Remembering D-Day Part 4 – Afternoon thru Normandy

After lunch we headed to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first town liberated by the Allied Forces. As paratroopers descended from the sky into the small village, American soldier, John Steele was hit by shrapnel and landed on the church tower in the village. He then spent two and half hours dangling from the church tower. There is a replica of John Steele hanging from the church tower as if the church and town have stopped time.

From there we headed to Pointe du Hoc. This 100 foot cliff was the highest point in between Utah and Omaha Beaches.

The German troops were ready at Pointe du Hoc to defend Normandy from the Allied attack.

The US Army was able to successfully take over and secure the area after scaling the cliffs and fighting off the Germans.

A number of the bunkers still remain, it was very interesting to walk the grounds and see the remains from that battle.

View from Pointe du Hoc

I walked over to the cliffs to check out exactly how high up they were. The view was stunning, peaceful and so relaxing.

While taking in this peaceful view, it was hard to imagine the battle and resulting death that took place at such a beautiful location.

Something we should remember in every day life, no matter how beautiful or peaceful somewhere may be, terrible things can happen anywhere. We must enjoy the beauty that is life as we never know what may happen, none of us are immune to heartbreak in life no matter how invincible we may think we are.

After Pointe du Hoc, we headed over to the American Cemetery. If you would like to read more on that, please check out this blog: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/06/14/remembering-d-day-part-2-the-cemeteries/

Then we made our last stop of the day at Omaha Beach. The landings at this beach were necessary to link the landings to the west at Utah and the British landings to the east at Gold. The atmosphere at Omaha was much more subdued than at Utah Beach, this made for a good time to reflect on the busy, information loaded day we all just had.

If you will be in Normandy for a short visit, I do recommend taking a full day tour like this, I would hope you have a knowledgeable, enthusiastic tour guide like I had, he definitely made the tour amazing.

It was a lot of information for one day though, so if you were spending a good amount of time in Normandy, I would recommend maybe taking some half day morning tours to the different sites so that you can spend your afternoons absorbing the information.

I hope you have enjoyed me revisiting my Normandy trip and learned some more things you didn’t previously know about Normandy like I did. Thanks so much for reading, stay safe and healthy everyone!

Remembering D-Day Part 3 – Morning In Normandy

After leaving the German Cemetery (more on that here: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/06/14/remembering-d-day-part-2-the-cemeteries/ ), we headed to Angoville-au-Plain. This was my favorite part of the tour!

There is not much to this small town but it’s the church that holds the history and story of Robert Wright and Ken Moore.

These two heroic US army medics with the 101st Airborne Division used the church as a makeshift hospital during the invasion of Normandy.

Blood stained pew

It was interesting and also kind of eerie to see the church pew with a blood stain still visible from those 3 days that this was used as a makeshift hospital.

Both Robert Wright and Ken Moore received the Silver Star Medal for their bravery not only treating American soldiers, but also injured local residents and even German soldiers.

They treated these patients as bombs were being set off all around the church outside, shattering windows and even collapsing a portion of the roof.

This was a story I don’t remember reading in the school history books and hearing it as we looked at the blood stains from that time, puts a whole different perspective on how awful it would be to live thru a war.

The town celebrates these medics and has a memorial set up outside the church. Robert Wrights remains were buried at the site.

From there we headed to one of the more well known spots in Normandy, Utah Beach.

Utah Beach was the westernmost landing site of the invasion and was much more successful than the landing at Omaha Beach where there were many more casualties.

The beginning of the landing didn’t begin as a successful one though as they were off by 1,800 meters. This ended up working to their advantage as it led the Allied forces to a much less defended area of the beach.

Our guide took us to the beach and as we stood on the beach he told the story of the landing. You could close your eyes and get clear picture in your mind of the landing as he described it to us.

There were many statues and artifacts to see at the Utah Beach site. This section of beach is popular today for horse trotting practice. It was fun to watch them practicing on the beach, amazing how fast these horses can go!

