THEY say betting is a fool’s game but when I checked into the Hotel Covington in the Kentucky city I knew I was onto a winner.
The stunning hotel was formerly a department store, built by businessman John Coppin after he backed a long-shot at one of the states many races and his horse romped home, earning him a fortune.
It’s a fabulous mix of old meets new, with a New York loft-style vibe, and like much of this charming place was welcoming and friendly.
It was odds-on I’d quickly fall in love with Covington. I adore small town America. The big cities are fun but the smaller cities and towns are the trips of my dreams.
And luckily I got to see so much of it on an architecture tour of the downtown area, where we passed multi-million dollar 19th and 20th century mansions, historic sites, amazing hotels and modern condo blocks and learned all about the city’s history.
We walked over the iconic and bright blue Roebling Suspension Bridge — the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge – which connects Ohio to Kentucky.
I used the direct BA flight from London to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport which serves the whole ‘Cincy region’. It’s just a quick cab ride across the Ohio river to Covington, so was easy peasy.
All that walking sure did build up an appetite, which was lucky given the size of the portions we got at the fantastic Purple Poulet restaurant that night.
This southern Bourbon Bistro is bijou and beautiful. It’s like stepping inside a 19th century plantation house. It was named the best place for fried chicken in the whole state – quite an accolade.
I’d highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato Pie and the cornmeal fried Catfish. It was here I also had my first introduction to Kentucky’s famous drink. They have over 500 varieties of bourbons and ryes to choose from. Luckily the hotel was within staggering distance!
A blissful night’s sleep and I was ready for more southern hospitality and home cooking.
We’d been told the breakfast at Cedar restaurant was unbeatable and after stuffing my face and belly with the culinarily delights cooked up by the Faeth family, I agree.
One of our group, obviously suffering from too many bourbons the night before, tried the famous Hangover plate of potatoes, chorizo, avocado, eggs, jalapeño, house pico. It sure perked him up.
More site seeing followed as we admired the architecture and the open spaces in the city and when we happened to pass the lively looking Herb n Thelma’s tavern, which has been serving burgers and beers in the city’s Lewisburg neighbourhood for 80 plus year, we nipped in for a quick bite of history.
It set us up nicely for what was one of the highlights of our trip an Newport Gangster Tour.
The city, just across the Licking River (yes that is its name!) from Covington, was a hot bed of organised crime and prostitution and was known as the bootlegging capital of America during Prohibition.
This mobster’s paradise was also America’s first major gambling city and was a mecca for celebrities, tourists and criminals.
“This was Vegas before Vegas,” our American Legacy Tour guide told us.
We were amazed to hear how Frank Sinatra gambled in the back room of the casinos on York Street and Dean Martin sang at Frank “Screw” Andrews’ house parties. Marilyn Monroe, Duke Ellington and more of the Hollywood elite frequented the city.
GO: COVINGTON, KENTUCKY
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Enjoy a stay in Covington as part of a 14-night Bourbon, Bluegrass & Blues, fly drive from Edinburgh in March, via London Heathrow, with BA to Northern Kentucky Airport and returning from New Orleans Airport. Costs from £2,835pp including car hire, two nights in Covington, a night in Lexington, one in Louisville, a night in Owensboro, one in Puducah (all Kentucky), three nights in Memphis, Tennessee, one in Cleveland, a night in Jackson, one in Natchez (all Mississippi) and two nights in New Orleans. See northamericatravelservice.co.uk or call 0333 323 3099.
MORE INFO: For more on visiting Kentucky see kentuckytourism.com
All that bootlegging talk had left us thirsty so we headed to New Riff Distillery for a drop of, what else, bourbon.
We took the Bonded Tour to see first-hand the distilling process, from grain to barrel and were rewarded with a taster at the end.
I gave the bourbon a miss at dinner that night at Bouquet and tried one of the many fabulous wines on their list as I devoured a fabulous meal of scallop pasta and home-made pumpkin cake.
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Next day after a delicious breakfast at the hotel it was time to head home.
But one thing’s a sure, I’ll be back in Covington. In fact, I’d bet my shirt on it!
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