m guessing that they’ll take every bit of that month before they make an announcement.

    Irene and I were talking about this yesterday. Even without a mandate, we’ll probably voluntarily pull out a KN-95 on a completely packed plane in the winter; when I’m sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a guy coughing or sniffling. It’s less of a COVID thing and more of a “I should’ve been doing this for the last 30 years” thing. Would’ve saved a fortune on cough and cold medicine and pocket packs of Kleenex.
  • At the end of the last episode, I mentioned looking forward to checking out the new LGA Amex Centurion Club. The old LGA club was upstairs, tucked in a corner and, worst of all, before security, so next to the bar, they had a TV showing the live feed from a camera pointed at the TSA checkpoint so you could figure out when you needed to leave the lounge to make your flight. The new club, in the new Terminal B, is great — properly placed after security, on the way to the gates, and twice as big as the old lounge, so plenty of room even when there’s a weather delay.  The one kink in my plan was — I’d forgotten to bring my Amex Platinum card to New York. Ugh. So the night before leaving, I hit the Amex website, fire up the chat box and ask “Is there any way to get in without my physical card?” The net net of the back-and-forth was “No” — as I expected. Ugh, again. But then, on the Uber ride to the airport, I was killing time, poking around the Amex app on my iPhone and found a screen on the LGA Centurion Lounge. And there, under Access Information, it said I could use a Platinum card or a Check-In Code. So I hit the button for a Check-In Code and got a QR code from Loungebuddy. Hmmm. Well, nothing to lose, so after security, I walked up to the desk, the agent scanned the QR code and my boarding pass and I was good to go. “Everyone’s using it now,” she told me. I went to the bar and got a free beer thinking “Somebody should tell the chat guys that.”
  • And if you have any travel stories, questions, comments, tips, rants – the voice of the traveler, send ’em along to comments@travelcommons.com — you can send a Twitter message to mpeacock, post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page or the Instagram account at travelcommons — or you can post comments on the web site at TravelCommons.com.
  • Bridge Music — Lakeside Jam by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/55998