After Utah Beach, we stopped for lunch. Lunch was at an old restored restaurant called Café J. Phillippe Epicerie. There are photos of soldiers outside this café back in June of 1944. The café was restored and has many artifacts from the time of the war to check out before or after eating lunch. I love when tours pick such interesting places like this for a meal, it really adds to the feel of the tour and is so much better than just going to another modern restaurant.

After relaxing at lunch and fueling up, we were ready for an afternoon full of visiting a few more stops in Normandy. Stay tuned for next week’s blog on all that we saw that afternoon.

Remembering D-Day Part 2 – The Cemeteries

There are numerous tours from Bayeux to see the sights of the Invasion of Normandy. Being that I was visiting from the US, I decided to take a full day US Beaches Tour.

La Cambe German Cemetery

Although this was a tour visiting the US sights of the Invasion of Normandy, the first stop on the tour was La Cambe German Cemetery.

Now why would we start our US tour visiting a German cemetery?

There are a couple of reasons, one of which is for us to be able to see the contrast in the German cemetery vs. the US cemetery that we would be visiting later in the day.

Another reason was that the La Cambe German Cemetery was originally started as an American cemetery during the war. The cemetery was for both Americans and Germans. After the war it became the largest German cemetery in Normandy without over 21,000 soldiers buried here.

Of these 21,000 soldiers buried in this 15 acre cemetery, 300 of them are buried in the hill that serves as the centerpiece of the cemetery. On top of this hill sits a black cross with two statues surrounding it.

You can walk up to the top to get a closer look of the cross and statues and also a view of the cemetery as a whole. When viewing the cemetery from up top, I noticed how subdued it was compared to cemeteries home in the US. I was happy to see that they had plaques to mark most gravesites with a few crosses scattered throughout. It makes for a more peaceful site to visit.

American Cemetery in Normandy

That afternoon, we visited the American Cemetery in Normandy.

There are over 9,000 US soldiers buried at this 172 acre cemetery.

Unlike the plaques and few black crosses in the German cemetery, the gravesites here are all marked with crosses made of Italian white marble.

A few of the crosses are recognized with a gold star, like this one for General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Also marked are the graves for other Generals, Medal of Honor recipients and the Niland brothers who the movie Saving Private Ryan is based off of.

There are also 300 unknown soldiers buried here and also the Wall of Missing which honors the over 1,500 missing in action soldiers.

The cemetery is an actual site of one of the battles of the Invasion of Normandy as it sits overlooking Omaha Beach.

Our visit to the cemetery was very well timed as we were there to witness the daily flag ceremony.

There is something very moving hearing taps playing and seeing the flag lowered and folded while in a military cemetery. It reminds you that the flag holds as a symbol not just for our country but for all those who fought for the our country. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms and rights that we have today.

If you have never witnessed this ceremony before, I highly recommend it.

The differences in the cemeteries were very apparent. From the location of the cemeteries to the scale that each cemetery was displayed. These differences reflect the differences in the countries themselves. America has always been a country that goes all out, the bigger the better with everything they do. While European countries are a little more subdued.

I enjoyed seeing both of these cemeteries and being able to pay my respects to the soldiers lost during the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Next week, I will discuss some of the sites where the Invasion took place.

Remembering D-Day Part 1 Bayeux

My first visit to Paris was for only 5 days, which left me very little time to head out of the city to explore everything else that the country of France has to offer. As a big history fan, I’ve always wanted to visit Normandy. So on my second trip back to Paris, I made sure that was the focus of my trip!

I took an all day tour that may have been one of the most informative tours I have ever taken in my life. Some may have thought it was too much information for one day and while it was draining, the tour guide is what made it so amazing!

Due to the amount of information learned and experienced in this tour, I will be separating it into a few blogs over the next few weeks. For the first blog, I’d like to talk about where I stayed as a home base for the tour, Bayeux France.

Bayeux France

Bayeux is a beautiful town in the Normandy region of France. It’s easily accessible by train which takes a little over 2 hours from Paris. This medieval town is home to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry. It was also the first city to be liberated in the Battle of Normandy.

