Two things are important in Lexington – horse racing and bourbon!
Even some of the public art – including giant sculptures of books often depicts horse racing.
A number of artistic horse sculptures are scattered around town.
A downtown sculpture area is called Thoroughbred Park – depicting the finish line in great detail.
The best ‘ghost sign’ in town is for Horse Racing Oats.
But there is more to Lexington that just horses and bourbon – there is the University of Kentucky, and their stunning library.
For a city this far off the east coast there are a number of early 1800 or older buildings and homes.
A former courthouse is now the main visitor center – as well as other civic offices.
The area has been growing, and there is evidence of new investments downtown with government buildings and plazas.
The main library is newer as well, and features this 5 story pendulum clock – reputed to be the largest in the world.
We visited Transylvnia University and an art fair that was occurring there. The college was the first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is named for the Transylvania Colony – a proposed 14th colony that never really came to be – but the university name stuck.
Our final stop was the arboretum shared by the University of Kentucky and the city of Lexington. On this spring day there were a number of groups using the setting for their backdrops – homecoming groups, weddings, engages, and others…
Our final stop was a memorial to 49 people who lost their lives in a commuter airline crash in 2006. They are represented by 49 birds in flight.
For a mid sized city Lexington has a lot to offer – a good place to spend a day or two.
Our day in Paris continued with a ride in ‘Horse Country’. Central Kentucky is the center of thoroughbred horse racing in America, and Paris is the heart of that center. Numerous well known farms surround the town.
We had booked a tour at the most famous one – Claiborne Farms.
Six of the 13 Triple Crown winners were sired at the farm. In addition to these, numerous other Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes winners came from here.
Everything about the farm is first class, but not gaudy. It is done right, but not tacky – sort of the August National of Thoroughbred farms.
The stalls for the stallions are immaculate. And for good reason, they generate the revenue
The most legendary stallion is War Front. Other farms bring mares from all over the world to mate with War Front. The cost for doing this (which takes 15 minutes) is $250,000. War Front brings in $20 million a year in stud fees.
As the guide told us – in reality War Front signs their paychecks. But he earns his money as he has 3 ‘sessions’ a day for 6 months.
But there are others as well that can earn into 6 figures for their services.
Kyle is not just a tour guide, he has a degree from the University of Kentucky in Equine Science and Management.
What do these multi-million dollar animals like – peppermint candy!
All of the studs at the farm are major winners during their 2 and 3 year old years, before moving over to their new career for the rest of their lives (which is usually around 20-25 years)
Still they act like puppies, chewing at their leads and generally playing around.
They are beautifully maintained.
Others in their stalls want attention and peppermint candy as well.
The horse Blame was quite the character!
They have a horse cemetery with some of the most noted in their history buried there including the legendary Secretariat.
Clairborne Farms is a fascinating place. Kyle was a great guide, giving significant detail into the workings of the farm, and how they care for their horses – and will continue to do things ‘the right way’ and ‘old school’ for the best for the horses.
In keeping with the morning we had lunch at the nearby Horseshoes Kentucky Grill.
The interior was decked out in racing memorabilia.
So many small towns in America are named after other places – and Paris is no different. According to Google there are 23 towns and cities in America called Paris, but the one in Kentucky is one of the nicer ones.
This town was originally called Bourbontown because it is the county seat of Bourbon County (more on that later), but was renamed to Paris as a thank you to France’s contribution during the Revolutionary War.
They have a small Eiffel Tower next to the Visitor Center/Farmers Market.
The town itself is very well preserved, as there is a lot of money in the area from the thoroughbred farms (more on this later as well).
Horse Racing is a recurring theme throughout all of Central Kentucky.
The pots along the street for flowers and bushes are re purposed horse troughs.
Hollywood has a walk of fame – but so does Paris – with horseshoes for the great ones – including the greatest – Secretariat.
Most of the downtown area buildings are 100 years old and in good condition.
The Duncan Tavern is the oldest building in town – dating from 1788.
The highlight though is the Bourbon County Courthouse. Completed in 1902 it is spectacular.
From the mosaics in the floors….
To another horse racing tribute.
The fantastic view of the dome from below.
Much of the ironwork came from nearby Maysville.
Great care has been given in the upkeep of the courthouse. We were lucky enough that on this Saturday morning it was open for absentee voting – and the Boubon County Clerk of Courts Richard Eads gave us a detailed history of the building, taking time out of his busy day for us.
The ceiling of the courtroom has a mural of Lady Justice.
Sugarcreek is the center of Amish Country in Ohio, and with our trip to see the Age of Steam Roundhouse (other posting) we passed a strange mix of sights, including the photo above with an Amish buggy in front of what they claim is the world’s largest cuckoo clock.
On the way we passed the numerous farms in the area.
The large corn crib nearly full provided an interesting shot.
When we arrived in town we found that many of the buildings had murals on the front depicting Switzerland, as the town was founded by the Swiss and they continue to play up this fact for tourists.