Notes on Louisville

  • Sticking my head into the open hatch of the fermentation vessel during the Angel’s Envy distillery tour was probably my peak Louisville moment — looking down at the bubbling mash, and then inhaling — enjoying those nice yeasty notes for just second or two until the hot CO2 coming up from those bubbles burnt out my nostrils.
  • I’m not a big bourbon guy; more of a Scotch guy, but it still was a great tour. I like these kinds of tours; ones where you see people making things. It was a Friday afternoon and the place running at full tilt — the mash tuns and the fermenters were full, the distilling column was burbling away, a couple of guys were emptying aged bourbon out of barrels giving that room a really nice smell, and the bottling line was running at a surprisingly not-hectic pace, the filled bottles proceeding along the conveyor at a kinda stately pace past a couple of inspectors and then to the boxing crew. And there were only 7 of us on the tour, so we all got front-row views. The tasting at the end of the tour was well-done; a 15-20-minute guided tasting session rather than the “here’s your complimentary shot” I usually get at Scottish distilleries.
  • I mentioned in the last episode that I have a small bit of history with Louisville. My folks moved there from Memphis in the early ‘80’s while I was in college in DC. And I ended up living one summer when I was too broke to stay in DC. And where I learned to pronounce Louisville like a native — “Lou-a-vul”, not moving your mouth, swallowing all the vowels. Which is how you know someone pronouncing it “Louisville” is not from there. I only ever heard one person pronounce it “Louis-ville”. He was English, so I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. But after my family moved to Southern California in the late ‘80’s, that was pretty much it until July 2012 when Louisville was the first stop on my 2,100-mile drive around the South that I talked about in episode #100. And then 10 years later, this trip.
  • Back in 2012, after 6 hours of I-65, I took the first exit I could after crossing the Ohio River and parked myself at the counter of Garage Bar, a repurposed gas station in NuLu — New Louisville — the hip neighborhood developing east of downtown, running a few blocks down East Market Street. Ten years later, Garage Bar is still there and NuLu has expanded east and north, starting to smear into what was called Butchertown when my folks lived there. There seems to be a coffee shop or taproom on every corner and cool independent boutiques and restaurants filling the spaces in-between. It’s a fun neighborhood with a buzz about it — people on the sidewalks, every coffee shop and restaurant I walked into were doing good business. I talked about La Bodeguita De Mima in the last episode, a great Cuban restaurant that was jammed on Thursday night. Saturday morning, we tried to carb up at Biscuit Belly, but it was packed, so we walked up a block to Butchertown Grocery Bakery for my biscuit & gravy fix. 
  • Working our way through the Butchertown neighborhood toward the river, we had to navigate our way under a huge set of elevated expressway lanes — a  tangle of I-64 and I-71 — to get to the Ohio River. The Ohio River, like the Mississippi and the Missouri and the Cumberland, is a working river, carrying barge tows 5 football fields long, making it a bit dodgy for small pleasure craft, and so the banks of these rivers are often pretty industrial. But Louisville’s Waterfront Park reclaimed some of that industrial space, scrap yards and sand pits, to provide a nice stretch of riverside recreation. The one bit of industrial scrap they did leave — the late 1800’s Big Four railroad bridge, decommissioned in 1969, left standing above the river without connections to either side… until about 8 years ago when Kentucky and Indiana built ramps to reconnect it to the river banks on each side and now it’s a pedestrian and biking path.  
  • We drove over to the Shelby Park neighborhood, parked the car and walked along Logan Street. We started at the Logan St Market, shopping the food stalls on the first floor and then browsing through a makers’ market on the second floor. We walked down Logan Street, past a butterfly farm, a ping pong emporium, a hot dog joint and a bunch of houses ‘til we got to Atrium Brewing which had some great beers, a nice taproom, and a big TV showing college basketball because, what else would be on in Kentucky. It was a nice walk. We could feel this stretch was beginning to develop, but I don’t think it’ll be another NuLu. Feels like it’ll be something more neighborhoody, lower key, maybe a touch crunchy granola. 
  • And that’s what struck me about walking and driving around Louisville. It seems to have these separate neighborhoods, strips of 4 or 8 or 10 blocks that aren’t linked up. They’re sorta islands separated by runs of dodgy blocks — maybe vacant lots or some rundown housing or a big underpass — that don’t invite continued walking. Like our walk from our AC Hotel in NuLu to the Angel’s Envy distillery. Navigating under the multiple lands of I-65 was poorly lit and slightly uncomfortable and  at 2pm; I definitely would’ve had second thoughts at 6 or 7. Once there, the distillery is a great building; they dropped a sleek new distilling operation between the brick walls and steel beams of an abandoned 1900’s manufacturing building. And it’s kitty corner from Louisville’s minor league baseball park and Against The Grain microbrewery. But then, that’s it, except for open surface parking lots. I’m hoping that Louisville finds a way, multiple ways (some planned, some organic) to grow into the empty spaces and link up these neighborhood islands
  • We had a fun four days in Louisville. I definitely recommend it. Get a car, base yourself in NuLu hotel, and explore the neighborhoods and the riverbank parks. Check out the show notes; I’ll summarize all this into an easy-to-use list of places and links. 

My Recommendations:

  • La Bodeguita De Mima, 725 East Market Street, NuLu — Great Cuban food; big portion sizes; loved the the Lechon Asado (roast pork)
  • Quills Coffee, 802 E Main St, NuLu — Unpretentious coffee joint on the NuLu/Butchertown border; friendly service; good coffee; no condescension
  • Angel’s Envy Distillery, 500 E Main St — Great tour of the distillery followed by one of the best guided tasting sessions I’ve had
  • Atrium Brewing, 1154 Logan St, Shelby Park — Solid beer selection; good-sized taproom in an upcoming neighborhood
  • Mile Wide Beer, 636 Barret Ave, Highlands — At the base of the grain silos of a former biscuit factory, good bar and wide selection of beer styles


  • Closing music — Pictures of You by Evangeline
  • OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #185
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