Being from America, I always feel like I’m walking back in time when visiting Europe. There is something amazing about how things look and feel like they must have been thousands of years ago. Bayeux definitely had a very medieval vibe to me that just walking the streets transported me back in time.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux

Towering over the town of Bayeux is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux. This gothic style cathedral dates back to the 11th century and the times of William the Conqueror.

I recommend visiting the cathedral and to take some time to walk around inside.

I was lucky enough to have a beautiful view of the cathedral from my hotel room. It was a nice way to start and end each day by looking out the window at this beauty! I mean how peaceful does it look at night? What a great way to wind down from a busy fun day exploring.

Bayeux Tapestry

Until 1793, the Bayeux Tapestry was displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux. Now it is located a short walk from the cathedral.

The Tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England from the point of view of the conquering Normans.

The 70 metres long and 50 centimetres tall tapestry is behind glass and guests are given headphones to listen to the story as they walk along viewing the story on the tapestry.

It truly is an amazing site to see this tapestry that is still in great shape after 9 centuries!

The river Aure runs through Bayeux. There is a beautiful path along the river that makes for a great place for a run, take a relaxing stroll or to just sit and enjoy the world around you.

Bayeux is a great home base for all your adventures in Normandy and also a wonderful place to explore on it’s own.

Join me next week when I bring some of the stops on my Normandy tour to you.

Happy 100th Wonder Wheel

So many milestones are not able to be celebrated this year, from significant birthdays to weddings to graduations, but also important milestones of tourist attractions.

This May the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY turns 100 years old.  Sadly due to covis-19, there is no celebration and opening day has been postponed.

The Wonder Wheel is one of the many rides and attractions available at Coney Island.   It’s definitely one of my favorite and the most Iconic.  It was designated a New York City Landmark in 1989.

Built in 1920, the Wonder Wheel stands 150 feet tall.  

The views from the wheel are just beautiful.   You can see the beach stretching out behind the other Coney Island attractions.

What makes the Wonder Wheel unique compared to other ferris wheels is that of the 24 cars on the wheel, 16 of them swing.   With the turn of the wheel, these 16 cars swing towards the circumference along a serpentine track.   Not to fear for those like me who think their stomachs may not be able to handle the swinging cars, there are 8 stationary cars as well which are just as fun of an experience.

I had been to New York City many times over the years but had never ventured out to Coney Island until September 2014 when I was visiting a friend in Brooklyn.  

I’ve been back multiple times since then including when I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May 2016.  I loved this race as it ended right on the boardwalk in Coney Island.   After the race my friend and I took a ride on the Wonder Wheel and this has now become a tradition for me.   If there is a ferris wheel nearby a race finish line, I’ll ride it after the race.

It’s a fun tradition to have and it’s always fun to look down on the race finish line crowds from the top of a ferris wheel.

Ferris wheel’s and other amusement rides are a staple of summer and they are always a great time for the whole family.   Coney Island is definitely a fun place to check out when visiting New York City, especially during the summer months, head out there to check out the beach, have a hot dog at Nathan’s and take a spin on the Wonder Wheel.  

Have you been to Coney Island and taken a ride on the Wonder Wheel?   Is it on your travel bucket list?  If you haven’t been, definitely add it to your New York City travel bucket list, you won’t regret it!   Happy 100th Wonder Wheel, here’s to many more years to come!

Memorial Day Tribute to Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May in the United States. Most of us think of it as the start of summer and fail to remember the true meaning of the holiday. On Memorial Day we honor the military heroes we have lost while they were serving our country. They have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, losing their lives while serving to protect our country. This is something to think about today as we are being asked to do such simple things as wearing a mask and avoid large groups to keep each others safe. It seems pretty minor compared to risking your life to keep others safe.

View from cemetery

There are many military cemeteries across the US, the largest is located just outside of Washington DC in Arlington, VA. The Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting spot for over 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family members.

These veterans served in many wars such as American Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the most somber and impressive things to see in the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It stands as a tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The Tomb is guarded, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard Sentinels from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.



