ADVERTISEMENT

Why Haven't You Heard Of Bardstown, Kentucky?

By Rod O'Connor
March 10, 2006
0604_where_bardstown
Robin Blair Riley
Spirits of all kinds run high

The smell is the first thing you'll notice: vanilla, some caramel. That's the scent of bourbon in the air. Workers at nearby distilleries call the fumes "the angel's share"--a fitting term, considering that this town about 40 miles south of Louisville is home to both whiskey men and monks.

The area once claimed more than 20 distilleries. Only two (Barton and Heaven Hill) remain, but Bards-town still calls itself the Bourbon Capital of the World. Most downtown shops do their part, stocking bourbon-related merchandise--no matter where it's made--including whiskey-flavored chocolate and cigars. The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History conveys a healthier appreciation of America's only native spirit. In a former seminary building, the museum has Prohibition-era labels saying for medicinal use (114 N. 5th St., 502/348-2999, free).

In 1848, a group of monks from France settled in nearby hills and founded the Abbey of Gethsemani, the nation's oldest--and most incongruously located--Trappist monastery. The brothers host spiritual retreats; guests come for at least two days and donate whatever they can. "And if you can't pay this year, send us what you can, or pay us next year," says Brother Thaddeus (3642 Monks Rd., Trappist, 502/549-3117, monks.org).

If lodging with the pious doesn't appeal, why not sleep with the ghosts of sinners? The Jailer's Inn has six guest rooms in a former jail. A full breakfast with French toast and fresh strawberries is served in the courtyard, the former location of the gallows (111 W. Stephen Foster Ave., 800/948-5551, jailersinn.com, from $80).

For a look at more peaceful days on the frontier, take a tour of Old Bardstown Village, a cluster of restored log cabins dating from the 1700s (310 E. Broadway, 502/349-0291, civil-war-museum.org, $2.50).

Fast-forward a hundred years at the Federal Hill Plantation House, which showcases 19th-century Southern aristocratic life (501 E. Stephen Foster Ave., 502/348-3502, tours $5.50). The mansion, in My Old Kentucky Home State Park, was home to the prominent Rowan family. Guides in antebellum costumes spin yarns about how composer Stephen Foster had such a fine stay in 1852 that he immortalized the place by writing "My Old Kentucky Home," now the state song. Six days a week in summer, locals gather in the park's amphitheater to immortalize him, too, in Stephen Foster--The Musical (800/626-1563, from $16).

Keep reading
Inspiration

Chiado, Lisbon

1. Former Prada model Miguel Duarte shows off his eye for all things aesthetic at his Café Heróis, which has lime-green walls and mod white furniture. By day, there are toasted sandwiches and inventive salads such as the Brazilian, with pineapple, mango, cheese, ham, and yogurt dressing ($7.50). After 10 p.m., the café morphs into a mellow cocktail lounge. Calçada do Sacramento 14, 011-351/213-420-077 2. Every item in Alma Lusa ("Portuguese soul") is manufactured within the country. The house specialty is whimsical jewelry--necklaces fashioned from steel zippers ($60), pins in the shape of sushi rolls ($10). The boutique sells playful furniture, too, including beanbag chairs custom-made with brightly colored canvas in place of pleather ($263). Rua do Carmo 17, 011-351/213-432-039 3. Amo.te Chiado, one of the five Amo.te cafés throughout the country, publishes a monthly arts-and-entertainment magazine of the same name. In addition, the café hands out free guides to surrounding areas, with especially useful listings on the hottest nightclubs and bars in Bairro Alto, Chiado's hillier--and rowdier--next-door neighbor. Calçada Nova de São Francisco 2, 011-351/213-420-668, amote.clix.pt 4. Perhaps inspired by Lisbon's storied contemporary art museum Museu do Chiado, also in the neighborhood, Mousse blurs the line between gallery and shop, at least in the way items are displayed. But the objects--everything from an old-fashioned women's toiletries kit with 1920s packaging ($56) to hand-crocheted lampshades (from $204)--are all for sale. Rua das Flores 41-43, 011-351/213-420-781 5. With only two racks, José António Tenente has fewer pieces of clothing in his boutique than most people have in their closets. Leading up to Lisbon's biannual Fashion Week (in March and October), the designer slashes prices by as much as 80 percent to make way for his new sleek suit jackets and evening gowns. Travessa do Carmo 8, 011-351/213-422-560 6. At the rooftop terrace bar at the luxurious Bairro Alto Hotel, the views stretch across the Tagus River and take in the Ponte 25 de Abril (a dead ringer for San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge) and another Lisbon landmark: an illuminated, 360-foot-tall statue of Christ. Sipping a caipirinha ($10), visitors might wonder if they aren't in another Portuguese-speaking place, Rio de Janeiro. Praça Luís de Camões 8, 011-351/213-408-288, bairroaltohotel.com 7. Sisters Teresa and Joana Figueredos stock original paintings and handmade jewelry at their Lua de Champagne. Teresa, a former architect, sells her own abstract paintings (from $178). Her little sibling Joana's original designs include red pom-pom earrings (from $12). Each purchase gets popped into a miniature plastic bag and then sprinkled with a handful of sequins. Rua do Ferragial 3, 011-351/213-431-684 8. Hotels in Lisbon don't come cheap (see #6, where rooms start at $330). Hotel Borges is the rare good deal. It isn't going to win any style points, but the hotel has a central location on the main drag. A breakfast of coffee and rolls with jam, served in a stately room lit by chandeliers, is included in the rate. Rua Garrett 108, 011-351/213-461-951, lisbonhotelborges.com, from $78

