You Can Take the Girl Out Of Kentucky...

 HerKentucky is thrilled to welcome our newest contributor, my dear friend and college classmate Allie Townsend! Allie, a Henderson native and Transylvania alumna, lives in North Carolina with a houseful of boys -- her husband and college sweetheart Landy, their three amazing boys, and their sweet old dog. Allie gracefully juggles her roles as freelance writer and supermom while making sure her kids are wearing the right (Wildcat) shade of blue deep in the heart of ACC country. --HCW

Here I sit, a solid six years into my second stint in the heart of North Carolina. I am wondering, as I often do, whether I will ever feel that this place is home. I mean, shouldn’t I? I have spent nearly a fifth of my life here; I enjoy the mild weather and the mere glances I give to my heavy winter coat as it remains hanging in the closet; I love our close-knit neighborhood where we have made top-shelf friends; and should we ever move away, my first thought is that I cannot possibly bear to leave my gym. Shoot, y’all, I can arrive either at the beach or in the mountains within two hours. Despite all the benefits, the answer remains and always shall be: no, not really. Home, as they say, is where the heart is. And for us? Home is Kentucky.

Our family’s roots are firmly planted in western Kentucky, although we made our way all around the Commonwealth. I was born and raised in Henderson, my husband in Owensboro. Despite growing up only 30 minutes removed, we never crossed paths until I laid eyes on that sandy haired boy in Dr. Lyon’s Western Civ class at Transylvania University, way the heck back in 1993. There we learned that both my grandfather and Landy’s father were Middlesboro natives. We called Louisville home after graduation, and we bought our first house in St. Matthews when we were married in 1999. Two of our three boys were born at Baptist East in Louisville. Our little caboose baby will always be known as the only North Carolina native in the family, but he will have a heavy dose of Big Blue to help him learn that he is a Kentuckian at heart.

Speaking of Big Blue, we endeavor to raise Kentucky-loving kids right on Tobacco Road. We must contend with NC State, UNC, and Duke, all of which lie within a 45-minute drive from our home. Just kidding about Duke - nobody here likes them, either. I will have much to say about the tumult of living outside SEC country. Never did I think I would find myself commiserating with Gators or the Crimson Tide (The Pachyderms? I don't know.), but sure enough, here we are, acting as if nobody else is allowed to say a word against our sisters and brothers.

I might be the most chronically homesick girl you’ve ever known. Fortunately, there have been many occasions when Kentucky has reached out with a pat on the back and a, “There, there.” Last fall, as I was bustling between school and soccer practice, a truck stopped outside the house and a nice man came out to talk to us about our UK flag. Turns out? Our new friend, Scott Lay, knows half of the Phi Taus from my class at Transylvania. And now there he is, just living right behind us with his beautiful family! Our neighbor across the street? The super-sweet Emily Branscum Belanger, UK alumna from Somerset! A couple of doors down from them lives the family of former UK offensive lineman Kevin Disotelle. Just a few months ago, while attending a spa day to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I sat down with the one girl I didn’t yet know, the absolutely lovely Kari Kirby Shoaf, a proud UK graduate!

Oddly enough, the most comforting bit of home did not come from a Kentuckian at all. One of the first things I discovered about my neighbor and serious Tar Heel, Monica Kinton, was that her grandmother hailed from Hardin County. Of course, she didn’t tell me the county like you fine Kentuckians would, but she did say, “E-town,” so I knew she was legit. I practically swooned when she relayed to me that her grandmother pronounced “eggs” just like my own Hardin County born mother: “aigs.”  At that moment, I knew I would be just fine no matter my zip code.

After living here in beautiful North Carolina for so long, I could go on and on about all the things I really do love here. What I love most of all, though, is that Kentucky is everywhere, and thank goodness for that.