The tomb is located on a hill in the almost perfect geographic center of the cemetery. It’s a very somber yet also a very peaceful and profound experience to watch the guard as he marches 21 steps in each direction passing grave markers of each unknown soldier and pausing for 21 seconds while looking over the cemetery.

Changing of the guard

During the hours the cemetery is open, crowds gather in silence to watch the changing of the guard. This takes place every half hour from April thru September and every hour from October thru March. At night when the cemetery is closed the changing of the guard takes place every two hours.

The changing of the guard is one of the most symbolic and meaningful things you can experience while visiting Washington DC. I definitely recommend making the time to head out to the cemetery to experience it.

Memorial Amphitheater

On Memorial Day and Veterans Day each year, remembrance services are held in the Memorial Amphitheater. The President or Vice President of the United States often attends these services.

JFK Gravesite

Other important sites to see in the cemetery include the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy. The gravesite includes the eternal flame that his wife Jacqueline lit at his funeral. This flame remains lit to this day. Other Kennedy family members are also buried nearby.

Challenger

Also buried in the cemetery are the seven astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, President Taft and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The former residence of Robert E. Lee, now known as Arlington House sits on a hill overlooking the cemetery. It was built as a living memorial to our first president George Washington but in 1864 was changed to serve as a burial site for civil war soldiers. This home is open for public tours.

Things have been different in Arlington National Cemetery the past couple of months just like the rest of the world. It has not been open to the public. For Memorial Day, only family member of those buried there will be allowed in and none of them will be able to comfort each other with a hug. This is very sad and really puts into perspective how minor missing a holiday cookout or beach trip really is compared to what others are going through in the world today. Please spend Memorial Day remembering these brave souls who gave their life fighting for our country and their families who continue to grieve them.

Reflecting back on a trip to the Charm City

Back in December 2016, I took a quick two day trip to Baltimore to run a half marathon and check off the state of Maryland.

Baltimore is the most populous city in Maryland and is located about 40 miles northeast of Washington DC.

Baltimore is known as “Charm City”. This nickname goes back to the 70s when the mayor was trying to improve the image of the city by focusing on the charm tucked away in quiet corners of the city which created the marketing slogan for the city, “Charm City”.

Living in Boston, Baltimore is one of the easiest places to fly to and I honestly don’t know why I don’t go there more often. It’s a quick non-stop flight on Southwest.

BWI is located 20 minutes from the Inner Harbor area. When visiting cities, I prefer to skip the cost of renting a car if possible and luckily the Light Rail in Baltimore goes right from the airport to downtown. It doses take longer than driving, about 40 minutes, but it costs less than $2 each way and it was a very pleasant and relaxing ride.

I got off the train at the stop at Camden Yards. I’m a pretty big baseball fan and really enjoy seeing the different stadiums across the country.

What I loved about this stadium is that you could walk right up to it and take a peek inside. Despite it being December and me wearing a heavy coat I got all excited to think that baseball season was only a few months away.

Did you know that Baltimore has more statues and monuments per capita than any other city in the country? Some of these statues are located just outside of Camden Yards. The honor Orioles legends such as Cal Ripken Jr., JIm Palmer, Eddie Murray and Frank Robinson to name a few.

Nearby Camden Yards is the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. As a big red sox fan, I just couldn’t bring myself to go in there, but I’m sure it’s a great place to check out!

From Camden Yards, I headed over to the main entertainment district in Baltimore, the Inner Harbor. This area includes a beautiful walkway along the water with lots to see and do. There is the civil war era ship the USS Constellation, National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and many restaurants and shops. There seemed be lots of restaurants with outdoor seating for the warmer months, so it’s definitely a great are to enjoy a meal by the water.

There are many great areas to check out that are close to the Inner Harbor. The Federal Hill neighborhood is located south of the city and features Federal Hill Park at the top of the hill. The long walk up the steps is definitely worth the effort as you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the city! I decided to head up shortly before sunset and was definitely not disappointed!