Inspiration

A Long Weekend in Tucson Is Hot Stuff

It's 10 p.m. at the Hotel Congress, the neon-lit epicenter of bohemia in Tucson. In Club Congress, the hotel's cavernous nightclub, a local avant-garde French pop singer, Marianne Dissard, is warbling a French song about love's "little lies" with unusual forcefulness. She's accompanied on electric guitar by her husband, the improbably named Naim Amor. But while there's nothing flawed about Naim's guitar playing, there's no mistaking who's the star of this show. A documentary filmmaker and all-around Tucson scenester, Dissard has the martini-sipping crowd of about 75 wrapped around her finger. "Tonight is a very special night for me," she says, squinting through the glare of the stage lights. "I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of when I moved to Tucson. I feel so glad I found this amazing, diverse, artistic city. I love you all." The audience whoops loudly. "You tell it, sister!" one man shouts. Earlier that afternoon, an innkeeper was using similar adjectives to describe Tucson: "It's arts-oriented, tolerant, and culturally diverse," said Jeff DiGregorio, co-owner of the Royal Elizabeth B&B Inn, in a 128-year-old adobe mansion downtown. "I'm biased, but I think we're very intellectual, too." All this enthusiasm can get suspiciously fervent, but there must be something to it. Tucson, 120 miles southeast of Phoenix, has long been known as a laid-back Southwestern cowboy city with near-perfect weather; lately, the town of 510,000 is making more noise. Says DiGregorio, "Tucson has the culture of L.A., but with the intimacy of Santa Fe." The 1930s-era Hotel Congress has one foot in the past and the other in the present. There's an Old West-style bar (the Tap Room), a sleek separate restaurant (the Cup Café), retro rooms, and neon signs throughout. Then again, not everyone wants to sleep above a nightclub. The Royal Elizabeth--or The Liz, as it's known around town--is furnished in a style DiGregorio calls an "antiques medley," where pieces from the Victorian, craftsman, and art deco eras casually coexist. DiGregorio, a Tucson native, and his partner, Chuck Bressi, were living in Washington, D.C., when they saw the building online and bought it sight unseen. Two weeks later, they moved to Tucson and got to work. Bressi handles the books and the cooking--and amuses guests with his quiet wit. DiGregorio, meanwhile, is a walking encyclopedia of downtown history. He also always seems to be around to help when it's time to make dinner plans. The restaurant where he's most likely to send guests is the nouveau Mexican Café Poca Cosa. Suzana Davila, the café's waifish chef, is a former model from Guaymas, Mexico, and she imported her love of mole, a rich sauce made with chocolate, red wine, and chilis. Handwritten chalkboard menus at each table change daily. If a diner gives Davila carte blanche, she'll recommend her favorite: a chocolateless Oaxacan mole verde--made from pumpkin seeds, pistachios, cilantro, and serrano peppers. Another part of downtown, along 4th Avenue, is considerably funkier. There are counterculture bookstores, and, this being the Southwest, there are shops selling therapeutic crystals. The unofficial mayor of the avenue is Dominique Francesca. She's often found standing in the doorway of Café Jinx, surveying the scene. Francesca is also an artist and photographer, and the café's expert cook; her baby spinach frittata and dark French Roast coffee are hits with the rock bands rolling through Tucson. Francesca hasn't always been a fixture here, though it often seems that way. She explains that she spent half of the '90s "getting my head together" on a road trip in her Chevy Suburban. Upon arriving in Tucson, she ditched her Suburban for a room at the Hotel Congress, and met artists who convinced her to settle in town for good. "The city has quite a funky groove," she says. "I guess I sort of feed off it." A mission beyond downtown Like so many Western cities, Tucson has its share of sprawl. It's worth braving for the ghostly San Xavier del Bac Mission (1950 W. San Xavier Rd., 520/294-2624, free), near the Tohono O'odham reservation southwest of town. Built by Franciscans in 1797, the white adobe church has spectacular arches, domes, and towers. One of the better craft stands outside the mission is a Hopi jewelry shop called Loo-Lol-Ma's. What stands out are the fetishes, alabaster Zuni charms that come in different animal shapes. Lodging   Hotel Congress 311 E. Congress St., 520/622-8848, hotelcongress.com, rooms from $69   Royal Elizabeth B&B Inn 204 S. Scott Ave., 877/670-9022, royalelizabeth.com, rooms from $115 Food   Café Poca Cosa 88 E. Broadway Blvd., 520/622-6400, Oaxacan mole verde $18   Café Jinx 344 N. 4th Ave., no phone, spinach frittata $4

