In a piece I wrote a couple of months ago, I talked of how ignorant I was about the State of Kentucky – Neil has mentioned my comments in one of his superb blog entries further down this page. Well, I thought I ought to take a moment to tell you what I’ve learned of the place so far.
First of all, the State is officially known as The Commonwealth of Kentucky. It’s generally considered to be one of the Southern States but occasionally it’s described as being in the Midwest. It was originally part of Virginia and it became the 15th State to join the Union in 1792.
Neil and I were lucky enough to be invited to a party on Thursday night hosted by the Kentucky Tourist Board. It showcased two of the most entertaining things Kentucky is famous for: Bourbon whiskey and Bluegrass music.
Bourbon County is in the northeast of Kentucky and is home to some 20,000 people. It’s also the home of bourbon whiskey. We sampled a selection of Kentucky’s finest bourbons including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve and, the interestingly named, Knob Creek … all very nice indeed.
Bluegrass is basically country music, but you can hear its Scottish and Irish roots in the melodies and rhythms. A fabulous band played at the party and we thoroughly enjoyed their lively tunes for about an hour and a half.
One of the greatest sportsmen of all time, Muhammad Ali, was born in Louisville Kentucky. The city and the State are rightly proud to have him as a son and there is a museum dedicated to the great man in downtown Louisville.
As a place, we haven’t seen a huge amount of Kentucky. We’re staying in a Holiday Inn on the side of the motorway and we’ve been ferried from there to the golf course and back each day. But, I’ll tell you what I think of what we’ve seen.
There are a scary number of churches and many of them are absolutely huge. Last night I watched a political debate show on Louisville TV, there was an absolutely terrifying woman who spoke in favour of John McCain. She appeared smartly dressed and well educated but her views were extreme. She spoke about abortion and how, if you consider that life begins at conception, then abortion is murder and if you also consider that McCain (and she) believe in capital punishment then anyone who aborts an unborn baby should be executed…. Unbelievable stuff.
Everything here is geared towards driving. All the shops, restaurants, banks, insurance brokers, everything in fact, appears to be basically a drive-through. The roads are a bit of a shambles – huge freeways with massive intersections with traffic lights that change approximately every 15 minutes. People do a good deal of sitting still in their gas-guzzlers.
As in all of America, there seems to be a huge divide between the rich and poor. The other day we took a detour through one of the wealthier residential areas and I was amazed by the size and opulence of some of the homes – huge villas with pillared fronts and sprawling gardens. But, some of the other areas we’ve seen look far less plush – run down shacks and trailer parks. In the aftermath of hurricane Ike some of the news channels have occasionally shown the conditions that the less fortunate residents are living in – not exactly the American dream.
On the whole, the people here are extremely friendly and welcoming. They are genuinely interested in where you’ve come from and they want to help you in any way they can. The fans at the golf course may be loud but they’re certainly not nasty.
So do I like it here? Yes, I think so. The countryside is pleasant, the culture is interesting and the whiskey highly palatable. Would I live here? No.