For the history lovers, there is Fort McHenry. This fort is located in the Locust Point neighborhood of Baltimore. It’s best known for it’s role in defending the Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. This victory at Fort McHenry was what inspired the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner” File this under things I never knew until I visited Baltimore! I love learning new historic facts while traveling!

I ran the Race 13.1 Baltimore race on the Saturday morning, it started and finished in Camden Waterfront Park which has beautiful views of the Inner Harbor. It was a flat course that was mostly along the water so the views during the race can’t be beat. They did not offer this race last year, but there are many other great races in Baltimore such as the Baltimore Running Festival in October each year which features a 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon and Relay. They even have a challenge called the Baltimoron-a-thon where you run the 5K and Half Marathon on the same day! I’m always up for a challenge, I may need to try that one some day.

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Baltimore that I ventured over to after the race was Fells Point. Fells Point is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Baltimore and ilocated along the water. Here you can find waterfront restaurants, cute boutiques, coble stone streets and some artsy vibes. It’s home to the oldest bar in the city, The Horse You Came In On Saloon which is rumored to be Edgar Allen Poe’s last stop before his mysterious death. I had brunch at a really great restaurant, Bond Street Social. I can’t recommend this place enough, the food was delicious, great friendly service and just an overall fun vibe in the restaurant, definitely check it out.

I had a great but quick couple of days in Baltimore and I’m still trying to get back there some day during the warmer months to be able to fully enjoy the outdoor splendor of the Inner Harbor and attend a Red Sox vs Orioles game. I think I need to stop saying some day and add this to my list for 2021!

Travel Photo Memories Before the Digital Age

We may be unable to travel right now, but we can still dream of future traveling and look back on our past travel memories! There are so many benefits to looking back on past travel memories. Seeing pictures from these past trips can transport you back to that time of your life and all the happy moments from that trip. The one thing we all need right now to keep us sane is to remember the happy times in life spend with family and friends.

With the smart phones of today, we are all used to the instant gratification of the digital photo. If we don’t like the photo, no big deal, we just retake it. We can then immediately upload it to apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so everyone can see our travel photos in real time while we are on vacation. We can even use filters to enhance our photos.

But this wasn’t the case not too long ago. Let’s take a look back to how we documented our travel memories before the digital age.

Now everyone is taking pictures every day of their life. In the past though, pictures normally were just taken during special moments such as vacations, holidays, weddings, graduations and other family or friend get togethers. It required making sure you had your camera with you, which was a bulky thing to carry around, and also enough film for the amount of pictures that you wanted to take.

We would take each photo in hopes that it would come out good when we got the film developed days or weeks later. We had to be worried about whether the lighting was good, if everyone was looking at the camera, if everyone’s eyes were open and crazy things like, will anyone’s eyes be red from the flash when this is developed.

There was an excitement in getting the photos developed and seeing how they came out, sometimes I miss that moment of looking forward to seeing the photos after a trip. It was always such a big surprise when photos came out great! And there were many laughable moments of photos that didn’t come out so great. Definitely many more candid shots that we can all look back on now and laugh about them as a fun, happy memory.

Many of us would then display these photos in a photo album or keep them in a box. We would either write on the back of the photo or in the album what the photo was of and when it was taken.

These albums are great to look back on and see such old photos. But it ends up being somewhat sad as the photos and pages of the photo albums end up becoming discolored which can take away from the beauty of the memory just a little bit.

These older photos are so sacred, they are our only copy of that memory other than the ones in our mind. There is no copy saved on the cloud always available to us. If we lose these copies, they are gone forever! We must keep these photos safe and remember to look back on them and all the fun memories behind them.

How did you used to keep your travel photos back before the digital age?

Margaritas of Disney

Cinco de Mayo is in a few days, so what better time than now to talk about some of my favorite places at Disney World to enjoy a margarita!

While most people think of Disney as a place for kids, it’s definitely a place for both young and old. And there is no better way to enjoy a warm day in the parks than with a delicious margarita!