Inspiration

Vintage Fashion in Vancouver That Qualifies as New

Two Vancouver neighborhoods--the Gastown district and South Main--are emerging as hubs for boutiques with reworked vintage clothing. "Designers for our shop use fabrics like curtains and crocheted afghans and create new items out of them," says Wendy de Kruyff, owner of Dream, in Gastown (311 W. Cordova St., 604/683-7326). Most of those designers are locals like Kim Brower, whose labels read 100 PERCENT RECYCLED--TRY IT! She took a green tank and enhanced it with embroidered flowers and denim detailing along the hemline and sides ($50). Dream's accessories are given the recycled treatment, too: Suzanne Cowan makes photo albums from old LPs ($61); Mishi Perugini uses candy wrappers to create wallets ($19). Two miles southeast of Gastown, in up-and-coming South Main, a number of chic boutiques line Main Street. Chief among them is Eugene Choo, with its sleek SoHo sensibility (3683 Main St., 604/873-8874). The store specializes in pieces that don't try to hide their roots: An A-line trenchcoat dress by Toronto designer Preloved prominently displays the original London Fog and Pierre Cardin labels ($127), and Vancouver designer Erin Templeton reconfigures leather miniskirts into purses ($174). Regular menswear selections include navy-and-white blazers made out of old sweatshirts, and gray jackets constructed from chinos ($100-$122). With pop-art rugs and graphic print wallpaper, South Main's Mod to Modern has the groovy vibe of a '60s rec room (3712 Main St., 604/874-2144). Sadly, the store's fabulous '60s and '70s lamps aren't for sale. "As you can imagine, the supply of good furniture is pretty limited around here," says owner Michelle Bergeron-Mok. "But how about that dress?" She's pointing to a piece from her own line, a stretchy halter dress adapted from clothing picked up at thrift stores ($85). Her latest designs also include remade sweaters, using hand-cut wool in earth tones ($95-$145). Mod to Modern sells repurposed accessories, too, such as zippered wallets made out of thin inner tubes ($19) and necklaces mixing both old and new beads ($30). At Barefoot Contessa, tea towels and silky slips--and the white picket fence used as decoration--create a '50s feel (3715 Main St., 604/879-1137). Pastel sundresses made from recycled cotton fabrics couldn't be more girly ($130). The shop also carries jewelry, in the back, underneath an antique refrigerator door. Aspiring Doris Days will fall for flower brooches fashioned, naturally, from vintage fabrics ($23). Vintage for real At DeLuxe Junk Co. in the Gastown district, period accessories are paired with vintage duds--a faux-Prada purse in green vinyl ($30) and ropes of bright plastic and glass beads ($7) add flash to a strapless black gown ($26) with a bow-tie front (310 W. Cordova St., 604/685-4871). For guys, there are wool trousers, silk ties, and the occasional conversation piece, like a 1970s leather fish-scale jacket ($59). Front & Company, the 13-year-old anchor of the South Main strip, has a reliably massive selection of clothing, accessories, and housewares (3742, 3746, and 3772 Main St., 604/879-8431).

Inspiration

Hood River, Oregon

After towing a trailer across 46 states looking for a new place to call home, Boulderites Mike and Brooke Pauly found their sweet spot in Hood River, about 45 minutes east of Portland. "Within three hours we knew twenty-five people by name," says Mike, who designs and sells kiteboarding and windsurfing sails. While her husband works with sails, Brooke keeps Hood River residents afloat in cocktails at Brian's Pourhouse, where the blackberry kamikazes are made with freshly picked local berries (606 Oak St., 541/387-4344, $7). "Think locally" could be the town motto. At Sixth Street Bistro (509 Cascade Ave., 541/386-5737), hormone-free meats come from Painted Hills Natural Beef in central Oregon; organic greens are from nearby Zion Farms. Acting globally is equally important: Sixth Street's leftover fryer grease fuels the company's biodiesel vehicle. Along with her partners, co-owner and general manager Jacqueline Carey just opened a new restaurant, Celilo, in an energy-conserving building. (Even the glass was made in Hood River, at Cardinal Glass.) On the menu are skillet-roasted mussels for $9, and a salad of confit duck and Oregon blue cheese for $7.50 (16 Oak St., 541/386-5710). Hood River is on the Columbia River, and the consistently strong wind attracts windsurfers and kiteboarders. Locals are as athletic as they are eco-conscious. When Bryan McGeeney isn't steaming soy milk at his café, 10-Speed Coffee, he's training as a triathlete (1412 13th St., 541/386-3165). His café plays up his two passions; the chairs are recycled Schwinn seats.

ADVERTISEMENT