My Kentucky–Downtown Frankfort

I live in our Commonwealth’s capital city, only about four blocks from the Capitol. (That’s the first lesson you learn in my town – the difference between “capital” and “capitol.”)
Y’all. My town is beautiful. Your capital city is beautiful! I love it more than any place in the world. I hope you like it, too. Here are some of my favorite places in the old parts of town – South Frankfort and Downtown Frankfort.
I sat on the wall along the South Frankfort Presbyterian Church’s and ate lunch nearly everyday when I was a Freshman in high school. My alma mater didn’t have a cafeteria back then.
This building housed the first YMCA in town. It’s been vacant for as long as I can remember. I’ve never thought it was a very beautiful building, but a group of preservationists are working to turn it into our town’s first boutique hotel. It sits right on the Kentucky river next to what we affectionately name The Singing Bridge. This bridge, now the site of an open-grate roadbed steel bridge originally had an old-fashioned covered bridge to serve folks coming from Louisville to the Old Capitol Building.
This building was originally a post office. I know it best as the library. It’s currently owned by Kentucky State University and is being remodeled. I’d love to go up into that turret.
There is always a renovation or restoration project in progress in our downtown. I’d not noticed that this one was in the midst of one until I shot this photo and realized that the column is only partially painted. I’m not sure if this is an active renovation or if it got stalled along the way and the plans have been abandoned for exterior work. The building houses businesses and apartments.
This portion of St. Clair street used to be a pedestrian-only mall paved with bricks and lined with trees. About 10 years ago, the city revamped the mall to allow for mixed traffic use. I was devastated at the thought of it, but I have to admit that they did it well. The bars and restaurants have ample room for outdoor seating. Pedestrians have room to walk. People have room to gather and traffic flows in a single-lane, one-way pattern. The jeweler’s clock has been standing sentry over this part of town for many years (the jeweler’s been in business since 1872).
This little guy was tied to a lamp post outside the coffee shop while his owners ordered their coffee. That’s one of the great things about my town – no one will bother this dog unless it’s with scratches behind the ear. If it were a hot day, the shop owner would offer up a bowl of water for him. People care around here.
I love the paint scheme on these buildings on Broadway – the only street in town divided by railroad tracks. If I had a wide-angle lens you’d see that the buildings continue on to the left of this picture. The entire city block is filled with locally-owned businesses including a specialty wine and liquor shop, an antique store, a book store owned by a former Kentucky Poet Laureate, a café, a Kentucky artisan shop and an upscale dining spot.
Directly across from those shops stands the Old State Capitol building. It’s surrounded by a walled park featuring brick-laid walkways and a fountain and is a beautiful spot. While it was once the site of political machinations and even a gubernatorial assassination in 1900, today, the building serves as part of the state’s Historical Society and the grounds are the site of summer concerts and many picnics and playdates.
Our town, like any small town you’ll find in the South is home to a great number of churches. The ones downtown are the oldest and, to me, most beautiful. These two, in particular, remind me of England and cottage gardens (not that I’ve ever been there!). Fittingly, one of them is the Anglican church!
As a town first settled in the 1780s, Frankfort has its fair share of historic homes. These are two of my favorites.
I found this front gate decoration in front of the historic Liberty Hall. Legend has it that the house is haunted and that you can sometimes see The Gray Lady at one of the upstairs windows.
The grounds of the historic homes are open to the public. In elementary school, we would often walk to them in the spring time and spend an afternoon reading or exploring. Can’t you just imagine a garden party in this spot?
Finally, crossing back over to my side of the river, you can see where the painter Paul Sawyier was so inspired by the area.
It won’t be long until the Capitol grounds crew has these guys out and ready for photographing, again. The tulips in bloom signal spring’s arrival and prompt lots of family photo opportunities.
Just a few short weeks after the tulips, it’s Derby time!

There's No Place Like Home(s).

Over the past decade, my fiance and I have called three different cities "home." 

Louisville Skyline.
It's odd, really. When school, work, and life take you to various places, it's only natural to pick a favorite place. The place where you're the happiest, the place where you're the most successful, the place where you're the most comfortable -- there's no place like home. I find that I think of all three of "our cities" -- Lexington, Louisville, and Nashville -- as home. I love all three -- the river town bustle of Louisville, the glitzy Southernness of Nashville, and the small-town grace of Lexington. Each city holds dear friends and happy memories. I never really consider myself to have a favorite; each, in its own way, is home. 

A Lexington landmark peeking through.
The trouble with that mentality is that I often wish that I could blend aspects and amenities of each of my hometowns together into one super-awesome city. I'll find myself on a lazy Saturday, wondering if a trip to Louisville's Wick's Pizza is worth the trip. (A free piece of advice: Wick's Pizza is always worth the trip!) I'll crave coffee from my favorite little cafe just off Vanderbilt's campus, along with my favorite tuna dish, which can be found off Bardstown Road. I'll wish I could hit the Green Hills Nordstrom and make it back to Lexington in time for dinner at Ramsey's and the basketball game. These plans are always just a little too ambitious to work out, but that doesn't stop me from wishing that my favorite East Nashville-made hot chocolate would magically appear on a cold Bluegrass night. 

Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville.
Maybe I love my three hometowns because they're fundamentally similar -- mid-sized Southern cities, located on or near a river, with a commitment to sports, horses and universities. Maybe I've created similar experiences for myself in each city -- I've joined all three Junior Leagues, volunteered with my local sorority chapters, and scoped out the best restaurants. Maybe I've just been blessed to call three awesome cities "home." 

But, it sure would be nice if I could find a way to have Wick's Pizza and Marche Hot Chocolate in the same evening.