Margaritas are one of my favorite drinks and as luck would have it National Margarita day falls in February right when I’m normally at Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon weekend. So I’ve definitely enjoyed quite a few margaritas at Disney. Here are some of my favorite places to get a Margarita both in and out of the parks.

When visiting Disney Springs, head over to Dockside Margaritas! It’s located on the water in the Marketplace section. They havea variety of margaritas available including my favorite the Sunset Margarita which is made with orange juice, it’s very refreshing on a warm day. There is a beautiful outdoor seating area and during certain times of the day they have live music.

Looking to have a margarita at dinner outside the parks, head over to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. This Mexican style resort is the great place to have a margarita. Good dinner choices are the Maya Grill, Toledo and the three Bridges Bar & Grill.

If you’re wanting to have a drink before your dinner reservation, the outdoor Laguna Bar is a great place to enjoy a margarita before dinner.

If you happen to be staying at the resort and are spending time by the pool, grab a frozen margarita at the pool bar, Siestas Cantina. There’s nothing more refreshing when laying in the sun than a frozen beverage.

One of the greatest places to enjoy a tropical cocktail in Disney World is located at the Polynesian Resort, Trader Sams!

The main bar, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a beautiful tiki bar that is wildly popular. It can fill up really quick and often the wait to get in can be an hour or more.

If you can’t get in there, another option is the outdoor tiki bar, Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace. This is first come first serve tables but there is also a walk up bar and space to stand and enjoy a drink.

They have multiple tropical drink options including the Rosita’s Margarita! Definitely a great place to enjoy the warm Florida sunshine while sipping on a delicious margarita.

Heading into the parks? There are plenty of options to grab a margarita in between rides! At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, head over to the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and grab a Margarita Flight. This includes a Classic, Mango and Pomegranate margarita. They are all delicious. This February on National Margarita Day I celebrated by having one of these flights and it was delicious! Since then, this has been taken off the menu online, but hopefully that is temporary and they will put it back on the menu because every margarita lover needs to try this flight!

The best place in Disney to grab a margarita is definitely Epcot! I mean you can go to Mexico and get a margarita when in Epcot.

But have you ever ventured over to Italy to have a margarita? The Italian Margarita is my favorite! It’s made frozen with a blend of tequila and limoncello and it just hits the spot on a warm day!

This delicious margarita is available during both the International Flower and Garden Festival and the International Food and Wine Festival. Covid-19 prevented me from going to the Flower and Garden Festival this year, so I reahopelly that the parks open up by the fall for the Food and Wine Festival so I can enjoy my favorite margarita. I’ve pretty much been dreaming of it this entire time I’ve been staying at home!

As great as the Italian Margarita is, the place to go in Epcot for a Margarita is definitely Mexico, there are so many options of places to get Margaritas there and so many different flavors to enjoy!

Grab dinner and a margarita at San Angel Inn Restaurante or Le Cantina de San Angel. Want to have dinner and a margarita while enjoying the nightly fireworks show? Book a late dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel and ask for a table near the windows. When the fireworks start, they lower the lights and play the music to the fireworks show in the restaurant, it’s a great place to check out the show.

Looking to try out the different margarita flavors, head over to La Cava del Tequila. They have some great flavors such as Jalapeno, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cucumber and Minty Pineapple.

Choza de Margarita is a great place to grab a margarita to go. They have both on the rocks and frozen margaritas available.

My favorite frozen margarita is the Fiesta Margarita. It’s a combination of Strawberry, classic and mango margaritas and it’s delicious!

Grab a margarita with friends and walk around the world showcase!

Looking for some entertainment while drinking your margarita? Throughout the day, there is live Mexican music outside the gift shop and it’s a great place to close your eyes and feel like you are right in Mexico.

And of course my favorite thing to do while in Mexico is to get a photo with Mexican Donald Duck, definitely don’t pass this up 🙂

Maybe next year some of you can celebrate Cinco de Mayo or National Margarita Day in Disney World and now you know the many locations you can find a great margarita! Do you have other places to add to the list?

Louisville – Derby City

The advantage to setting a goal to run in all 50 states is that you definitely get to travel to places that you previously never thought of visiting before.

When looking at races in Kentucky, I saw there was one that ran through Churchill Downs and knew that was definitely a bucket list race. So I signed up for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon in 2019.

I didn’t know what to expect when booking my trip, so I booked a fairly short trip where I would fly in on Friday morning, run the race on Saturday morning and fly out Saturday night, boy do I wish I had booked a longer trip!

I arrived that Friday morning on an early flight and headed to my hotel to freshen up and then got an uber over to the most famous location in Louisville, Churchill Downs. I’m not a horse racing fan and have never even watched the Kentucky Derby but knew it was definitely the place to visit in Louisville and I’m so glad I did.

When I arrived at the Churchill Downs. I purchased a ticket to the museum and joined one of the walking tours of the racetrack. I went from someone who had never watched the Derby before someone who was very intrigued with the history of the race and started dreaming of attending one some year.

It was wonderful to get up close to the track, you could just envision the horses running by at such a fast speed. And the history learned about the race was amazing. I had no idea that only three year old Thoroughbreds were allowed in the Derby. And most jockeys are on average 5 feet tall, yet there have only been 6 female jockeys in the Kentucky Derby.

After the tour, I headed into the museum to learn more about the history of the race and check out the interesting exhibits.

There was a lot to see in the museum, from the history of the race to the winning horses and jockeys and trophies from past races. It was all very informative and interesting.

The museum also displayed items from other events that take place during the Derby Festival. The Derby Festival runs for 2 weeks before the Derby which is held the first Saturday in May each year. Some of the festival events include Thunder Over Louisville which is the largest annual fireworks display in North America, Great Balloon Race, Great Steamboat Race, The Pegasus Parade which is one of the larges parades in the United States and the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and minimarathon.

The whole city takes part in these events and many people from around the country head to Louisville to enjoy this exciting time in the city.

On the Saturday morning, the Marathon and minimarathon took place. The start line was in front of Louisville Slugger Field which is home to the Louisville Bats, AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

This was one of my favorite half marathons and is my current half marathon PR. I beat my last PR, which stood for 5 years by 3 solid minutes. The weather was perfect for a race and the crowd support was amazing!

The race went through Downtown Louisville and then through Old Louisville by the beautiful Victorian style homes and then over to the highlight of the course, Churchill Downs.

I would equate running thru Churchill Downs to running thru Times Square and dare I say, down Main Street USA in Disney World. It was so much fun and gave me so much energy which probably helped contribute to the PR.

We ran on the inside track while there were horses and jockeys getting some practice laps in on the main track. It was so exciting to watch that while running. And the signs while running into and out of the stadium had some clever sayings, such as “Run like a Thoroughbred”, “Run Now, Julep Later” and “This would be so much easier on a horse”

As I was running out of the race track I came across another runner who was doing a facebook live video of the race and I was so caught up in the moment, that even though I very much dislike video, I made sure to get right in that video saying I was from Boston. The things the excitement of a race will do.

There is so much else to see in Louisville other than Churchill Downs. The Louisville Slugger is made in Louisville and there is a museum in its honor. On the road leading up the street to the museum, there are statues of bats and plaques of some of the best hitters in the game of baseball. There is also a museum for Louisville native, Muhammad Ali. For those looking for good restaurants and nightlife, head to 4th St. Live in downtown. Even just walking downtown and taking in views of the Ohio River or ride on a riverboat down the river are fun things to do.

With so many things to see and do I will definitely head back to Louisville some day and highly recommend it to others. If you are trying to run in all 50 states, definitely add this race to your list.

Sadly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and minimarathon did not take place this year, the Marathon has been cancelled and the minimarathon has been postponed until August 22, 2020. The Kentucky Derby has also been postponed until September 5, 2020.

I pray things improve by then so fellow half marathon runners can experience this wonderful race and city.

Regardless what happens this year, there are many more years to come to for this wonderful race and city. Who plans on heading to Louisville sometime in the future?